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Elusive relief at IDPs’ camps

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Children at one of the IDP camps

IT was commando-like. It was swift. Everyone scampered in directions that seem to guarantee safety even if it is for a short while. Ayuba Illiya, a native of Argboko in Gwoza local government area of Borno State, recounts his experience in the hands of gunmen who invaded his family compound, killing his parents and family members while his wife and children hid in a cave.

He, like many other victims of Boko Haram insurgency rampaging the North-east part of, has become a refugee in their own country termed “Internally Displaced Persons.”

More than the displacement, Illiya is miffed at his losses. He is a farmer, sells grains while his wife also helped in selling his farm produce in petty businesses such as selling soft drinks and biscuits.

The business was fledging and their four children were all in school in living a good life. Indeed, it was a beautiful life. But that ‘good life’ has become history as his business has not only collapsed, his investments have also gone, all thanks to the invasion of Boko Haram.

Now in Abuja, living In Waru, after Apo mechanic village, in the Abuja Municipal Area Council, he is now relying on menial jobs to survive. He said: “It was an early raid.

Even though the entire village has been put on alert of a possible attack, when the attack came, there was little resistance to prevent massive onslaughts on the community. I watched from my hideout how my parents and family members were slaughtered like rams.

That was the beginning of my journey to Abuja. In company of my wife and four children, we began a journey that led us to Abuja, which is seen as the home of opportunities and land flowing with milk and honey.

My wife and I had high expectation that we can revive our once-upon-a-time flourishing lifestyle. Our plan was to go into farming, buying and selling edible things that those in the IPDs camp will buy from us.

With a good business, we had hoped that our children will return to school and we can resettle here in Abuja with minimum hardship considering the massive opportunities that are available here.”

Having arrived Abuja, the supposed land of opportunity flowing with milk and honey, the reality is dawning on Illiya that a swift return to the life he was living in his village before arriving Abuja may now be far-fetched.

One of the realities is that the cost of living in Abuja is higher than his village and the so-called opportunities may be available, but not for him and his likes in the camp. “It is now that reality is confronting me in the face. I struggle everyday to make a living.

Though, I cannot say my family and I are hungry because of the food we are given. Hope for life is varnishing very fast in my own very eyes. I don’t have access to capital to trade or land to farm.

My family house is burnt in my village so also is everything I have, gone with the wind,” he lamented. Illiya said from his observations since arriving Abuja, the notion that the city is land of opportunity is no longer a tale he believes in.

He stated that the cost of living is higher and renting a decent apartment is not a dream for people that were forced to relocate by circumstances beyond their control. “I will say that Abuja being a land of opportunity is no longer a maxim I believe in having lived here for more than two years now.

First, I don’t think I will be able to rent a one room here. Back in my village, I was a comfortable man. With the resources at my disposal then, I thought I had arrived. My children were attending schools and I lived in my own house within my family compound. I lived very comfortably.

But here in Abuja, I have been made to appreciate the fact that living close to big men and men of power has its own advantages and disadvantages. For instance, we have to look for markets that are not located anywhere close to town otherwise we won’t be able to afford the food stuffs.

We often approach farmers as they come out of their farms to buy cheaper food stuffs. Even that, is still not cheap in my own eyes because they cost far less in my hometown.

There is no room in my village that costs up to N2,000 per month no matter how beautiful. Can anyone gets a room that is less than N5,000 in Abuja no matter where it is located if there is electricity supply?” he asked rhetorically.

Illiya submitted that it is now he appreciates ‘no place like home’ maxim. With the change of government, Illiya said he cannot wait for normalcy to return home. Though he admitted that re-building his father’s compound will be an arduous task, he is nevertheless willing to return to start a new beginning.

He said: “My appeal to the government of Muhammadu Buhari is to do all it takes to ensure peace returns to the troubled region. I do not think that anybody in all IDPs camps will prefer staying in the camp a day longer than necessary. I have a few friends here and the thinking amongst them is that they want to return home.

Look at the environment we are staying, is this normal? It is not ideal for human condition and yet we cannot complain too much because we could have died.

So, these camps are a sort of lifesaving, but even at that, it cannot equate to our homes. Our businesses and means of livelihood are in shambles.

We want to resuscitate them and we believe we can when we return to our homes.”    Needless to say that in IPDs camps, there are various kinds of hopes – dashed hopes, hopes of new beginnings, stillborn hopes. Elijah and Elisha Dairus are twins. They are from Bandustse, in Gwoza local government area of Borno state and are staying in the Sabo Kuchingoro camp.

While Elijah sustained gunshot wounds and still incapacitated physically, Elisha now drive taxi to take care of his twin brother.  He narrated his experiences thus: “This is an experience I hate to remember talk-less of narrating to people. We were chased away fro our village by gunshots.

While I escaped without any wound, my twin brother had gun wounds. We made our way through many IDPs camps in other states before arriving Abuja.

Actually, we can here from Jos hoping that Abuja will be better from all we were hearing. Indeed, I will say that Abuja has been better because I have bought a small taxis to manage our lives.

The car is not one of the bets cabs around but it has helped us a great deal. Now, I am in a position to bring food to the table and my brother can smile again.

We no longer have to depend solely from what the handouts that come from the donations by Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), churches and other concerned Nigerians and non-Nigerians alike.”

Even in the midst of discomfort at some of the IDPs camps, allegations of growing number of ‘fake IDPs’ are rising. One of the refugees who simply called himself James, bemoaned lack of plans to fully engage and integrate IDPs into the society within which they find themselves. He urged government to establish training centres where they can obtain skills for them to live better lives.

His words: “Is just establishing camps in some parts of the country enough for the IDPs? Is saving their live and re-settling them in safe environment enough?

What if criminality creeps in? What is government doing to ensure the displaced persons have some means of livelihood?

Should the National Emergency Management Agency have more roles in the management of internally displaced persons beyond just distributing relief materials?

Can other agencies of government such as the Small and Medium Scale Enterprises of Nigeria (SMEDAN), Bank of Industry and the National Directorate of Employment (NDE) be empowered to play prominent roles in re-settling these people?

These are what are needed to really achieve the desired impact.” James argued that government must now begin to treat internally displaced people in its overall migration issues.

He stated that migration issues are emerging as serious global issues that must be addressed frontally by governments and agencies worldwide.

He added: “Migration is becoming a global issue now. This is because people move from one place to another principally for economic reasons before now.

But with the proliferation of armed struggles spreading well beyond its traditional strongholds of Middle East to Africa and to the West African sub-region, Nigeria can no longer treat the issue of internally displacement as short-term agenda. The time for government to begin to think and plan long-term is now.”

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