Boko Haram: States Yet To Redeem N25bn Victims’ Support Pledge -Prof. Ochoche | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Boko Haram: States Yet To Redeem N25bn Victims’ Support Pledge -Prof. Ochoche

Boko Haram
Posted: Sep 7, 2016 at 5:08 pm   /   by   /   comments (0)


The Victims Support Fund is a private led partnership which was initiated by former President  Goodluck Jonathan administration under the Chairmanship of General Theophilus Danjuma  as a way of getting the private sector to support the government to assist victims of terrorism. In the interview with CHIBUZOR EMEJOR, Profesor Sunday Ochoche spoke on various initiatives to rehabilitate and reconstruct the States in the North East devastated by Boko Haram in order to resuscitate the economic life of the region. 


Sir, Victims Support Fund has been actively involved  in the rehabilitation of the Victims of Boko Haram attacks in the North East of Nigeria. Has the war been won by the military as the government would like to paint the picture? What is the situation on ground as a critical stakeholder in the region?

In the first place, with regard to Boko Haram insurgency, we cannot treat the entire North East as a monolithic entity. The situation differs from one state to another. Of course, we know that the most affected state is Borno. The next most affected states are Adamawa and Yobe. Other states like Gombe, Bauchi , Taraba have been affected to much lesser degree. There is no question that the situation has considerably abated. Adamawa and Yobe are relatively calm now. The level of return of the displaced persons in Adamawa and  Yobe  is very high. Indeed, there is hardly any official IDP Camp in Yobe. Similarly,  in Adamawa, they are virtually down to one or two. Adamawa had few camps originally because most of the displaced persons have been in the host communities. But with the return to normalcy, most of these people are back. Adamawa ,apart from one or two incidences in Madagali Local Government Areas, the state is completely back to normal in terms of the return. The situation in Borno State has been different. We understand from the security agencies that Boko Haram is technically defeated. The mass attacks they used carry out are no longer there. We know that many places that were previously non-accessible. I have been to a lot of the places. We have been able to visit Bama, Dikwa, Dabarin Gala, Kuduga, severally. With all these, we still have to visit with considerable security protection. The roads in many of these places have been opened up. The Maiduguri-Mopa-Dikwa Gabarin Gala Road has been opened up but even with that, there are bit of private and public buses that need to travel with security agents. There are other areas where you still have to visit with a lot of guidance from the security agents. The visit to places like Amabadan areas, it is very risky. I am not even sure that the military would allow anybody to go to the place alone. So we know that the main place of operation is Siambisa Forest. It is not completely cleared of them. So yes, in general there has been a significant progress, but we still have some way to go before we would go back to what it was before the crises.

Let’s talk about the rehabilitation of the Victims of the Boko Haram attacks. On your website, I saw that the VSF had built 40 houses, 12 boreholes which have been commissioned in Dikwa.  Are there other places you have reached ?

First and foremost, to get the facts correct, all the reconstruction that we have done has taken place in Dikwa. That is where we reconstructed a total of 40 projects, among these , is the general hospital, police barracks, police station, local government secretariat, about six schools were reconstructed, the government lodge and government housing estates, over 12 boreholes , so they are not just buildings. They are 40 projects. We did that in Dikwa. For Adawama, we are looking at Michika. We have gone to carry out rapid physical assessment and inspection of the places. We are now awaiting the technical report of those buildings on what is exactly required and the costing. And we will immediately start work. In Michika, we are focusing on rebuilding the Local Government Secretariat. From the preliminary assessment we have, the whole thing will have to come down. We will have to build a brand new local government. We will be looking at the reconstruction of schools. So we are looking at rebuilding Local Government Secretariat and schools in Michika. We are doing the same in Yobe. We are considering the reconstruction of the Hospital in Kuyiadi, the school as well as some boreholes.

Sir, is the responsibility of the VSF to rebuild Local Government Secretariat instead of the State Government?

We are here to support victims of insurgency. The victims are largely human beings. They are also institutions. State governments are also victims. Local governments are also victims. Even in supporting the institutional victims, we are doing from a perspective of putting in place structures and mechanisms that will  give support to the people. Like I said at the beginning, there is a growing return of victims to the places of their original abode. Life in displacement and IDP camp is not holiday. People ran with their bare bags, many of them, living lives of dignity before they were caught up with Boko Haram insurgency. They ran to camp sleeping under the trees, with no food, with nothing, but depend on humanitarian support for their survival. Majority of the people will never be happy under this circumstance.  So as soon as there is a sign of normalcy, they are eager to return to their places of abode. For a lot of these people, all that they are looking for is safety and security. And they are putting roofs over the bare walls that just quickly came back to life. So, what we are doing in these places, is one, to help the people to quickly return back to their life of economic productivity. Like in Yobe, Taraba, we are providing support to re-start agricultural production. That is the main economic activity in these places. Over two years, there has not been any agricultural activity. The people have no seeds to plant. We have the agro-based support economic programme for 4,000 households. That is 2,000 in Yobe and 2,000 in Taraba States for the returning IDPs to enable them to quickly start life again. We are providing them with seeds, farm input, fertilizer , among others. We are also providing them with cash support to enable to move on. Now that they are returning, we have to have some resemblance of governance. Part of what created this problem in the first place is governance deficit. The absence of government and governmental institutions. I f you are telling people to return to their respective homes, they expect that they should see their Local Government Chairman in place. They should see the schools working again. They should see the hospitals working again. They should see the institutions of government working again. That will go a long way in building confidence and re-assuring them for the return of them. Apart from our desire to support the government of structures who are also victims, we know that by doing that, the multiplier effect will be considerable because they will be in a better position to provide regular services to the people.

There is allegation that present administration of President Muhammadu Buhari does not support your activities through funding. How true is this allegation?

It is absolutely false. First, the Victims Support Fund is not a government agency. So we  do not expect support from the government, we need support from all Nigerians. We cannot be expecting a routine or regular funding from the Federal Government. The Victims Support Fund is a private led partnership which was initiated by former President  Goodluck Jonathan as a way of getting the private sector to support the government. The government of President Jonathan pledged N10billion to support VSF. His administration released only N5billion, which is half of the pledge.  As soon as President Buhari came to power, the Chairman of the VSF, General Theophilus Danjuma, paid him a visit. One of the requests he put to him was the need to redeem the balance of N5billion. That same day, President Buhari gave a directive that N5billion should be released. It was released within weeks to the Victims Support Fund. So the Federal Republic of Nigeria has redeemed its pledge to the VSF 100per cent. Rather it is the State Governments that have not redeemed one kobo of their pledge, including the States in the North East. But for the States in the North East, we can understand, the level of pressure they are under. The insurgency is draining their resources. In a state like  Borno, the amount of money they spend in one month feeding IDPs  is huge. The amount of money they spend in supporting the security agencies operating in the State is huge. For some of the states, especially the States of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe, I can understand their challenges. They are already deeply involved in committing resources. But there are many other States that should have honoured their pledge to the VSF.

How much did these States pledge?

About N25billion has not been redeemed. The States collectively pledged about N4billion. None  of it has been redeemed. Organizations such as the oil sector  has a huge component to redeem. The banking sector has redeemed most of the pledges. But there are still some outstanding. The agricultural sector and a couple of individuals have not redeemed. But we are following up  with many of them. General Danjuma has also made approaches to a number of other organizations and individuals who made pledges. Indeed, when I said that the banking sector has redeemed most of its pledges, it is because of the approach from our Chairman. Of course, our Chairman was the single largest donor of the fund. He pledged $10million which he redeemed within two weeks.