A weekend with Abuja IDPs

By Tope Sunday

At first sight, everything seemed normal on this sunny Saturday afternoon at New Kuchingoro Internally Displaced Persons’ (IDPs’) camp, two weeks ago. Children were playing at the school playground, oblivious of their plight, dribbling a round leather that passes for football. The camp was a beehive of commercial activities as power generating sets hummed noisily like in any community, whenever there is power outage. The generators, mostly the I-pass-my-neighbor brand, were powering grinding machines that were busy grounding some grains and tomatoes into paste, in preparation for supper. For some of the dwellers, that may be the first and only solid meal throughout the day. For many others, that is a luxury that they can’t afford, as our correspondent later found out. Elsewhere, some people were playing droughts and ludo games under a tree, happily engrossed in their own world.

The gloom within
However, beside the playground, two youngsters stood in front of a make-shift drug dispensing store, wearing long faces, with worries written all over them. Their mood contrasted with the care-free, happy-go-lucky picture that both the ‘soccer players’ and those under the tree present. Soon, the trauma of the Boko Haram attack in far away Borno state, the excruciating pains for daily survival and the IDPs’ world of constant lack, started unveiling to Blueprint Weekend in the course of spending the weekend at New Kuchingoro. Almost everywhere, the daily struggles for survival can be seen in the children’s tattered clothes, makeshift dwellings and the general unkempt surrounding of the camp.

‘Our struggle with life’
Almost everyone that our correspondent encountered had a sad story to tell. With a hurting voice and lament, 23 year old Sulyman John told his story through an interpreter. “Each time I remember how Boko Haram killed our people like chickens and sacked our community, Gwoza, in Borno State, my heart bleeds’’, he sighed. Conducting Bluprint Weekend round the camp, John further narrated how his education was terminated. “If not for Boko Haram that sacked our community in 2014, by now, I would have finished my secondary education. I was in SS 2 at the Government Secondary School (GSS) Gwoza, Borno State, when our community was ravaged. All of us fled for our dear lives and this was why we found our way in Abuja.’’ But for the attack, according to John, he would have been studying Accounting at Ramat Polytechnic, Maiduguri, Borno State. ‘’But now, I am here doing nothing. As I am speaking, I don’t think I can become an important personality in life. My dream of becoming an important personality in life has been cut short now”, he said despondently. As it should be expected, John and his fellow IDPs battle hunger everyday. Right now, he wants the Federal Government to intensify efforts in its war against the insurgency, so that they will return to Gwoza, where he will continue schooling and farming as he used to do before their town was invaded. Aside hunger, he also said that lack of toilets is one of the challenges confronting them. ‘’At night, we defecate in the bush . We have bath room here, but there is no toilet facility for us to defecate,’’ he lamented.

Meet ‘Dr’ Yathuma
Mr John Yathuma, an IDP, who also doubles as a Patient Medicine dealer at the camp collaborated John’s statement. The 29-year-old father of one and a Diploma holder in Community Health from Borno State School of Health Technology, Maiduguri, also decried the poor living condition in the camp. Yathuma reverted to his vocation by selling essential drugs, mostly pain killers and anti malarial medicines, in order to make ends meet and to meet the health needs of fellow IDPs. According to him, “I was a Health Worker in my village, Gwoza before we were attacked by members of the dreaded Boko Haram sect. I hold a Diploma from Borno State School of Health Technology, Maiduguri. I was doing fine and my business was flourishing. Aside farming, which I was into, I made up to N7,500 everyday. But now, I hardly make up to N1500 daily with ‘patients’ on admission.” Yathuma seldom makes profit from the business because he subsidises the prices of drugs for the impoverished IDPs. ‘’For instance, I sell a sachet of Paracetamol for N40, which is sold for between N50 and N60 outside. It is from the sales I make in a day that I will feed my aged mother, my wife and son’’, he disclosed to our correspondent.

Living on charity
For Mrs. Rifikatu Yusuf, who demanded for ‘’something’’ before speaking to Blueprint Weekend, what paramount is how to be well fed. The mother of four, whose husband resides in Maiduguri, said they live at the mercy and liberty of religious and charity organizations for survival. “Since I came to this camp, I have not been doing anything. I was a farmer in Gwoza before we were displaced by the Boko Haram sect. In Gwoza, food was not our problem. But now, food is our greatest problem. If the donors do not come here to distribute free food, there is nothing we will feed on. Food is not regular here and for a week or two we may not get free food to feed. Government should please take us back to Gwoza, we can’t continue to die in silence’’, she pleaded.
Rifkatu’s story is the same as that of 28-year-old Mariam Amos, a mother of three. However, unlike Rifkatu, she doesn’t want to go back to Gwoza until peace finally returns to the entire North East. She explained that a good Samarian gave her a grounding machine to eke a living in the camp.
“We are not finding life easy in this camp but I am grateful to a man who assisted me with a grounding machine to use its proceeds to feed my family. The only problem is the low patronage. I make between N150 and 300 in a day but most times, I may not make any sale for about a week or two. I will only plead with the government to come to our aid with food supply because we are battling with severe hunger in this camp’’, Mariam said.

An impending displacement
The plight of the IDPs will look like what Fela, the late Afro Beat musician referred to as a ’’double wahala for dead body’’, if the looming threat of eviction is actualized. John told our correspondent that the owner of the land at New Kuchingoro camp, where the IDPs are squatting, has given them quit notice because he wants to develop his land. The implication of this, according to John, is their imminent ejection from the camp. He, however, appealed to the Federal Government to relocate them to a more befitting camp within the FCT, in order to cushion the trauma that they had passed through.
Before then, the IDPs want basic amenities like toilets, in order to stem the high incidence of diseases and food as well as other consumables at the present New Kuchingoro camp. Above all, they want the war against Boko Haram insurgency to be won so that they can return home.

 

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