The House of Representatives Committee on IDPs, Refugees and North-East Initiatives has condemned the use of tear gas on harmless Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) by the Police during a peaceful protest against food deprivation in Teachers Village camp, Maiduguri, Borno State, on Tuesday.
The lawmakers also urged the Federal Government to urgently supply desperately needed items to the IDPs without further delay and punish the perpetrators and beneficiaries of stolen food and other items belonging to the displaced persons, while adding that the committee is willing and ready to share vital information capable of fishing out the culprits, no matter how highly placed.
In a press statement signed by the chairman of the Committee, Hon Sani Zorro, the lawmakers said it is unfortunate that the same IDPs who have been deprived of food and other items needed for their survival are the same who are being brutally suppressed for crying out against the injustice they face daily.
The committee added that it is public knowledge that despite outcry to relevant authorities about the theft of food and other aid items procured by state resources by highly-placed politicians, nothing has been done to stop them from converting I DO food and other items as campaign tools in the countdown to the general elections.
The statement read, "The committee wishes to express sadness over yesterday’s protest by Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) at Teachers Village camp in Maiduguri, and the needless resort to the use of tear gas to disperse them by the police.
"It is on record that the authorities concerned have continued to deprive the starving and desperate IDPs of food and non-food items whose every day complaints, pleas, and outcries only fell on the deaf ears of insensitive officials charged with their care. Sadly, massive consignments of these food and non-food items procured with state resources are now either at varying stages of expiration, or are being shared (in the open) to highly-placed politicians for use as campaign tools in the countdown to our general elections.
"Evidence also abound of the age-old diversion and illegal sale of humanitarian assistance items in the open market. This is evil at its best, reprehensible and unacceptable to all men and women of conscience."
"The Committee urges the Federal Government to act as a matter of supreme urgency by ensuring immediate supply of the desperately needed items without further delay and punish the perpetrators and beneficiaries of the inhumane crime. As part of its oversight functions, the committee is willing and ready to share vital information capable of fishing out the culprits no matter how highly placed."
The legislators commended the commitment of the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) at protecting the civil and political rights of IDPs by guaranteeing their participation in the upcoming national elections but implored the Electoral Management Body to note the latest displacement situation in parts of Borno and Adamawa states that have swelled up the already overcrowded camps.
They also suggested that the IDPs should be allowed to vote wherever they have settled, as against their registered polling units which may now be unsafe for them to return to.
"In Maiduguri alone, the figures have swelled by 300,000 IDPs, while 32,000 others have crossed over to Cameroon between Mid-December 2018 and 31 January, 2019.
"Because of the escalation of the conflict recently witnessed in the North-East and North-West regions leading to instability and forced displacement on a massive scale, the Committee urges the INEC to consider allowing registered IDPs to be allowed to vote at wherever they so find themselves, instead of being restricted to voting in their original polling units which are now unsafe for voluntary return. Such flexibility should be extended to affected victims in Zamfara, Katsina, Kaduna and any other state(s)," the committee stated.