By Peter Duru, Makurdi; Wole Mosadomi, Minna; Ndahi Marama, Maiduguri, and Ibrahim HassanWuyo, Kaduna
10 years of insurgency in the North-East, raging banditry in the North-West and armed herdsmen menace in the North-Central have left on their trail millions of displaced residents, according to Sunday Vanguard findings.
The displacement comes with the attendant huge financial and material resources borne by government and humanitarian agencies to cater for victims.
For instance, although about one million residents displaced in Borno State, the hotbed of the Boko Haram insurgency in the North-East, have returned home following the restoration of peace in their parts of the state, the state government continues to struggle with the upkeep of at least one million other Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) because there is no enabling environment to return to their ancestral homes.
There are 31 official IDP camps in the state.
In essence, the number could be more if unofficial camps are added.
Reports from Kaduna State say whereas there are no officially designated IDP camps in the state bogged down by banditry, there may be no fewer than one million IDPs scattered across the state.
Benue is contending with 1,000,007 IDPs sent packing from their ancestral homes by suspected armed herdsmen while, whereas there were no official figures on IDPs in Niger where bandits are on the rampage, sacking residents at will, sources said there may be nothing less than 500, 000 IDPs harbored by their different host communities in the state.
Borno, which bears the greatest brunt of insurgency in the country, initially has a total of over two million IDPs, mostly women and unaccompanied children from Northern, Central and Southern Senatorial Districts.
But with the liberation of some communities and quite a number of IDPs relocating back to their ancestral homes, over a million of IDPs are still living in camps.
The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), it was learnt, has been doing a lot, distributing food and non-food items monthly to the IDPs in addition to other humanitarian assistance from sister agencies.
Although Governor Professor Babagana Umara Zulum had said government would close all IDP camps in Borno on or before May 29, 2021 to allow inmates go back to their ancestral homes, the move may not be realistic, considering renewed terror attacks on communities in the last one month which caused huge displacement.
Zulum, bemoaning the challenge of taking care of the IDPs while flagging off the distribution of food items donated by an NGO (Baba For All) linked to President Muhammadu Buhari at Muna IDP camp, Maiduguri, said the state government was doing its best, adding that the task was huge for government alone to handle, hence all hands must be on deck to address the challenge.
“When I took over the mantle of leadership, we inherited a total of two million IDPs”, he said at the occasion.
“Presently, we have 25 formal camps and 35 non- formal camps. On a serious note, government is finding it very difficult to provide food for this quantum number of our IDPs”.
Reports from Kaduna State say whereas there are no officially designated IDP camps in the state, there may be no fewer than one million IDPs scattered across the state.
These are people displaced by the Southern Kaduna conflict and attacks by bandits.
Officials of the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) revealed that there are no officially designated camps for IDPs, saying the one previously used as camp had been given to the military to house female soldiers now providing security on the dreaded Kaduna- Abuja highway.
On how government is taking care of those that were internally displaced in communities across Kaduna, the officials said they had been integrated into their host communities while government relates with them through Local Emergency Management Committees at the local government level.
Sunday Vanguard learned that SEMA officials get quarterly updates on the IDPs from the Local Management Committees’ officials.
Since the IDPs are in the local communities either with relations or other caring citizens, their health concerns are taken care of by Primary Health Care facilities.
The government is, according to officials, discouraging the setting up of IDP camps in the state because of alleged atrocities committed in such camps.
Donations from NGOs and other groups reach the IDPs through local government officials and traditional leaders.
The Federal Ministry of Agric and the National Commission for Refugees have been donating foodstuff to the IDPs who relocated from communities at Birnin Gwari, Giwa, Chikun, Kajuru and other troubled areas of Kaduna.
In Niger State where 15 of the 25 local government areas have been taken over by bandits, there may be no less than 500, 000 IDPs scattered in different parts of the state.
Worst hit are Shiroro, Munya, Rafi, Mariga, Paiko and Mashegu local government areas.
Because of the incessant invasion to these communities, residents have either been ejected from their ancestral homes by banditry or they voluntarily fled to the various IDP camps in the state.
As of now, there are five camps in Niger located in Kuta, Gwada both in Shiroro LGA, one in Rafi, headquarters of Rafi LGA, and one each in Maikunkele, Maitumbi in Bosso and Chanchaga LGAs respectively.
The one at IBB Primary School in Minna, the state capital has been merged with the one at Gwada.
Officials said the state government had not relented in its responsibility of catering for the inmates though resources may not be enough due to cash crunch.
Religious organizations, including Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), and individuals have been playing supportive roles in providing various items, including foodstuff, water, detergents and beddings, to assist inmates.
No doubt, the camps are faced with numerous challenges, including accommodation, feeding, deficiency in provision of health facilities and lack of conveniences like toilets.
Because the camps are not permanently built to take care of emergencies, schools are mostly used and are grossly inadequate.
No fewer than 30 to 40 people are clustered in each of the classes available including children.
Water is rationed with no essential drugs to cater for the sick and other emergency cases.
In other words, the inmates are left in the “hands of God” for their survival.
Because of lack of adequate security at the camps, the store where foodstuff and other essential commodities are kept for the inmates in Gwada was burgled few hours after delivery sometime ago.
In an exclusive interview with our correspondent, the Director General of Niger State Emergency Agency (NSEMA), Alhaji Muhammad Inga, said the exact number of those in various IDP camps in the state could not be determined.
According to him, people in the camps keep rising every day.
“We have a lot of security challenges and government is making efforts to make peace prevail in the camps for the people until they return to their ancestral homes”, Inga said.
“If I give you figures today, in the next one hour, the figure might change and that is why we don’t have the exact number of people in the various camps.
“We are lucky that despondency has not set in and that is why we are managing the situation professionally because in IDP camps, you have to be careful to know the best strategy to adopt to avoid crisis because if despondency sets in, it will be a bigger issue to manage”.
In Benue, since 2018, shortly after the New Year’s Day massacre in Logo and Guma LGAs and the subsequent attacks that followed in the days and months after, the state has been challenged by IDPs sacked from their ancestral homes by suspected armed herdsmen who the people believe are on a mission to take over Benue land.
While the attacks raged, the state government was compelled to open official IDPs camps for the displaced and presently the officially recognized camps in the state are seven.
Aside the official camps, IDPs also reside in host communities since the facilities in the camps lacked carrying capacity for all the displaced persons at a time.
Then there are the unofficial camps where people have also sought refuge.
According to records obtained from the Benue State Emergency Management Agency, SEMA, in the official and unofficial facilities or camps we have records of inmates who moved into the safe haven in 2019, 2020 and 2021.
A breakdown of the 2019 record of IDPs showed that Abagena camp has 8,210 IDPs while the Abagena host community is home to 7,691 inmates. Daudu Camp 1 (UNHCR Shelter) has 5,451 IDPs, Daudu ll has 20,172 while Gbajimba camp is home to 29,500 inmates.
Others are Anyiin camp with 7,466 inmates, Ugba camp with 3,080, Abeda camp with 2,668 while Abeda host community has 22,948 IDPs.
Agan camp has 4,798 inmates while the host community is home to 5,517 IDPs.
Agatu is home to 65,347 IDPs, Angwan Ochonu has 4,951 IDPs, Anyiin community has 65,496 IDPs, Daudu community is home to 43,344 inmates, FHA camp has 4,353 IDPs, and Gbajimba community is home to 28,875 IDPs.
Gwer West has 60,243 IDPs, Ichwa 9,587, Kwande 9,465, LDEA NASME 23,151, LGEA Tyodugh has 5,672 IDPs, NEPA Qtrs 8,008, Ogiri Ajene 9,506, Okpokwu 4,080, Tionsha 20,500 and Ugba community is home to 8,651.
The total number of IDPs living in official and unofficial camps and host communities since 2019 is 483,692.
The number of those displaced as a result of herdsmen attacks as updated in June 2020 is 75,811 and a breakdown of the figure indicated that Mbakunu (Kwande) is home to 2,951 IDPs, Mbaper (Kwande) is hosting 1,602 IDPs, Iyon (Kwande) has 489 inmates and Jato Aka/Nyihemba (Kwande) has 37,675 IDPs.
Others are Ogere (Obi) 17, 858, Torkula (Guma) 817, Agasha (Guma) 1,502, Kaseyo (Guma) 652, Ikponko (Guma) 712 and Uikpam (Guma) is home to 11,554 IDPs.
These figures, updated in December 2020 as a result of sustained attacks by armed herders in more communities, indicated that more communities in Guma like Uleva community is host to 13,855 IDPs, Iye community is hosting 16,578 displaced persons and Tse Akenyi community has 22,873 IDPs.
Logo has Iorja community hosting 14,000 IDPs, Tse Akpam community 11,369 and Igbatim community with 16,541 inmates.
In Makurdi, there are 18,000 IDPs in Imande Akpu community while Tse Chagu community is playing host to 6,000 IDPs.
The total number of persons displaced in 2020 as a result of sustained attacks on Benue communities by suspected herdsmen militia is 205, 027.
Meanwhile, the statistics of displacement as a result of further attacks on several communities in Benue in 2021 showed that Guma LGA, Uikpam IDP camp is home to 27,222 persons, Yogbo community hosts 19,911 persons, Udei community hosts 20,932, Ortese community harbors 17, 654, Umenger has 19,277 while Yelwata community is host to 17,00 IDPs.
In Gwer West, Naka community harbors 23,070 IDPs, Aondoana community has 15,171 while Tyoughtee community has 19,888 IDPs.
In Makurdi, there are 16,865 IDPs in Atson community and 11,987 in Anter community. Logo is harboring 13,065 in Tse Agure while 1,765 IDPs are in Tse Akau Akpor community.
Konshisha, where a military operation recently took place to recover the weapons of the soldiers slain by bandits, has 5,958 IDPs in Gungul community. Agidi community is home to 1,143 IDPs, Aku community has 3,852, Adoka community has 702, Bonta 2,250, Gbinde community 1,548, Tse Anyon 1,512 and Guleya Community is home to 2,142 IDPs.
In Oju LGA, Ukpute community is host to 1,954 IDPs while Agatu LGA has 10,981 IDPs in Okokolo community, 21,098 in Obagaji, 10,400 in Aila, 12,091 in Odugbeho and 11,850 are harbored in Oweto communities.
The total figure of people displaced in Benue communities in 2021 alone is put at 311,288, bringing the overall number of IDPs in Benue to a grand total of 1,000,007.
As mentioned earlier, these IDPs are from different communities of the state including Kwande, Okpokwu Guma, Makurdi, Gwer West, Logo, Oju, Konshisha and Agatu LGAs who were attacked and sacked from their ancestral homes by suspected armed herdsmen.
However, those of Konshisha were sacked from their homes after a military operation to recover the weapons of the soldiers slain by bandits in the area.
According to the Executive Secretary of Benue SEMA, Dr. Emmanuel Shior, since the displacement of these persons, the state government took it upon itself to ensure that the needs and security of the IDPs were catered for.
He explained that the efforts of government is being complemented by NGOs, public spirited individuals and groups who have been providing food, shelter, medical, water sanitation and hygiene activities in the camps.
“Regrettably, the Federal Government has not shown enough commitment to the welfare of the IDPs leaving the state government to grapple with the overwhelming challenge of catering for the IDPs,” he said
The Executive Secretary also pointed out that quantifying the worth of government’s intervention in the camps in terms of Naira and Kobo may be difficult but it runs into millions of Naira monthly.
On the challenges in the camps he said, “the challenges we have in these camps are that of food, security and health issues.
“But I must acknowledge that we have some international and local organisations supporting the government have been doing so in the areas of water supply, health, including WASH.”
On the issue of outbreak of diseases in the camps, he clarified that the camps had not recorded any of such because inmates were receiving adequate medicare from partners and the state government.
“But our worry at the moment is that of security in the camps. In all the camps, IDPs are entertaining fears of being attacked due to the recent attack that happened at the Abagena IDPs camp. So there are fears of possible attacks in the camps at the moment”, the SEMA boss said.
“In fact some of the IDPs, out of fear, look for where to sleep in the host communities for fear of being victims of another herders’ attack”, he said.
Suspected armed herdsmen had, at the wee hours of April 27, 2021, invaded the Abagena IDPs camp in the outskirts of Makurdi town, killing seven inmates.
The attack, which took place at about 2am, also left many of the nearly 20,000 traumatized IDPs with serious injuries.
That invasion almost sparked a reprisal by angry Benue youths who recovered the remains of the slain IDPs and laid them on the busy Makurdi-Lafia highway threatening to avenge their death.
They also demanded to be allowed to carry AK47 rifles to defend themselves just like armed herders.
It took the personal intervention of Governor Samuel Ortom to prevail on the angry youths to sheath their swords.
After convincing the youths, the governor appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari to take decisive action against armed herders who had been accused of unleashing mayhem on innocent Nigerians, warning that the people were not convinced that he was doing enough in that regard.