June 9, 2024

Expressions of joy as Okuama people adjust to life in Ewu IDP camp

Expressions of joy as Okuama people adjust to life in Ewu IDP camp

•Commend Delta State government

By Mike Ebonugwo

When on Wednesday some officials of the Delta State government led some visiting journalists into the premises of Ewu Grammar School in Ewu kingdom, Ughelli South local government area of the State, there was palpable curiosity that quickly turned into consternation when instead of seeing the school children in their various classrooms, they were confronted by the sight of several individuals who looked like refugees, staring speculatively and indeed expectantly at the impromptu visitors. It soon turned out that this was the internally displaced persons, IDP, camp set up by the Delta State government to provide a temporary home to the displaced people of Okuama whose community was sacked by irate soldiers following the brutal killing of some army personnel, including senior officers, by yet-to-be-identified gunmen suspected to be Okuama militants.

While the inhabitants of what is now known as the Okuama-Ewu IDPs Camp were initially reluctant, or afraid, to come forward to welcome or greet their visitors, their mood soon changed when they identified familiar government officials among the visiting team. Some children who were playing football at the time were particularly quite boisterous in expressing their joy and squealed in delight when the state Commissioner for Works, Highways and Urban Roads, Comrade Reuben Izeze, decided to join them in their play.

Even the women would not be denied the opportunity of savouring the joyful moment as they began to mill around the visitors, expressing their happiness in the bargain, with two of them who recently gave birth at the camp proudly displaying their babies and dancing joyfully to the admiration of all present. The newest baby at the camp who was born last Sunday was christined “God Do Well” according to its proud mother who gave her name as UK Solomon. She was surrounded by her fellow women who were only too glad to share in her joy of giving birth under very unusual circumstances at a place that seem like an exile from home. But Forgetting their travails at the moment and the tragedy that gave birth to it, most of the inmates laughed joyfully as they exchanged banters and pleasantries with their visitors. They also did not forget to express appreciation to the Delta State government for rushing to their aid in their moment of trial, offering relief and comfort to their plight.

Recalling the circumstances that brought the children and their parents to live in a camp in the rehabilitated school complex of Ewu kingdom, with particular reference to the invasion and destruction of Okuama community by soldiers hunting for those who killed 17 military personnel on March 14, Comrade Izeze said: ”When this thing happened, they(the people) went into the forest of Okuama, preferring to stay there out of fear. As you know, their community was sacked and every building there was brought down. But government rose to the occasion, making every effort to convince them to come out and they eventually did and have agreed to stay here until their community is rebuilt.”

The Commandant of the Camp, Deacon Austin Ohwofaria, had a lot to say about life at the camp and how the displaced people of Okuama are adjusting to it since the tragic and horrifying incident that uprooted them from their community, especially the ill-fated day of the soldiers killing and its aftermath. He is in charge of admitting people into the camp, taking stock of everything there, ensuring law and order and, of course, presenting the needs of the people to the state government through the camp management committee headed by Mr Abraham Ogbodo, an accomplished journalist from the state.

Responding to questions, Deacon Ohwofaria spoke in a measured tone as he gave a breakdown of the number of people at the camp. According to him, there are presently 1,640 persons, comprising of 209 children and 68 elderly people who have so far been registered to live at the camp. He did not stop there.

“In terms of registration, we have 1,640 people here. We welcomed two newborn babies recently and the people were so excited. By implication, we have 1,642 people here in the camp.

“Unofficially, the camp was opened on the 15th of May. But, there were disagreements here and there over whether the people were going to come or not. It was last week the people started coming for registration.

“We have 209 children and 68 elderly people. The newborn babies are all female. Just two of them, but we still have a number of pregnant women here in the camp,” Deacon Ohwofaria informed.

On facilities and amenities present at the commandant also informed that there is a playground, where the children were seen playing football as well as a clinic, a general kitchen and bathrooms, where the people go to take their bath.

Considering all these Deacon Ohwofaria was full of appreciation for the kind gesture of the State Governor, Sheriff Oborevwori, for using the camp to alleviate the pain and suffering of the displaced people of Okuama.

“I must commend the Delta State Governor, Rt. Hon. Sheriff Oborevwori. The State Government has been tremendous in its commitment to the camp in terms of funding which has kept us going up to this point.

Indeed, it’s Governor Oborevwori has brought the camp to this stage that it has become a source of refuge to the displaced people. As you know, these are people who cannot fend for themselves, going by the circumstances of what happened to them.

“The government’s effort is being augmented by a number of NGOs. “In terms of infrastructure, we have potable water supply. There is free flow of water. We have where the people take their bath. There are toilets. There is a general kitchen meant for all the people.

“There is also a clinic here. But when there is emergency, we move them to the hospital. For instance, one of the women who gave birth is still at the hospital.

“There is cordiality among the people. They know what happened to them and that has brought about an uncommon bond among them. The people are living well.

“The children have been duly registered for schooling. We are camped in a secondary school and flanked by other schools as well. We have profiled the children and they are attending primary and secondary schools,” Ohwofaria said.

On how long the Okuama IDPs are expected to stay at the camp, the commandant said going by the projection of the State Government, they would be there for at least six months while efforts are being made to rebuild their destroyed community.

“By that time, I believe the State government must have taken care of where they came from, that is, in terms of rebuilding Okuama community and all that. So that is the projection,” he said.