Governor Babagana Zulum of Borno State yesterday used the Qur’an to curse those diverting food and other materials meant for the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs).
The governor is in Monguno to coordinate supervise and sanitise the distribution of food items to 190,050 IDPs, the majority of who are from Marte, Kukawa, Mobbar, Guzamala and Monguno local government areas, all in northern part of the state.
Zulum ordered a copy of Qur’an to be raised the traditional way to seek the wrath of God against anyone who diverts food and other materials meant for the welfare of displaced persons.
The oath was also administered against IDPs who always collect multiple rations of food most of which they sell in markets, depriving fellow displaced persons of food.
Zulum left Maiduguri on Sunday morning and arrived Monguno in the evening.
Monguno is the largest town in northern Borno, a majority Muslim part of the state most susceptible to Boko Haram attacks. Monguno is not far from Baga and Kukawa from where citizens fled after attacks. Monguno itself was occupied by Boko Haram around 2013 and 2014.
Early this year, the insurgents had made two failed attempts to seize military barracks in Monguno.
Zulum had at the weekend ordered the deployment of trailers loaded with varieties of food items especially rice, pasta, oil and other condiments ahead of his visit.
The governor also ordered that a copy of the Qur’an be made available. On Sunday night, Zulum held a series of meetings with officials involved in humanitarian activities and those of local government areas whose citizens are displaced in Monguno.
At 6a.m. yesterday, the governor began tour of the 16 camps in Monguno. He went early to ensure that genuine IDPs who spend nights in camps were to benefit. In each camp, the governor spent at least an hour, reorganising and distributing customised tickets to bread winners of households with which the families receive quantities of food to last them for weeks.
However, hundreds of adult male and female IDPs started to leave queues whenever the oath administrator (acting like a town crier) raised the Qur’an and called on God to punish anyone on the queue to collect multiple rations of food.
He said: “Listen to me very attentively, Governor Zulum has asked me to announce to you that from himself as your governor down to humanitarian officials of State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA), National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), other government officials and anybody at all, whoever diverts food meant for IDPs, may the curse of God through the instrumentality of the Qur’an, come upon that person. May the wrath of God come upon anyone who has collected allocation ticket but came here to collect what is meant for others.
“You all know that food is distributed to households and everyone here is part of a household. If you know you are not the head of a household or that you have already collected your portion, better leave the queue or you incur the wrath of the Qur’an.”
As the administrator, identified as Babagana, made the announcement in every camp, displaced persons left in numbers, some of them laughing.
Until the introduction of oath by the governor, humanitarian workers have had to contend with problems of food vending by hundreds of displaced persons who collect multiple allocations.
There were also allegations of dubious collaboration between some humanitarian workers and IDPs. Under normal distribution arrangement, food items are allocated to households comprising a breadwinner and dependants. The food last for weeks, in some cases, a month. Although households have identification cards, some families have long devised means of collecting more than their allocations. Some sell food items to business traders who exploit them by buying the food at giveaway prices in order to resell at prevailing market rates after re-bagging.
Sometimes households separate themselves. The husband, wife and grown up children separate into individuals rather than households to collect more food items. There are hundreds of temporary tents in the camps with displaced persons having the freedom to move in and out in line with international protocol. Numbers of displaced persons are often inconsistent, depending on returns and attacks. All of these make managing the camps uneasy.
But Zulum has vowed to use his experience as former commissioner for Reconstruction, Rehabilitation and Re-settlement of displaced persons to bring some sanity.