IDPs raise alarm over diversion of food vouchers

……in Borno

Some Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Gubio camp, Maiduguri have raised alarm over alleged diversion of monthly e-vouchers meant to buy food for their households.

The e-voucher is part of the World Food Programme (WFP’s) cash assistance designed to enable the beneficiaries to buy food in the markets.

The e-vouchers are prepaid debit cards with serial numbers linked to the IDPs SIM cards.

It is being loaded with money automatically on monthly basis to enable the deserving head of the households to buy food to fend for his or her family.

One of the displaced persons, Kaltume Musa, said that she had previously enjoyed monthly food ratio under the WFP before the agency substituted it and introduced the e-voucher.

Musa, a widow and mother of 12 children, said that she was encouraged to open a bank account to enable her to access N9,000 monthly stipend through the e-voucher.

“I am also issued with a debit card, but I could not activate it because no PIN number was issued to me.

“The cash agents responsible for the payment stopped the disbursement two months after the introduction of the e-voucher scheme.

“For the past six months, I have not received my money, the whole thing looks like a scam.

“The situation exposed me and my children to street begging,” she said.

Another displaced person, Musa Idris, who corroborated Musa, said that a number of the IDPs had reported the matter to the camp officials and the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC).

Idris called on the state government to investigate the matter to assuage their sufferings.

Reacting to the allegations, an official of the Borno State Emergency Management Agency in the Gubio IDPs camp, who spoke under condition of anonymity, said the camp authorities received complaints from the displaced persons, adding that the agency was working to address the problem.

NHRC’s Coordinator in the state, Jummai Mshelia, said the commission also received complaints from the IDPs, adding that it had so far reached out to the cash operators association in the state.

“This issue affected the livelihood of the IDPs and thier rights to life as well as movement.

“It has criminal element in it and that’s why as soon as we conclude our preliminary investigation we are going to foward our findings to relevant agencies like the EFCC,” she said.

On his part, Dr Kelechi Onyemaobi, WFP’s National Communication Officer, said the programme upon receiving complaints on the allegations visited the camp and investigated the matter in 2021.

“WFP officials visited the Gubio camp on October 26, 2021 to investigate the matter and confirmed the veracity of the complaints by the IDPs.

“WFP intervened to assist the IDPs to get the statement of their accounts from the bank being used for the disbursement of their entitlements.

“The statement enabled them to verify whether thier entitlements were paid or not.

“Out of the 55 complaints received by WFP, 30 were found to be valid after verification. These were addressed and resolved.

“WFP also resolved several issues in the camp relating to about 171 households who were not receiving their payments.

“WFP is no longer working with the affected cash agents anymore. The WFP cash assistance programme ended in November last year,” Onyemaobi said. 

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