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UNDP indicts PINE, Babachir in diversion of IDP funds

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Jude Johnson 
 The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) had in its latest report indicted the defunct Presidential Initiative on the North East (PINE) and former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, (SGF) Babachir Lawal, in the illegal diversion of funds donated to help the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the country.

The report, which UNDP issued in collaboration with the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) revealed that out of N8.352 billion released to PINE in 2016, a total sum of N6.326bn was spent, leaving a balance of N2.026bn.

It stated that PINE paid less attention to the critical needs of IDPs in the areas of housing, food, education and healthcare, but rather used the bulk of the resources on contracts that were found to have immensely benefitted some public officials, including Babachir Lawal.

Lawal, who was head of PINE has been fired from his post by President Muhammadu Buhari following his indictment by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo-led panel which investigated allegations of theft and misuse of IDP funds.

The UNDP and NHRC mainatined that the overall goal of the 103-page assessment report was to ascertain the human rights and humanitarian conditions of people and communities affected by the long period of violent conflicts in the North Eastern states of Nigeria.

The assessment, which was done from 2015 to June 2017, also focused on human rights protection issues encompassing sexual and gender-based violence, access to justice, community policing and capacity of law enforcement officers for timely response to crises.

“Public procurement rules and extant federal financial guidelines were breached in the award of the contracts,” the report claimed.

“Prima facie cases of conflict of interest were established and companies were fully paid as at a time they had not finished the assigned jobs, while kickbacks were made by some companies to others where public officials had clear interest.

“Again, out of 249 trucks carrying 10, 000 metric tonnes of Maize released by the Federal Government for the benefit of the IDPs in the six states of the North East, 65 trucks were diverted and did not reach their intended destinations.

“They were later recovered by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) after the Senate Committee report was made public.

“But this is a development against the background of the mounting hunger and food crisis in the IDP camps.

“The findings was that governments did not use the maximum of available resources to protect the rights and welfare of the IDPs. The resources provided at the federal and state levels were paltry.

“Most of the IDPs lived in host communities with little access to official humanitarian support, putting additional strain on the already stretched communual health, education and social services.

“The camps were struggling to accommodate the increasing number of displaced people, who found themselves subject to unhealthy living conditions. Many children were malnourished, as adequate provisions were not made to feed them.”

It also alleged that massive gender-based and sexual violations were recorded within the assessment period, adding that women and girls were sexually abused while some of them were forced into marriage against their will.

As part of its recommendations, the report urged the federal government to prosecute and punish all persons and organisations responsible for diverting food meant for IDPs and create more transparency around distribution of food for displaced persons.

It further urged FG to, “Consider the establishment of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to enable all stakeholders- perpetrators, victims and survivors to openly discuss about the insurgency and how the wounds can be healed.”

Credits | TW

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