Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari has dismissed reports by local and international humanitarian agencies detailing the high level of deprivation in the war-ravaged north-east Nigeria.
According to the President, such claims are highly exaggerated.
The president said the United Nations and other private humanitarian groups are deliberately hyping the level of the crisis for financial gains.
In a statement signed by his media aide, Garba Shehu, Buhari faulted the findings of the UN and also added some non-governmental organisations raising concerns about looming food crisis for the victims of the seven-year-long insurgency.
This condemnation comes days after the United Nations warned that more than five million victims of Boko Haram face serious food shortages in the coming year.
“A projected 5.1 million people will face serious food shortages as the conflict and risk of unexploded improvised devices prevented farmers planting for the third year in a row, causing a major food crisis,” the U.N. Deputy Humanitarian Coordinator, Peter Lundberg, said in a statement Friday.
Lundberg’s alert followed a similar one issued by a sister agency, UNICEF, in September.
UNICEF, which focuses on humanitarian assistance for children and mothers, said more than two million people remained trapped in Boko Haram-controlled areas while about 400,000 children were at risk of acute malnutrition.
The Presidency in its statement said while it recognizes that local and international humanitarian responders including the United Nations have done an immeasurable amount of effort filling in the gaps wherever they existed, the federal government says it is not true that 100,000 or even a million people will die because government is unable to provide care at the camps.
“We are concerned about the blatant attempts to whip up a non-existent fear of mass starvation by some aid agencies, a type of hype that does not provide a solution to the situation on the ground but more to do with calculations for operations financing locally and abroad,” the president said.
The president highlighted contradictions in some of the claims made by different humanitarian groups about the crisis.
“In a recent instance, one arm of the United Nations screamed that 100,000 people will die due to starvation next year. A different group says a million will die.”
“So while local and international humanitarian responders including the United Nations have done an immeasurable amount of effort filling in the gaps wherever they existed, it is not true as these reports have indicated that 100,000 or even a million people will die because the government is unable to provide care at the camps.
“This country has a responsible government under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari, which is doing a lot to bring relief to the displaced people,” the statement said.
While acknowledging a decline in socio-economic activities of the people of north-east, Buhari said his administration is making efforts to resolve the crisis and improve the living conditions there.
“There can be no doubt that the effect of the Boko Haram terrorism and their occupation of communities and destruction of houses, infrastructure and means of livelihood has been manifested in the decline of socio-economic activities throughout the North-East.
“Arising from this, farming, pastoralism, trade, exchange of goods and services and social interaction among the people have negatively been impacted leading to the displacement of more than two million people, mostly women and children. Consequently, there is death, there is hunger and there is poor nutrition.
“The Nigerian government which has been making the most efforts in the entire endeavour will continue to work closely with the local and international response groups to overcome this humanitarian crisis. At this time when the focus is gradually shifting to towards rehabilitation, reconstruction, resettlement, recovery and the dignified return of IDPs back home, we can do with all the support out there in the donor community,” the statement said.
The Presidency stated that it is handling the situation with great sensitivity and has put measures in place to cushion the humanitarian challenges with collaboration between NEMA and the Presidential Committee on Northeast Initiative.
Both organisations provide raw food items to IDPs at formal camps, self-settled centers, host communities and satellite centers while the state governments complement with condiments, firewood and maintain environmental quality of the IDP camps.
Boko Haram has killed more than 20,000 people and displaced more than 2 million from their homes during a seven-year insurgency in Nigeria.
Nigerian military forces backed by troops from Niger, Cameroon and Lake Chad have, in the past few months, pushed Boko Haram out of areas they previously controlled, revealing thousands of people living in famine-like conditions.