The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of House of Justice (HoJ) cum media personality, Barr. Gloria Ballason (Esq.) talks about the Southern Kaduna Resilience Funds(SKARF), the progress it has recorded and it’s future plans. In this illuminating interview with Gurara Accord, the legal luminary went further to call on the public for more community participation. Excerpts:
Q. HoJ and partners have recently launched SKARF, can you please tell the public what SKARF is all about and how they could get involved?
A. Thank you for asking. Every end of year, HoJ hosts citizens across countries to a Summit and Banquet. In 2020 the flagrant and wanton destruction of lives caused us to rethink what our organization could do to stop the bleeding of humanity and to reinforce the value of human life.
It became necessary to walk our talk by joining to rebuild from the rubble and ruins that terrorism had made and was making of Nigeria and so we launched SKARF with the mantra: “restoring hope and rebuilding dignity.” We have three points of intervention, the rebuilding of houses, investment in education and psycho-social support for the affected communities. We entreat Nigerian citizens and friends of Nigeria to give their donation through the *HOJ Global Integrated Fidelity Bank 4011243273 or for those abroad, through the SKARF GO-Fund-Me account.
We have also made a call for volunteer teachers, counselors and sports coaches who can
volunteer their services at IDP camps and the affected communities. Volunteering can be full time or during outreaches. We have written to churches and corporate organizations to seek their help in enlisting children in the IDP camps or from the affected communities into schools.
I use this medium to specifically appeal to Mission schools and spirited citizens to please grant scholarship to the victims or sponsor their education. They can do this either by joining the SKARF project or as part of their own outreach efforts to help. Everything of value is needed.
The public, churches and corporate organizations should expect to see HoJ knocking at their doors with the commitment and earnestness that this project requires.
Q. How do you intend to raise the funds?
A. We are doing that already through social and conventional media campaigns, solicitations from individuals, corporate organizations and religious institutions. A Go-Fund-Me account has been opened. Our over 6,500 volunteers from 25 countries are working hard to not only meet but exceed our target .We have an initial target of N100million i.e $250,000 and shall lengthen our chords and strengthen our stakes as we progress.
Q. What is public perception towards SKARF?
A. It has received wide concensus, acceptance and response not just with the giving but in the number and calibre of people from all around the world who have stepped out to help. Just before Christmas, we had nation builders from Columbia, Iraq, U.S.A, Cameroon, Uganda, Kenya and Sao Tome who shared their experiences with us and assured us of support.
I want to specifically place on record what Haider Al-Jebori, an activist from Iraq said: He said we are brothers on the same soil. When we bleed, we bleed together. His Worship Daniel Nde Tawembe, a brilliant judicial officer and Head of Takoumbo clan in Cameroon, educated us on how to help communities rise in a sustainable manner while Mr. Dario Colmenares Millan of the Global Transitional Justice Initiative gave an education on how to engage the healing process in a hopeful manner and in a form that demands accountability of the perpetrators. So yes in terms of reception, the SKARF project is demonstrating what is possible when citizens rise to fix what is broken.
Q. What mechanism have you put in place to ensure the judicious execution of the funds?
A. Accountability is two fold: informing a donor that the donation has been received and then showing that it is used or being used for the intended purpose. The SKARF project took off on 1st December 2020. We began to receive donations from 29 November, 2020. In 11days, eight people raised one million twenty one thousand. It takes a measure of trust in capacity and intention to gain such trust and confidence. We are updating donors on the HOJ platforms. If you log on to www.houseofjusticeng.com/skarf-follow-the-money, anyone can see the updates there on what’s going on.
Q. What have you done so far in the rebuilding of the affected communities?
A. Rebuilding is both physical/fiscal and psychological. On fiscal rebuilding, we hope to end the pilot project across 10 villages by the first quarter of 2021 specifically by 31 March, 2021. In terms of the psycho-social support required for psychological healing, alot needs to be done.
You know, many evaluate the devastation of persistent attacks in terms of the number of death fatalities but that is only the tip of the iceberg. The real effect is in those who are neither alive nor dead and who constantly have to negotiate and navigate their options as they live in constant fear. For these category of people, they resign their faith and fate to the hopelessness and helplessness of what persistent terror does to the mind and the community. What is appalling is this: There is an entire generation including the millennials that have grown up to a cycle of constant victimization by terror. It is for that reason that the trauma intervention and coping strategies we are using are both religious and indigenous to demonstrate to the people that there is hope for a tree when it is cut down because at the scent of water it will not only bud but blossom.
We have also adopted a hashtag that is indigenous to the people #Tsotsontat! In its loose meaning,it means : A New Day has Come! We are convinced that the mission of SKARF which is to restore hope and to rebuild Dignity, will birth a new day.
Q. What is the level of response by donors since the birth of SKARF?
A. From Nigeria to the USA ,UK and all, people are giving money, volunteering their time to rebuild the psyche and resilience of victims in Southern Kaduna . The reporting template shows a generosity of spirit that is unprecedented. It is incredible! We have come a long way but there is still a longer way to go.
Q. Any time frame in rebuilding the affected communities?
A. House of Justice initial engagement for the SKARF project is for one year; from 1 December,2020 – 31st November,2021.
Q. With the level of response, do you think SKARF will meet it’s mandate?
A. We will not only meet our mandate but will exceed it. It is quite clear that the Nigerian government has no plan for distressed communities. We are galvanizing citizens and the private sector to reach into their powers and networks in order to rebuild. Southern Kaduna is our first port of call. We shall extend to other parts of the country. Just like the Southern Kaduna people who cannot afford to cede their ancestral lands to terrorists, Nigerians must never abandon this country to those who do not wish us well because we have no other place to claim as our own.
Q. Can you please tell us the motivation behind SKARF?
A. House of Justice is a public interest firm. Our mission is to take Justice to Law. Since 2015 House of Justice hosts national and international leaders of thought and citizens of all walks to an end of year summit and banquet to discuss the dominant challenge of the country and think through solutions. By mid 2020, insecurity in Nigeria had become so blistering it was clear that our biggest challenge was how to survive the twin monsters of insecurity and the Covid-19 pandemic. We thought that rather than just talk, HOJ should walk its talk. House of Justice as a corporate entity needed to be part of providing solutions. It became even clearer because during the first wave of the Covid-19, spirited leaders and organizations gave so much food to House of Justice to give to the hungry. They knew we could and can be trusted. We are therefore converting that goodwill that we have into a band-aid of healing for Southern Kaduna that has persistently been bleeding. We know that our efforts in the court room makes no meaning if the bond of humanity outside the courts is broken.