Talk with SA Humanitarian Affairs to the Honorable Speaker of the House of Representatives – Hon, Femi Gbajiabiamila
By Ogochukwu Paul
NEWISSUES: As the SA Humanitarian Affairs to the Speaker, you have been going around at least to IDPS cams, what can you tell us about IDPS in Nigeria and what plans does your office have pertaining resettlement of displaced persons?
HAMZA: As you have rightly mentioned, we have gone round, myself and my principal. His first official duty when he assumed office was he visited Zamfara state. Then they were humanitarian crises due to banditry, you know we have some activities of bandits in states like Kaduna, Zamfara and kastina which led displacement of thousands of people. So he went there and interacted with the all the stake holders, especially stategovernment, local government, the traditional rulers and religious institutions and even some factions of the bandits. He met them and they talked and God so kind, that stakeholders’ engagement led to a kind of a covenant between the government and some of the factions of the bandits. That particular visit of the speaker has helped to calm down the banditry and now e are enjoying some relative peace in Zamfara state. Then immediately, that particular visit was followed up by a visit to Maiduguri by myself, the speaker and some honourable members. We were in about two camps in Borno state, particularly Wubi IDP camp where the speaker donated trucks of food items and some other relief materials. We also engaged the state government and other stakeholders in the discussion on how to bring an end to this crisis. Then next we were in Maiduguri and the speaker donated millions of worth of drugs and I am sure you must have seen it in the media. So he engaged the stakeholders and the governor. And also he resettled some of the IDPs that came from Masarai local government. Then there was one who actually delivered a baby with a clefts mouth and he speaker had to pay for the surgery. And also resettlement of those families in Kastina. We are just done with that. So in that, I can say the speaker has shown a commitment to the plight of IDPs in general. So he has particularly shown his commitment to finding a durable solution to the issues of IDPs. You know most of the what the state actors are concentrating on are the humanitarian activities not actually giving attention to providing durable solutions, what I mean by durable solutions you need to look at the livelihoods of deciding how they can be on their own, not maybe them giving them food, water. Livelihood means sustainable income, skill acquisitions. We also have to look at the school’s authority, all those areas were affected by the Boko Haram attacks and these bandits attack, most of the areas they have lost everything. They have lost any resemblance of governance, any structure. All the infrastructure has been destroyed. So there is need for restoration within those authorities, you know symbol of authorities like local government, secretariats,markets the schools the mosques churches and whatever and then lastly, but the most important is providing a sustainable security architecture to enable them to go back to their houses because they cannot go back without the security. So the speaker is particularly interested in this issue of security. He has directions. Inside this chamber, I am sure you remember, the first time they came they told the representative of the speaker, that they were not happy but he had to force them to calm themselves. Right now we are even planning to actually sketch an event of stakeholders and we call it a dialogue. A stakeholders’ dialogue summit that will involve all the humanitarian actors including the international NGOs, the state actors like department, agencies that are dealing with humanitarian issues and of course even the IDPs themselves and the Army resource centers and all the service chiefs. We want to have a dialogue and the speaker is convening that dialogue very soon and I am sure we would invite you to attend that dialogue.
NEWISSUES: How serious is the humanitarian crises as regards refuges in have Nigeria? Do have data that gives the reality of things?
HAMZA: We can’t say we don’t have data. Like International Organization for migrants (IOM) is a UN body that is saddled with the responsibility of actually getting the statistics of migrants, refugees and IDPs. And they are here in Nigeria and they have the data and according to the data we have our two million displaced persons. As at the end of 2018 we have our 2.3million IDPs scattered among so many camps in Borno, Adamawa, Yobe, Benue part of Nigeria, Plateau state and Abuja and of course we have new displacements and due to bandits and the re-activities of banditries in Kastina and even Sokoto state of resent, some have been returned and some are the living with the communities. So IOM that is International Organization for Migrants and other government agencies like the Bureau of statistics have their own, but for me I go along with the IOM own which is more verifiable. But recently. Mr President has directed the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs to actually come up with a verifiable data of displaced persons, then migrant and refugees because we have refugees who are living in the border of Cameroun and in Nigeria in Taraba and Cross River state and recently as at last month we have 40 something thousand. These are refuges that cross the border to Nigeria and also we have the issue of stateless people. Stateless people are people who have lost their identity. You know this issue about the border of Cameroun so that also has created a very big problem for this people. Their ways of life is British but their under one country but they don’t want to begoverned by those common laws they prefer common laws that is British. Their own style of life, the food they eat, the house they live everything is British and which is kind of similar with Nigerians because we also hanging upon countries so they have lost their identities and if they are not yet recognized as citizens of Nigeria, they are stateless people, so we have that case also and in fact, I went there recently and I met with some of them and it is very pathetic. All these kabiru laws via legislatures and the back study is here in the National Assembly policy for Relations. Legislatures that will protect this edifices the refugees they will resort to kampala convention they are other things that are working on together with he United Nations High Commission for Refugees and International Committee for Red Cross are working together to come up with the best way to domestic kampala because Nigeria is a signatory to kampala convention though we have already ratified it but they are some portion of it which cannot apply in Nigeria so we need to domesticate it so it is part of what we are doing
NEWISSUES: Most of the problems that resulted to the refugee problems are ethnic, religious or economic, what is your office doing in the areas of conflict resolution to ensure people never clash and end up in refugee camps?
HAMZA: You can see now the new Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, you know recently has merged especially the social investment Npower to be part of the humanitarian affairs because there is a difference between poverty and insecurity and humanitarian which leads to the humanitarian crisis so now this N power is expected to tackle some of the livelihood of these IDPs and refuges is part of the additional schedule added to them.
Secondly, the conflict resolution summit I told you about is a dialogue that is coming up and part of the mandate, goal and objective we set for ourselves in that summit is to also brainstorm and interact with all the actors including the army resource center and these army resource center take care of all this service chiefs so we can sit down and come up with the best way and recently the federal government is doing enough to tackle the Fulani herders or farmers crisis and recently even the Miyetti have signed a kind of peace deal with the state government and I was very happy when I saw that they have done that so The Speaker is actually very interested and committed to these kind of dialogue which was what he did in Zamfara. He was instrumental to the signing of that factions of the bandits and the state government for peace. I think the speaker is interested in that and I pray that part of that dialogue will bring a kind of solutions to all this crisis between farmers and herders and then there are border conflicts to adjourning communities that have beenfighting for too long and The Speaker is interested inbringing some of them together. in fact, part of these natives have been engaging with all these communitiesand very soon he is going to some communities in Rivers state to bring up peace between them. It is part of what he is doing and part of my office mandate to look at this issue of dialogue which would be continuous, maybe quarterly – we want to be doing it every three months.
HAMZA: Is their synergy between your office and the ministry of Humanitarian Affair?
HAMZA, We are more like policy formulation and legislature and then over sight functions of what they are doing. So we need to know what they are doing. We are not really working together horizontally, the relations is vertically and what I mean by vertical is we here we have our own functions, we have our own job schedules but we have an over sight function of what they do. We need to know what they do, if there are budgets allocated to Ministry of Humanitarians Affairs or to Refugee Commission or to Victim Affairs funds or any other place. So we need to know how those humanitarian allocations are spent and we also need to engage with them at horizontal level on policy laws that will strengthen our work together. If they need some backing up of further work, we will develop it and then we support them with that. That is the kind of relationship we have with them and it is not only those humanitarian affairs but even those component of National Social Investment and then British Support Fund and Refugee Commission.
HAMZA: Drug addiction has become an epidemic in Nigeria, do you see it as a humanitarian crisis?
Some how yes because a sizable population of our youth are really destroyed by drug addiction and it leads to rehabilitation and sometimes increases the crime activities which may lead to a kind of displacement. These issues are some how related and we are also very much concerned with that. So there is another special assistant on health in the office of The Speaker whose jurisdiction is to take care of mental health which is where this category falls but we work hand in hand.