Rice Theft: Moves To Shield Culprits Exposed

  • Top Officials Confess As Investigations Close In On Real Offenders
  • IDPs Rue Why Governor Shettima No Longer Weeps Over Citizens
  • Southern Borno Elders Decry Neglect In Rehabilitation Efforts

By Yahaya WAKILI, Maiduguri and Ali MUSA, Biu This is not the best of times for Borno State Governor, Kashim Shettima as he has been battling to stave off criticisms over his handling of rice and other relief material materials donated to Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs, following accusations that he sold the materials and diverted others to inappropriate uses. To this end many suspect that ongoing investigations into the theft of rice and other relief materials by Government Officials may not produce anything tangible as Governor Kashim Shettima who called for the probe in the first place may have perfected plans to shield the actual culprits from justice. nationalTRAIL reliably gathered that the call for probe and the attendant noise from the Government was a mere smokescreen, as each one of those involved may be given a clean bill of health at the end of the day , even if they are found culpable by the investigative panel. This fact stems from moves by the Governor, which many interpreted to mean giving those who may be questioned an alibi ahead of the commencement of full investigations. Already, preliminary investigations reveal that very high profile Government officials have been indicted, and the Governor and his Deputy equally risk being implicated by the confessions of some of the officers used to dispose off the products. While some of the officials were said to have been sponsored to proceed on the lesser hajj, others were quickly assigned to be outside the state, even as others were told what to tell investigators when eventually invited for interrogation, all ppointing to shielding them. Initial findings reveal that, the first attempt at cover up was to dismiss the issue as a piece of mischief by Abuja politicians, even when EFCC Chairman, Ibrahim Magu raised the matter publically. Now that it has assumed a life of its own, and Governor kashim Shettima of Borno state had to admit that thousands of tons of rice and other relief materials sent to Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs in Borno had actually been tampered with, attempts are still on to bury the matter. This perhaps informed the sudden appearance of thousands of bags of rice in the Government House, being distributed freely to political urchins and not to the IDPs. nationalTRAIL gathered that, before the moves could be perfected, with security agents invited to wade into unraveling the circumstances surrounding the theft of the relief materials were already closing in on some top Government officials who allegedly negotiated the sale of the relief materials to traders in Maiduguri, Gombe and Kano. Security sources said some of them have even made mind boggling revelations on the culpability of the Governor, his Deputy anf some commissioners who either gave directives or helped carryout directives on how the items were shared. Borno citizens had openly engaged the Governor and other top Government officials in open altercations, and even fisticuffs, when the products were noticed in the open market, with some traced to prominent rice dealers, who were assumed to have bought them off from Government officials acting on higher instructions. Initial investigations reveal that, immediately relief materials were delivered, Governor Shettima usually directs certain Government officials to take delivery of same on behalf of the Government, and no sooner were deliveries taken, than such products are quickly moved to hidden warehouses, away from the prying eyes of the supposed beneficiaries. Some people involved in the exercise were said to have confessed that, more than 70% of such deliveries go into private stores, with IDPs benefitting less than 10%, while the remaining 20% were given out to favoured politicians and Government officials for their private uses. People were surprised last week when bags of rice suddenly appeared in trailer loads from unknown sources, ostensibly having been neatly re-bagged, and were being distributed inside the Government house to the political hangers on instead of the IDPs to whom the materials were donated.
It was in the hassle to get their own share of the rice that, Policemen and Soldiers clashed right inside the Government House, while officers assigned to share the rice took to their heels, even as miscreants and women who thronged the Government house had a field day. Already pictures of people hired to re-bag the rice from their original bags, into customized bags with the Governor’s pictures and that of President Muhammadu Buhari, have gone viral on the internet, where you see labourers transferring rice from their original bags into the customized bags. The rice transferred into customized bags are being distributed to the politicians as relief for the Ramadan, over which Policemen and soldiers working in the Government house Maiduguri clashed, leaving behind a Dead Soldier and Policeman. According to one of them, the situation of IDPs remains very pathetic as they are often left to wallow in hunger and diseases, every time the products are diverted, and even the Governor had seen their conditions during one of his rare visits to such camps. One of the IDPs, John Musa Glavda who spoke to our correspondent in Maiduguri lamented why Governor Shettima who until recently visits IDP camps and often weep on camera no longer seems to care what has become of these unfortunate victims of crisis, as he now aids the theft of rice donated to them. “ I will tell you this and you can take my picture and put in your newspaper that, this Governor deceived us. Before, before he comes to visit people and will cry in front of journalists just to deceive them to believe he has good heart, but it is all lie, he is laughing inside. Do you know that he is the one that tell this people how to steal our food and rice to sell to traders in market everywhere?” In similar vein, Modu Abba Kura, from Ngala spoke to our correspondent in kanuri saying, All the tears shed by the governor whenever he visited sites of disaster were fake, as people have come to realize that he is the one causing all our problem here. “He tells people that he is giving us food but in actual fact we are just dying of hunger. We only hear about rice but we don’t see it. We hear about money but we don’t get it, Modu lamented. It may be recalled that “Governor kashim Shettima in the early days of his Governorship was always publicly weeping when people narrate their plights to him, but these days, he engages his own people in street brawls whenever they voice out their grievances”, a University lecturer who prefers to speak on conditions of anonymity told us. Meanwhile, elders from the Southern part of Bporno State, under the aegis of the Lardin Gabas Elders Forum have cried fowl over discriminatory tendencies in the rehabilitation of areas affected by Boko Haram, even as they accuse the Borno State Government of deliberately neglecting their areas for political reasons. Rising from an emergency meeting in Abuja over the weekend, the elders condemned what they described as selective rehabilitation and rebuilding of communities by the Borno state Government and the Presidential Committee on the rehabilitation of the North East, headed by General T Y Danjuma. According to them, most communities in southern Borno, some of which were damaged more than others from the central and northern Borno have never benefitted from any form of relief material nay has any effort ever been made to rebuild the communities affected in the southern part. A communiqué at the end of the meeting stated that, in Hawul Local Government Area alone, most communities perceived as being non Muslims have been completely sacked, and their buildings and churches destroyed, yet no mention was ever made of such communities, to enable them benefit from any form of support. Signed by 44 elders in attendance, the communiqué described as uncharitable attempts by the Borno state government and other top officials to suppress the agitations of the people of southern Borno for equitable treatment in the rehabilitation efforts going on in communities affected by Boko Haram and for IDPs in the south to benefit from relief materials being given out. They argued that, all communities from Shaffa down to Tashan Alade, kwajaffa, Ghung, to the borders with Adamawa, communities have either been destroyed or citizens displaced, but when victims of the insurgency are discussed, the southern part is never mentioned deliberately, so as to suppress their problems and deny them benefits from donors and even government rehabilitation programmes. In Askira/Uba, most communities had to take refuge in biu and other cities, when they were sacked by bokjo Haram, and to date, the borno state government pretends af if only the Central and northern parts of the state suffered from Boko Haram attacks. “ We are constrained to speak out having seen that, while our people suffered most as the prime targets of boko Haram attacks, and our communities ravaged, our churches burnt and our citizens displaced, nobody seems to want to pay attention to our plights for sheer political reasons”.


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