By Ebele Orakpo &Charles Kumolu
SAID Bamaiyi: “I was living in Madagali before the Boko Haram attack. We were only hearing of their activities in Borno and Yobe states. Later, we heard they had advanced to Gwoza Local Government in Borno State. Gwoza is at the boundary between Borno and Adamawa states.
At this point, we were afraid they may cross into Madagali.A month or two later, we heard that some terrorists who ran away from Gwoza, were moving towards Madagali through the bush.
The first victims were three fishermen that went to the river to fish but were murdered by terrorists who came in a white Hilux. Two died instantly while the third died the next day. A group of farmers discovered the fishermen and raised alarm. A week later, the insurgents slaughtered a farmer harvesting beans in his farm just as they slaughter rams.
“Parents were apprehensive; those who could afford it gave money to their children to leave town because they were killing the youths. The terrorists were increasing by the day. They came on motorcycles and tricycles. There were no soldiers around, only a police station. “As the soldiers were dislodging them from Gwoza and other parts of Borno, they had no escape route to Cameroun except through Madagali.
But when Camerounian soldiers noticed the influx of Boko Haram members into their country, they blocked the entry points so there was no way of escape for them, so many of them entered Madagali. “Initially, they interacted with the natives and later, they began to show their true colour. They started killing our people.
Report to authorities: “Our village head reported to the soldiers but they did not show up. The present governor, Mr. Bala Ngilari, was the deputy governor then and he is from my village; so our people informed him that BH had entered our village. He spoke to the governor and within one week, they deployed soldiers to Madagali, Michika, up to Mubi. Most of the IDPs here are from Adamawa (Michika, Gombi, Song, Madagali local government areas) and some from Borno State.
Why they kill men: “When they come into a town and see strong men, they catch them and force them to join the group. If you refuse or try to escape, they kill you. They take the ladies to their camps and abuse them sexually and after sometime, they either release them or take them away just as they did in Chibok where they took over 200 girls. Secondly, they force people to convert to Islam or get killed.
Three groups of BH
“There are three groups of Boko Haram. The religious group started in Borno State during late President Umaru Yar’Adua’s regime. They force people to convert to Islam. They want only Sharia law and they say if you are not a Moslem, you cannot live in the village. They were burning churches and people’s homes. They also kill moderate Muslims who don’t agree with their brand of Islam.
The second group is the political BH. Every politician has his own group of terrorists that go after his opponents. They send these boys after opponents to kill and burn their houses. So there is BH Islamic sect and BH militants. The third group comprises robbers who capitalise on the insurgency to make money. We know them. Many of our young men have joined them. If they see you have a car or a shop, they send you a letter, informing you they will come on a particular date and time.
“The recipient of such letter runs and leaves his property. They break into the house or shop and steal. These ones don’t usually kill. They warn their parents not to expose their identities to the community. That is why people have not been able to understand Boko Haram.”
Life in the camp
He said there are about 450 IDPs within the compound and many more live outside in the open. Each room (very small, made of wood, plastic and cardboard) has five to six people. Some sleep on motorcycles outside. When it rains, they hide under umbrellas and some cover themselves in polythene bags. Some, who could afford it, put up wooden structures. He added that they record 650 – 700 adults in the church on Sundays minus the children.
Some of the IDPs do petty trading, thanks to Naval Officers’ Wives Association and some churches that have offered assistance. “Half of the men are commercial motorcyclists. Some of our people who were originally living in Lagos are the ones that buy motorcycles. I was living in Lagos before I relocated to my village to stay until the insurgency started. It has been very tough. We have some children who don’t know where their parents are and parents who don’t know where their children are.”
Desire to go back to school
Some of the children expressed the desire to continue their education if they could get help.
Willing to go back home
“Recently when we heard that soldiers had recaptured Madagali, we were very happy. We celebrated. Before or after the elections, many are hoping to go back home. Many people from Michika went home when Michika was recaptured last month,” said Bamaiyi.
They’re a nuisance——LASEMA
Told about the development, the General Manager, Lagos State Emergency Management Agency, LASEMA, Dr. Femi Oke-Osayintolu, said: ‘’We are not aware of their existence. You are just informing us. Even the National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA, that is saddled with the responsibility of doing that is not aware. If they were aware they would have communicated us’’.
Besides, he doubted if they were truly IDPs, noting that they are constituting a nuisance to the environment where they reside. ‘’ How are you sure that they are internally displaced people? Some people can’t be constituting nuisance to the society and claim to be IDPs. No one has written us about them,’’ Oke- Osayintolu said.
Asked if there would be plans to act on the information, Oke-Osayintolu insisted that since the state had no knowledge of them, LASEMA is constrained about doing anything. ‘’ We can’t carry out any action because there are laid down procedure on the evacuation of IDPs,’’ he added. Nonetheless, he maintained that the state has the capacity of handling this kind of situation.
‘’This administration under the leadership of Governor Raji Fashola is committed to providing a better society for all residents of Lagos State in respective of where they come from. But what you are telling me is news to me. The state government has a relief camp at Agbowa in Ikorodu where we house displaced people. Those who had problems in Orile, Agege and other places were kept there.’’
Continuing, he said: ‘’ It is not that the state is not prepared for any kind of emergency. We have a number of places in place for any kind of situation. The problem with this case is that information chain has been broken.’’