The United Nations (UN) has listed difficulty in accessing Visa from the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) and delay in the clearance of humanitarian supplies by the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) as the challenges confronting it in its bid to render humanitarian services in the North East region of Nigeria.
Deputy Humanitarian Coordinator, United Nations System in Nigeria, Mohamed El Munir Safieldin confirmed that they face challenges in the bid for Customs clear its humanitarian support items and also delay in the issuance of Visa by the Nigeria Immigration Service.
Thousands of people had been displaced, while many children are threatened with malnutrition since the Boko Haram terrorist group launched a seven-year war against Nigeria, seeking to establish an Islamic caliphate in the North East. The reclaiming of territories earlier by the Nigeria Military captured by Boko Haram terrorists has led to humanitarian crises in the region, particularly Borno, Yobe and Adamawa States.
On Thursday, hundreds of Internally Displaced Persons were reported to have left their camps and take to the streets of Maiduguri to protest against hunger and severe thirst in their respective camps, with palpably angry IDPs women and children blocking the main entry point of the Borno State capital, a development which caused gridlock along the Kano Maiduguri highway.
UN, which is the second leading organisation aside NEMA that is providing humanitarian services in Boko Haram ravished areas has said without support, many children could die in the various displaced persons’ camps.
According to the head of the UN humanitarian services in Nigeria, the health, water and other facilities, as well schools of Dikwa, Goza, Dambuwa and Bama communities have been completely destroyed by the Boko Haram insurgency.
This is coming just as the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) has hinted that President Muhammadu Buhari has issued a letter to all relevant authorities, instructing them to ensure speedy issuance of Visa and quick clearance of humanitarian supplies coming into the country.
Regretting that they face delay from Customs in clearing its humanitarian support items and delay in the issuance of Visa by the Nigeria Immigration Service, Safieldin lamented that for some of them that have been to the North East, they have observed that health facilities, water sources and schools are always the target of Boko Haram.
“We don’t have the mandate to rebuild these important facilities in these communities but without these infrastructures, people can’t stay there. People cannot stay in places liberated by the military unless such critical facilities as schools and water supply are restored”, Safieldin said.
The UN chief who will be leaving Nigeria very soon further said, “We are requesting that there should be a quick issuance of Visa and prompt clearance of humanitarian supplies coming into Nigeria.”
He appealed to development actors and other agencies to support the federal government through NEMA to rebuild the needed infrastructures in those communities.
“We do meet with all stakeholders. There is need for them to support the people in the villages rather than allowing them to keep migrating in search of social amenities. There is also need for the line ministries to contribute financially. We understand that a lot of support has been made by the government through NEMA and the Victim Support Fund which has led to the construction of some facilities in Dikwa and some other places,” he said.
Safieldin, while speaking on how Nigerians can get rid of the trauma caused by insurgency, advised emergency workers to establish some other outlets outside the present comfort zones like Maiduguri, Yola, Damaturu and other liberated cities.
He said, “We want people there to appreciate the donors. If there are outlets outside these cities, more humanitarian actors would be on ground. If the actors are not on ground, the situation is not going to change.
“UN does not create money. The UN creates services once it receives the funding. We appreciate the 38 per cent funding from HRP but it is not enough compared to what is required”.
Safieldin disclosed that in Bama alone, one camp has up to 25000 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) with over 2000 children coming to UN facility to learn in the open.
“I hope we free the military teachers soon because I saw a similar thing in Goza, were there is also no health facility but only a military hospital. As much as we appreciate what the Military is doing, we as humanitarian experts need to take over so that the military can totally focus on there job”, he added.
It was gathered that the children are taught by the Nigerian military teachers.
While speaking on the attack on a UN convoy in a Borno State community earlier in the month, Safieldin said when the incident took place, some of the humanitarian workers were discouraged.
His words: “When I asked the staff what we should do, some opted to go back. But we could not go back because we are here to save lives. What NEMA is doing is wonderful. Nigeria is blessed to have a NEMA is place. I have been in the UN for 25 years, I have never seen a country with a humanitarian wing that is performing like NEMA. I also think the resources NEMA has is well utilized.
“But very importantly, we need functional State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) for each of the states, and a functioning Local Government Emergency Management Committees. Once Nigeria does that, very soon, it will be a model on how to deal with such a conflict of armed group like Boko Haram. Nigeria has a good history of dealing with Natural disasters but Boko Haram crises is a new phenomenon that just appeared in some countries like Iraq and Syria and now Nigeria.
“If we say we want to support Nigeria, we are not in anyway undermining the capacity of Nigeria or the autonomy of Nigeria.
Nigeria is a member of the international community and is entitled to support from the international community. Now, the intentional community is paying back for the role Nigeria has been playing on peace keeping globally”.
The Director General (DG) of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), Muhammad Sani- Sidi, while responding, confirmed that President Muhammadu Buhari has ordered relevant agencies to facilitate the clearance of all humanitarian supports coming to Nigeria.
The DG said that NEMA has been working with relevant government agencies to ensure speedy issuance of Visa for people coming to Nigeria to render humanitarian support services.
He said, “On clearance for humanitarian supplies, I want to assure that Mr President has already given directives to all the agencies involved to ensure speedy clearance of all humanitarian supplies coming to Nigeria. I have a copy of the letter that was sent to relevant agencies and I am sure they will abide by it.
“Visas, yes; we’ve been working with all our partners that asked us to request for Visas. We at NEMA want to make a plea that any time there is a scaling up, let them scale up with our local capacity because Nigeria is blessed with so many human resources”.
While commenting on the activities of the UN in Nigeria, the NEMA boss said the team decided not to stay in Abuja but even went ahead to visit communities declared not safe by the Military.
“That is a confirmation that the UN is doing the real humanitarian work. I thank other partners like UNICEF, NGOs and government agencies that have been supporting us since this crises started. We are going to partner and ensure that our work is done in accordance with international best practices,” Sani-Sidi concluded.
Meanwhile, the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai hinted yesterday that the European Union has released some funds to the African Union to support the regional campaign against the Boko Haram threat in Nigeria and the countries of the Lake Chad Basin.
Buratai who disclosed when he received some participants of the Bangladesh Defence College on a world tour, led by Rear Admiral Anwarul Islam at the Army headquarters assured that the the campaign against Boko Haram was getting more support in the international arena, with the United Nations supporting the activities of the Multinational Joint Task Force.
The Army chief noted that apart from the support by international bodies, individual countries such as the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany and France were also contributing to intensify the fight against the insurgents.