By Angela Atabo
United Nations Humanitarian Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reports that humanitarian crisis in the north-eastern part of the country and Lake Chad region is one of the most severe in the world.
The report says the crisis has left 8.5 million people in need of humanitarian aids in 2017 alone in the worst-affected states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe.
Unarguably, most times, when disasters occur, humanitarian interventions, including funds come impromptu due to disasters’ emergency occurrence.
In that mood, observers note that most interventions and funds aimed at reducing the sufferings of the victims are vulnerable to diversion.
Some civil society organisations argue that corruption is usually high in humanitarian operations because of the large amount of money made available within a short time.
Further to this, Transparency International insists that weak institutions, low absorptive capacity, absence of government control in some areas, have obstructed humanitarian operations in most Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camps.
It notes that workers in the camps have noticed absence of effective integrity systems, ineffective legal and administrative regulatory frameworks, security constraints and politicisation of received aids.
Calling for a search light on activities in IDPs to fight corruption, Mr Auwal Rafsanjani, Executive Director of the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre, said corruption in the humanitarian sector is worst.
He cited the case of former Secretary to the Government of the Federation Babachir Lawal who was alleged of fraud of N270 million for grass-cutting in the IDPs camps in the north-eastern part of the country.
“Humanitarian sphere remains one area that is not being investigated in terms of accountability and transparency and the level of corruption is becoming alarming in the area.
“The worsening humanitarian crisis has been amplified by massive corruption and reported diversion of aids for IDPs and other victims of terrorism allegedly perpetuated by public officials.
“The practice, which continued unchecked for years, has not only exacerbated existing the humanitarian crisis, but has also eroded citizens’ confidence in humanitarian aid, especially in the north-eastern part of the country.
“It is worthy of note that lack of transparency and accountability in the management of humanitarian aid in Nigeria triggered violence by IDPs in Borno camp in August, 2017.
“We have also had a lot of allegations from Borno Government, claiming that some aid workers diverted aid support to victims of insurgency,’’ he said.
He observed that lack of accountability and oversight in the management of humanitarian aid had led to a resolution by the Senate Ad Hoc Committee on the North-East Development Commission to receive and manage funds allocated by the government and international donor agencies.
Apart from this, Mr Enzenwa Nwagwu, the convener of Say No Campaign, a civil society organisation, pleaded with the Federal Government to focus on corruption issues in IDPs camps.
He raised concerns about the disbursement and utilisation of funds; growing rate of sexual assault and exploitation perpetrated by camp officials and security operatives, insecurity and sanitary conditions at the camps.
“There are so many corruption cases going on in IDPs camps that Nigerians are not aware of; among the things discovered is the fact that some international non-governmental organisations connive with government officials to divert resources meant for IDPs camps.
“They cut deals with government officials to sideline some IDPs they brand informal camps from benefitting from the relief materials,’’ he alleged.
Also a recent report by the United Nations Development Programme, (UNDP) and the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) between 2015 and 2017 indicates the spate of corruption and diversion of funds and other items meant for IDPs by officials of the Presidential Initiative on the North East (PINE).
The report says PINE officials pay less attention to the critical needs of IDPs in the areas of housing, food, education and healthcare.
The report also alleges that the officials rather use the bulk of the resources on contracts that are found to have immensely benefited some public officials.
It reports that corruption and conflict of interests result in gross breaches of public procurement rules by which public officials have personal interests and are paid for jobs not done.
The 103-page report reveals that out of the N8.352 billion released by PINE in 2016, only N6.326 billion was spent, leaving N2.026 billion unaccounted for.
The report, therefore, recommends urgent action to bring the alleged profiteers in human misery to justice.
To kick-start anti-corruption war in IDPs camps, therefore, Mr Okeke Anya, Senior Programme Officer, Regional and International, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre, called for urgent passage of the IDPs law.
Also, Transparency International solicits greater investment in tackling corruption in IDPs camps because humanitarian aid sector has been confronting the challenge of corruption for long.
In their positions, the civil society organisations insist that senior management and leaders in humanitarian assistance should discuss and address the possibilities of corruption in the field and produce clear anti-corruption strategies.
According to them, the strategies should include socio-political-economic analysis of complex environments, careful mapping of external and internal corruption risks.
“This should be incorporated into emergency preparedness and wider risk assessment frameworks before the next crisis begins,’’ they suggest.
They also advise that donor governments and humanitarian agencies should increase positive incentives to transparently analyse risks and report corruption and should develop shared approaches for managing the threat of corruption.
They urge the government to develop anti-corruption laws, including those specifically covering humanitarian assistance.
They also suggest that the Federal Government should establish Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission desks in IDPs to monitor activities in the camps, investigate and prosecute cases of corruption.
For effective war against corruption in IDPs, concerned citizens, therefore, solicits adequate funding and political will from the government and stakeholders.