• Ejected IDPs live in the open in Maiduguri
Michael Olugbode in Maiduguri and Alex Enumah in Abuja
As concerns continue to mount over the proposed plans to close camps of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) across the three North-east states, largely affected by insurgency, the United Nations has warned against the forceful return of the IDPs to their communities without the provision of basic amenities and guarantee of safety of lives and property.
The world body also advocated the need for a political solution that would engage Boko Haram and other stakeholders, outside the military one currently employed, in order to provide a durable solution to the crisis.
The United Nation Development (UNDP) Resident Representative in Nigeria, Edward Kallon, who sounded the warning Thursday at a meeting with journalists in Abuja, was of the opinion that the present situation of most communities in the North East is not yet conducive for a return.
He said: “More than one million IDPs have returned to their local government areas of origin (mainly Adamawa and Yobe) since August 2015 and the number continues to increase rapidly. However, many of them are stranded in secondary displacement sites because of ongoing insecurity, destroyed infrastructure and absence of basic services.
“I would like to urge the authorities to ensure that all returns of people to their homes are safe and voluntary, well-informed based on up-to-date and accurate information, and respect people’s dignity.
“There should be no forced returns, which would include the arbitrary closure of camps without guarantees of safety, access to basic services, critical infrastructure and humanitarian assistance.”
The UNDP representative, also emphasised on the need for effective reintegration programmes for women, men, girls and boys previously held by Boko Haram.
“Infrastructure rebuilding and livelihood support needs to run in parallel with social and psychosocial reintegration programmes to effectively rebuild communities. It is time to plant a seed of hope in the suffering communities – enough is enough,” he stressed.
To this end he disclosed that the UN would be organising an International Conference on Nigeria and the Lake Chad Basin in Oslo Norway next week, with the sole objective of raising fund to meet humanitarian needs in the North-east.
“This is a great opportunity for the international community to make meaningful commitments towards funding our humanitarian response activities. It is also an opportunity for the government of Nigeria to tell the world the true extent of this crisis.
“The Humanitarian Response Plan 2017 for Nigeria seeks more than US$1billion to meet the needs of the 6.9 million people targeted – we are hoping to raise more than this at the end of the conference in Oslo,” he said.
Meanwhile, over 130 households, comprising more than 1,000 IDPs have been compelled to live in makeshift shanties in an open space in Maiduguri as they were forcefully ejected from rented accommodations due to inability to pay rents.
The IDPs made a complaint to the Presidential Committee on North-east Initiatives (PCNI) which paid a visit on them during which they were given relief materials, that they have been living a sub-human life and need to be assisted to relocate to their homelands.
They lamented that they were recently ejected by their landlords, as they failed to pay their monthly rents which was as low as N1,000 each in the host community of old Maiduguri.
The spokesperson of the group, Ibrahim Imam, said this made the ejected IDPs, who have mostly lost their husbands and other family members to take refuge in an open space that they have come to name the Shuwari Medinatu resettlement camp within Maiduguri metropolis.
He said the IDPs were initially sacked by Boko Haram insurgents from their homes in Konduga, Bama, Alau, Damakulli and Kawuri communities in the state.
Imam while thanking the PCNI for the food items, pleaded that they should be assisted to construct mobile toilet and bathroom facilities.
He lamented that they have spent 44 days in the open since their ejection even with the cold harmattan and would need to be assisted to relocate back to their homelands.
Leading a delegation from the Presidential Committee on North-East Initiatives (PCNI) on a massive distribution of relief materials to IDPs resident in host communities of Maiduguri, Prof. Hauwa Biu, said over 80 per cent of IDPs live within the host communities other than established camps.
She said many took the decision to live within the host communities because they do not enjoy the style of living in camps which is equally hard.
She lamented that there is no enjoyment in the life of an IDP, noting that there living is pathetic and traumatising.
At the Shuwari Madinatu resettlement camp, the PCNI distributed 700 bags of rice, millet, beans, 400 cartons of noodles and 60 jerry cans of palm and vegetable cooking oil.