Governor of Borno State, Kashim Shettima, has said some of his colleagues in the North-east were making false claims about the situation of internally displaced persons and destruction wreaked by Boko Haram insurgents in their states.
Mr. Shettima said the governors were exaggerating the impact of the insurgency in their domains to rake in donations from philanthropists and international donor agencies.
He spoke on Friday in Government House, Maiduguri when he hosted a delegation of the United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA), led by its deputy regional director for West and East Africa, Beatrice Mutali.
The governor said his state was the epicenter of the insurgency and suffered over 80 percent of the destruction by Boko Haram.
He said he was worried that some sister states not much touched by the insurgency were allegedly lying to draw donors’ attention.
Mr. Shettima allegation came in the wake of the passage of a bill by the National Assembly for the establishment of the Northeast Development Commission (NDC).
The commission is expected to coordinate the rehabilitation of communities in the region devastated by the insurgency and provision of support for the victims.
Deliberation of the bill at the National Assembly featured a heated debate and other intrigues over the location of the headquarters of the proposed commission, before Maiduguri, the Borno State capital was eventually agreed on.
Ahead of the takeoff of the commission, interest groups in the region have also started jostling for positions on its board with a view to potentially influencing its activities in the areas of determination of projects and disbursement of funds.
Expressing his gratitude to the UN system for its interventions, Mr. Shettima said the state had not been getting its fair share of the supports coming from the international donor agencies because of bogus claims he said were being made by other states.
“We truly appreciate your efforts. But we really need you to step up your activities in the state because Borno, most sadly, is the nerve center of Boko Haram; but when it comes to goodies, you will be seeing states that suffer the least, exaggerating the sufferings inflicted on their society by Boko Haram as if such a thing is a badge of honor.
“To me, I am not proud to say Borno state is the nerve center of Boko Haram. But states where, one, two or three local government are occupied by Boko Haram will exaggerate it and say up to ten of their local government areas had been occupied by Boko Haram; or you hear them saying 15 local government areas were conquered by Boko Haram in Adamawa state, or in Yobe state or in Taraba state.
“People are even exaggerating the numbers of IDPs they have. And mind you, if you go to Adamawa, the IDPs are from Borno state; just like if you go to Cameroon, the Nigerian refugees there, 95 percent of the IDPs are from Borno state; so also in Niger Republic. But it is not for me to say they should be denied any support.
“However any support you give us, you are just here to complement our efforts. We in Borno are very proud and self-contented people. We will never beg any organisation or group for support; rather we will implore on them on a pedestal of equality to assist our people in these our hours of need”.
The governor lamented the toll of the insurgency on children and women, who constitute the most vulnerable groups in society.
“Women and children bore the brunt of this madness called Boko Haram; women are the victims of gender-based violence, and they really need psychosocial support to overcome their trauma”, said Governor Shettima.
“Just a couple of weeks ago, the Nigerian military handed over to us over 500 kids and brutalized women; they were wives and kids of Boko Haram combatants. But my personal take on it is that these women and children were as much victims of Boko Haram as any other people in our community because most of them were married off to the Boko Haram members not in their own volition.
“They were literally kidnapped and held as sex slaves of Boko Haram. And the kids are utterly blameless; you cannot ostracize those kids; you cannot maltreat or profile them as Boko Haram kids so they should not have access to education and so on.
“After the de-radicalization programme, we are poised to see that they are reintegrated into the society, they are sufficiently empowered, and we will provide equal opportunity for the kids”, the governor said.
The UNFPA team visited Mr. Shettima to present a review of the organisation’s operations and interventions in the state.
“We are going to scale up our efforts in the psycho-social supports, gender based violence and humanitarian services”, the leader of the delegation, Ms. Mutali said.
The UNFPA said it trained 170 health workers, 55 doctors and midwives on maternal and child healthcare in the past few months. It has also distributed 129 reproductive health kits, comprising 1,413 cartons of assorted family planning commodities, and given priority to health facilities in the state.
The UNFPA said it has also provided 32,600 dignity kits to rural women, especially young girls to restore their dignity. It said a total of 7,297 victims of Boko Haram were given psycho-social counseling as well as skills acquisition and empowerment.
Before the liberation of the communities held by the Boko Haram around the northeast, 21 of the 27 local government areas of Borno state were under the control of the insurgents, while Borno and Yobe states lost control of two council areas each to the Boko Haram.