By Francis Okoye, Maiduguri, Haruna Mohammed, Bauchi, PATRICK OCHOGA, Benin City, ACHOR ABIMAJE, Jos, HEMBADOON ORSAR, MAKURDI, KABIR WURMA, Birnin Kebbi, HUSSAINI JIRGI, DAMATURU
Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in some of the camps in the country have turned to begging and prostitution, while some have resorted to drug abuse as a means of survival, LEADERSHIP investigations revealed.
The displaced persons attributed the social vices such as begging, prostitution and
drug abuse in the camps to hunger, starvation and joblessness, saying except a vast emergency aid programme is launched to ameliorate the situation, matters would out of hand.
Deprived of their means of subsistence at home and confronted with abject poverty in the camps, some of the IDPs who have been attending schools said they may not sit for the West Africa Examination Council (WAEC) and National Examination Council (NECO) as a result of paucity of funds.
In Borno state, Fadimatu Mohammed, an IDP taking refuge at the Bakassi camp with a population of over 40,000, said due to hunger and starvation arising from poor feeding in the camps, some of the IDPs, especially boys and girls have resorted to street begging, prostitution and drugs abuse.
Fadimatu, a mother of five, said the unfortunate thing they are witnessing in the camp is that instead of the various non-governmental organisations (NGOs) operating in the camps to engage
some of the youths as ad hoc staff, they would rather bring in people from outside.
She added that federal and state governments’ empowerment programmes such as N-Power are not extended to the IDPs camps despite the fact that some youths in the camps are graduates with
degrees, diplomas and NCE certificates, who fled their homes as a result of Boko Haram and bandits’ attack.
“Suffering in the camps is the reason why they engage in these social vices. In the camps you will see girls engaging in prostitution, boys engaging in stealing, while others take to drugs thinking it is the remedy to their situation. Government should empower the IDPs to curtail some of the ugly trends in the camps”, she said.
Similarly, Muhammadu Umate, an IDP from Gwoza local government area of Borno State staying in the same Bakassi camp, said since most parents in the camps cannot cater for their children, the children most of whom are grownups engage in illicit behaviours.
“The feeding pattern in the camps is poor. We cannot also go to farmlands due to the Boko Haram terrorists who have killed many of our people in their farmlands. We are left to starve and that encourages such vices like begging and prostitution as a means of survival by some of the girls who need money to maintain themselves since their parents are not capable”, Ummate said.
Corroborating the account given by Fatimatu and Umate, a displaced person at CAN Centre, IDP camp, Ibrahim Kulkawa said challenges of feeding and idleness made some of the IDPs to engage in begging and prostitution for survival. He said although drug abuse was not
prevalent in their camp, he wouldn’t know if the girls embarke on prostitution outside the camp.
“There is hunger; secondly, most parents in the camps cannot cater for their children, so the alternative will be survival at all cost which leads to begging and prostitution. We want government to empower us as they empower other citizens who are in the host
“We have heard of ongoing empowerment programmes undertaken by states and the federal government but none of these have been extended to us at the IDPs camps. We want government to remember us in their laudable programmes,” Kulkawa said.
Our correspondent reports that in its efforts to reduce the challenges in the camps, Borno State government had embarked on massive resettlement of the IDPs to their ancestral homes.
The state governor also promised that most IDPs camps in the state would be shut down by the end of May, 2021.
But a new research showed that street begging, drug abuse and early marriage are the most common activities victims of Boko Haram insurgency engage in to survive due to lack of government support, particularly in the North East.
The research titled, “Entrenching Peace: Assessing community resilience and peace building initiatives in North-east Nigeria”, conducted by Nextier SPD (Security, Peace, and Development) and sponsored by the European Union (EU) and British Council uncovered the unfortunate incidents going on at the camps.
A professor at the University of Maiduguri, Haruna Dlakwa, disclosed that the protracted insurgency has significantly disrupted social and economic life, with many residents
now living in abject poverty and displaced from their homes, which subsequently led to adoption of some coping mechanism to survive the hardship.
“Street begging is one of the major coping strategies the people developed. This is not to say the government assistance was not there but it was not going round. Group eating, campaign and enlightenment on the need for them to have forgiving spirit were also adopted as a survival mechanism.
“Also, the rate of marriage has been very high among the people. The women see it as a means of survival. They also resort to the use of herbs and charm to protect themselves. Criminal activities such as bribery and theft are now very prominent as some residents became a link between Boko Haram and contraband such as petrol. The disgruntled elders who have lost control of their family also adopted indiscriminate use of drugs as survival strategy”, the professor said.
“Women made efforts to provide for their families by venturing into various businesses including – knitting, hair making, cloth making, amongst others”, he added, noting that such trainings have not gone round.
About 350 IDPs from Borno State taking refuge at Inkil, a suburb of Bauchi metropolis, according to LEADERSHIP’s investigations, are faced with severe water scarcity and other needs.
The IDPs queue for hours to get water to drink and cook from a well provided by a philanthropist about two years ago to assuage the problem of lack of portable water in the camp.
A leader at the camp, Alhaji Bulama Gujja, who spoke with LEADERSHIP, said, “We used
to wake up very early every day to race to the well to get water that will be used for drinking, cooking and other household need. Sometimes people fight at the well due to distortion in the queue because everyone is eager to get water to cater for the need of his
Gujja said former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Yakubu Dogara, constructed a borehole for them, thereby adding another source of water for the camp which he said is still not enough.
He stated: “The borehole has not been working for the past one year and water scarcity returned. Life has not been easy for us here because the land is rocky, making it difficult for us to farm after the end of rainy season. We don’t have means of irrigation farming here. Most of us are farmers but because the land where we find ourselves cannot support us to farm beyond rainy season, we are left us out of our cherished occupation.
“Majority of us do petty jobs in the city to earn a living while some of our youths are into tailoring, hawking, construction, among others”.
But the director-general of the Bauchi State Emergency Management Agency said
there are no IDPs in Bauchi at the moment, adding that those who came into the state as IDPs have now been resettled at a community and not camp.
In Edo State, what started many years ago as the Home of the Needy Foundation today harbours over 3,000 IDPs mainly from the North Eastern part of the country.
The camp tucked in the quiet and peaceful forest in Ohogua, Ovia North East local government area of the state has become popular persons who occasionally visit the place to donate one form of relief materials or the other to the thousands of the displaced persons who majorly are women and children.
When LEADERSHIP visited the camp, it was quiet and calm with few persons sighted within the large compound because many of the IDPs had gone to school and other learning institutions built within the camp.
Despite effort to keep the camp running, it was gathered that about 250 IDPs may not enroll for the 2021 WAEC, NECO and the National Business and Technical Examinations Board (NABTEB) due to lack of funds.
The coordinator of the camp, Pastor Solomon Folorunsho, told our correspondent that presently, the burden of shouldering the responsibility of the IDPs has almost become impossible for the International Christian Centre (ICC), the parent body of the foundation playing host to the IDPs.
The cleric noted that it would cost between N9,500 to N12,000 to enroll each of the IDPs for the examinations.
He further said that apart from the 250 persons who need funds to go back to higher institutions of learning, 45 other IDPs that have secured admissions also need to be taken care of.
Folorunsho said that because of paucity of funds, the ICC had written a letter soliciting for assistance to the governor of Borno State where the majority of the IDPs come from.
“It has not been easy with us these past months, especially as regards feeding and taking care of the educational needs of the children.
“As I speak, we are having challenges of having to enroll 250 of them because of lack of funds. We need to enroll them for this year’s WAEC, NECO and NABTEB. Again, we have 54 of them that are in various higher institutions who are ready to go back to school.
“Similarly, about 45 of the children who have gotten admission in different tertiary institutions across the country also need to resume with the older ones. In all of this, we are talking about money and there is no way we can do it all alone without support from well-meaning people and the government”, he said.
In Benue State, apart from the eight IDPs camps, another camp habouring over 5,000 is yet to be profiled with the residents crying for food.
The IDP camp was discovered in North Bank, a suburb of Makurdi, the Benue State capital.
Our correspondent who visited the camp located at Tse-Yandev, near Agro Miller along University of Agriculture road, observed that the IDPs are living in a very pathetic and unhygienic condition without observing the COVID-19 protocols.
It was also observed that most of them are staying in makeshift tents made of palm-fronds, while women use their wrappers as mat to sleep and also use them as curtains in their makeshift tents and bathrooms.
Another problem at the camps is the lack of toilet facilities. Visitors are greeted with the stench oozing from the surrounding bushes where the IDPs go to for open defecation.
The camp, LEADERSHIP gathered, which has been in existence in the location since September, 2020 is being sustained by religious groups as well as well-meaning individuals.
Chairman of the camp, John Azenda, who spoke with journalists, said they have been living under pitiable condition without good shelter, water and food for the past four months.
“You can see the situation yourself. We manage to gather grass, palm fronds, rice bags to construct the small huts we sleep in, and you can imagine families who have between two to five children to force themselves under the small tents in this harsh harmattan wind, we are suffering here,” he noted.
Mrs Yanguchan Ukerchia, one of the IDPs whose husband was killed during an attack by the herdsmen, said she had been living and fending for her eight children until an NGO took two of them under its sponsorship.
Also, at Mbawa camp, the manager, Mrs Comfort Vihimga, told our correspondent that though he has not observed sales of illicit drugs in the camp, what is prevalent in the camp is hunger which she said have made a lot of people in the camp, especially women, to engage in menial jobs to cater for their families.
Speaking on the development, Governor Samuel Ortom who was visibly angry said since 2018 to date when the federal government, through Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, visited Benue and promised to reconstruct, rehabilitate as well resettle the IDPs with a pledge of N10m to
help them start life again, it is yet to redeem the promise.
“Most of the IDPs are tired of staying in the camp but they are afraid of going back to their ancestral homes because any time they try going back, they will be ambushed and killed by the herdsmen who are heavily armed with AK47.
Governor Ortom however said he has asked the secretary to the state government, Anthony Ijohor and the executive secretary, State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA), Dr Emmanuel Shior, to visit the camps, assess the situation, and report back for onward action.
In Jos. Plateau State, national coordinator, Emancipation Centre for Crisis Victims in Nigeria (ECCVN), Dalyop Solomon Mwantiri, told LEADERSHIP that although the state government has officially closed IDPs camps, most of the IDPs have relocated and are being accommodated by neighbouring communities.
Speaking with our correspondent, the state commissioner for Information and Communication, Hon Daniel Manjang, said there is no IDPs camp in the state to the best of his knowledge.
Dangote Begins Feeding Of 1m Malnourished Children
Meanwhile, the Aliko Dangote Foundation (ADF) has said it has initiated processes to reach and properly feed one million children across the country.
The move, according to the Foundation, is to complement and boost government’s efforts in tackling the issue of malnutrition in Nigeria.
United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) had reported that while malnutrition is a direct or underlying cause of 45 per cent of all deaths of under-five children, Nigeria has the second highest burden of stunted children in the world, with a national prevalence rate of 37
per cent of children under five.
The UN agency in a statement on its website also noted that an estimated two million children in Nigeria suffer from severe acute malnutrition (SAM), but only two out of every 10 children affected is
currently reached with treatment.
It added that seven percent of women of childbearing age also suffer from acute malnutrition, and that the first 1,000 days of a child’s life offer a unique window of opportunity for preventing under nutrition and its consequences.
To reverse the negative trend, the chairman of Aliko Dangote
Foundation and Africa’s wealthiest man, Aliko Dangote, said, “We recognise nutrition as a cross-cutting issue which affects other critical development goals, that is why nutrition has become our core
“We want to reach one million malnourished children in Nigeria
and we know that for every dollar invested in nutrition, the nation as
a whole will reap huge economic dividends.
“In addition, we shall reach households of children with SAM and their
communities that contribute the most to the SAM burden with food security, cash-based interventions and livelihoods support, engendered infant and young child feeding, hygiene and care-seeking behaviours.”