Displacement & MigrationNews

Governor Zulum Alleges Fraud In UN, INGO’s Handling Of Donor Funds For Borno IDPs

The Governor of Borno State, Northeast Nigeria, Babagana Zulum, hosted envoys from the UN, USA and UK, discussing misappropriation of donor funds.

Babagana Zulum, Governor of Borno State, Northeast Nigeria, on Wednesday, June 23, alleged that a large chunk of funds received by the UN and other international non-governmental organisations (INGOs) providing humanitarian assistance in the troubled region, hardly reaches the target population because they are corruptly diverted.  

Zulum claimed that he has evidence that at least 30 per cent of donor funds meant for persons affected by the armed conflict in the Lake Chad region are being cornered by those assigned to manage the funds. 

The UN had said that it has received donor funding of over $3 billion from 2017 to date and most of the funds were spent in providing life-saving assistance to victims of the conflict. 

The governor made the revelation while hosting a courtesy call session to his office in Maiduguri, the state capital, by the diplomatic heads of the United Kingdom and the United States of America. The envoys were in Borno State alongside other diplomats from E.U. countries to assess the humanitarian and development priorities in northeast Nigeria. 

Governor Zulum, irked by the depth of corruption going on within the heavily funded humanitarian business in the Northeast, had to report the matter to governments of US and the U.K. 

The U.S. and the U.K., according to data obtained from the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) have remained the topmost donors in the humanitarian response plan (HRP) for Nigeria since 2014. 

The UNOCHA has appealed for $1.01 billion in its 2021 HRP to be used in Nigeria. So far, the U.S. government has donated $138.8 million, the highest, while the U.K. which is the fourth in donors rank contributed $24 million. 

Mary Beth Leonard, U.S. Ambassador and the U.K.’s High Commissioner, Catriona Laing may have been shocked by the official revelations made by the governor of Borno state. 

Zulum told the envoys that their donations can only reach the targeted population when the UN and INGOs transparently carry the Borno State Government along in all their spending and programme.

Zulum demands transparency

“Funding is very critical and how the government and people of Borno state benefit from these funding is also very critical,” Governor Zulum said. 

“The participation of the state government is important- the bottom top approach is very key. Without the participation of the state, the funding will not reach the desired target population.”

The Governor also assured the envoys that he is “very much known for (his) transparency.” 

“What I am telling you is that we shall work together with a view to meeting our objectives of closing the camps. The U.N. system will be with us so that the money can be channeled appropriately,” Zulum added.

Zulum, speaking further, mentioned the need for oversight. “There is no way you can be funding, executing and monitoring your own activities. The major issue is the donation, of which we remain eternally grateful to all of you. But the big challenge is how do we ensure that the funding goes to the critical mass of the population – the deserving ones.”

“There is no way you can go on to determine the target population without the government!  The UNDP did it under the stabilisation facilitation project and they involved us. We went there and started screening the beneficiaries together. But there are some INGO or donor partners who just don’t want to talk to us.” 

“As long as I am the governor of Borno State, I want to be seen to be doing the right thing. I want to be transparent with you and I want to partner with you, but there is a need for us to set things right when it comes to managing donor funds.”

The delegation, in response, acknowledged the extent of the ongoing insecurity in the region, and how “the protracted conflict in Nigeria has affected the Lake Chad Region, including its neighboring countries of Cameroon, Niger and Chad for over 10 years.” 

The U.N. made it known that because of the over a decade old conflict “over 3.2 million individuals are displaced, with 4.4 million food insecure people at crisis and emergency levels and millions of civilians subjected to extreme hardships.”

Kallon said “in Northeast Nigeria alone, 13.1 million people live in areas affected by conflict, out of whom 8.7 million need immediate assistance.”

Both the U.K. and U.S. envoys assured their country’s intention to support and partner with the Nigerian government in managing the humanitarian crisis. 

More humanitarian work in Borno

U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator, Edward Kallon, who spoke on behalf of the delegation said they also used the visit “to launch a report on Assessing the Northeast conflict on Development in Northeast Nigeria by United Nation Development Programme in collaboration with the Federal government.”

Kallon said the delegation that visited Borno was “unprecedented” as it includes Ambassadors and Heads of Mission of the United Kingdom, United States of America, Germany, Canada, Switzerland, and Norway to Nigeria, as well as Representatives of United Nations, European Union, World Bank, and the IMF collectively, visiting Maiduguri for the first time. 

He said the crisis has “dislocated socio-economic activities, displaced millions of people and resulted in deaths of over 35,000 people in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states.”

The Humanitarian Coordinator said “over three billion dollars received in donations from the international community from 2017 to date have been expended on humanitarian and life-saving assistance in the northeast.”

“Going forward, cooperation and a dimensional approach is paramount not only in resolving the conflict itself but also in privatising and addressing the development impact arising from the conflict. 

“Let us work together towards putting a stop to the insurgency and tackling the many developmental challenges that have arisen from this protracted conflict.”

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Abdulkareem Haruna

Abdulkareem Haruna is a Nigerian journalist currently employed as the Editor for Lake Chad at HumAngle. For over a decade, he has demonstrated a passionate commitment to reporting on the Boko Haram conflict and the crisis in the Lake Chad region of northeastern Nigeria. He is a graduate of English Language and holds a Diploma in Mass Communications. Prior to his current role, he served as an assistant editor at both Premium Times and Leadership Newspaper.

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