Nigeria News
N60b terror victims cash: Jonathan under pressure

There is the N60 billion raised last year for the support of victims of terrorism? That was the question yesterday amid reports that Boko Haram’s massacre in Baga was unprecedented, but it suffered huge losses in its failed bid to capture Biu in Borno State.

President Goodluck Jonathan was under pressure to explain where the cash had gone.

But the custodians of the funds sprang up to a robust defence of their operations. They said less than N14 billion had been collected of the N58.7billion expected.

The Federal Government on August 1, last year, told Nigerians that N58.7 billion was raised through the Terror Victims Support Fund (TVSF), to assist victims of terrorist attacks, who most times are left to fend for themselves.

Key players in the private sector, including Gen. Theophilus Danjuma, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, Dr. Mike Adenuga Jnr.,  Mr. Tony Elumelu and Mr. Wale Tinubu, were assembled for the TVSF launch at the Presidential Villa and they made generous donations, alongside the federal and state governments.

Although  the initiators of the Fund had targeted N50 billion, their expectation was exceeded with about N10 billion. The Chairman of the Fund’s committee, Gen. Danjuma, said the money was not to fight the anti-terror war.

Gen. Danjuma said: “All too often, the victims of terror are soon forgotten. The majority are the soft targets the terrorists prefer but unable to fend for themselves. The funds being collected are not for combating terror or fighting terrorist organisations, but for supporting victims of terrorists attacks.”

But amidst reports of abandonment of terror victims to fend for themselves, many Nigerians have wondered what happened to the money.

Senator Bukola Saraki was among those who called on the President to give account of the fund. He expressed worries that thousands of displaced persons were yet to gain access to the support fund.

In a comment posted on his twitter handle, @Bukolasaraki, the former governor insisted that the President had not lived up to his promise of ending insurgency. He called on his twitter followers to rate Jonathan’s performance.

He tweeted: “On Nov 11, 2014, GEJ said that he ‘will do everything humanly possible to end this violence.’ Rate his performance. What happened to N80billion Terror Victims Support Fund raised in 2014? Or is it N60 billion since they keep changing figures?”

In a related statement issued by his spokesman, Bamikole Omishore, Saraki, who is the Chairman, Senate Committee on Environment and Ecology, insisted that it is sad that months after the inauguration of the committee, thousands of displaced victims of terror are yet to gain access to the funds.

He said: “The terms of reference for the committee included to identify sources and ways of raising sustainable funding to support victims of Boko Haram terror activities; to develop appropriate strategies for the fund raising and to ascertain the persons, communities, facilities and economic assets affected by Boko Haram terror activities.

“The committee was also mandated to assess and determine the appropriate support required in each case, manage, disburse or administer support to the victims as appropriate; to address related challenges as may be appropriate; and to advise government on other matter(s) necessary or incidental to support victims of Boko Haram terror activities among others.

“While inaugurating the committee, Jonathan had told the members to mobilise collective efforts and resources in support of terror victims and urged Nigerians and non-Nigerians, individuals and corporate bodies, to give generously to the fund.

“Donors to the funds so far included banks and captains of blue chip industries in the country.”

Reacting to Saraki’s claims, Vice Chairman of the Fund’s committee, Fola Adeola, told The Nation that the body has received less than N14 billion of the N58.7 billion pledged by would-be donors, adding that N300 million has been expended on 10,000 families in four states.

He said: “I am not aware that he has issued a statement but if indeed he did, then, that was done out of ignorance. At the inauguration of the Fund, people made pledges but we have so far collected less than N14 billion. The money we have collected is above N13 billion but less than N14 billion.

“The money is intact and currently in six banks, except for N300 million we spent in December on 10,000 families of displaced persons in Abuja, Maiduguri, Gombe and Yola.

“When you are setting up an organisation, you do not do so and plan to spend all the money in your coffers the following day. We just appointed an Executive Director who resumed in November.

“At the moment, we are gathering data and visiting affected areas. We are also looking into other intervention mechanism because we believe in assisting these victims. We have also invited auditors (KPMG) to audit the account and, once that is done, the report will be made public.

“The committee is not a straight organisation. We are aware we received money from donors and are accountable to them. The money in our hands cannot miss. I know he is a politician and these are political times, but people must know that the fund is not political and cannot be seen as such.

“It was set up to look into the plight of the victims of terrorism and it cannot be abused.”

Speaking at the occasion, President Jonathan had bemoaned the terror unleashed on Nigeria by the extremist sect, Boko Haram, pledging to lead Nigerians to victory.

He told Nigerians that the establishment of the fund should not be seen as accepting terrorism as a way of life in the country, adding: “No! Never! Rather, this is just one of the short-term measures in our overall strategy against the enemies of peace and progress.”

The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) said yesterday that 981, 416 citizens are displaced in parts of the country.

Its Director General Sani Sidi, gave the figure at the National Information Centre in Abuja, just as Adamawa State confirmed the outbreak of measles in some IDPs camps in the state.

The NEMA boss said only 107, 997 of the displaced persons were living in the Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps.

Sidi, who was represented by the agency’s Director of Search and Rescue Operations, Air Commodore Charles Onifade, at the news briefing, said the figures were gotten with the support of international organisations, states emergency management agencies, the Nigerian Red Cross Society and traditional rulers.

He said the rest of the IDPs were either seeking refuge with their host communities or with friends and acquaintances.

Sidi, who said the number of IDPs increased due to natural disasters and insurgency, added that of the displaced persons, 804,732 were living with their host communities as at January, 14.

On the supports from international partners like United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), OXFAM and others, Sidi added that the agency has been able to manage 20 protected IDPs’ camps in the North.

“External security for the camps is provided by the armed forces while internal security is provided by the civil defence force,” he said.

On the situation in Baga, Sidi said the agency has provided comprehensive humanitarian support to 3,200 IDPs from Baga at its facility in the teachers’ village camp in Maiduguri.

Also speaking at the briefing, the Coordinator of the centre, Mike Omeri, said the increase in the number of suicide bombers was an indication that the Boko Haram sect is running out of options.

He said the Federal Government was working hard to ensure that all insurgents were rooted out from their hiding places and a safe and secure country for the citizens is restored.

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