Why Borno Governor Attacked UNICEF, Others

Governor of Borno State, Kashim Shettima
Governor of Borno State, Kashim Shettima

By Tajudeen Suleiman

New facts have emerged on why the Borno State Governor, Kashim Shettima, on Tuesday attacked some United Nations Agencies and Non-Governmental Organisations as working against humanitarian efforts in the state.

This website gathered on Wednesday that the state government is worried that many international agencies receive funding for humanitarian purposes in the state but do not carry the government along in implementing relief efforts.

This, it was gathered, renders useless the state government’s plans for humanitarian assistance to victims of Boko haram.

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It was also gathered that attempts in the past by the state government to work with some of the agencies or to make them accountable for grants received for humanitarian efforts in the state had been resisted.

There are 62 officially registered aid agencies and NGOs operating in Borno. While speaking at a forum on Tuesday, governor Shittima took a swipe at some UN agencies for not doing enough to help the state in spite of the huge donor funds at their disposal.

He said only organisations such as the World Food Programme, the International Committee of the Red Cross, the International Organisation for Migration, the UNHCR, the Norwegian Refugee Council, the Danish Refuge Council and a few others were doing “very good job” in the state.

He added that UN agencies like the UNICEF were not doing enough to justify the funds at their disposal and that they had turned the state into their cash cow, spending the funds more on their staff welfare than on the displaced persons they came to help.

He singled out the UNICEF, saying “But particularly the UNICEF, considering the huge quantum of funds at their disposal, they are not really trying.”

This website gathered that many of the aid agencies and NGOs working in the state do not take the government into confidence on their operational budgets and what they plan to deliver in aid to the state.

They simply go to the field and execute their programmes, a strategy which government officials say does not help the state’s response plan.

The Special Adviser on Media to the Borno State governor, Isa Gusau, who spoke to the website, said the governor spoke out of frustration with the operations of some of the aid agencies and NGOs working in the state.

He disclosed that top officials of some of the UN agencies and NGOs live in luxury homes and hotels in Maiduguri, spending huge amounts on their personal welfare and operational logistics than on alleviating the humanitarian crisis in the state.

“NGOs can better assist by prioritising the needs of the people, working the communities on their priorities and by being more transparent and accountable. For instance if the UN gets donor funding intervention in the state, nobody can ask questions about it, nobody can probe what they do. The beneficiaries should know how much has been generated and what they intend to do with the funds,” Gusau stated”

The governor’s media aide said that since 2011 till date, the total cash collected by the state from external sources was less than one billion naira, while  the state had spent N600 million every month since 2011.

He said now that the military had decimated the Boko Haram insurgents, government’s spending had gone down to about N100 million monthly on humanitarian relief.

But UNICEF has justified its operations stressing that the state government was not saying the whole truth.

A senior official of the organisation who asked not to be quoted because he is not permitted to speak for the agency told our reporter in Maiduguri that UNICEF had given out huge sums in the past to the state for purchase of relief items, but that the funds were diverted.

He said the organisation was unhappy at the development and made its feelings known to the government.

He said UNICEF even threatened to pull out of the state at the time but that the state pleaded with the agency with a promise that it would not happen again.

The official added that although the organisation offers relief assistance directly to displaced persons, it still makes cash donations to the state.

The Communication Manager at the UNICEF office in Maiduguri, Rabiu Musa, said he had no comments when he was asked to react to the allegations.

“We are focused on delivering on our mandate in the state,” he told the website in his office.

Senior officials of the state who spoke with this website in Maiduguri said that the situation where international agencies do whatever they like has not helped in formulating a coordinated humanitarian response to the problem of caring for displaced persons in Borno State.

For example, it was disclosed that the uncoordinated efforts had resulted into a situation where the same aids are delivered by different NGOs to IDPs when the resources could have been better utilised in other areas.

An official also told the website that interventions by UNICEF and some other NGOs are based on what their team of assessors see as needs of the communities and not what the people really need.