How Bauchi Lawmakers Allegedly Divert NEDC Palliative to Serve Political Interests

Lawmakers in Bauchi prioritised political cronies instead of poor constituents while distributing the palliative North East Development Commission provides, to cushion the effects of fuel subsidy removal, WikkiTimes’ Yawale Adamu uncovers in this investigation.

For Isah Ahmed Masama, it was a moment of joy when they heard that palliatives would be distributed to them to alleviate their suffering amidst the ongoing economic hardship in the country. However, like other villagers without political affiliation, his hope was dashed as days passed by without anything reaching them. This feeling of dejection caused Isah to lose hope in all activities. He was not able to get the palliative because he was not politically connected. 

The removal of fuel subsidy by the Nigerian government has plunged many households into unimaginable suffering. The removal is followed by an increase in the price of fuel in the country, a commodity upon which most businesses depend for their daily operations apart from diesel.

Ordinary Nigerians, especially lower-class citizens, continue to suffer from this impact. Households now are unable to afford three square meals per day.

To minimize the impact of the subsidy removal, the North East Development Commission (NEDC), a regional government agency established to provide humanitarian aid to the North East Region devastated by the Boko Haram insurgency, came up with palliative support for the people. This included food and non-food items meant to be distributed to poor and vulnerable citizens in the region through state governments and members of the legislative arm.

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Nigeria’s Vice President, Kashim Shettima, flagged off the distribution exercise at the NEDC headquarters in Maiduguri, Borno State. However, WikkiTimes’ findings showed that political influence has marred the distribution of the palliatives, as lawmakers only favour their supporters and party members.

On September 9th, 2023, the North East Development Commission disbursed food and non-food items to all the 48 Federal Constituencies of the region. Each House of Representatives member was given 1,500 bags of rice, 500 cartons of spaghetti/macaroni, and 208 gallons of vegetable oil, among others. 

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However, local communities in Jama’are Itas Federal Constituency said only a few political party loyalists benefited from the distribution.

Isah Masama, a youth leader in his community, told WikkiTimes that despite working days and nights during the electioneering period, neither he nor his people in Masama village of Jama’are were remembered during the distribution.

According to him, the economic hardship has forced him to even sell his mobile phone to provide food for his semi-extended family. He regretted that those they elected to represent their interests did not even remember them when they needed it the most.

“This palliative didn’t reach us. Even when things like that are to be given, they can’t give us. The politicians know us but they don’t answer our calls now. They only used us during elections but now they have dumped us. I sold my mobile phone to buy food for my family due to the present economic situation. It pains me that the support intended to alleviate the sufferings of the masses was hijacked,” said Isah with a frustrated look.

Isah, while expressing displeasure with what transpired during the distribution, appealed to the North East Development Commission to investigate and ensure that the intended beneficiaries received its palliatives.

The feelings of being pained by politicizing the distribution exercise were not felt by Isah alone but also by Jauro Ya’u Masama, who said his house has become an abode for people who don’t have anything to put on the table, as many households hardly eat for three consecutive days.

Bags of rice palliative distributed by NEDC

The other 60-year-old community leader said his community didn’t receive any palliative despite having a large population, noting that if they were given, it would undoubtedly impact the people positively, as many now sleep on empty stomachs.

“My people are suffering. Many households don’t have what to eat. The majority of my people can’t even afford gari to feed their families. Sleeping on empty stomachs has become a norm in this community. We will be grateful if we are given the palliative. As a community leader, it pains me to see my people suffering, but there’s nothing I can do about it. Even if we complain, they don’t listen to us,” said the community leader.

WikkiTimes’ findings revealed that the distribution of items was done according to party affiliation across the constituency, with the vast majority of the intended beneficiaries sidelined. 

The lawmakers, in a bid to serve their political interests, diverted the items meant to be given to the poor and vulnerable who are mostly affected by the removal of fuel subsidy. They lavishly favoured their kinsmen and political allies, leaving the poor to suffer in vain while trying to make ends meet.

“Yes, I saw them distributing the items but only to a few selected persons within the party. They, in the first place, hid the items and only brought them out during this Ramadan fasting. Our lawmaker claimed he bought them, but they all carry the NEDC logo, and only his political allies received them.

“The people who are suffering don’t even know about the distribution. They only heard that some persons were given. They have politicized the process, and only those close to him get the items while the masses who hardly eat are left behind,” said Baba Jama’are, a political activist.

Baba said that gone are the days when partisanship will be employed in deciding who gets the dividends of democracy. He appealed to the NEDC to consider using traditional and community leaders as they are closer to the people and know their needs, not just politicians who only serve their political interests.

He opined that now is the time for governance, as the people of the constituency need equal treatment from their lawmakers, expressing disaffection over the politicization of issues affecting the whole society.

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“Whenever items are given to politicians to give to the people, they should do so, not hide them until it is time to serve their political interests. This is taking us backwards. The suffering masses need to be considered, and I am afraid if this trend continues, only political allies will benefit from any form of intervention. I am calling on the commission to do the distribution itself, not to give it to politicians; they should co-opt community leaders, not political leaders,” said Baba.

Ibrahim Mailemo Jama’are shared the same opinion with Baba that if politicians were allowed to always distribute items, especially palliative support to the people, political influence would continue to prevail, thus leaving the masses in anguish.

He acknowledged that the member representing Jama’are Constituency at the State House of Assembly has done justice in his distribution, as it was done without considering any party affiliation. But he decried that for their Reps member, only party officials benefited.

“Our State Assembly member, Mubarak Mai Rakumi, did his own fairly without considering which political party you belong to, as long as you are from Jama’are. He considers all people as his, but for our Reps members, only party officials get the items.

“Even though it has become a norm that party affiliation is the benchmark for benefiting from dividends of democracy, it pains so much that this is happening. Many people were neglected, but this act is not going to take us anywhere,” said Ibrahim.

In what appeared to be political competition, the member representing Itas Constituency at the Bauchi State House of Assembly, Yusuf Abdullahi (Mai Yadi), followed the footsteps of his National Assembly counterparts in favouring only people loyal to his party, the PDP. Sources told WikkiTimes that even within the party, if you have no strong godfather, nothing will be given to you.

Mohammed Adamu Itas confided to WikkiTimes that despite being actively involved during the electioneering period that saw the coming of Yusuf Mai Yadi as their state assembly member, he only saw images of the distribution on Facebook after it was concluded, wondering why such an event has to be kept hidden even from party members.

Jauro Ya’u Masama

Muhammed said it has become a trend that even if you belong to the party but have no strong godfather, you will only be aware of such distributions after they are concluded.

“Almost everything now, no matter its importance, has been politicized. If you are not someone’s boy or you don’t have a strong godfather, you will not hear of it. It is not good because the people who are supposed to benefit from such gestures are sidelined,” he said.

WikkiTimes’ checks on the social media handles of associates of the state assembly member, especially Facebook, showed some beneficiaries, but locals confirmed that they were all people who worked for the emergence of the lawmaker.

Lawmakers Yet to Respond to WikkiTimes Inquiries

Rabilu Bala Kashuri, the member representing Jama’are Itas Federal Constituency at the House of Representatives, is yet to respond to both WhatsApp and Short Message Services sent to his different mobile numbers as calls are not going through. But a source close to the lawmaker’s circle confided to WikkiTimes that the distribution happened but declined to make further comments on the details of the beneficiaries. 

The source, who craved anonymity, shared a document detailing the number of beneficiaries of the palliative items in Itas town, which checks showed that they are all supporters of the lawmaker and his party, the APC.

For his part, Yusuf Abdullahi Mai Yadi, the member representing Itas Gadau Constituency at the Bauchi State House of Assembly, SMS sent to his mobile number has been delivered but yet responded to as at press time.

Screenshot of chats with NEDC Communication Officer Naomi Chibok

However, unlike his APC counterpart who shunned WikkiTimes’ request, the Jama’are LGA PDP Chairman, Isah Mai Fada, said they were not consulted nor given any share as constituents within the Jama’are Itas Federal Constituency.

According to him, his party was not in any way involved in the distribution exercise, noting that they also have a stake since it is an issue that concerns the people of the constituency, not only a particular political party or its members.

North East Development Commission Still Silent Weeks after Promising WikkiTimes feedback.

Naomi Chibok, the media person of the North East Development Commission, is yet to relay feedback from her superiors weeks after promising to do so.

When informed about WikkiTimes’ findings, Naomi said she couldn’t talk over the matter until permitted by her Head of Department, assuring that all the inquiries would be forwarded to her boss who is in Abuja for an assignment.But despite series of reminders, she and her superiors have yet to respond as of press time.

This report is produced with support from Civic Media Lab (CML).

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