As the news of Boko Haram attacks that characterize the insurgency-stricken North Eastern Nigeria continues to dominate the media space, little do people actually realize that each of those occurrences sends many to early grave, inflicts permanent disability to some, injures and deforms survivors as well as destroys valuable properties of the victims.
When put in the proper perspective, useful lives are being cut short, manpower destroyed, children are being turned to orphans, wives to widows, husbands to widowers; settlements are displaced -the society completely deformed, houses are razed, farms plundered; there is total absence of peaceful and pleasant live-style. Anarchical and tortuous mood take the centre stage. Pains and anguish are common experience of the population. There is urgent need for help.
Therefore when the presidential committee for support of Victims of Terrorism in its wisdom established Victim support Fund VSF as a strategic measure to sustainably alleviate the sufferings of the casualties of Boko Haram insurgency, Nigerians and indeed the global community welcomed it with excitement. This was evident by the overwhelming support that greeted the fund raising exercise organized by the parent committee
To underscore the depth of commitment of stakeholders to this noble objective: the government graciously supported the program, to the extent of hosting the inaugural fund rising in the Presidential Villa to attract massive form the best dignitaries across the land. Key government functionaries like the Minister of Petroleum, mobilized all the oil marketers in the country to donate for the fund. The same way the Central Bank Governor rallied round the bankers to donate. The States Governors, Ministers, captains of industries and other eminent
Nigerians came out in their number and committed large sums of money. At the end a total of about N54 billion was realized in cash and pledge.
Though the Presidential Committee and the VSF expressed appreciation for every single kobo contributed and remains grateful to every donor to the fund raising exercise, nonetheless, if truth must be told, the sum of N54 billion if fully redeemed is not enough to cater for the enormous responsibilities awaiting the VSF going by the assessment. In answer to the challenge of managing the fund sustainably the committee established the Nigerian Foundation for the support of Victims of Terrorism in Nigeria, limited by a guarantee and registered in corporate affairs commission as the operational arm of the presidential committee of the victim support fund.
As practiced in other well meaning foundations across the world, the Nigerian Foundation for the support of victims is to invest and manage the fund while the return on investments is being used to run VSF on sustainable basis. In that sense, the organization is insulated from political or government interference, which goes a long way to demonstrate the determination of the VSF leadership to ensure that failure is kept at bay.
Commendations must go the way of the chairman of VSF in the name of Gen Theophilus Danjuma, an eminent Nigerian, a retired general, a former defense minister, a business man and philanthropist for bringing his wealth of experience to bear in taking the organization this far. Similarly, Prof Sunday Ochoche, a renowned Peace and Conflict resolution Authority who is the VSF Executive Director and leader of management team deserves praises for knowing the right decisions and keeping to them in advancing the fund.
Like Abraham Lincoln stated in one of his popular speeches, that it is not the years in life that matter but the life in your years. VSF has not been there for long but has accomplished much for this short time it has been on stream. Firstly, it understudied the situation on ground to determine who the victims of the Boko Haram insurgency were, how they have been affected, what types of support they require and how best to administer the required support to bring succor to the victims
The study established that it was not going to be possible for VSF with the limited resources to engage with all that was required. It was also realized that VSF is not the only organization operating in the field. There are many other support providers like National Emergency Management Agency NEMA, The Red Cross etc, who are there before VSF and are still there so it was important to work in a collaborative manner with them. Therefore it was imperative to carry out stakeholders analysis of who is working where to determine where the gaps were so that duplication of responsibility should be avoided and also that no area of care will be left untouched.
On account of this assessment, the fund designed for itself the following mandates: to provide economic empowerment for victims of terrorism (mostly women), give Educational support for terror-affected and displaced children, offer Psychosocial support for people affected by terrorism, and see to the Facilitation of foster programming for children orphaned by terrorism, Others include to give Support for over-stretched hospitals to provide free treatment to victims of terrorism, Carry out Critical assessment of state of insurgency in the Nigeria, and undertake Socio–Economic analysis of the impact of insurgency on the victims.
Looking at specific impacts, VSF conscious of the fact that Health is wealth is supporting a total of up to sixteen hospitals right now across the country to enhance the quality of medical services provided for free to the victims of insurgency.
On economic empowerment, women economic empowerment program, presently has a total of 1000 women in Maiduguri who are benefiting from it where VSF has made N20 million available to these women to start their businesses and still working closely with them to organize them in a savings and loan associations and to guide them on how to utilize the fund and so far, the result is impressive and this is being scaled up later this year from that 1000 to 6000 women but we now extend to Adamawa and Yobe.
Still on economic empowerment there exists agro-based intervention for returning families- some families that were displaced and are returning now that situations are stabilizing in Yobe and Taraba. VSF is making resources available to enable them quickly begin their agricultural activities so that the crisis of food insecurity, hunger and so on that they have faced these few years will not continue so they are being arranged as quickly as possible to be given economic capacity. This is targeting a total of 4000 households: 2000 in Yobe and 2000 in Taraba.
For educational interventions VSF has gone far in providing school materials for school children, talking of all the textbooks required, the writing materials, the uniform, the sandals the bag. This was started with a total of 21,300 children, covering Borno, Yobe, Adamawa and an IDP centre in Benin and is being scaled up. A sources from the fund has it that come November the program will be expanded with 35,000 children added it.
Also in area of reconstruction of public structures that have been destroy-as one of the worst things that Boko Haram did was the destruction of every facility that is out there. Nothing is standing in most of the affected areas and VSF has started with Dikwa in Borno state where all public structures in Dikwa have been reconstructed-the schools, the hospitals, police barracks, local government secretariat, government lodges, bore holes, everything. Bama, Boniade in Yobe and Michika in Adamawa are next on the line progress.
Provision of foster care for children that lost both parents is another project on the front burner of VSF area of interventions. They are many children out there who have lost both parents and are disconnected from parenthood and who need to be looked after. And for many of them because of camp situation right now they have adults who are looking after them there. But increasingly as many camps are now being closed and people are beginning to return, VSF thinks very strategically what to do with these children. A unique Foster care system is one of the things that have been decided and are being processed. These children will be adequately taken care of.
According to a report of the fund confirmed by a north east news correspondent, the VSF interventions are quite visible and touching lives. With the degree of impacts, spread and penetration of VSF intervention programs especially to Boko Haram endemic localities where severe attacks actually took place, there is no doubt that the organization meant business. What remains is for the fund to be given time and patience to implement its entire program.
Those up in arm to criticize or disparage VSF should come to the reasoning table that people in need of VSF intervention are well over 2 million Nigerians. If they should be handing out cash packages of a million naira each as rehabilitation package which may still not satisfy the immediate needs of the individuals in question, we will be looking for N2 Thrillion- An amount that VSF does not even have 1 Johnson is a Media practitioner and writes from Abuja% of. Another point is that some people see VSF as out to solve all the problems of insurgency. No! No medicine cures all sickness and no organization no matter how diversified does everything, which makes specialization a good attribute of any serious engagement.
Management of VSF have therefore meticulously chosen its area competence and comparative advantage to enable it make greatest impact , as whatever that is worth doing is worth doing well. The simplest Nigerians should do in spirit of fairness is to give them support to attain greater success.
Johnson is a Media practitioner and wrote in from Abuja