New lease of life for IDP’s in Edo, seeks infrastructural support
When The Guardian, which first broke the news of the existence of an Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camp in Edo State visited the facility, run by the International Christian Centre in July 2015, Tani Philemon, who volunteered to share her experiences with the Boko Haram insurgents, spoke through an interpreter. At that time, she was stark illiterate.But when The Guardian visited the facility last week (that is three years later) Miss Philemon had no need for the services of an interpreter; she expressed herself in English language.
In fact, she proudly informed The Guardian that she is one of the pioneer students of the adult class in the camp, and “I can write, I can read, look at my book,” she said with a big smile on her face.Philemon, who hails from Gwoza Local Council of Borno State, was abducted by the insurgents from her home, but she managed to escape after several days of fasting.
According to her, when Boko Haram attacked her village, they ran to the mountains and in the process many people were killed, including her husband. “In the mountains, there were no food and water, we were just eating leaves. I searched for my dead husband and buried him by just putting some sand on his corpse.
“But today, I have six children, and I and my children are going to school. Before I came here, I could not speak English, but now, I can speak and I am now reading and writing,” she reaffirmed.Philemon has a companion in Awah Musa, who equally came from Maiduguri, Borno State, after escaping from the mountains around where she and her children where captured twice by the insurgents.
“I am a Christian, but when they captured me, they forced me to pray like a Muslim, and threatened to kill me if I failed to do so. Most of the people they caught were Christians, so we ran away one night and ended up finding ourselves here. However, I found a new life here, where I am part of the pioneer adult education class because I want to be able to read and write. I am coping well with studies. Once our place gets better, I will go back, but if not, I will not go back.”
The population of displaced persons at the camp, which use to be less than 1, 500 has now grown to over 3, 000, with improved structures, as well as the general environment. This is courtesy of the goodwill some good-natured people, non-governmental organisations, the Edo State government, lawmakers and several others.
There is improved facilities at the camp, which is tucked away in the Ohogua Forests in Ovia North East Local Council of Edo state.Despite the generous donations from the public, the facility needs international attention as the administrator said at times they have to do trade by batter to get sufficient food to keep the inmates alive.
Since the camp came into existence, some of the displaced persons have gained admission into tertiary institutions across the country, but the camp still needs skills acquisition centres to cater for the hundreds that may not be disposed to tertiary education.
Interestingly, some of the inmates see the administrator of the camp, Pastor Folorusnho Solomon, as their father. Solomon does more than administering the facility- he takes time off to play football, interact with them during recreational activities.The administrator is full of gratitude to all that have assisted the facility in one way or the other saying, “we have faced so many challenges in so many areas, but we give thanks to God that from time to time, people have responded in one way or the other to save the situation. Even though we have not met all our needs, some pressing needs have been taken care of. It has been good in some aspects and in some others, very challenging.”
Even though the camp plays host to about 3, 000 people including widows, orphans and families, Solomon said children constitute about 90 per cent of the total population “and the unfortunate thing is that most of them are orphans. When the Red Cross and different agencies were helping to locate parents, some of the children did not know what happened to their parents, but there are those whose parents were found in different locations, including in camps in Maiduguri, in Abuja, in Jos, in Jalingo and even in the Republic of Cameroun. In all, we were able to reunite about 400 children with their families. While some went over to join their parents, some came over here to join their parents and family members that are here, but majority of those that are here, don’t have any links to anybody anymore, so we have to fashion out long-term plans for them and take them like our children.”
He expressed delight that the children have really improved in their education, and some have even taken over the leadership of their various classes from their southern counterparts, which they met in the camp. The camp administrator informed that the students have never experienced any failure in JSS 3 examinations, which they have been writing in the last three years, while those that qualified for the UTME examination have equally excelled. Those that attempted the last UTME examination all scored not less than 290.
“Two of them are studying at the University of Benin (UNIBEN), one is at Edo State University, Iyamho, three are at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, more than 10 are at the University of Maiduguri, two in University of Jos, and several others in many polytechnics. So, my satisfaction and joy is that their time here has really helped them.”
On how their education is being financed, he said, “It is quite challenging, what we do is that when people make donations, we share the money into different subheads like education, salaries, health, fuel, and food. So, that is how we are able to fund their education, but we are appealing to members of the public to come around and pick any of them and be responsible for their training.”
Interestingly, a good number of the children are taking much interest in the science, than arts and social sciences. Said Solomon: “Before most of thee children arrived from the North, many of the ones we had here were more into arts and social sciences, but I am amazed that those of them came from the North are into sciences. At least 70 per cent of them are into sciences, 15 per cent into social science and the remaining 15 per cent into arts.
“We have a secondary school section, the immediate past governor of the state, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole built for us. That school has been of great benefit to the children, who are making very good use of it, and it has improved their performance. We miss him a lot, and anytime I think about him, it is like a big part of us is missing. The children also miss him a lot, they dream of him.
“If I have an opportunity to meet with President Muhammadu Buhari, I would appeal to him to give Oshiomhole a portfolio that would enable him do more for Nigerians. Apart from the things he was bringing to us, he was playing that fatherly role. There were times I would just be here, and the next thing I would hear is that the governor is around, and then you would see him dancing and all the children will flock round him, and the wife dancing. In this camp, we really miss him and everything he did for us. He used to even call and ask even the children have had food, find out how they are doing. Sometimes, when he arrives the camp and meet the children eating, he would join them to eat. This really touched the children, and made them relaxed. That is why they nicknamed him Oshio Baba.
“When the new governor came in, he celebrated his first Christmas here with us, and I can confess that it remains the best Christmas that we’ve ever had. He came here dressed like Father Christmas, alongside his deputy, his wife they were all here, he came to top it, we are expecting him again. He is the father now and Oshiomhole is the grandfather.”
“I am truly happy that these ones came here and I always tell them that they will help their people to develop more because if they have a good environment and good teachers, others will learn from them. Kids from the North are showing a lot of promise even though we had to organise English language classes for them. Having stabilised, some of them are taking over top positions in classes, where southern youths used to dominate.
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