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Inside the allegations and counter narrative at refugees’ commission

By Laraba MUREY

Its initial assignment was a commission designed to uplift the living conditions of people who have fled for safety from their homes to sojourn in border towns leaving behind families and what they cared most about. The National Commission for Refugees, Migrants, and Internally Displaced Persons, NCFRMI, unfortunately is beleaguered.

According to the United Nations Refugee Agency, UNCHR, “Over 3.2 million people are displaced, including over 2.9 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) in north-eastern Nigeria, over 684,000 IDPs in Cameroon, Chad and Niger and 304,000 refugees in the four countries.”

These persons of interest are deprived, neglected or short changed from benefiting supplies that have been earmarked for them.

The National Commission for Refugees which was established by Decree 52 of 1989, now Cap. 21, Laws of the Federation, 2004, as a fulfilment of the Federal Government’s obligation under Resolution 319(IV) of the General Assembly of the United Nations and Article 35 of the United Nations 1951 Convention, is caught in the web of alleged misappropriation of funds.

The National Coordinator, Emmanuel Onwubiko, Human Rights Writer’s Association of Nigeria, HURIWA, raised the alarm that the newly appointed federal commissioner, Imaan Sulaiman-Ibrahim, upon resumption of office has been living a lavish lifestyle having about 15 aides to her name.

She, however, claims that these individuals were drafted from major security agencies like the Defence Intelligence Agency, National Intelligence Agency, NIA, State Security Services, SSS, and the police.

In addition, Sulaiman-Ibrahim has been mute on a sum of N35 million meant for furnishing the office and N8 billion recently approved for the commission.

Stakeholders fear that if unchecked Sulaiman-Ibrahim, who has been accused of running the operations of the commission as a personal venture instead of custodian for the government, will soon jeopardise the achievements of her successors, therefore, rendering the commission impotent in the discharge of its lawful functions.

Before now, the Refugee Commission was a standalone agency of government but upon the creation of the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development the commission was moved under the ministry.

Insiders say the allegations against Sulaiman-Ibrahim were those against her appointment, therefore attempts to cast her in bad light. On her part, she has continued about her affairs of improving the lives of refugees, asylum seekers and displaced persons in their host communities.

Recently, she presented the Nigeria Global Compact on Refugees roadmap which was adopted and validated by the chairman, Senate Committee on Special Duties, Senator Yusuf A. Yusuf, and the chairman, House Committee on IDPs, Hon. Mohammed Jega, indicating the Nigerian government’s continued commitment to its obligations.

She has continued in her strides of not paying attention to “agents of darkness” as she described her accusers in response to their pointing fingers for her reckless, unaccountable lifestyle in running the affairs of the refugees’ commission.

In a statement by Head of Press and Public Relations Officer, Samson Ikemitang, the commission seems to dismiss the allegation as it stated that “the Commission is poised more than ever before to deliver on its mandate and put the country on the global map of addressing issues on refugees and migrants,” while not answering to the issues.

She insists that agents of darkness and unpatriotic personalities have strategize to destroy the good works that the commission was doing since her assuming office over five months ago. her, President Munammadu Buhari and Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Hajiya Sadiya Umar Farouq were not wrong to have moved her to the commission.

“President Buhari and Hajiya Sadiya Umar Farouq wanted the best for the commission, because the goals and objectives of the commission are bigger than the ambition of any individual.

“When I assumed office about five months ago, I promised to work in peace, harmony, equity and justice to achieve the mandate of the commission as a team and as individuals.

“Don’t forget that whatever I am doing in the commission now is a continuation of the former head of the commission, because he had done a lot concerning the 2021 budget, contracts and expenditures before I took over.

“However, I want to affirm and inform the world that the commission is now poised to deliver on its mandate and put Nigeria on the global map of refugees and migrants.

“We are currently motivating our staff and making efforts to train them and build their capacity in addressing issues of IDPs, refugees, migrants and other persons of concern. We are focus and on course to deliver on our mandate,” she stressed.

Sulaiman-Ibrahim explained that people who were hell bent on assassinating her character with fictitious allegations and publications should embrace the truth and stop the spread of falsehood.

 “Evidence silences falsehood. NCFRMI is open for audit. I am just five months old in this position. We have a lot to do to deliver on our mandate and we shall not allow agents of distraction and unpatriotic elements to bring us down.

“We are determined to move the commission forward to the promised land, where President Buhari, Sadiya Umar Farouq and the UN would be proud of.

“I love all my staff and would never intimidate anyone, because love, peace and unity is all we profess at the Commission. This has helped in bringing the staff closer to deliver on the commission’s mandate.

“The commission respects the procurement Act and would never act contrary to it. I am operating an open door policy. I allow all staff to come to me and contribute ideas on how to move the commission forward,” she said.

She stressed that the commission is doing a lot in term of healthcare and welfare for refugees and IDPs.

However, she emphasised that in 2022, the Commission would ensure that refugees, migrants and IDPs were carried along frequently in the area of health, social relevance and skill acquisition to enhance their livelihood.

“I call on all well-meaning Nigerians to disregard any malicious story or reports against me and the commission, because the commission is on course to greatness and it is bigger than personal interest of person (s) who do not wish it well”.

Some of the allegations are that the zonal offices have degenerated and are no longer vicinities to behold.

Furthermore, food assistance in camps has also reduced in quantity and quality. For instance, “Zero Hunger”. A project in collaboration between the Commission and Defence and Police Officers Wives Association has been described as the real spelling of “from frying pan to fire” for IDPs, migrants and asylum seekers.

It was alleged that the usual household package given to IDPs normally consists of at least 100kg of grains; 25kg each of rice, beans, maize and millet or garri; 20 litres of cooking oil (both vegetable and palm oil) and other household items such as mattresses, mats, pots and packs of sanitary wares, amongst others.

But Sulaiman-Ibrahim is gradually replacing the supply with reduced portions for individuals with only 1 kg of grains and a pack of spaghetti in each pack, decorated by her personal picture.

For now, as the allegations swirl and stakeholders call for the ministry and Presidency’s reactions, it is a long walk in the refugees’ commission.

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