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‘We’re are being forced out of IDP camps with nowhere to go’


Some IDPs at one of the camps at Daudu in Guma Local Council Area, Benue State PHOTOS: JOSEPH WANTU

Truly, nobody plans to be homeless and nobody wants to be. But it becomes inevitable in the time of natural disaster, emergency situation or crises. In this situation, one will be stunned by the fact that he or she is now homeless not just homeless but also helpless.

This was the fate that befell most Nigerians, who are today Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in various IDPs camps across the country, which is gradually turning Nigeria into refugee home.

While some who were displaced by flood are gradually returning home as the flood had receded, some of others, especially in the Northeast region, who are faced with the security challenge, are still in IDPs’ camps. The concern is that the governments and other intervening agencies are not doing enough to assuage the suffering of the IDPs.

Most annoying is the fact that those that are saddled with the responsibility of taking care of their needs, have continued to shortchange them at all time.

The question begging for answer is when will this problem of IDPs will be over? Why has it become difficult for government to tackle the challenges responsible for the reoccurrence of these crises that led to the creation of IDPs camps?

IDPs In Kogi Not Happy With NEMA, State Govt Over Unfair Treatment
From John Akubo, Lokoja
Many of the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Kogi State are not happy with the way they were treated while they were in the various camps. They accused the state government and the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) of lack of care and support.

Some of them in a makeshift camp in UBE Junior Primary School Aniebo Quarters, Gadumo, said the state government officials visited them once with less than six small plates (Mudu) of food items while NEMA came once to distribute relief materials.

For one of the IDPs, Mariam Ibrahim, residing in the makeshift camp in UBE junior Primary School Aniebo Quarters, Gadumo was like the end of the road when a staff of the Ministry of Environment came with a message from the commissioner that they should vacate the premises of the school.

Ordinarily, after the flood receded, it was time they returned to their homes so that the pupils could use the facility for classes and their first term examination, but she and many other IDPs from Andankolo have no home to return to as the floods destroyed their abodes.

Her major grouse had to do with the fact that the government was nonchalant towards them.

Another victim, Sale Musa, who is also the chairman of the camp, said the commissioner sent somebody to their camp early in the morning to tell them that the IDP camp has closed.

“We felt that if commissioner wants to drive us out he should have come by himself to address us, even if there is nothing for us.

“We say we cannot just leave like that because we may not get what is due to us. There are old women, children and many of those who have no place to go back to. The question is from here where do we go? If we leave, how do we start off again?

He said the commissioner did not even send his PA, saying that he sent a civil servant not a politician, who was just trying to clear himself that he was just sent to tell us to leave.

“Even if we are pigs or goats, you have to buy grass and give to us to eat, before you ask us to vacate.
“We are humans and you are ruling over us and now you come with cane to flog us and tomorrow you say you have people that you are ruling over. We felt very bad, thinking what next to do.”

He acknowledged that he knows that the children were coming to write their examination, but they were still there, because they don’t know where to go.

“We have been here for three months but they visited us only twice now. That is the State Government visited once while NEMA visited once. I think it was even NEMA that made us happy a bit. When the state government came, they gave us two rubber paint of rice up till today.”

He called on Federal Government to come to their aid.
“They should give us something to start with because if we leave how do we start? We don’t have anything on ground as our houses have collapsed and our farms were swept away, so we don’t have anything now.

“The farms were flooded, nothing to take from them and our houses collapsed, no place to return to. To rent house it is money. Government should help us with what to rent house with.”

The Kogi State Commissioner for Environment, Alhaji Sanusi, has taken a swipe at some of the IDPs for their ingratitude and turning around to blackmail his ministry with the flood disaster which has come and gone.

Yahaya who was reacting to insinuations by some of them, who have refused to return to their homes after the flood had receded, said some persons, who were not really affected have decided to take up permanent residence at IDP camps.

According to him, “Since we don’t have to displace last IDP camps, we are relying on school authority. We are actually constrained. When the flood started within the metropolis, we created makeshift camps. We have only one permanent IDP hostel, which is built for that purpose.

“We took in a lot of the IDPs at the Federal Housing Estate in Felele. We already had people who were housed there. At a point, the camp was closed they were advised to return to their places, many of them complied but quite a number chose to stay there.

He said the owners of the property-Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria has been mounting pressure on the state government and the deadline that was given was last year November for the IDPs there to vacate to allow them continue with the construction of the houses.

He said the victims never complied until another round of flooding this year.
“The new set of IDPs that joined them had already moved in on their own. It was not like if we decided to use that facility this year, but on humanitarian grounds, we recognised their stay even as the owners of the property kept on mounting pressure.

He said four weeks ago, the management of the Bank came around when they gave the IDPs 24 hours to vacate, because their stay this year was not authorised.

“I waded in and pleaded for sometime to look out for alternative solution. What we decided was that since the water has receded and people have started going back, those who have their houses intact should return because we have noticed that a lot of people staying there are not even victims of the flood.

“Some have taken residence there even before the flood. We pleaded with the property owners for two weeks grace and now it is about four weeks.

“We had the understanding that since the NEMA was about to distribute relief materials they should wait to be given materials. They are aware of this issue that the owners of the property need their facility.”

He asked the victims to return to their homes because the water has receded.
“For those whose houses have been destroyed and may no longer be habitable, we equally advised that they move to the permanent camp at the flood estate.

Large number of out-of-school children at NHRC IDPs Camp in Daudu, Guma Council Area, Benue State

“It would be there that we could assist them temporarily, while we try to overcome the situation. But we must ascertain that they are really victims.

On the recent directives for the victims to move out of the camps, he said it is to enable the ministry to act.

“It was not like as if somebody went there to ask them to move. He said the IDP in Aniebo is a primary school hence the headmistress came to the ministry to lodge the complaint that classrooms were converted for IDP use.”

Benue IDPs In Humanitarian Crisis, Seek Protection To Return Home
From Joseph Wantu, Makurdi

Not less than eight Internally Displaced Persons Camps (IDP) were created by the state government to accommodate displaced persons at the peak of farmers-herdsmen clashes in Benue State.

According to sources from the State Emergency Management Agency, SEMA, a total of 180,000 Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs were spread across the eight camps created, while 50,000 of them are taking refuge with hospitable neighbours, relations across the state.

Out of this figure, a total of 112,617 are children between the ages of 0–59 months, while 53% of them are male and 47% are female.

When The Guardian visited some of the camps located in Makurdi, Guma and Logo areas, the camps are bedeviled with humanitarian crises that desire urgent attention.

It was observed that despite efforts by some partner organisations to provide makeshift education for the children, the facility is overpopulated to meet the challenges.

After all, the partners are more concern about provision of health related facilities like medical healthcare and construction of toilets, not necessary feeding that is very key.

A SEMA official who spoke to The Guardian on condition of anonymity, said under normal circumstances, the live span of any camp is supposed to be not more than six months, but the situation here is prolonging.

He said these camps which were created in January this year will be one year next January, stressing that with the prolonged life span of the camps, it has posed undue pressure on government and intervening bodies.

“It is evidently not possible to satisfy the displaced with feeding. No matter what may be done, you cannot satisfy them. Though, we, at SEMA in Benue, have been trying our best and we urge the government and other intervening organisations to continue with their gesture.”

One of the IDPs, Iorfa Agodo, complained of poor feeding, stating that he has a family of ten and can not be satisfied with what the camp officials give him.

Agodo called on government to provide enough security around his ancestral home located at the Benue/ Nasarawa border to enable him move his family back home.

Another IDP, Mwuese Detimin, a mother of five, said she would be glad if she could return home so that her children would continue with their school.

She also complained about inadequate accommodation space for families at the camp.

To Mrs Mercy Orlakaa who told The Guardian that she lost husband during the herdsmen attack, appealed to government or any well-to-do individuals to help takeover the education of her five children, stating that even if she returns home, she cannot cope training them in school.

Orlakaa, however, said even with interventions from government and other spirited individuals, she prefer to be home if safety is guaranteed.

But, briefing journalists recently on the fate of IDPs returning home, the Commander, Operation Whirl Stroke, Major General Adeyemi Yekini together with the Acting Director, Defence Information, Brig-Gen. John Ajim, urged the IDPs to return home without fear.

They assured that troops of Operation Whirl Stroke and the newly launched Operation 777 are ready to provide security cover for the returnees as the troops are prepared to sustain patrols for their safety.

“We are here on ground and as I speak to you today, we don’t have herdsmen in Benue. IDPs should go back to their homes. Their security is guaranteed. Nothing will happen to them,” they assured.

They further announced that not less than 157, 000 IDPs have so far returned to their ancestral homes in Benue, Nasarawa and Taraba states.

They, however, advised against false rumour that herdsmen are still living and killing people in Benue, noting that there are no herdsmen grazing and killing in the state.

The Guardian on visits to some of the IDPs camps discovered that most of them are exposed to contagious diseases due to overcrowding and open defecation in the environment; a situation that is begging for urgent attention.

FG, Delta State Govt Send IDPs Home With Cash, Foodstuffs
From Sony Neme, Asaba
The Federal and Delta State governments made good their promises to fete the Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs, with cash and relief materials at their respective camps across the state.

They were sent home with N30,000 each from the federal and state governments. While Delta state gave each married couples twenty thousand naira each, spinsters and bachelors went home with N10,000 each.

The National Emergency Relief Agency, through the State Committee on Flood, headed by Barr. Ernest Ogwezzi, provided each family with a bag of rice and a certificate to each of those that acquired skills on industrial training, hairdressing and catering, in line with the state SMART Agenda policy.

According to Ogwezzi who addressed journalists at Asaba during the official closing ceremony said: “My satisfaction is that the people are happy. They were properly taken care of while here, and they never had anything complained that was unattended to while their stay here and across the state lasted. You can see the joy and the atmosphere here.

“Of course, if the situation is to the contrary, you would have seen it in them, because we don’t pretend when things are not the way it should be. To make their stay memorable, those of them in this camp were taken through skills acquisition, by the camp supervisor, Benedicta Osakunih, a Special Assistant to the Governor on Child Care Development and Liaison officer on NGOs. You saw them displaying what they have learnt, which includes soap making, creams, custards, catering and hairdressing among others. It is an interesting experience.”

Highpoint of the day was the donation of multimillion naira worth of foodstuff and household items by Ndokwa Progressive Future NPF. It included 50 bags of rice, 50 bags of beans, 150 pieces of mattress, 150 mosquito nets and 400 pairs of slippers were distributed to the victims in Kwale, Ashaka camps, and Obetim community camp.

Speaking while handing over the items to the state government, Hon. Ifemeni, Director General of NPF, explained that the donations reflected the vision of the group’s president, High Chief  Uwaka, who died on Saturday, October, 27, a day to when the consignments, he had procured through Sir Kessington Adebutu were donated to commemorate his 83rd birthday. Sadly, High Chief Uwaka died eleven hours after arriving from Lagos to monitor the distribution.

Ifemeni said, “Though our leader, High Chief Mike Uwaka is not with us here physically, we are here to keep with one of his cardinal humanitarian drive which has propelled the group till date. We are fulfilled with this donation. We at NPF are continuing with his vision of caring for those in need, and helping to position them to a point where they can join in building an Ndokwa of our dream.

Building an Ndokwa, whose political relevance has come to stay with Okowa 2019 is our immediate project.”

Ogwezzi expressed his appreciation to the group, saying, “We are grateful for the relief materials your group, NPF, has presented here today, remarkably on our official closing ceremony, as we bid the IDPs bye with cash and relief materials. I assure you that they will not be mismanaged, and that it will be judiciously utilised for the purpose it was meant for.

The Kwale and Ashaka holding camps supervisor, Hon. Barr. Osakunih, said: “The experience has been awesome and interesting working with these wonderful downtrodden people in the camps, and seeing to their needs in line with the SMART Agenda of Governor Okowa.

“All these began with a distress call about their situation as the then ravaging flood over ran their homes and properties, which led to the camps’ set up within 24 hours by the governor who mandated the State Emergency Management Agency, SEMA, his appointees and elected officials to take charge of those in the camps. Today, we are winding up, by ensuring that a total of 150 of the IDPs were trained in industrial training, hairdressing and catering. The purpose is to fulfill the governor’s mandate of one man, one skill.

“These people left their comfort zone as flood ravaged even their crops for this season. So, the governor directed that if they have to go back, as the flood has receded, perhaps they are going to meet nothing to fall back to. Therefore, the best bet is to give them a skill they can fall back to.”

“That we achieved and I am glad we did our best to provide them that enabling environment they needed to ameliorate their sad experience of residing away from their ancestral home, due to the natural disaster.”

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