Although it is believed that relative peace has returned to the north-east of Nigeria, after the insurgency by the Boko Haram group, DAVID ADUGE-ANI, TARKAA DAVID, CECILIA OGEZI and IGHO OYOYO write that many Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the Federal Capital Territory(FCT) are skeptical of going back to their home states.
The sun is high up in the sky, the IDPs camp is filled with people. Some who have lost hope of ever returning home and others who still dream of going back some day. Amidst their thoughts is also the strength to live each day with hope and a means of survival in the IDPs camp.
From the little children playing and attempting to bring normalcy to their new environs, to the adults working and trying to make ends meet while at the camp. But a question rings true, will going back home turn out to be an easy feat for the IDPs, and even at that how conducive are these camps turned into temporary homes for the IDPs?
Since the beginning of the insurgency by the Boko Haram group in 2014 in the three north eastern states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe, many citizens of the states have left their homes in search of places, to escape the killings in the areas.
Thousands of these citizens have found themselves in other states, including the FCT, where they have ended up as Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), living in various settlements. In the FCT, it is estimated that about 10,000 IDPs are currently living in about 20 settlements in various parts of the territory.
The Director General, FCT Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Alhaji Abbas Idris Garba, told LEADERSHIP Sunday that there are over 10,000 IDPs living in various settlements in the FCT. Further investigations by LEADERSHIP Sunday revealed that the IDPs are still living with the same problems of lack of water, lack of job opportunities, poor health care and lack of schools for theirchildren.
The secretary of the IDPs Chairmen Forum FCT, Elisha Ezekiel noted that the major challenges facing the IDPs in FCT today is lack of job opportunities for their men, especially, adding that most of them rely on commercial motorcycle riding popularly known as ‘Okada’, which unfortunately is prohibited in some parts of the territory.
Ezekiel, who is also the chairman of Waru IDP settlement in FCT, added that IDPs also have the challenge of feeding their families, while their children don’t usually attend schools, because their parents can’t pay their school fees.
He continued; “It is also true that some nongovernmental organisations, (NGOs) and even churches have organised some empowerment programmes for the IDPs in the FCT, however some settlements are yet to benefit from the skills acquisition programme.
For instance, Waru camp has never gotten such an empowerment programme. Also IDPs in Malaysian Garden have never had such a skills acquisition programme and the samewith IDPs in Kabusa, including other settlements.”
The public relations officer (PRO), IDPs FCT Forum/chairman, Malaysian Garden IDP settlement, Chakule A. Lawal, disclosed that IDPs in Malaysian Garden don’t have access to potable water; hence they depend on water seller (Mairuwa) for their water needs. “We also don’t have toilet and we usually use open defecation. The management of Malaysian Garden does not also allow us to dig pit toilets in the area. So we have resorted to open defecation. And like this rainy season, our children suffer a lot from malaria and other diseases and money for their treatment.”
The secretary IDP Durumi settlement, who is from Bama/Gwoza, Bala Yusuf decried the lack of shelter and other basics needs of the people, noting that the basic challenge facing the camp is accommodation, adding that the rains have started and the trampoline used for the makeshift shelters are not available to protect the IDPs from the rains. Bala further noted that the IDPs have no drugs in the available clinic and appealed to the general public to support and provide drugs to the clinic, just as he appealed to the general public tovolunteer teaching the internally displaced persons so as to catch up with their peers in other parts of the country.
“We are basically facing challenges of accommodation, we construct our houses with trampoline and wood. And as you can see, this is rainy season but the materials are not enough to go round. Our clinic is also out of stock, we need more drugs to cater for the people. We also need teaching materials and volunteer teachers in the school,” he said.
Also speaking, the vice chairman of Kuchingoro IDP Settlement, Aliyu Usman, noted that many of the IDPs in Kuchingoro, who have been trained on skills acquisition, do not have places to sell their items, because of the ban on street hawking in FCT. Some, who have been trained by some NGOs don’t have money to start the various businesses and skills they have learned.
“Many IDPs, who were trained in various skills acquisition don’t have starter packs to start their businesses, because they don’t have money to buy the equipment to start working. Recently some women were trained by some churches and some NGOs on sewing, but as I tell you, the trained female IDPs are still idle, because they don’t have money to buy sewing machines.”
Chairman of IDPs in Kuchingoro settlement, Mr. Philemon Emmanuel, disclosed that many of the IDPs have died as a result of sickness and diseases from the settlement. Also, the women leader of Kuchingoro IDP settlement, Ladi Mathias, who is from Gwoza local government in Borno State, revealed that they are practically left to fend for themselves without any aids coming from the government.
“We fend for ourselves here and that is why we farm for survival. There are NGOs, Churches and Mosques that bring in some food items and other things to assist us, but sometimes it takes up to five months to come.” She continued: “We do not have good toilet facilities. We live in small spaces and they are bachas. Some of them still don’t protect us from rain. The only good thing about staying here is that we do not fear for our lives. We don’t hear gunshots or bombing. So we have peace of mind, we pray God that with efforts of government, we can go back home soon.”
Another IDP, living in Kuchingoro settlement, Mohammed Burka, from Borno State, lamented that he was fed up of living from hand to mouth in the camp, adding that he was a school teacher and farmer back in Borno before the attack on his community.
Many of the IDPs also expressed their unwillingness to return to their home states, due to lack of insecurity. According to Ezekiel, “Truly, we hear that in the capital of our states, there is little peace, but the peace has not returned as before. Up till now, many people in our states are still living in fear, particularly in the villages. So that is why we cannot say that there is peace in ourstates, particularly in Borno State, especially the western and eastern parts of Gwoza, which are ‘no go’ areas.
“We, living here are insisting on going back home, because there is no place like home. The home is the pride of everybody. So, we will like to go back to our home states whenever peace returns.”
Yusuf said he cannot see the IDPs returning home as peace has not yet returned to their homes, adding that more IDPs keep coming to FCT from the insurgent states, which is a sign that peace has not fully returned. “More IDPs are trooping in, nobody is planning to leave except peace returns to the area,” he said.
Another IDP, Abubakar Umaru said the challenge his people who stay in the camp face mostly, are shortage of food, water and other basics of life. He disclosed that hunger has made some people to return to their home states, where they are being killed.
According to him, those who have returned to Gwoza have no homes and cannot go to farm, adding that last week, about seven IDPs, who got tired of hunger in the settlements and returned to their home states were killed by the BokoHaram group.
Ezekiel however called on government and individuals to assist the IDPs to get job opportunities which, according to him would go a long way in assisting other relations and people living in the settlements, while Emmanuel also appealed to government and those who can assist them so that they can return to normal family lives.
The councilor, representing Abuja City Centre, Hon. Dogara John Bassa (JP), told LEADERSHIP that the chairman of Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC), Hon. Abdullahi Adamu Candido is committed to assisting the IDPs in the area council, adding that provisions have been made in the 2018 budget to cater for the welfare of IDPs living in AMAC.
“Honestly speaking, the chairman of AMAC, Hon. Abdullahi Adamu Candido is committed to assisting the IDPs in AMAC. As we speak, there are provisions for their assistance in the 2018 budget, meant to empower them with skills acquisition, which is over N10 million. We have plans to empower them and give them starter-packs to start their businesses.”
He however appealed to other government agencies, individuals and bodies to assist them so that they would have something doing, adding that the IDPs cannot be staying idle, and be feeding, even if there is food for them.
However, The Director General, FCT Emergency management Agency (FEMA), Alhaji Abbas Idris Garba, told LEADERSHIP Sunday in an interview that FEMA has already enrolled 1,145 IDPs children into various FCT primary, junior and senior secondary schools, closest to them for free. Garba, who spoke through the Public Relations Officer (PRO) of FEMA, Iwuagwu Emeka, explained that the enrolment was to ensure that children living in IDPs settlements are integrated with other children, to have education, while they wait for the time they would go back to their various home states, so that there won’t be any gap.
The director general added that the enrolment is done at no cost to their parents, adding that the agency is also providing uniforms and writing materials free of charge for them, just as two hospitals in the FCT have been designated to treat sick persons in the IDPs camps, free of charge.
“Also, on their health issues, the minister of FCT, Mallam Muhammad Musa Bello, has graciously approved two hospitals in FCT, Asokoro General Hospital and Wuse General Hospital to attend to the IDPs free
of charge. What they are expected to do is come to FEMA office in Asokoro, when any of them is sick, to collect notice and they will be treated in any of the two hospitals free. Many of the IDPs have been benefitting from this gesture.”
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