Maiduguri — Aid agencies including UNICEF are profiting from
funds meant to help refugees from Boko Haram's Islamic uprising and should
leave Nigeria, the governor of the country's embattled northeastern state of
The criticism follows Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari's
charges in December that the United Nations and private agencies are
deliberately exaggerating a massive humanitarian crisis to boost funding.
For months, children and others have been dying of
starvation in Borno. The United Nations launched an appeal in December for $1
billion, warning that 5.1 million people face starvation and tens of thousands
of children will die this year without critically needed aid.
"We have become a cash cow" with people profiting
"from the agony of our people," Gov. Kashim Shettima told legislators
and journalists Tuesday night in Maiduguri, Borno's capital. "People that
are really ready to work are very much welcome here. But people that are here
only to use us to make money may as well leave. We don't need them, since they
are only here to use us to make money."
He said only eight of 126 registered agencies were doing
"good work," including the U.N. World Food Program and Population
Fund, the International Committee of the Red Cross, the International
Organization for Migration, the Norwegian Refugee Council and the Danish
Shettima accused UNICEF of misusing funds by buying
bullet-proof vehicles. Such a vehicle saved lives in July when Boko Haram
attacked a military-escorted humanitarian convoy, wounding a UNICEF worker, two
other aid workers and two soldiers.
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"They will construct five toilets in Gwoza and fly in
helicopters more than seven times to inspect the toilets," Shettima said.
While the government was focusing on resettling refugees and
reconstruction, aid agencies are concentrating on refugee camps, he said. Aid
agencies have warned against hasty resettling of refugees in towns and villages
still vulnerable to attack by Boko Haram.
There was no immediate comment from any of the aid agencies
on the allegations. Aid agencies have not commented in the past on such
criticism, for fear of further antagonizing government officials and
jeopardizing their work.
Tensions between government and aid agencies, and between
the agencies themselves, have increased, with agencies accusing the government
of trying to hide the extent of the crisis and allegations that government
agents and soldiers are stealing food aid.
Doctors Without Borders said last week that it has stepped
outside its traditional medical role to distribute food because people are
"in desperate need" and other organizations are not stepping up.
Aid agencies have warned that the crisis is of near-famine
proportions and that many more people could die in addition to the 20,000-plus
killed in the seven-year Islamic uprising that has driven 2.6 million people
from their homes and spread across Nigeria's borders.For
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