‘My friends were killed in my presence’

Some kids at the camp

Some kids at the camp

One of the dormitories  PHOTOS: Alemma –Ozioruva Aliu

One of the dormitories PHOTOS: Alemma –Ozioruva Aliu

Boko Haram victims narrate ordeals as IDP camp is discovered in Edo

ABOUT eight kilometres from the heart of Benin City, Ring Road, very close to the boundary between Egor and Ovia North East Local Councils and tucked inside a forest near a community in Edo South Senatorial District, is a camp where over 900 victims of Boko Haram insurgency in North East Nigeria are being housed by a faith-based group- International Christian Centre for Missions.

The existence of IDPs in the state has not been known by members of the public, especially the media, except a few religious organisations and institutions such as the University of Benin Teaching Hospital (UBTH) and the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), which the managers of the place said have rendered some assistance to them.

The camp, which they said has been running since 1992 to cater for indigent persons, had 400 inmates until the arrival in batches of IDPs and it has now over-stretched its facilities.

A visit to the camp over the weekend showed that some of the IDPs included children as young as four months and many others in their teens and 20s and a few adults.

Managers of the camp said the facility has been providing food and shelter for the IDPs since 2013.

The camp covers a large expanse of land and has several blocks of rooms and halls, most of which were made of wood, serving as classrooms and bedrooms for the displaced persons.

The refugees included men, women and children whose families were killed and homes burnt by the insurgents in the North East.

There is no public power supply so the place is powered by generating sets for its light and water.

With the over 900 victims coming to join the existing 400 indigent persons in the camp, facilities have been overstretched, especially food as The Guardian gathered that not less than six bags of rice and four bags of garri are needed for a meal daily.

The Overseer of the camp Solomon Folorunsho said the IDPs were brought to the facility from Bornu and Adamawa states, through Jos, the Plateau State capital.

He said that the centre depended on donations from faith-based organisations, institutions and individuals.Solomon-Folorunsho-Copy

“This centre is a place for mission, work and discipleship and also to care for children who are in need from different parts of Nigeria. We ‎have been in existence since 1992, catering for children from different villages who have been abused, oppressed and orphans in the society.”

“We had about 400 children before we saw the need of children in the North East, whose parents were killed. Some of them ran to the mountains where they ate sand, stones and leaves. And there were some who started dying of malnutrition.”

“Some of them ran to Cameroun and I started getting phone calls there that we from the South here should help to rescue these children, as they were just wandering in the streets. That was what prompted us to set up a committee of pastors who located the children and brought them together to verify their identity.”

He said the state government was recently informed about the situation three months ago through the Ministry of Women Affairs, but was yet to get any response.

Meanwhile, some of the victims who recounted their ordeal said that they lost all they had to the insurgents who also attacked them in caves where they had initially sought refuge.

A victim, Tani Philemon, in her mid-30s, stated that she was abducted by the insurgents from her home in Gwoza Local Council of Borno State, but escaped miraculously after several days of fasting.

“Boko Haram attacked us in our village and we ran to the mountains. But they followed us and killed some people, including my husband. On the mountain there was no food, we were eating leaves.”

“I searched for my dead husband and buried him by just putting some sand on his corpse.‎ After two days on the mountain, Boko Haram came and abducted my children and me and took us to Gwoza where we spent about three weeks.”

“After three days, we fasted and prayed. Suddenly, God made them (insurgents) fall asleep and we managed to escape by climbing a wall; we ran to Cameroun. We spent three days without food and water”

“But God sent some people to us who took us to Yola and when we got there, we heard of a man of God who helps people in need. He was the one who paid our transport fare to this place,” Tani recalled.‎

Another victim, Grace James, 17, said she and her family ate raw maize while on the run, after they were attacked and their home destroyed by the insurgents.

“We kept running for our lives, feeding on raw corn. When we got to a big stream through which we were to cross into Borno‎, we saw many dead bodies floating on the stream. But finally got to Borno and later to Jos. It was in Jos that we heard about a camp in Benin,” ‎she said.

James added: “Some people tried to discourage us from going by telling us that there was child trafficking in Benin but we insisted on going, believing that God would save us. The man in charge of the camp visited us and sponsored our journey to the camp. I am not thinking of going back to Bornu State again.”

David Joseph, 20, from Gava North in Gwoza Local Council said Boko Haram killed his father while his mother died of poison, which was poured into water and given her to drink. He also lost his grandfather while he did not know the whereabouts of his brothers and sisters.

“I was in school then. One day, they attacked the local council, attacked the bank and killed many people. We could no longer sleep at that time both day and night because they could strike anytime and when they come, they steal from us. Two of my best friends were killed in one of the attacks. They beheaded one of them and removed his brain and, the other one, they beat him into coma; when they discovered that he was in a coma, they slaughtered him. We ran away when they set our houses on fire. The entire village was burnt to ashes. I thank God I have food to eat and have materials to study. I can also exercise my body here.”

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