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Displaced man dies while queueing for food in Maiduguri

5 March 2024
Reading time: 6 minutes

Distribution of food aid to 100,000 vulnerable displaced persons will resume this week after it was suspended on Friday because of irregularities

An internally displaced man has died while queueing for food in Maiduguri, Borno State.

Suleiman Isa from Shehuri South told RNI he witnessed the death of the man and said that while he and other vulnerable people were waiting for hours in the scorching sun, he saw at least five other men collapse and faint.

Borno State governor Babagana Umara Zulum suspended the distribution of food to 100,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) on Friday last week because of alleged irregularities.

He confirmed the distribution would resume this week.

In a press statement released by his media office, he said the distribution of food was suspended after concerns were raised about the selection process.

The food was intended for the “most vulnerable members of society”, he said.

“We are fully committed to ensuring the welfare of our people. We will take every step necessary to make sure the palliatives reach those who need them the most.

“We will investigate all the concerns raised, including the allegations that some people entrusted to select the deserving beneficiaries were involved in manipulating the process and selling the food.

“I have directed security agencies to investigate the matter thoroughly and to ensure everyone found guilty is prosecuted accordingly.”

He said 100,000 vulnerable households in the Maiduguri Metropolitan Council (MMC) and the Jere Local Government Area had been identified to receive food because they were suffering in the harsh economic climate.

The distribution started on Wednesday, last week. Displaced people in six communities – Shehuri North and South, Fezzan, Hausari, Gambori and Bulabulin – were identified as most in need.

Before the suspension, Yagana Mohammed, a mother of five who lives in the Mafoni ward, received 25kg bags of rice and maize.

She told RNI that with Ramadan approaching – the holy month starts in Nigeria on Monday evening, March 9 – the food could not have come at a better time.

“At least we will have something to eat for the next two to three months.”

But many community members complained that the distribution process was flawed, saying it was not transparent and the food was being given to people who did not deserve it. They called for a review of the process.

Isa said there were hundreds of people waiting in line when he went to collect food on Thursday, February 29.

“A man collapsed and died while I was in the queue. I saw at least five others collapse and faint. It was most disturbing, but we carried on waiting in line because we were hungry and desperate to get some food.

“The selection and distribution processes need to be checked and reviewed to ensure transparency and accountability.

“The distribution for IDPs in Shehuri South took place at the largest football stadium in Maiduguri and all the beneficiaries were told to queue outside in the scorching sun.

“We don’t know how the beneficiaries were selected. Someone told me it was our turn and a group of us went to the sports centre.

“We waited for hours in the blazing sun. It was so hot and it was very congested. Eventually we were told that the food meant for our community had already been distributed. Unknown people benefited. We don’t know if they were from our community or not.

“The committee members who were distributing the food did not plan properly. The people who really need the food, such as the sick and those with disabilities, did not even get any food.”

Baba Kaka Shettima said: “We spent the day queueing in the blazing sun. Some people arrived at the sports centre at 6am. They waited all day and only went home at about 4pm. No one wanted to miss the opportunity to get some food. The cost of living is higher than it has ever been. People do not have enough to eat. We are all suffering but it’s worse for the women and children.

“The distribution process needs to be improved. It needs to be fair. We don’t know how beneficiaries are selected. I saw some people receive food who do not need it. The real people who should have benefited missed out or did not get sufficient food. They lost out to the fake beneficiaries.”

Shettima said a committee was formed during the COVID-19 pandemic when the Borno State government distributed food and other aid to residents in Maiduguri.

“Many people were not happy about the distribution process during the pandemic. The committee was made up of politicians and they decided who should get aid. Some of them sold the food that was supposed to be distributed to poor people.

“This time around, the government heard our concerns and traditional leaders were included to help distribute the food. But nothing changed. Only a select few received food. We thought that the traditional leaders would ensure that the distribution would be fair. But many of us were disappointed.”

Bulama Kawu Wakil, a community leader of the Fezzan ward who participated in the distribution process, said: “This was the first time we were included in the distribution process. People should understand that the community leaders were not given any tokens. We were only there to identify vulnerable people in our communities and that’s all.

“Prior to the distribution, we had a meeting with the community. They told us who the most vulnerable people were. We forwarded their names.”

In his statement, Zulum said: “No government, be it state or federal, has the capacity to provide food to everyone. The hardship we are facing is not only in Borno State but all over Nigeria. No state in Nigeria is doing better in the distribution of palliatives than Borno.”

The suspension was intended to ensure transparency and fairness in the distribution process.

“The distribution of food aid is expected to resume next week [this week] after measures are put in place to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the process.”



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