By Levinus Nwabughiogu
They looked so forlorn, torn and tattered. Indeed, their fate appeared to be hanging in the balance. Their future, somewhat, looks bleak, yet they are Nigerians living in their country.
Among them were pregnant women and children whose appearance evoked both sympathy and empathy. From different troubled spots in the war-ravaged North East, they ran to Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, for safety and succour.
They were the lucky ones who escaped death by the whiskers from the hands of the dare devil insurgents, terrorists and killers called Boko Haram. Everyone among them representing a family had his or her story to tell. They are pathetic stories. It is either a father or a mother had been killed or bread winner of the family permanently maimed. In any case, families had been displaced.
And so, the only option available was to leave home as Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs, for a place of refuge. That was how their destination became Abuja.
IDPs camp in Abuja
Investigations revealed that there were, at least, four different camps within Abuja for the IDPs. The camps are in Lugbe, Area One, New Kuchingoro and Kuje.
Each of those places proved not to be a healthy habitat for human beings but to them, it was a piece of luxury. It didn’t matter if the luxury was found in squalors and slums which have become their place of abode.
Some of the camps were located at the very end of the streets where the roads are so tortous and winding. Outside from the mechanic workshops that dotted the area, bushes are a common sight. As a matter of security, the terrains instill fear in a first-time visitor who might be forced to retreat upon approaching what could be taken as the end of the road.
Excruciating living condition
Such was the case with Dagba, Area One, Abuja camp when Vanguard Features, VF, visited the place at the instance of the leadership of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, SDA, Garki in Durumi Conference on Sunday, March 1, 2015.
Excepting an uncompleted edifice which had been turned into a living apartment by the IDPs who also used their wrappers as window blinds, the rest of the structures were make-shifts.
Meanwhile, the church, through its Community Service Department, CSD, got news that there were some IDPs in the area. And out of pity, they gathered basic food items such as some bags of rice, beans, some tubers of yam, noodles, onions, etcetera, and took them to the people. Clothings were not left out in the humanitarian gesture.
Enquiries by VF revealed that as at January this year, the number of IDPs in Area One camp was 3, 852. But it has continued to increase by the day. Further investigations also revealed that many of IDPs have spent more than two years in the camp.
How we identified them —Mrs. Ibrahim, NEMA official
In an interview with VF, the FCT office of the National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA, official in charge of the camp, Madam Fatima Ibrahim gave an insight of how the camp came into being and the feeding system of the IDPs.
“We have 3,852 IDPs. They have been here for so long. Some of them have here for two years and some of them are just arriving because of the insurgency. The number I gave you is as at January this year which was when I came here. In fact, we met them there, identified them and took note of their number to make for easy supervision.
“That is not the only place for the IDPs. We have one in Lugbe, another one in Kuchigoro and yet another in Kuje. Their feeding is basically through donations. So many people come around and render assistance in various ways. Some assist with the children’s education, health and others,” she said.
Asked the level of government’s involvement in the provision of food items, Mrs. Ibrahim said: “When government has something to give they give but government alone cannot do it. Religious institutions are assisting too.”
Why we made donations—SDA Church leaders
The pastor in charge of the SDA Church, Garki, Mr. Ibrahim Megadi who led some members of the church to the mission in an interview explained the reason for their mission.
He also tasked the government to scale up the fight against the Boko Haram insurgents to enable the IDPs return home.
He said: “The mission is simply one of showing kindness, tenderness, mercy and care for our neighbours who are in need, people who are displaced. The poor in the society. They have no mouth to speak. We who are fortunate to be alive are to be of help to them. There is no better we can speak than helping the needy, the displaced. They have no house, food. We should not look at them empty handed.
“Some of the items we brought included the basic: food. You have grains,yams, rice, beans, noodles, toothpaste, detergents, toilet soaps for bathing. Then the clothings for male and the females. You have shoes, wrappers, head ties and a little cash.
Government should do something about the poor are in our society. There should be a system to help the poor and the needy. Government should establish a system of helping the poor not only during crisis period but also in times of peace.
“Restoring peace in the North East for them to go back to their home towns is the basis because we all have place where we were brought up from childhood. To change in the day time certainly goes against nature because you have established farms, houses, relations and you have work. With all these, no one can be contented in exile. I think we have to address that. Let peace be restored.”
Similarly, the Community Leader of the church, Elder George Isiguzo under whose office the church planned the mission said that they were moved by the pathetic conditions of the IDPs.
“We see our mission as something we are supposed to do because the church is meant to assist people in need. When we heard that there are people displaced, we felt so bad and decided that the right thing to do is to give them something to help them,” he said.
To the First Elder of the church, Elder Uwaoma Ine, charity and humanitarian services are the lot of every Christian.
“We owe it as a duty as ordained by God that we should help one another. And so, we are telling the society in which we are that this is our widow’s mite. There are people who are more able financially; they should also queue for the same purpose, all to the Glory of God,” he said.