Executive Secretary Victims Support Fund (VSF), Professor Sunday Abogonye Ochoche, has asked President Muhammadu Buhari to revisit his 2015 inaugural speech on the Boko Haram insurgency and redeem his pledge.
He said five years after, the president was yet to redeem his pledge on how to do a post-mortem of the crisis with a view to determining factors that led to the development.
Ochoche, who spoke exclusively to Blueprint in Abuja during the week, also lamented that almost nine years after the existence of the sect, Nigerians were yet to have proper understanding of it.
Buhari’s words at inauguration
At inauguration in 2015, Buhari, according to Blueprint findings, promised to commission a sociological study, to among others, determine origin and causes of the insurgency.
“The most immediate is Boko Haram’s insurgency. Progress has been made in recent weeks by our security forces but victory cannot be achieved by basing the Command and Control Centre in Abuja. The command centre will be relocated to Maiduguri and remain until Boko Haram is completely subdued. But we cannot claim to have defeated Boko Haram without rescuing the Chibok girls and all other innocent persons held hostage by insurgents.
“This government will do all it can to rescue them alive. Boko Haram is a typical example of small fires causing large fires. An eccentric and unorthodox preacher with a tiny following was given posthumous fame and following by his extra judicial murder at the hands of the police. Since then through official bungling, negligence, complacency or collusion Boko Haram became a terrifying force taking tens of thousands of lives and capturing several towns and villages covering swathes of Nigerian sovereign territory.
“Boko Haram is a mindless, godless group who are as far away from Islam as one can think of. At the end of the hostilities when the group is subdued, the government intends to commission a sociological study to determine its origins, remote and immediate causes of the movement, its sponsors, the international connections to ensure that measures are taken to prevent a recurrence of this evil,” the president had said.
But about five years after, Professor Ochoche called on president to redeem his pledge in this regard, even as he proposed a national resolve on the menace to permanently put an end to what might have caused it in the first place.
The VSF boss said: “I think, as a people, as a government, we need to begin to put in place really the proper structures and modalities for responding to a number of the challenges we have. As for Boko Haram, I know that President Muhammad Buhari when he came to power – I believe it was in his inaugural speech – he said Nigeria was going to carry out a proper post-mortem and a proper analysis of the Boko Haram crisis to determine why and how we came to where we are.
“He said that in his speech. I’m not aware that anything has been done in that direction. I’m not aware and we need to do that seriously so that as a nation like I said, we will be able to sit down to make a national resolve, following our understanding of what the issues are; to say never again shall we allow this particular situation to happen or to allow ourselves to be in the situation in which we are.
“But we need to understand it and have that level of national resolve to be able to move forward. I am afraid; we are still far from that. Like I have said earlier, the proper understanding of the issues, and that we have not been able to do with the Boko Haram insurgency. We need to do that.
“For a long time when Boko Haram crisis was on, we fought ourselves to determine whether it was a terrorist organisation, but we were not for so many reasons. Today, we are trying to be politically correct about the number of the conflicts around us tagging them with labels we feel more comfortable about.”
Ochoche, however, said despite the shortfall in the initial fund projected for the organisations at its inception, which according to him was N6trillion, only N30billion had been accessed.
Despite this, he said about 200,000 children had benefitted from the VSF’s education support programme, adding that 20,000 women were also empowered under the organisation’s women economic empowerment programme.
Similarly, the peace and conflict expert said over 10,000 households had also benefitted from VSF’s agro support programme, stating that over 5,000 orphans and separated children were also captured under its foster health care programme.
“Five years ago, studies by the then Presidential Initiative on the North-east suggested that for the short term intervention in the North-east, we needed about six trillion naira to make a difference. The entire money pledged to VSF by Nigerians in 2014 was N54 billion, the committee was able to redeem under N30 billion and that is what we have been working with.
“But the committee has been most prudent, putting structures in place to ensure accountability and maximum utilisation of every kobo that Nigerians have given. And that is why we boosted the Victims Support Fund and you are in the position to go out there and verify.
“There is no agency that has shown presence and made the impact like VSF has done in the North-east. From the area of education to our livelihood programme whether it is the women economic empowerment, our dry season agricultural support programme, or animals fed, healthcare programme, to our infrastructural programme, where we have reconstructed many schools, many local government secretariats, clinics.
“We have provided many boreholes across the North-east. Today, we have about 200,000 children who have benefited from our education support programme. We have over 20,000 women who have benefited from our women economic empowerment programme.
“We have over 10,000 households that have benefited from our agro support programme. We have over 5,000 orphans and separated children in our foster health care programme.
“We have built over 30 schools across the North-east. We have provided over 20 communities with water. Over 10,000 patients have benefitted from our healthcare support programme across the North-east.”