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Who is afraid of Imaan Sulaiman-Ibrahim?


By Uwem Isong

(#2 Abasi Eno Close, Off Idoro Road, Uyo, Akwa Ibom State)

Something strange happened towards the end of 2021, November to be exact. Suddenly, out of the blue, a smear campaign targeted at the Honorable Federal Commissioner (HFC) for the National Com
mission for Refugees, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons (NCFRMI), Hajiya Imaan Sulaiman-Ibrahim, erupted in the media space.

For some of us in the development sector, it was shocking because the HFC has not even spent up to half-a-year in the commission before the darts came flying. I read with considerable amazement some of those pieces where dark sentiments seemed to reign supreme.

I was particularly concerned when the writers failed to see any redeeming feature in Sulaiman-Ibrahim’s quest to give the nation’s refugee commission a shot of life, the same way she had written her name in gold in the agency she was redeployed from, the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP).

For instance, one of such hack write-ups by one Law Mefor, entitled “Before Refugee Commission goes from bad to worse”, mischievously referred to nonexistent media reports when it began its opprobrious allegations by stating that the commission “…is fast degenerating into a cesspool of corruption and management due to the brash and reckless manner the place has been run by the new federal commissioner, Imaan Sulaiman-Ibrahim, according to media reports.” 

The only media reports are the ones in the imagination of the writer.

Perhaps, the most absurd of them all was the allegation made by the writer that the honorable federal commissioner on assumption at the NCFRMI threw out the picture and personal belongings of her predecessor, Bashir Garba Lado. The writer also went ahead to state that she stormed Lado’s private residence to confiscate official vehicles used by the said predecessor rather than wait for the official handover or request that vehicles be returned.

This absurd allegation, no doubt, betrayed the writer’s true identity as a man set on a hatchet job to tarnish the image of a public servant. The first question is, from which “media report” did he cull this scoop? Secondly, how on Earth would the federal commissioner be invading the home of her predecessor to cart away properties, when the said predecessor, Bashir, is actually on a swap with his successor, Sulaiman-Ibrahim. 

For the avoidance of doubt, the two public servants were reassigned to each other’s agency based on a directive from President Muhammadu Buhari. Bashir, who was the federal commissioner at NCFRMI went to become the Director General at NAPTIP; while Sulaiman-Ibrahim, who was the DG at NAPTIP went to become the HFC at the NCFRMI.

It beats the imagination how someone would push tales that fly in the face of common sense. What is more? There is yet another of such imaginative efforts at pushing a campaign of calumny against a hard-working public officer. In yet another article, one Ibrahim Bulama, writes on the “Refugees Commission and Worsening Fortunes of IDPs”, where it became glaring that the writer was out to make a case where none existed. 

The said article went on to grab at straws, linking the deplorable state of Durumi IDPs camp (which has been in existence for over a decade) with Sulaiman-Ibrahim, who, at that time, was in office for only four months.

“Yet another displaced person, who spoke to the popular online paper on condition of anonymity, also complained that the IDPs in the Durumi centre were dying by instalments, revealing that their deplorable environment, exposure to the vagaries of weather, lack of access to sanitation, and very poor nutrition had caused them several diseases and untimely and avoidable deaths in their camps…. If Nigerians were angered by the reports of the deplorable state of the camps and their inhabitants, they were even more bewildered and outraged by the allegations by rights groups and media reports alleging misgovernance, corruption at the NCFRMI.” Yet again, we see another fictitious “media reports”.

Hiding under the false canopy of public commentators, these writers, for reasons best known to them presented their stories in a manner akin to giving a dog a bad name in order to hang it. Obviously prepared to sabotage the rising star of the HFC through a contrived picture of woeful public servant running a one-woman show, these pieces attracted my attention because I am aware of the person and work of Sulaiman-Ibrahim. 

Her work at NAPTIP speaks a lot for her. Even now, the staff are still talking about her caring, just and motherly short-lived tenure. In fact, many of the staff were sad when they heard about her redeployment to NCFRMI.

Reading those articles, I could not restrain myself from reacting to them, especially when I discovered that that concocted information is still left in the public space as if they are the truth. From all intents and purposes, the articles were premeditated hatchet man’s job aimed at driving a wedge between Sulaiman-Ibrahim and her principals, President Buhari and the Honorable Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Hajya Sadiya Farouk, and also to set Nigerians against her. 

But anyone that comes close to her would immediately realize that all the stories are cooked up tales by the moonlight. As a matter of fact, those that have had a personal encounter with her after reading the articles written to defame her, have acclaimed that she is the opposite of the picture painted by the hack writers. She is amiable, just and dedicated to duty. Therefore, the contract writers have failed woefully.

Indeed, the attention it has brought Honorable Sulaiman-Ibrahim can only make Nigerians realize the truth. This is a hard-working woman, a mother, a visionary, who has toiled to make her society a better place. She has utilized all her intellectual and material resources to serve her people and her country. 

Perchance, her sin is that she had in the last general elections decided to make herself available to serve her people, Keffi in Nasarawa State, at the National Assembly. She contested for House of Representatives, not because of ego-trip, but because of her inherent drive for public service and standing for those who cannot stand for themselves. 

I implore those that had begun that odorous campaign of calumny against her to see her for who she is: a public servant, not a politician. I believe Nigeria needs women like Imaan Sulaiman-Ibrahim, to serve and to nurture the future generation. Ironically, just when she was posted to the right government agency to bring out the best in her for Nigeria’s refugees and internally displaced people; the nation-destroying forces came calling. 

Yet, she is never a threat to anybody. Just about seven months in office, she has already deployed her best to provide protection, food and non-food items, education, skill acquisition and various other types of empowerment aimed at restoring human dignity of the IDPs and refugees. With her big-picture goal of development and resettlement of persons of concern, she is already set on returning them to their original homes and integrating them in their host communities.

Indeed, there were reports that some staff of the NCFRMI tagged her a “workaholic” as they saw her hit the ground running immediately after assuming office from NAPTIP. Within days she had visited the hotspots to see things for herself. In the process, she gave out relief materials and other soothing domestic items interacting personally with the affected. 

Where angels fear to tread, she went, like in Jere LGA in Borno state, where she distributed food and non-food items to the poor and disadvantaged. Each household smiled home with hefty bags of rice, beans, millet, spaghetti, maize, palm oil, groundnut oil, mattresses, mat, kettle, insecticides, buckets, cooking pots, plates, cups, spoons, among other items.

Finally, another question that comes to mind is this: Is Imaan Sulaiman-Ibrahim under attack because she is a woman? The truth is that, today, the relevance and value of the Nigerian woman is not in doubt. The feminine gender has blazed the trail in every sector, in business, education and innovation, civil society, and in politics. They have done Nigeria proud. Sulaiman-Ibrahim is one such Nigerian women. His political party and his constituency are honoured to have her. 

• Isong, a former staff of NAPTIP, writes from Uyo.

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