© 2018 - International Centre for Investigative Reporting
NEMA Official Works Against Govt Probe Of Rape In IDP Camps
By Samuel Malik, Abuja
An official of the National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA, has pre – empted the outcome of two separate investigative panels set up to probe allegations of rape and child trafficking in Internally Displaced Persons, IDP, camps by denying the allegations even before the probe panels began their investigations.
Following a report by the icirnigeria.org about rape and child trafficking in internally displaced persons camps in the North east, NEMA and the federal government set up two probe panels to investigative the weighty allegations in the report.
Titled Grim Tales Of Rape, Child Trafficking In Displaced Persons Camps, the report published on January 29 revealed that girls at different IDP camps were being raped while children aged between 5 and 15 were being trafficked and sold for as low as N10,000
The government had shown good faith by deciding to investigate the grave allegations in the report. First, on February 10, the management of NEMA announced the setting up of a panel to investigate the allegations
The agency’s spokesperson, Sani Datti , said following a stakeholders’ meeting headed by the director general of NEMA, Sani Sidi, the previous day, the agency had decided to set up a panel to verify the allegations.
The panel was made up of the DSS, police, Nigerian Red Cross, Office of National Security Adviser, NSA, National Human Rights Commission, NHRC, National Agency for the Prohibition of Traffic in Persons, NAPTIP, Journalists Against Disaster, JAD and NEMA.
It was mandated to verify the allegations contained in the report ; interact with all stakeholders; carry out town hall meetings in all the camps mentioned in the allegation, interact with University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital and the NEMA North east zonal office, state relief agencies, SSS , Red Cross, Army and Police, and had two weeks to submit its report.
The ministry of Justice also issued a statement signed by the minster, Mohammed Adoke, on February 13, saying it had constituted a committee to look into the allegations.
The statement issued and signed by the minister said that “an Inter-Ministerial Committee comprising of relevant agencies and security personnel has been set up to among other things; investigate the matter with a view to holding accountable all those found culpable in these nefarious acts and recommend appropriate measures to forestall future occurrence.”
However, in a move that might cast doubt on government’s sincerity in independently investigating the allegations and stopping the ugly occurrences in the camps, on the same day that the minister announced the setting up of a probe panel, the North east coordinator of NEMA, Sa’ad Bello, who is also in charge of displaced persons camps in Adamawa State, denied that rape and child trafficking had taken place in any of the camps in the region.
Bello, made the denial two days before the NEMA probe team was scheduled to commence its investigation in the North east and before the membership of the federal government’s probe panel became clear, effectively pre – empting the inquiry and prejudicing its outcome.
“Those of us here in Adamawa have not had any case of child abuse nor child trafficking. However, we will not speak for other camps, but in Adamawa there is no reported case of child abuse,’ Bello said confidently
He was also reported to have said the denial became necessary as the icirnigeria.org made general allegations without specifying which states in the North east perpetrated the heinous crimes.
Bello said it was unfair for the media to make a blanket statement rather than being specific as to the camps and states in the North east in which the alleged crimes were perpetrated.
Further justifying his position, the official said it was virtually impossible for rape and child trafficking to thrive in the IDP camps as minors are usually under the firm watch of parents or guardians while security agents also monitor movement in and out of the camps.
But, apparently, Bello did not even read the report before making his hasty public disclamation.
Contrary to his claims, the report by the icirnigeria.org provided details of the camps in which the crimes were committed and the states in which they are located. It even provided names of specific officials.
The report specifically mentioned camps in Gombe, Maiduguri and Yola in Gombe, Borno and Adamawa states respectively.
For example, in the report, one camp in Yola, which is under his watch, was pointed out as a fertile ground for child trafficking. Our reporter actually posed as an interested buyer and spoke to an official who was identified in the story as Raila, believed to be a NEMA official as she was putting on the agency’s reflective vest, who agreed to sell a child for N50,000
In Gombe, where NEMA staff were arrested in the past for diverting relief materials meant for displaced persons, the report detailed the experience of a girl who was repeatedly raped by an official who took her home on the pretext of taking her to help his wife.
The 16-year-old girl was taken home by the official whose name is given as Ibrahim in the report, under the pretext that she would help his wife with household chores; only for her discover that he had no wife.
Ibrahim would rape her every night and lock her up during the day. This continued for long until the girl escaped. By the time our reporter spoke to her, she was three months pregnant.
Also, contrary to the NEMA official’s claim that children in the camps are usually under the watch of parents and officials and that security men monitor movements in and out of the camps, anybody who has visited any of the camps knows that there is unrestricted movement of IDPs.
Bello apparently made his denial to save his neck and divert attention from the investigation as he was aware that a probe had been ordered into the accusations.
He told journalists at the press briefing which he called that the NEMA headquarters had set up a committee to unravel the truth behind the allegation and expressed the hope that justice would be done.
However, his action appears to have been made to influence the investigative panel to reach a verdict of no crime committed even before they commenced their inquiry.