Proxy orphanages storm Niger Customs Command to claim Rice for IDPs

NEWS DIGEST–Hundreds of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) posing as owners of orphanages besiege the Nigeria Customs Service Command in Niger state when they heard bags of rice would be shared to IDPs and Orphanage homes.

A Source in the Command said that before the Committee responsible for sharing of the foodstuff came, the Command had recorded hundreds of applications.

The proxy Orphanage homes stayed on at the Customs office in Minna on Thursday and Friday despite warnings that they will not be attended to as most of them were found not to be fake.

As at 11 am on Friday morning, out of over 50 applicants screened, only 15 were verified to operate genuine orphanage homes.

The Spokesman of the Committee, Ikepi Kadiri Angulu who spoke to newsmen disclosed that 70 per cent of the applications they received were not genuine orphanage homes neither were they operating an IDP camp.

“I will not say they are fake NGOs but over 70 per cent applications we received were not running orphanages or IDP camps. Some are not orphanages; they are foundations or welfare homes.

“Before we came, we had sent intelligence to investigate the addresses provided by these orphanages and we discovered that most of them were not orphanages.

“We are doing verification before we allocate the bags of rice to them and immediately after each verification, we tell them if they met with the requirements or not.”

Stating some challenges faced by the Committee especially from government officials, Angulu said the Committee had to refuse a letter from a Permanent Secretary in Niger state who wanted to lay claim on some bags of rice and the state Prisons Service.

“Those that came claiming to have come from Government House were refused. Government knows NGOs that deals with orphans, so they should direct us to them or ask them to come.

“A letter by a Permanent Secretary was refused. The PRO of Prisons came but they were also refused. We cannot come as a Committee and give to those who are not verified and who do not meet our mandate. ”

He assured that the Committee will make sure that only genuine orphanage homes and operators of IDPs camps are given allocation for the foodstuff.

“As many verifiable orphanages and IDP camps that are in Niger will be given allocation. It is sad that some people will tell you they have orphanages but at the end of the day, it was discovered that they were not orphanages.

“We discovered one of the addressed submitted was a religious institution which does welfare and assist the less privileged but the committee essence is to deal directly with the operators of these orphanages and IDP homes, we do not want intermediaries, we want to give it to them directly.

“We cannot go beyond our mandate. We briefed them on our mandate and terms of reference and we expect them to adhere to it. So if they are still outside the gate waiting to be called, maybe they are confident that they have genuine orphanage homes.”

The Spokesman said that for the Niger/Kogi/Kwara Command, 12,000 bags if rice would be distributed but only 1,900 bags would be distributed in Niger state.

He disclosed that 250 bags of rice had already been allocated to the IDP camp in Zugeru while 150 bags to the Niger state Orphanage home in Minna.

“We saw IDPs in Zugeru with our own eyes, 1,100 IDPs in camp and we have allocated 250 bags of rice to them. We have also verified the Government orphanage in Minna and allocated 150 bags to them.”

Angulu added that some of the people who were verified in other states and could not get from other states were also on ground and they will be allocated some bags of rice.

He added that in escort would be made to follow the vehicles conveying the allocated foodstuffs to the address they wrote where the beneficiaries would sign a certificate of landing which would be used for documentation and monitoring later.

A lot of the applicants refused to respond to questions posed by This Reporter while the ones who spoke claimed they have orphanage homes in remote parts of the state.

One other who said her name was Juliet said, “I was told Customs were giving out rice for auction and that is why I am here. To get what I can get”, when told it was not true, she retorted, “Well, I will wait and see. Until they finish packing all the rice from here I will not leave. I do not want to lose my chance of getting this rice. I know it will be cheaper if it is auctioned.”

The Officer in Charge of the Minna Orphanage Home, Mama Wakili confirmed that 150 bags of rice had been allocated to the orphanage home along with some condiments.

“I came here because I was told the Orphanage Home has been allocated 150 bags and some condiments, I am here to collect it. We are grateful to the federal government for this initiative.”

The Niger state Chairman of the Spinal Cord Injuries Association of Nigeria, Usman Muhammed said he was there to advocate that the physically challenged should also be considered in the allocation of the bags of rice.

He disclosed that they have been verified by the Committee because they have a home where people with spinal cord injuries and other physically challenge lived and they have been assured of some allocation.

As at the time of filing this report, the verification exercise and allocation of the bags of rice was ongoing.