New Telegraph

Insurgency: 25,000 Persons Missing In North East Nigeria

T he alarm raised by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Nigerian Red Cross Society (NRCS) that in less than a decade, more than 25,000 persons were registered as missing in the North East geo- political zone simply beats the imagination. According to the ICRC some 14,000 children are unaccounted for, while 13,000 family members are searching for missing loved ones.

The various circumstances listed as responsible for such horrifying menace include insurgency and kidnapping. The frightening figure of 25,000 represents over half of those missing in Africa within the same period, according to the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation, Betta Edu. The report showed that 25,000 out of 64,000 missing persons in Africa are from Nigeria.

This was disclosed through the Director of Humanitarian Affairs, Ali Grema, while speaking at an event to mark the International Day of the Disappeared at the National Human Rights Commission on August 30, 2023. The minister also noted that a more efficient mechanism was needed to improve the reporting and forensically trace cases of missing persons in the country. Even with the promise made by the Federal Government to ensure the domestication of international treaties and instruments using a whole society and government approach there is little assurance that the needful would be done.

That is precisely so to collate and expertly articulate the correct number of the lives currently in limbo. Similarly worrisome was the notion given that the exact number of the voiceless victims of the twin evils of insurgency and kidnapping still remains unknown! Worsening the scary scenario is the fact that this is not the first time the ministry’s official complained about the lack of an efficient system to capture the actual number of missing persons in Nigeria.

It would be recalled that the former minister, Sadiya Farouk, in January, said the country lacked an official register of missing persons. Represented by the Permanent Secretary of the ministry, Nasir Gwarzo, Farouk said: “Currently, Nigeria has no national structure or Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) to address humanitarian consequences of disappearances.”

Though the Federal Government, through the Executive Secretary of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Tony Ojukwu, disclosed that plans were afoot to create a database that would comprehensively capture the details of missing persons within the country as a result of insecurity, what has to be done is to take an in-depth look at the reasons behind the flaw and how to rectify such. It would be recalled that in September 2020 lack of accurate data collection and usage were identified as the main problems militating against human resources development in Nigeria.

The declaration was made by the then Bauchi State Governor, Bala Mohammed Abdulkadir, while speaking at the Government House when the Revenue Mobilisation and Fiscal Allocation Commission (RMFAC) visited him, saying that the lack of statistical analysis has set the country backwards. He opined that though the Federal Government is trying to embark on developmental projects across the country, some states are not working because of lack of accuracy in demographic information needed to guide on what to be done at where.

Also fingered as a factor of the main problems of data collection in Nigeria, is poor quality assurance which arises before the real data collection starts. These can come up because of different points, namely wrong methodology, logistics, financing, poorly written manuals as well as timing. Without a credible database how do we have in place plans for the economic wellbeing of the citizens? How do we figure out those who are living below and others above the poverty datum level? How can we categorically state the number of Nigerians between the age brackets of 1-5 years, 6-12 years, 13-18 years, 19-40 years and those above that?

How do we identify their educational and health needs and pitch that vis-à-vis the income at the local, state and federal levels? The answers are truly disturbing. To underscore the importance of a dependable database, we should recall that the lack of it was what led to only 1.2 % of Nigerians benefitting from the palliatives given during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

That is according to a survey conducted by a Lagos-based research firm, SBM Intelligence. The survey, which covered 18 states across the six-geopolitical zones, revealed that 98.8 percent of respondents claimed not to have received any form of support or palliatives. Those who benefitted said that they did so through TraderMoni, MarketMoni, FarmerMoni, FGN-funded loans issued by the banking industry, food distribution from the local government collection points or through other proxies.

It was for the failure recorded in 2020 that informed the decision by the current state governors to ask for the distribution of the palliatives promised by the current President Bola Tinubu after the injurious removal of fuel subsidy that has brought untold hardship on innocent Nigerians. The Federal Government should as a matter of urgency plug the loopholes that have led to the loss of 25,000 citizens missing in the North East geo-political zone. Doing so will be in tandem with the constitutional mandate of the primary purpose of government.

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