They make homes more expensive than in Maitama, Abuja – Gov Shettima
A young commercial tricycle (Keke Napep) rider’s face lit up with a smile when he saw three prospective passengers standing at a taxi rank by the roadside waiting for cabs and other means of transportation to board and go to their respective destinations. While fast-moving on the other lane, the rider sighted them and quickly turned, slowed down and stopped right in front of them, asking whether they were heading in the same direction.
The passengers, who coincidentally met at that point, said they were going to an IDP camp located within the NYSC Orientation Camp in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, where more than a million people are currently taking refuge, after being forced out of homes in their respective villages by the Boko Haram militants.
Shortly after zooming off towards their destination, the young rider, who later gave his name and age as Ahmed, 22, began speaking to himself, uttering his words softly, and thinking that none of his passengers could even hear him. “I may be lucky to get more money. I would like it if these persons onboard turn out to be workers of NGOs. They may likely hire me for the most part if not the whole day,” he optimized.
Our correspondent overheard the young man and immediately asked him why he was so desirous to have an encounter with staff of NGOs? The 3-wheel-vehicle driver, who couldn’t hide an excitement that was visible all over his face despite concentrating on the driveway, paused, nodding.
“NGOs,” he said, “One would even wish to work for them continuously. One good thing that I like them for, is that they do not mind how much they would give to those who work for them. Another better part of NGOs assignment is a stress free one.”
The 22-year-old polytechnic drop out, told his three passengers that he, alongside dozens of his fellow tricycle riders in the city, now prefer visitors who are believed to be humanitarian aid workers coming into Maiduguri everyday, rather than natives or residents of the Maiduguri metropolis.
“Those visitors do not bargain any price of commodities or services. Through my work, I met many of them and kept the relationship as it pays off,” he said.
“Those NGOs people when they come in, they usually stay in expensive hotels in Maiduguri,” he said, adding, “Others, though don’t stay here permanently. They leave and come back after a few weeks, but prefer to hire beautiful and big apartments in Government Reservation Area (GRA). One of my regular clients once told me that she prefers commercial means of transportation rather than their official vehicles, especially when she is going out privately, because the vehicles make their movements noticeable,” Ahmed said.
Asked, how many clients he has and where he takes them to, he said: “I worked for many of them in recent months; you know, those whom I met much earlier gave my contacts to some that I currently work with. They usually call and ask me to convey them to banks, shopping stores, markets and restaurants,” he recalled.
According to him, other places that he frequently takes them to are canteens, boutiques as well as haircut and hairdressing shops. “You see them, spending money as if they were producing the currencies themselves. They have really helped to boost the business of not only commercial drivers but other businesses as well,and many lives have also been improved in this city,” he said.
However, a trader who retails foodstuff at Monday Market Maiduguri, Malim Abdulrahman, said dozens of NGOs coming into the city were the sole cause of the rising prices of foodstuff and other needful commodities in the state.
“They also caused the scarcity of food items and other commodities in the market. They buy things in very large quantity and store them in various warehouses they rent in town,” the trader said, adding that he himself had previously made more money from the NGOs.
Agreeing with the retailing trader’s opinion, a prospective buyer at the market, who simply gave his name as Mammodu said, majority of residents in Maiduguri are now living in untold hardship caused by the insurgency in the state.
“Thousands of our people fled into this city where all public and private facilities and structures have been stretched due to overcrowding. Public servants and private individuals no longer have enough money to provide for their wives and children; and many displaced relations they now host,” he said, lamenting that “NGOs have now come into the city in the name of aiding victims of the insurgency, but ended up victimizing the already stabilized ones.
“Everybody in this town knows that prices of commodities and services have been rising continuously these days,” he said, criticizing thus “These NGOs are the ones who have worsened our situation and made things unaffordable for residents. Because they have money, so they never mind bargaining any price fixed for services.”
Our correspondent reports that following the relative peace currently being enjoyed in Maiduguri, over 100 Non-Government Organization(NGOs) have flooded the city providing humanitarian services to hundreds of thousands of the internally displaced persons (IDPs) taking refuge within and outside government designated camps.
Their presence has been very noticeable to almost every resident of the metropolis and environs, as they were always seen going up and down at the city’s airport, motor parks, banks, hotels, restaurants, markets, business centres, grocery and shopping stores as well as filling stations, suya meat joints, social clubs and many car hire stands that are furnished with exotic and current version of cars.
He also observed that hundreds of youths in the city have been recruited as either full or part-time staff by the NGOs. An IDP youth, Baale, 25, who got employed by one of the humanitarian aid organizations said: “When I fled from my village in Konduga LGA to Maiduguri in 2014, life was so difficult; I hardly had three square meals. But now, I thank the Almighty that I’ve been employed by one of the NGOs. Previously, I and my wife and two kids were living in the IDP camp; the NGO now gave me money to rent an apartment where we settled down,” he said.
“These workers of NGOs trooping into Maiduguri have been able to turn around life generally. They have even made the city to become lively,” Abubakar Haruna, a civil servant from Yobe state, living in Maiduguri, said, adding that sometimes ago, he was always reluctant to come and spend the weekend in Maiduguri. “There were no interesting events taking place and everywhere was dry then. But with the coming of NGOs now, one finds everywhere lively, sees more cars moving on the road, and when one visits a restaurant or a shopping store now, one has to join queues before being served,” Haruna said.
Reservation officers for flight tickets of airlines operating in the city and that of numerous hotels located there, confirmed that their patronage has now increased.
Also, many airport and motor park cab drivers interviewed in Maiduguri equally confirmed that they were now getting customers more than ever before.
One Operations Manager of a posh hotel, who sought anonymity for not being authorized to speak to the press by the management of the hotel, said that for many months there have not yet been rooms available even for one night. “We were always having guests. I have even forgotten when last we had a single room unoccupied. Rooms here are being booked long before the duration of the person already occupying the room runs out. Recently, we had some guests who had made reservation of some rooms and paid for 60 nights,” he said.
Asked on those who mostly occupy rooms for such a long period, the manager said: “No one other than these NGOs trooping into Maiduguri. They always make us lose our usual customers,” he said.
Other enterprises that are currently making brisk business from the presence of NGOs in the city, are roadside traders, sales persons at boutiques, supermarkets and GSM village (Jagwal).
Miss. Ruth Paul, a saleslady of a store at Milk Shop, a shopping area in Maiduguri said: “Presence of NGOs in Maiduguri has been a blessing to me; they made life better for me, because they saved my job,” she said.
She added, “This store would have been shut months ago, if NGOs had not come.
They have increased our sales by 70-75 percent. Had it been that no NGO got access to this town, we would not see money circulating within. You know, (the) state government has not been paying salaries to all workers because of the ongoing verification. So, God in his infinite mercy sent in NGOs, taking care of IDPs, providing jobs for the people and increasing our sales.”
Despite the current economic recession that forced many hotels to close and made beautiful houses unattractive in Abuja, but the story is quite different in Maiduguri, the epicenter of the Boko Haram insurgency that consumed over twenty thousand lives and property worth over N1 trillion.
There, a widow, Hajja Fatima, who inherited her late husband’s huge estates which include many apartments, also said she never made money from her business, as she was now getting from NGOs. “I never hesitated to rent out all my unoccupied apartments to NGOs coming into the city,” she boasted, recalling, “Initially, when my estates manager told me that some NGOs want to occupy some apartments, I declined and thought that perhaps they would stay there for free; because I was told NGOs workers are volunteers.
“My estate manager was able to convince me that these NGOs that are now coming into Maiduguri are not like those I knew before. These ones are very rich and can pay whatever amount we ask them to pay. I then agreed; and they paid what others could not pay; they sometimes paid three to four times of what other people could pay. And that has made me to be able to cater for all my dependents,” she said desiring to continue having NGOs as tenants for a long time.
Borno State Governor Kashim Shettima recently accused the NGOs of misusing the resources allocated to them and which were meant for alleviating the hardship that his people are currently experiencing.
According to him, due to their extravagance, they were able to pay N18 million to rent just a single apartment. They drive exotic cars and live flamboyantly. “They made homes in Maiduguri too prohibitive than in Maitama in Abuja.
“We have become a cash cow; and people are smiling their way to the banks from the agony of our people. This is unacceptable. People that are really ready to work are very much welcome here. But people that are here only to use us to make money, may as well leave. We don’t need them, since they are only here to use us to make money,” Shetiima said.
He however, commended a few NGOs, saying, “The World Food Programme is doing a very good job. The ICRC is doing a very good job. We also appreciate the efforts of the Norwegian Refugee Council and the Danish Refugee council. The International Organization for Migration is doing a good job. The UNHCR is also doing a good job.
“Apart from these eight NGOs, the rest of them merely exist. I have a list of 126 NGOs in Borno state,” Shettima said.
Responding in a statement he emailed to Daily Trust in Maiduguri, the Chairman, Network of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) in the state,Ambassador Ahmed Shehu said: “The recent allegation of misuse of public funds by some NGOs operating in Borno State by the Borno State Government is not out of place, because some of the NGOs lack the transparency and accountability in terms of agenda, recruitment of staff, operations, interventions in the communities finances, and governance necessary to effectively perform their crucial role in democratic civil society.
“However, it is not motivating to conclude and mention some organizations that are impacting because there are organizations whose presence and impact is visible everywhere and they are cushioning the effect of the hardship caused by the insurgency on the victims of Boko Haram in the state such organizations will feel demoralised.
“The dramatic proliferation in the number of NGOs and the growth in public and private grants and contracts flowing to them in the name of support to the victims of insurgency, when compared to the impact, leaves much to be desired,” he said, adding,
“Because, so many types of organizations are subsumed under the acronym NGO, the scope and breadth of this sectors landscape is lost,” he said.
“However,” he added, “This is not saying there are no good ones that impact on the Community. Many are around and visible and doing their best. To mention a few, Medicine San Frontiers (MSF) is the first to provide health service support in various host communities.
(The) UNICEF has been supporting in health, water and education and a host of others.
The issue is stakeholders’ inability to regulate their entry, presence, accurately measure their impact, coordination and synergy in their operations,” Amb. Shehu said.
According to him, “One of the critical problems that need to be addressed by all stakeholders is for the Government to take the initiative of creating an atmosphere for regulation and operation, the private sector to identify their priorities and the united Nations office of humanitarian affairs (UN OCHA) to step up its coordination drive effectively.
“The concern about funding and accountability of NGOs is complex ,especially when an NGO operates in a different country like Nigeria. It is often almost impossible to accurately track the funding of NGOs based outside the United States, Europe, Japan, and Australia.
“Most NGOs in the developed world have at least achieved financial transparency as a result of a mix of public and private oversight, regulation, and accreditation. Every NGO in the United States, for example, must file its finances annually with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the federal agency in charge of taxation. Once filed and processed, these reports are accessible to the public. In addition, every U.S. NGO must register with the state in which it is resident, and it is required to publish an annual report. Why can’t we have same in Borno state?,” he demanded.
“In order to ensure transparency and accountability in the humanitarian community in the North east The network of civil society organizations in Borno State, has recommended and will partner with the Borno state government and the Borno state humanitarian coordination committee, to organize a multi-stakeholder joint review sector of partners working in the public interest in the North east in order to hold them accountable.
“We feel the creation of norms for transparency and a framework for discussion of accountability will solve the problem, as a New York Times article put it, “Asking Do-Gooders to Prove They Do Good.”The objective is to ensure that the NGO community practices what they preach or they will risk losing both their credibility and their independence,” Amb. Shehu concluded.
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