While the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) across camps in the country are going hungry daily, officials of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) were seen on Sunday sharing food items to the agency’s staff.
An August, 2019 report of the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, titled “Monitoring food security in countries with conflict situations,” states that during the 2019 lean season (June–August), around 3.6 million people were in need of urgent assistance in the four subnational areas of the Lake Chad Basin.
“In northeastern Nigeria, 3 million people needed urgent support, with Borno and Yobe states seeing an increase in food insecurity since 2018, following an upsurge in armed attacks,” the report reads. “Intercommunal conflicts between farmers and herders, limited access to farming and grazing land, strained communal resources owing to mass displacement, and high food prices drove this alarming situation.”
But this scary figure appears not to have deterred officials of NEMA, who shared food items amongst themselves on Sunday.
A staffer of the agency, who for fear of retribution prefers anonymity, told PREMIUM TIMES the exercise is nationwide.
“The items are being distributed to all NEMA staff across the country. The items for the zonal and territorial offices have started arriving,” the source said.
Although PREMIUM TIMES could not verify the source’s claims, our reporters on Sunday witnessed the Abuja sharing spree. It held at El-Rufai Plaza, Wuse market, Abuja.
PREMIUM TIMES observed that the distribution was coordinated by a staff of the agency’s department of human resources management, Chinwe Okpara. She made several calls asking staff who are yet to come for their ration to do so or forfeit it to others who were present.
Some of the items, as seen by PREMIUM TIMES, were loaded in a hilux jeep, whose number plate “O2R-82FG” registered under the Office of the Presidency. Reporters also counted ten cars which took turns to fetch rations.
This sharing spree spilled over into Monday. This time it was held at the NEMA annex office on Mambolo Street, Zone 2, Abuja.
PREMIUM TIMES observed this between 12 p.m. and 4:30 p.m.
The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) was established to manage disasters in Nigeria.
These disasters over the years have sprung from communal clashes, flood and the decade-long insurgency in the northern part of the country, and have led to the displacement of millions of people.
The government intervened in the form of IDP camps used to house these persons for them to continue living their normal lives.
A presentation made by Abdullahi Abubakar of the NEMA in March shows that as of October 2108, the population of IDPs as a result of conflict was 2,026,602 while those displaced by flood was put at 722,741.
Media reports have exposed the poor living conditions of these persons.An investigation by TheCable also detailed how some IDPs had to forgo schooling to pick up menial jobs because they had nothing to eat.
Ms Okpara keeping track of what has been shared and what is left
Also, in April this year, a visit by government-owned News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) to an IDP camp in Bauchi showed that due to food shortage, IDPs in the camp fed on onion leaves for survival. The report showed how children under the age of two showed signs of malnutrition and stunted growth.
Our source in the agency claimed that the foodstuff shared between Sunday and Monday were meant for the IDPs.
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Apart from displaced persons living in IDP camps, hundreds of thousands of persons displaced by Boko Haram from the North-east live with friends and relatives and at local government headquarters, all needing food and support. Last week, a federal lawmaker from Borno State told PREMIUM TIMES how thousands of his constituents, recently displaced from Gubio, Kaga, and Magumeri, need help surviving, and how he has approached NEMA on their plight.
Posing as a random enquirer, this reporter enquired from one of the officials distributing the items, Isa Andrew, of Abuja Operations Office, if the goods were up for auction. He replied in the negative.
“They are not for auction. They are end of the year package for our staff,” he told PREMIUM TIMES.
One of the officials monitoring the distribution of the food items counts what is left
Our source at the agency said management staff got 50kg of rice, 25 litres of vegetable oil, 50kg of sugar, tins of tomatoes and spaghetti.
Other staff got 25kg of Tomato Gold rice, 25kg of Dangote sugar, two packs of Maggi seasoning, 10 litres of King’s vegetable oil, one carton of sonia sachet tomatoes, one carton of Power pasta.
NEMA Denies The Obvious
Manzo Ezekiel, NEMA spokesperson, when contacted, said there is no IDP camp in the country that can complain of not getting enough food.
“As at this moment as we speak, I’ve not heard of any cry or any complaint from any IDP camp that would complain of not being given food,” Mr Ezekiel said over the telephone when called Monday night.
“Early this month, we started the distribution of the food items. Even areas that are predominantly Muslims, we made sure that this food is given to them in good time.”
Mr Ezekiel also exonerated NEMA from any wrongdoing. He denied that the agency ever shared foodstuff among its staff.
When told this newspaper is in possession of video, picture and audio evidences, he said “anyone can stage-manage anything.”
He claimed Wuse market is not NEMA office so such activities there could have been (done) by anyone.
He sounded shocked when he was told PREMIUM TIMES met an official of the agency, Chinwe Okpara, overseeing the distribution of foodstuff on Sunday at the market. He said he would call to confirm from her.
“I want to categorically tell you that it’s not true. A market is a place where everybody goes, dancers, comedians. Anybody can orchestrate that. NEMA is a mature organisation. Unless if you are up to something else.”
One of the NEMA staff car packed for the collection of food items
In reaction to stocking of food items into cars in front of the agency’s annex office witnessed by PREMIUM TIMES, he accused this newspaper, saying “you can also stage-manage it.”
On the other hand, Halima Oyelade, spokesperson of the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, under which NEMA is, said she cannot comment on the matter until “she is briefed by NEMA”.