-Rudha Hassan Bakalori
Domestic aid groups have never been popular in poverty plagued Northern Nigeria. While “expatriates” are seen as compassionate people who’d come to render help to poor people those of us who’d strapped our own aid giving jackets have for long been painted as the enemy. I suppose it’s not so suprising, in a region where people go days without a meal an African who is willing to help, especially when he doesn’t ask you to join his/her own religion seems almost too good to be true. To those who tried to make sense of it, we are the opportunists who use the misfou==rtune of our people to dupe gullible white men into giving us their fortune all so we can pretend to be helping. The huge allowances and salaries being dashed out by many foreign sponsored NGOs is obviously not helping. And with the humanitarian crisis in the North East, I confess, NGOs have become huge business.
At the height of the insurgency, many undergraduates exploited the violence and became the men on the ground for many aid agencies who would never dare to venture into the hell hole. These young people became outstandingly rich and to teh envy of their friends, suddenly became the latest superstars feeding off the misfortune of an ancient civilisation.
But away from economic envy, the recent decimal failure in the Buhari administration’s effort to retake Nigerian territory from Boko Haram has sent these anti NGO feelings down an even more dangerous trajectory. With propaganda videos being released every week, people being kidnapped by the militants and bombings at every corner of Borno, people are starting to blame NGOs instead of the militant organisations.
My friend Abu Gargamo blames the lavish lifestyle of most volunteers. With aid organisations sending millions of dollars which end up being diverted by corrupt officials, it’s not hard to understand why the NGOs are taking the brunt of the heat. But the truth is most of corruption is actually coming, not from NGOs which have robust internal adit mechanisms, but from government agencies which have colonised the aid distribution process.
Nigeria’s National Emergency Agency is experiencing what is perhaps its golden age thanks to the huge money that is flowing into the many camps it runs in the North East, so are the many refugee commissions, committees and agencies that are all grabbing a bite from donor dollars. Nothing perhaps is testimony to the free for all like the newly proposed North East Development commission. This new agency will add to the long list of inefficient, corrupt and ineffective agencies that are siphoning money from that should have been used for capital projects from Nigeria’s federal budget.
Just this week, security operatives raided a UN compound sending the poor staff to take cover in a saferoom built to provide safe harbour in the event of a BokoHaram attack, this shows that the rumours against aid agencies have started to filter into official security circles. So what can we do?
Well, international aid donors must know that the current trend of giving exorbitant salaries and allowances is actually counter productive. while we all like to attract the best minds we also don’t like to have corrupt, mony hunters and there are loads of those in Nigeria. Aid agencies should also try to enforce strict regimes for aid distribution such as using biometric credentials to ensure that all refugees are actually being given the aid that’s meant for them and it’s not being siphoned off by some corrupt soldier of government official. Adopting IT solutions is this regard is most prudent option. Lastly, I think we Nigerians need to understand the capabilities of our own security agencies and become realistic in the ongoing anti terror effort. The use of mercenaries had helped Nigeria a lot, especially during the six weeks of the Jonathan Era. The Army God Bless them for their sacrifice have been at it for 2 years now and are still yet to secure Nigeria’s territory, maybe someone high up should tell the President its time to rethink bringing back those mercenaries or at least some international force of well-trained and equipped soldiers who can actually flush out the insurgents from Nigeria once and for all.