Let me start this piece with a very touching story: more than 20 years ago, a blind man in Kano got married to a blind woman. Theirs was a successful love story, hampered only by their inability to see each other, neither of the couple could describe the other, but the love was there for all to see and even copy from. They resigned to their fate, as there was nothing else they could to to regain their sight.
Then in 2012, they heard over the radio that Bashir Garba Lado, the senator representing Kano Central Zone at the Senate of the Federal Republic, was sponsoring a free eye test and treatment. They thought about giving it a try, but people around them told them not to do so; that the whole thing could well be a ruse, one of the gimmicks some politicians play to create the false impression of working for the people.
But a third voice urged them to enroll for the programme. Then they remembered that this was not just any politician. They knew all about Senator Lado as a man of his word. And so they wasted no further time in enrolling for the test.
What made Senator Lado’s programme different was his genuine determination to save his people, even at great personal cost to himself. And so, instead of the cosmetic way of just sponsoring eye tests, he added the most important and costly aspect of medication.
And like play, the blind husband and wife regained their sight. They saw each other for the very first time. There were cries of joy all around the place. Even passersby congratulated and felicitated with them.
In a press interview after this miraculous breakthrough, Senator Lado said he did not imagine that something he thought was more or less a routine exercise was going to achieve such a massive success.
But then the story of the blind couple was only one of 189 other programmes and projects executed by Senator Lado during his four-year stewardship as the senator representing Kano Central, between 2011 and 2015.
Fast-forward to 2019. It was time for another round of elections. The Kano people prevailed on their hero and saviour, Senator Lado, to return to the Senate. But the party leadership in Kano State had other ideas. They prevailed on Lado to step down for former Governor Ibrahim Shekarau, also a man of immense integrity. Being a fiercely loyal party man, he readily accepted.
Obviously impressed with the man’s exceptional record as a senator and philanthropist, which includes a gigantic flyover bridge in the heart of Kano, President Muhammadu Buhari wasted no time in giving Senator Lado the key appointnent of managing the complex refugee crisis in the country. He was appointed federal commissioner of the National Commission.for Refugees, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons, a position he still holds.
Typical of Senator Lado, he wasted no time in making his mark. He was lucky a lot of achievements had been recorded by his predecessor, Hajia Sadiya Umar Farouq, who was appointed a minister. But such a legacy would easily have gone to serious waste if a tenacious person with an unprecedented record of achievement was appointed, instead.
Capturing some of these achievements, my good brother, colleague and friend, Sadiq Abdullatif, who is the media adviser to Senator Lado, wrote as follows: “For decades now, nations have battled with issues concerning resettlement of refugees and displaced persons, and the most persistent problem across the world has always been how to fully rehabilitate, resettle and reintegrate the persons of concern into the host communities successfully. With a growing population of refugees across the globe, there seems to be no end in sight for this pending resettlement problem.”
Nigeria today is faced with one of the biggest humanitarian crises in its history; with a fast-growing population, the humanitarian landscape is filled with a high number of refugees and displaced persons and returnee migrants whose means of livelihood have been eliminated.
According to a United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) report in 2019, Nigeria had a total of 4.04 million persons of concern (POCs) as of July. This figure includes over 2.2 million internally displaced persons (IDPs), another 1.6 million returnees and an estimated 242,707 refugees. Interestingly, over the years, Nigeria has become a refuge of interest for refugees from Niger Republic, Chad and Cameroon.
Cameroon has the highest number of refugees in Nigeria, with a total of 57,809 refugees across five states: Akwa Ibom, 547; Benue, 7,531; Cross River, 36,764; Imo, six; and Taraba, 12,961.
For almost 10 years, the Boko Haram insurgency and other related violence in the North-East forced the highest number of POCs into permanent and active displacement, with more than two million persons in the Lake Chad region left with increased vulnerability and a big hindrance to access to basic amenities.
President Buhari has used the National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons (NCFRMI) as the agency saddled with the mandate for the protection, care, maintenance and durable solutions for the POCs, as well as ensuring comprehensive welfare for them. It is an established fact that, for over five years, President Buhari has been steadfast in the support and approach towards delivering aid to this large population of vulnerable POCs.
The protection of refugees and displaced persons is among the top priorities of the Buhari administration, and that is further evident in the steps taken in further developing modalities for inclusion of refugees in the social safety nets through the National Social Investment Programme (NSIP) in order to make everyone count, especially persons of concern.
Recognising that durable solutions like the full rehabilitation of displaced persons and the provision of sustainable livelihood assistance, including resettlement, requires persistent workable plans, President Buhari, on August 29, appointed Senator Basheer Garba Mohammed as the federal commissioner in charge of the National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons.
Also at the forefront of this effort is the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Hajiya Sadiya Umar Farouq, who has tirelessly and continuously supported the commission in its efforts at ensuring successful resettlement, rehabilitation and reintegration of persons of concern.
Upon assumption into office, Senator Mohammed came up with the NCFRMI’s Resettlement City Development & Rehabilitation Programme aimed at responding to the growing need and request of the large numbers of IDPs and refugees in the country. Worthy of note is that as of December 2019, Nigeria has more than 1,000 formal and informal IDPs camps across the country.
A 2019 needs and mobility assessment report indicated that more than 80 percent of these persons of concern, who were displaced in these camps and many other camps in the neighbouring countries were ready and willing to return to communities with guarantees of free movement, security and sustainable means of living.
And to make their dreams of such return come true, the Resettlement City Programme has been geared towards establishment of resettlement cities across the states in Nigeria. Designed for long-term impact through the reintegration, rehabilitation and resettlement initiatives for the persons of concern as well as a harmonious coexistence with the host communities, each resettlement city will include learning and religious centres, health facilities and recreational parks, skill acquisitions centres as well as security stations. Each city will also have access to water, solar electricity and be attached to social services that support their reintegration.
As the Honourable Federal Commissioner likes to put it: “A boy or a girl who has been in the displaced persons’ camp since the beginning of the Boko Haram crises has probably been out of school for about a decade. That is 10 wasted education years for the millions of youths in the camp. This should be a source of concern for anybody”.
As the situation of displaced persons in the country gets more dire as a result a number of crises, the commission in its efforts to bring comfort and succour to the persons of concern has worked tirelessly to secure vast amount of lands in some states across the federation for the establishment of the historic resettlement city, and the federal commissioner has ensured that every stakeholder is on board as the programme moves to the next level.
Therefore as the commission plans to add another mandate to its welfare plate for the persons of concern in camps across the states by providing a long-term and durable solution to the resettlement issues at hand, there is a growing need for more assistance and support for the commission through collaborations with donors within the country and well-meaning Nigerians.
It goes without saying that a programme of this magnitude needs the continuous support and assistance of everyone in the country, from the government at all levels, corporate bodies to individuals who wish to be part of this historic project. A project that is modelled to be the best in Africa and at completion will be the pride of the nation and its people – there should be a general call to action.
Like we all know, displacement is often a survival mechanism, when fleeing is the only resort people have in order to avoid imminent danger or hardship. However, displacement also tends to make people vulnerable, often exacerbating the difficulties they already face as a result of the surrounding – armed conflict or violence. Displaced people are torn away from their usual surroundings and social support networks.
Families are often ripped apart and relatives may be killed or go missing during transit.
The loss of income, possessions and sorts leaves internally displaced persons and returnee migrants unable to meet even their most basic needs in a predictable way or access to basic services. It is our collective duty to help the government and the commission bring back smiles to the faces of these people – for humanity and for ourselves through the commission’s Resettlement City Development Programme.
No doubt that as Nigeria gains hugely from the appointment of this firstclass achiever, Kano has somewhat lost in exclusively benefitting from his industry, compassion and excellence of character. It is to the pride of Kano, Nigeria’s centre of commerce, that is illustrious son is making it extremely proud with the unprecedented achievements he is recording in his present post.
Senator Bashir Gsrba Lado is a politician of the present and the future. His example will go a long way in proving that some politicians can achieve much more than what technocrats can ever do. Brass Tacks wishes this illustrious son of Nigeria the best as he trudges ahead in the onerous task of enlisting Nigeria among the greatest nations of the world, using the instrumentality of his office and personal example.