Immidiate past Vice Chairman of the defunct Presidential Committee on the North-east Initiative (PCNI), Alhaji Tijani Tumsah has said that the timely intervention of the presidential initiative has saved Nigeria from an unimaginable humanitarian crisis as a result of the devastating war against insurgents in the north-east region.
President Muhammadu Buhari set up the committee in June , 2016 to initiate and coordinate intervention efforts aimed at halting the looming humanitarian crisis in the North-east part of Nigeria.
While inaugurating the committee chaired by General Theophilus Y. Danjuma,(rtd), President Buhari said the committee should take a quick look at the conditions of the IDPs and take urgent remedial measures to alleviate these conditions.
Speaking in an interview with Blueprint at the weekend in Abuja, Tumsah said the committee successfully discharged its mandate by calming the situation in troubled states of the north-east region.
He said the PCNI was able to carry out the basic job of coordinating all the humanitarian efforts that were going into the North East and has ensured that most of the persons in the internally displaced peoples camp returned to their communities after being liberated by the Nigerian military.
As part of the successes recorded in executing its mandate, Tumsah said the committee was was able to resettle many of the displaced persons, adding that the IDP Camps has now been reduced to about 10 -15 located mainly in Borno state.
He said: “I speak to you having coordinated the United Nations Committee on Refugees, the Nation office of the Honourable Commissioner for Refugee Commission and so on; the PCNI provided a coordinating role so that you will be able to see the capability of what everyone can do to bring those people back.”
In terms of size and magnitude of humanitarian crisis, Tunsa explained that besides the displaced persons within the conflict areas, there were over 50,000 refugees in Cameroon alone and a larger number in Niger.
The former PCNI boss, who served as the pioneer National Secretary of the All Progressive Congress (APC) said that in the course of delivering on its assignment, the presidential committee discovered that part of the reason, the insurgents easily overrun villages and towns in the north east areas was that the people usually live in small neighborhood clusters spread far apart.
He said that most times when these insurgents plan their operations, the usually identify the sparsely populated communities as easy targets which attack, burn down houses, kill the men and abduct women and their children.
According to him, apart from monies voted by the federal government, most of the materials used in the humanitarian intervention efforts came from the Victim support fund and World food program.
Tumsah said even though there are some areas that are still contentious but generally peace has returned to states like Adamawa, Yobe and a lot of other parts in the North and people are beginning to go back to their villages.
He said that the presidential committee made sure that resources were targeted for people that needed them most and that where there were gaps, the PCNI created intervention schemes.
In terms of mobilising resources for the humanitarian activities, Tumsah said the committee was able to raise over $400 million from a lot of financial institutions like the World Bank, the African Development Bank and the Southern Development bank.
The APC chieftain also said that in the area of healthcare, PCNI had tremendous support from the West African College of Surgeons and also an organisation called Pro-Health which executed medical activities that touched the lives of at least 1,500 people across the six states.
“We had this continuously with free medical services in collaboration with the state. We also had some local interventions by medical doctors in facilities that were available and with that we saved a lot of lives in terms of health. Credit must also go to the Nigerian Military for stabilizing these areas as much as possible even though as at now there are some areas that are still contentious but generally peace has returned to Adamawa, Yobe and a lot of other parts in the North and people are beginning to go back and we are supporting that.
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“With the United Nations program we have also been able to create resettlement schemes in these states; Borno, Yobe, Adamawa and Taraba where we have had meetings with stakeholders to be able to determine if it is much better to have small settlements come together in a larger group so that they can get adequate security and other infrastructures that will help in making their lives better. With that we have also been successful because the stakeholder consists of the federal government, the state government, the local government, traditional groups and so on to identify places were that can happen and that has been done and we will ensure the North East Development Commission will now know what to do in those kind of places,” he said.