Longing for Their Homesteads

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After being forced out of their ancestral homes by Boko Haram, internally displaced persons in the four official camps in Fufore, NYSC, St. Theresa’s and Malkohi in Adamawa State now long to go back home, writes Daji Sani   

The total population of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) who are currently living in formal camps, host communities and satellite camps in liberated communities in Adamawa State as a result of Boko Haram insurgency in North-east was given by the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA ) as 125,689 for IDPs living in the host communities and satellite camps while 6, 937 IDPs live  in formal camps.

This was disclosed by the Yola Camp Coordinator, Saad Bello, who, on behalf of the Director General of NEMA, Muhammad Sani Sidi,  recently took the United States Ambassador to the United Nations,  Samanthan Power, round facilities at the Malkohi  IDPs Camp in Yola.

In Adamawa State there are four official camps namely Fufore, NYSC, St. Theresa and the Malkohi camps where a bomb blast killed about eight persons and several people injured including four NEMA staff on duty on that faithful day the unfortunate incident occurred.

Since the incident happened, the Malkohi IDPs camp became the centre of attraction, most visitors from far and near who visited the IDPs with donations would always wish to visit the Maikohi camp to see things for themselves. For instance, President Muhammadu Buhari, Minister of Interior Danbazzau, United States Ambassador to the United Nations, Samanthan Power, and others have at different times visited the Malkohi camp.

Even though the Federal Government, through the coordinating agency, NEMA and other relevant Ministries, Departments and Agencies have been trying to meet the needs of the IDPs in the provision of food, nutrition, non-food items, temporary shelter, medicament, psycho-social therapy, security and protection, yet the IDPs greatest wish is to return to their ancestral homes.

At Maikohi camp the IDPs told THISDAY that the government has continued to meet their needs and bring more supports adding that there is no place like home. “Home is home” said one of the IDPs.

They appealed to Federal Government to wipe out the remaining insurgency to allow them return to their native homes and also assist to rebuild their homes, government institutions like schools completely destroyed by the Insurgents and also pleaded that the civil authority that was lacking as a result of insurgency be established to bring back law and order before they return to their communities.

Some of the critical areas where they further need support include food, non-food items, shelter, education, nutrition, protection, health and sexual reproductive health, and psycho-social helps.

However in order to uplift the living standards of the Internally Displaced Persons in Nigeria, OXFAM is set to increase its advocacy for more funds from international community, OXFAM’s Regional Director West Africa, Wim Stoffers said recently.

Stoffers, who dropped the hint during his tour of Malkohi IDPs camp which hosts hundreds of IDPs, said his organisation would articulate the major concerns of the IDPs before the international community in the up-coming World Humanitarian Summit.

He noted that although his organisation would have sought for more assistance from donor organisations across the world to assist the IDPs in Nigeria, the effort may be stymied by the number of conflicts needing the attention of the international community adding that with the myriads of conflicts taking place in many countries, attention have to be given to all the conflict areas.

“We are trying to convince the international community that with the increase in insurgency, increase in insecurity, it is important that the countries that have the luxury of peace, should deploy the monetary means to help people in crisis in Nigeria.

“Unfortunately, the number of crisis that we are facing in the world at the moment is increasing,” he said.

While commending the camp officials of OXFAM for ensuring sanity and cleanliness of the camps, Stoffers noted that the situation may be responsible for the convivial atmosphere in the camp despite the staunch existential challenges dogging residents of these camps.

“Anybody from Netherlands won’t be able to stay here for one or two months he or she would not be able to survive. It is really tough to survive here but it is good to see that the government of Nigeria and international organisations are doing whatever they can to make the situation as good as possible,” he said.

He noted that the main purpose of his visit to Nigeria and especially to Malkohi IDPs camp was to see what is actually happening as most of the information he got about the situation is from the newspapers noting that with what he saw on ground, he could say with confidence that the support his organisation is rendering to IDPs is worthwhile.

The ugly experience of the IDPs in the hands of Boko Haram is pathetic as the IDPs share their ordeals on how the insurgents struck their towns and villages, resulting to killing many of their relatives, destroying properties worth billions of naira and forcing them to flee their homes and sending their children out of schools.

They said the memories still remain fresh in their minds despite the psychosocial and psychological therapies given to them by NEMA and other humanitarian agencies to help wipe out these ugly experiences. Some of the IDPs said the inhuman maltreatment meted to them by the insurgents was too traumatic and horrible to forget easily.

Mallam Adamu one of the IDPs at Malkohi IDPs camp, said that he has lost contact with his wife for two years. He said when the insurgents struck his village he was not around but had gone for his usual business outside the village. According to him, before he returned, his village had completely been taken over by the insurgents. He lamented that since then, he lost contact with his wife and children.

When THISDAY visited the four official IDPs camps in Adamawa State namely  Malkohi , NYSC , Fufore  and St Theresa, their living conditions were not good for a modern settlement as many of the IDPs were crammed into a tent.
Investigations revealed that since the establishment of the camps, over 53 marriages have been contracted in all the camps while over 60 children have been given birth to inside the official camps.

Based on this premise the state Commissioner of Information, Ahmed Sajoh while speaking on “Safia” programme on Gotel Television situated in the state, said the IDPs are becoming comfortable in the camps noting that “the best thing to do is return them to their homes as soon as possible.”

Sajoh, said the rate at which the IDPs are giving birth was alarming adding that government has to cater for father, mother and their babies. “In no distant time the camps will increase heavily due to high birth rate in the camps.”

But NEMA’s state coordinator, Sa’ad Bello said that of all the marriages contracted, very few started the process in the camp. According to him, majority of the IDPs who got married in the camp started their relationships even before they were displaced by Boko Haram from their homes.

“You will find out that majority of those who got marriage in the camp started their relationships before they were displaced, some have even gone as far as exchanging dowry before the insurgents forced them out of their communities, so they are just concluding what needed to be done to be husbands and wives.

“Although we have not provided them with hostels for the husband and wife but how they run theirs is their personal life, we only have female and male hostels. I want to believe that the marriages are preparatory measures so that when they return to their communities, they continue as husbands and wives,” Bello said.

On feeding, the IDPs eat three daily meals in addition to clothes and mattresses made available to them. They also enjoy clean drinking water and good toilet facilities provided by NEMA, OXFAM and other humanitarian agencies.

Some of the IDPs who told THISDAY that they eat good food in the camp, said no matter government’s intervention to ameliorate their sufferings they want to go back home.

They appealed to the Federal Government to clear the remaining insurgents still thriving in Gwoza, Madagali and their environs so that they can return home.

THISDAY investigation revealed that there are no reported cases of rape and molestation, which many in the camp attributed to the water-tight security in all the camps. The heavy presence of soldiers and other security outfits, was as a result of the Bomb blast that rocked the Malkohi camp, which left eight people dead and several others wounded including NEMA staff.

The camps are kept clean on a daily basis as the IDPs are engaged in clearing and cleaning the environment. Those who keep the camps neat are paid.

However, one of major challenges is education for the children of the IDPs who were forced out of school as a result of the Boko Haram onslaught on their communities. The educational facilities in the North-east were deliberately destroyed by the insurgents due to their hatred for education. School children were killed and some kidnapped by the insurgents.

As a result of the development the Federal Government introduced a School Initiative Programme to cater for the children forced out of school as a result of the insurgency. The programme, is to cater for the education of the children of IDPs.

Currently at the NYSC IDPs camp, the population of the school children is 607, with nine military personnel as volunteer teachers including eight other individuals. They usually have classes at Demare Primary School very close to the camp by noon after the conventional pupils have closed from school.

While the Fofure camp has a population of 1,325 school children with 17 teachers deployed from Yola South by the state government including five volunteers.

The St. Theresa IDPs camp has over 1,400 pupils with 78  teachers deployed by the state  government as revealed by Alhaji Saidu Komsiri, Director Quality Assurance Adamawa State Universal Basic Education . He said the IDPs children were mixed with the pupils of  Luggere Primary/Secondary School close to the camp.

While Malkohi camp has 417 as IDPs school children with a total number of 14 teachers including the military.

Komsiri said the challenge was that of communication barrier between the teachers and pupils because most of the children cannot speak English Language. According to him, an interpreter is drafted to interpret to the pupils what the teacher is saying.

He said another challenge was that of lack of adequate funding adding that the board had engaged 14 teachers who were IDPs  but couldn’t pay these teachers due to lack of funds.