By Ebele Orakpo
Trauma of losing loved ones, homes and means of livelihood to the Boko Haram insurgents in the North-East of Nigeria, drove them to Lagos and now, they are going through a second round of trauma. They have been sent packing from their settlement in the Kirikiri industrial area of Lagos, close to Monkey Village. Recently, Vanguard Features, VF met one of the leaders of the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), Mr. Peter, and upon enquiring how they were faring, heard the most heart-rending response.
In an emotion-laden voice, he said they had been sent packing from the settlement and their make-shift shelters destroyed. Asked where they were at the moment, he said they were scattered in different places while some had relocated back home. He said he was going back to his village, ravaged by Boko Haram and left desolate. Reminded that it was not yet safe return home, he said it was better than staying in Lagos. Although the abode was nothing to write home about, but half loaf, they say, is better than none. They tried to make lemonade out of the lemon life served them; tried to live a semblance of a normal life despite the pain and squalor under which they lived, then this! He has since relocated. Like Fela Anikulapo Kuti, the Afrobeat legend sang in one of his songs, Double Wahala for dead body, this seems to be the case of these men, women and children who managed to escape the onslaught of the murderous Boko Haram insurgents.
In this report, Vanguard Features went to find out from the leaders what actually happened.
Cry for help:
Narrating their ordeal, the Sarki (chief) of the camp, Mr. Bamaiyi Papka popularly called Barrister said: “I was cleaning the surroundings during the usual Thursday environmental sanitation exercise late November when some Naval officers came to me and asked me to show them the small gate through which my people ((IDPs) pass into the compound.
“When I showed them the gate, they told me the gate was causing problem; that okada (motorcycle) riders would hit little children along Comfort Oboh Street and run into the barracks through the gate and nobody can pursue them into the barracks.
Signal from Abuja:
“They said as a result of that, they sent a signal from Abuja to the Commander saying they do not want to see any okada rider in the place. So when they asked me, I told them that this place is not meant for okada riders; that it is the Unity Trailer Park and people live here. We have women and children who ran to the place from Boko Haram insurgency in the North-East. They knew we have lived here for so long so they came to take refuge here. The okada riders usually sleep outside but they use the public toilets and bathrooms in the barracks. The naval officers said it was the chairman of Comfort Oboh Street that wrote a petition against us and sent to Abuja, saying that Hausas were causing problem in the area and that they used to fight and make trouble. So the Navy said if that was the case, everyone should move out of the place except the Sarki and trailer owners. That if others want to keep living there, they should go to Abuja to solve the problem and if the Chief of Naval Staff permits them to stay there, Abuja will send them another signal to that effect.
Destruction of structures:
“Later, they came and destroyed the place and drove people out. Some of the displaced people have gone back to their states, mostly Adamawa and Borno. Some are staying outside the companies, warehouses, factories and uncompleted buildings. Some of the women and children sleep inside empty warehouses in the area and some have gone back to their villages even though they are still not safe. “Some Naval officers are always by the gate now, to prevent people from coming in. But already, all the structures we put up have been pulled down; even the church and mosque. They said they don’t want church or mosque because if they leave the church and mosque, it means people will still be coming there to worship,” said Bamaiyi.
Narrating his own ordeal, Mr. Aliyu Ijaduwa from Madagali, Adamawa State said he came to the settlement after they were displaced by Boko Haram insurgents. “Our parents were killed, our children were abducted. My 14-year-old daughter was abducted by the terrorists and my mother was killed. Now, four of my children are gone and up till date, there is no news about them.
We find it very difficult feeding because most of the children here don’t know where their parents are. For instance, Barrister is taking care of about five children. We manage to do little jobs like selling food and provisions just to make a living. We are suffering and there are many of us,” said elderly Ijaduwa.
For Sunday Joseph, also from Madagali Local Government Area, it was a very sad tale as the final-year student of College of Education, Science and Technology Bama did not only lose his parents but could not graduate because of terrorist attacks. “As the insurgents entered our area, many people were displaced and many killed. I lost my father and I don’t know whether my mother, Mrs Cecelia Joseph is alive or not. I have five brothers who are here with me now. After we escaped to Yola, through bush paths, trekking for one week, I did not see them and I had no job in Yola. I spent a month doing menial jobs, selling pure water and whatever job I could get. I still went back to my village in the night to look for my siblings and mother. Eventually, I met all of them and we were able to escape to Yola through bush paths and with the help of a good Samaritan,” he said.
Sleeping at a filling station:
Continuing, Joseph said: “I had no money so I left my brothers in a filling station for one month and came to Lagos. I got a motorcycle and began to hustle. I was able to make N20,000 and went to pick my brothers from Yola. After we returned to Lagos, I took a motorcycle on hire purchase for N 150,000. It was from the little money I was making that we were feeding and paying rent for the wooden shanty we were staying in. I paid N20,000 for a year. A navy man gave me the space and I put up the structure. I gave my younger brother the okada to ride and unfortunately, robbers took the motorcycle from him at Apapa. I am now empty, with no money to do anything. Barrister has been feeding us.” “Some of us here are graduates but we have no papers because we lost most of our things to Boko Haram insurgents.” When asked to say something, Mohammed Usman said: “I don’t want to say anything. The Boko Haram terrorists committed too many atrocities. Honestly, I don’t feel like talking about it.”
Efforts by VF to reach the naval authorities and the chairman of Comfort Oboh Street, were unsuccesful.