Tomorrow marks exactly five years that the United Nations building in Abuja was attacked by Boko Haram suicide bombers, incidentally also on a Friday. On that day, 26th August 2011, no fewer than 19 persons were killed with scores of others seriously injured, one of them Member Feese, a young woman from a very wonderful family. Then a post-graduate student of Poverty and Development at the Institute of Development Studies of the University of Sussex, Member, now 28, was at the UN Office to collect data for her dissertation on social protection in Nigeria when the terrorists struck.
Despite being given a 3 percent chance of survival when she arrived the London hospital where she was treated for life-threatening injuries, Member miraculously survived to tell her stories. She would later go on to complete her Masters’ degree at the University of Sussex after which she turned her adversity into a cause for helping others by converting what started as a support network of friends and family members into an advocacy group that demands improved service delivery and more accountability, especially for the poor and marginalised of society. Through ‘Team Member’ she is working to provide a modern prosthetic center in Nigeria where artificial limbs can be made available for people like her. Despite her physical and emotional scars, Member, who is currently a staff in the department of Development Finance at the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), has been unrelenting in helping other victims to understand that there is life after such tragedy.
Tomorrow, Member and others in TeamMember will mark the 5th anniversary of the attack with a small event at Lake Chad Hotel, No. 4 Lake Alau Close, off Lake Chad Crescent, off IBB Boulevard, Maitama at 6pm. I invite as many people as can make it to come as the occasion will be used to create further awareness on the need to provide more care and support to people who suffer from trauma in our country.
However, beyond Member, there are many of our citizens who have suffered from Boko Haram attacks in recent years and are suffering in silence because they have no voice; starting from the 1st October 2010 at the Eagle Square in Abuja to the 31st December 2010 attack at the Mogadishu Barracks to the April 2011 Suleja blast at the INEC office to the Madalla Catholic Church Bomb blast of same year to the UN House attack and many others.
At the launch of the Bomb Victims Association of Nigeria (BVAN) where many of these unfortunate victims gathered last year, their chairman, Mr. Kayode Oladele Olatunji and secretary, Mallam Musa Baba Audu, said: “We come from every state and zone of Nigeria. We are united by our scars and by our belief that together we can care for and support one another to get through this trauma, reclaim our dignity and, ultimately, prevail over the perpetrators of the crimes that have scarred our lives forever.
“As a result of prolonged neglect of the victims of this bomb blasts across Northern Nigeria, some of us who initially survived the bombings have died, many due to little or no medical care and others as a result of their inability to continue with their medical bills or further their treatment here in Nigeria or abroad. One example is the story of a victim named Hope Musa, a survivor of 26th June 2014 EMAB plaza bomb blast and a founding member of BVAN who died two weeks ago due to injuries sustained from the blast. Hope is from Taraba State. The blast affected his brain and he was poorly managed which led to several episodes of convulsion until his death; as he could not afford to further his treatment for a neurosurgical operation abroad.
“Victims are dying needlessly, deaths that are avoidable if urgent and continuous medical attentions are provided. We have cases of first-degree burns, cornea opacity, compound fractures and orthopedic cases, limb amputees, tympanic membrane and bone damages on the ear, intensive nerve and tissue injuries and so on, which are in need of urgent medical attentions.
“On July 16th 2014, the Federal Government of Nigeria under the past administration of President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan constituted a Committee on Victims Support Fund to mobilize resources and administer appropriate support to victims of insurgency and Boko haram terror activities all over the country. Lt General T.Y. Danjuma (rtd) chairs this committee.
“In August 2014, a Fund Raising Dinner was held and the committee raised over 80 billion naira. The former president said the fund raising was part of government’s efforts for widows, orphans, and those whose business premises, homes and places of worship had been vandalized would be catered for; as well as victims with medical requirements. This did not happen, at least not to hundreds and thousands of victims among who we are and who are known to us. 80 billion naira and yet victims are languishing in pain and neglect!
“Many of the victims have lost their lives as a result of government negligence and neglect, many which initially survived the bombing, died months later for inability to cope with exorbitant medical bills, which the Federal Government promised to clear at every bomb blast that occurred. The nonchalant attitude of the government towards her citizens, who are suffering and dying for no fault of theirs, caused the surviving victims to form an association known as BVAN.
“This association is set to bring victims of bomb blasts across Northern Nigeria under one umbrella; to speak with one voice and to help show love, care and support towards those affected, and be the voice of the voiceless of her members. This association has been formed with the guidance and help of the Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission, Dr. Chidi Odinkalu, and together we aim at delivering the rights of the unfortunate and vulnerable victims of bomb blasts to them. We insist on the participation of victims in all programs designed to victims.
“The bomb blasts in Northern Nigeria have not stopped, and so more and more victims who need care, attention and support are birthed with every blast. The Bomb Victims Association of Nigeria as a body duly incorporated under Nigerian law speaking on behalf of the victims of terror attacks and bomb blasts in Nigeria has therefore decided to make the following demands:
“That the present administration under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari open up an inquiry into the status of the Victims Support Fund established in July 2014 and ascertain the whereabouts of the over 80 billion naira raised for the support of victims;
“That, in case funds had been disbursed, members of the committee should give account on such disbursements by also furnishing such details as whom the funds were spent on and the criteria with which such were chosen;
“That a framework be set up to make this 80 billion naira available to real victims of bomb blast many of whom are in dire need of medical attention and means of livelihood;
“That the Bomb Victims Association, which has as its members actual victims of bomb blasts, be included in the committee of the Victims Support Fund and
“That President Buhari expedites efforts and strategies towards stopping the insurgents and their terror attacks once and for all so that no more deaths or victims will arise from bomb blasts anywhere in Nigeria…”
I hope the authorities and critical stakeholders will pay attention to these unfortunate victims of terror.