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Humanitarian Affairs Minister’s tough task

The International Committee of the Red Cross [ICRC] said recently that Nigeria is rated fifth among countries with the largest humanitarian crises in the world. Nigeria stands shoulder-to-shoulder in this ugly category with Yemen, Democratic Republic of Congo [DRC], South Sudan, Central African Republic [CAR], Afghanistan and several other crises-ridden countries.

ICRC president Peter Maurertold President Muhammadu Buhari this when they met in Abuja on Tuesday last week. To drive home the magnitude of the problem, Maurer told Buhari that in Nigeria’s worsening condition, “some children don’t know where their parents are, neither do they know where they come from.”

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Under this atmosphere, the task before the newly appointed Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Hajia Sadiya Umar-Farouq, is not ambiguous. The humanitarian consequences of terrorism, banditry, farmers/herders’ conflict, communal clashes and other crimes that affect a large number of persons, are so severe. We commend Buhari for creating this ministry, perhaps learning from countries like China, Sudan, Niger Republic, South Sudan and Rwanda who have similar ministries.

A 2018 report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the UN refugee agency, says there are 2.24 million Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Nigeria, while another 213,179 are living as refugees in Cameroon, Chad and Niger Republic.Also, ICRC said recently that since January 2019 it has had to provide health to over 258,000 persons and deliver food to 640,000 displaced persons. Apparently, the task before the minister is enormous, and one that scales over and above politics. They have to do with the welfare of Nigerians who have been dislocated by incessant insecurity in various parts of Nigeria. Ordinarily, it is this Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs which should be at the forefront of such support services to displaced Nigerians.

It is not clear what plans government has for this ministry, but it may now become necessary to clearly articulate the objectives, strategies and activities of the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs. Most importantly, budgeted funds for this ministry should be released. There are several government agencies and departments engaged in humanitarian support in specific or special ways. They include National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) under The Presidency, National Commission for Refugees, the Presidential Committee on North-East Initiative (PCNI) and the Victims Support Fund, headed by General Theophilus Danjuma (rtd). It is important to streamline the activities of these agencies in such a way that the come under the umbrella of the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development. This will help to provide focus in dealing with humanitarian crises instead of having different agencies attempting to tackle the same problems using diverse means.

For the minister, there is an urgent need for a composite data ondisplaced persons, indicating where they are, where they come from, their temporary abodes and other needs. This is vital for planning and management. In this vein, we call on the minister to ensure that those in so-called ‘illegal’ IDP camps are properly documented, accounted and catered for. Under no circumstances should a Nigerian who is displaced be ignored and abandoned when he is a victim of violence. Government has to declassify where they stay as living in ‘illegal’ camps and, instead, recognize their locations, provide better abodes for them and find a way of catering for them. With proper documentation, it is possible to know the needs of the people, estimate the money needed to take care of them and properly apply such financial allocations.

Government has challenged this ministry with the task of preventing some of these besetting crises and to handle erosion, kidnapping, fire disasters, etc. These are quite many, but Hajiya Umar Farouq, who was a Commissioner at the Refugees Commission, should be able rise to the occasion. Most importantly, she should be prepared to tackle the widely publicized corrupt practices in some of these interventionist agencies.

 

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