On Thursday 31 July, 2014 the Presidential Committee on Victim Support Fund in pursuit of one her cardinal mandate held a fund raising dinner to raise funds for victims of Boko Haram insurgency in the country. During the visit of Malala to the president, the decision to put in place a Victim Support Fund was made public.
It would be recalled that President Goodluck Jonathan had on Tuesday, 15 July, 2014 inaugurated the committee chaired by multi-billionaire former Minister of Defence, Gen. Theophilus Danjuma (rtd) with Mr. Fola Adeola a co-founder of GT Bank as deputy. Other members of the committee includes Abdulsamad Rabiu, Sani Dauda, Folorunsho Alakija, Cosmas Maduka, Jim Ovia, Wale Tinubu, Sani Sidi, Ben Angwe the Executive Secretary of the National Human Rights Commission, Balarabe Musa the Chairman of the Conference of Nigerian Political Parties, the committee also comprises of representatives of international non-governmental organizations, civil society and youths, among others.
While inaugurating the committee on Tuesday, 15 July, 2014 President Jonathan read out the committee’s terms of reference as follows: To identify sources and ways of sustainable funding to support victims of terror activities; To develop appropriate strategy for the fund raising; To ascertain the persons, communities, facilities and economic assets affected by terror activities; To assess and determine the appropriate support required in each case; To manage, disburse and/or administer support to the victims as appropriate; To address related challenges as may be appropriate; and to advice Government on other matters necessary or incidental to support victims of terror activities.
If President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan is not remembered for anything, I can say with certitude that he will be remembered for his insatiable penchant for setting-up committees on every occasion of national crisis during his tenure. A defence has often been offered that President Jonathan does so because of his commitment to due process and the need to avoid making hasty and wrong decisions. But a dispassionate appraisal of the series of committees set-up by Mr Jonathan evinces an escapist approach towards governance; a desperate way of avoiding responsibilities. I once defined “Jonathanism” as ‘government by committees’.
Till date, the result of the Presidential Committee on Crises in the North East is yet to be seen. Just recently, Mr President set-up a committee to determine whether indeed the Chibok girls were actually abducted; What a sad commentary
Given the apparent apathy of the citizens towards setting-up of committees by the president, the present committee on Victim Support Fund should see their task as a historic opportunity to leave indelible imprint on the sands of time. They need to appreciate the urgency of now, and the peculiarity of their mandate. The membership of the committee offers a tempting oasis of hope that it will not be business as usual. This is however an expression of cautious optimism.
Having succeeded in raising over 80billion naira at its first fund raising outing, the committee members must be reminded that Nigerians are very interested in the expenditure and disbursement of every kobo of that sum. They must be told clearly that their integrity is at stake. This is not just one of those Jonathan’s committees, this is a humanitarian assignment to offer solace to victims of Boko Haram menace.
Countless families, religious and educational institutions, etcetera, are waiting for the committee for a helping hand. Many have lost their life time investment and properties to this senseless crisis. We expect the Danjuma-led committee to identify such people and offer them a helping hand.
Nigerians have not forgotten the euphoria which birthed the inauguration of the Subsidy Re-investment And Empowerment Fund. Mr Christopher Kolade, a respected retired public servant was drafted in by President Jonathan to give the committee a decent face, but today, SURE-P has been assigned to the dustbin of history. It has become a SURE-Way of looting the nation. All the promises made by this government when fuel subsidy was partially removed has been practically abandoned. The man whose reputation was exploited by this government in persuading Nigerians to accept SURE-P resigned ignobly, without a cogent explanation.
It is advisable for the committee to have a good communication with the public, secrecy and clandestine activities should be deliberately avoided. This must not be another channel of stealing our resources. It should not be a cover to raise funds for the 2015 elections.
Those who are in the committee for self-aggrandizement should restrain their lust, the should be mindful of the verdict of history as the blood of the victims of this insurgency will cry for justice.
Inibehe Effiong is a Human Rights Activist and a Public Affairs Commentator. He can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org