Shettima’s Attack On UNICEF: UN Officials Storm Borno Govt House

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

Top officials of the United Nations in Nigeria on Thursday stormed the Government House Maiduguri, Borno State, for a fence mending meeting with the governor, Kashim Shettima, following his criticism of their humanitarian operations in the state.

Shettima had on Wednesday, decried the non-performance of many of the 126 NGOs working in the state, including the UNICEF, which he claimed  misuse  funds meant for humanitarian support of Boko Haram victims.

The UN Resident Humanitarian Coordinator to Nigeria, Edward Kallon,  who led the delegation, said they claim to clarify issues surrounding  the UN mission in the state.

At the event, Kallon made a detail presentation of the UN mission for  the North-east and Borno in particular.

Shettima, who commended the UN staff for the fence-mending visit, said  the media misquoted him in the report.

He said he did not include UNICEF or any of the top UN organisations  in the list of the NGOs he wanted out of Borno state.

Kallon implored Governor Shettima on the need to understand the  dynamics of the politics surrounding humanitarian services.

He also asked the governor to be wary of the media, which he said  could stall efforts being made to channel more funding and supports  for the victims of Boko Haram.

“I want to touch on the issue of media; I know the media issue has  been a controversy,” said the UN Country Representative.

“And I want to bring to your notice that the crisis we are managing  here is also competing with emergencies in other parts of the world;  for example Syria, Sudan, Myanmar, etc.

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“For example the Syria fund that will be launched in March or April  this year is about $6 billion. The South Sudan appeal will be asking  for about $3 billion to $4 billion.”

Kallon  described Nigerians as “extremely too liberal”, and warned   that “ if we allow the media to shoot us in our legs, we are not going  to be able to walk. Because this is what is happening now…and if we  continue to send out different languages with different messages, it  is not going to help all of us.

“So I really need your support and that of your administration, for us  to speak with one voice and come together as strategic partners.

“I am a West African, but the media in Nigeria is too liberal; is  extremely liberal; and they can say anything. I am so impressed with  such vibrancy of media in Nigeria.”

Kallon said the UN has since last year scaled up its humanitarian  support in especially North-east Nigeria to about 100 percent since  his arrival to the country.

He urged Governor Shettima to always consult them, being experts in  the humanitarian business, anytime he has questions or observed  something he is not pleased with.

He said Borno government and the UN must always speak with one voice,  as having contrasting views on the same issue might scare donors away.

“One thing you have to know about the humanitarian business is that it  is a big, big politics. UN are now stabilizing their staffs here by  bringing in their permanent staff; they are trying to bring their  staff from Syria and other places – people who have the experience in  dealing with the humanitarian business.

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“I have done this job for more than 29 years, and one thing I can tell  you is that, in Nigeria you know how to do your business, but not like  the humanitarian business – it is politics. Yes, very big politics.

“And the only way we can beat the politics is to be on the same page  and we speak with one voice.

“Because all what the external actors are waiting for, is to have  different views…which is not going to help us moving ahead.

“So I will want to work with you, your excellency to address any  remaining challenges on effective coordination on the ground, resource  mobilization is our priority; humanitarian access, and because we  speak with one voice, Your Excellency, we ought to tell them our story  coherently and articulately.

“This is a challenge I have seen in Nigeria, we are not telling our  story coherently”.

Kallon urged Governor Shettima to be soft on the NGOs, stressing that  much as they have their shortcomings, they could still be very useful  in dispensing humanitarian services.

“The NGOs are our partners with choice; some of them are good,” he said.“It is just like when you have children; there are good ones and there  are trouble makers. But you just have manage them all. And managing  them is our job here on the ground.

“Your Excellency, if you want any information on the activities of these people ask Mr. Peter, our coordinator here, and I am sure he  will give you the information, you can then cross check. And if you  are not happy, that is why we are here.

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Governor Shettima said he was “very sorry” for the embarrassment his  statement about nonperforming NGOs might have caused the UN system.

“The media are our necessary evil; they are our friend that have stood  by us during our dark days of Boko Haram insurgency. But we all know  how they operate; they are not interested in hearing me praise UN, all  they want is to hear me lambast the UN so that they can have some  catchy headlines to sell their news.

“I appreciate the UN, they have been our allies in this crisis. There  is no way I could have disparaged the UN.

“But I insist that the other  126 NGOs that are not doing anything but smiling to banks in the name  of Borno must either leave or do the needful.”

Shettima said he was impressed with the vision the UN has for Borno  state and as such his government will be disposed to working with  them.

He added that all that his government wants from the UN is  supports in kind not in cash.

“I do not want you to give us money in any form”, he said. “All we  want from you is bring in what ever assistance you want to give my  people; let your officials monitor how they are being executed.”