Corruption in Nigeria

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Corruption in Nigeria

Samuel Malik writes that there is a lot of corruption in Nigeria’s camps


The Nigerian military saved these women and children from Boko Haram and brought them to this camp in Yola, Adamawa State, Nigeria. © REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde

In June 2016, there were pictures in the media of very hungry people with no home in Bama, Borno State. Nigerians were very shocked. But this problem is not new – it has been there for years.

It got in the news because this time, the pictures are from Bama, about 70 kilometres from Maiduguri, the state capital. It is difficult to get to Bama, especially for journalists. The International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR, only got there because its reporter was living with the military for four days – they usually do not allow Nigerian journalists to do this.

Bama is the second-largest town in Borno. It has had the worst problems from the seven years of Boko Haram insurgency. In 2006 it had a population of more than 260,000 people, but now there is almost no-one, only soldiers and the 26,000 people in the camp. The Bama camp has been there for about a year.

The Maiduguri-Bama road is only open to soldiers because there are some attacks by Boko Haram. In April they attacked a top army commander, killing one of his security guards and wounding two others. Access to the road is only possible with security permission and a military escort.

The ICIR journalist found that at least 18 people are dying every day at the Bama camp. In May, a local NGO, the Bama Community Peace Initiative, said that the food they cooked in the six kitchens there was poor quality.

Also, there was not enough food, so the 4,000 people in the camp could only eat once a day. The report also said that about 11 children died every day.

People died because there was not enough water or toilets. There were only three water holes, and people used open space because there were not enough toilets.

The military saved more Boko Haram hostages from towns like Banki and brought them to Bama. So the number of people living in the camp went up. This meant less water and food.

But after the ICIR report, there was a lot of help. Many groups visited the camp: Doctors Without Borders, the International Organization for Migration, UNICEF, Oxfam and the UNHCR. The government said they must have medicines and food. And they took ill people to the state capital for treatment.

Bama is in the news today, but there are thousands of other people in government camps across the state where conditions are just as terrible. The Dalori camp used to be the largest camp in the state – it was in the news before because of malnutrition.

The other camps are similar to Bama. But journalists cannot get to the camps. This is because there were media reports saying how camp officials take the aid. The reports say the people in the camps are not suffering because they don’t have food and water, but because of corruption.

In 2015, I visited camps in Borno and Adamawa states and saw a lot of grain, mattresses, noodles, detergents, bottled water, tomato puree and fish in the stores. Rich people and organizations gave these. But when I talked to the hungry people, they said they never had these things and they only ate once a day.

There are several organizations working in northeastern Nigeria, but they do not work together well. So they fight and try to get control. For example, two government agencies, NEMA and SEMA do not agree. In Borno, federal government agency NEMA sends food to state government agency, SEMA, who give the food to the people in the camps.

Also, the government gives food to the people in the camps, but international NGOs control hygiene, education and healthcare.

Another problem is that the state government prefers to work with UN agencies, not international NGOs. It thinks the UN agencies bring more money. But NGOs prefer to work directly with the camps - state government officials do not like this.

Governor Kashim Shettima said some of the NGOs get rich from the help for the camps.

‘There are real organizations trying to help us, but there are also some “business groups” who pretend to be NGOs. They take money and aid from our people,’ Shettima said at a meeting about the crisis.

The governor attacks NGOs, but no-one stops his officials, who are pretending to help IDPs but are stealing from them.

Government officials are happy for the people to stay in the camps, not go back to their homes: if they stay longer, the money and aid will continue. The governor knows the officials take the aid. But he doesn’t do anything about this.

They set up committees to investigate. But nothing happens. Government officials say the people are innocent. So there is not much hope for the hungry people in the camps.

NOW READ THE ORIGINAL: (This article has been simplified so the words, text structure and quotes may have changed).