IDPs: Muffled voices seeking succour

By Funmi Falobi

The number of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Nigeria, as a result of insurgency, flooding, ethno-religious conflict, communal clashes and recently, banditry has been on the increase.

While the Sub+Saharan Africa accounts for 10.762million IDPs, Nigeria has the third highest number of Internally Displaced Persons in Africa. In 2020, the country had 2.7 million IDPs according to statistics.

A report which covers the period from June to July 2021 shows that Nigeria, has 2.182 million IDPs and reflects the trends from the six states of the North Eastern part of the nation – Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Taraba and Yobe.

Many of the IDPs live in various camps across the country, while some live in slums in deplorable conditions. They are voiceless in their own society. Though they have rights as budgeted for -rights to education, food, shelter, water, health; etc., but how are they benefiting from these rights?

“One thing that comes out for me is basic education. After shelter, food, is education. While in camps they don’t need formal education but could be arranged there with the use of Corps members,” said Mrs. Kemi Adeyeye, Executive Director, Humanity Family Foundation for Peace and Development (HUFGPED).

Speaking at a consultative/media parley on ‘Advancing IDPs Issues” with support from World Association for Christian Communications (WACC) President, Journalists for Christ (JFC) International Outreach, Mr. Lekan Otufodunrin charged journalists to report issues affecting internally displaced person’s in the country saying, “JFC does things that are communication rights and humanitarian issues of IDPs. Journalists should do more in the area of reporting their issues.”

Recounting her experience, Laila Isaac, an internally displaced person (IDP) in Nigeria had to take refuge in Lagos State with her family.
Laila and her husband and seven children fled Gombe State, when their lives became threatened on account that her husband, a Muslim, married her, a Christian, and later converted to Christianity. She later became the breadwinner of the family, when her husband had an accident and as a result of broken leg, the responsibilities of catering for the household, rested on her

“We have to run away from home so that we will not be killed. They want to kill my husband and so we ran to Lagos.”

‘I face many problems. We live in a shanty home with the children. We live in the slum with about 200 people who are also displaced from their homes. We don’t have anything,” she said.

Laila, like other displaced person’s in Nigeria, are going through a lot of challenges and living in a society, where their plights are not even felt. Many do not reckon with them in the society because they are not aware of their plights.

“I came to Lagos when I lost my father because there was nobody to help . I worked as a cleaner to help my siblings back home in Kaduna State,” Regina Samuel, another displaced person’s said, while recounting her ordeal in the hands of her employer in Lagos.
According to her, she had worked for a year as a cleaner without payment, only to be told that the person who brought her had collected the salaries upfront.
She later got employment with sesor, where she wss being paid N25,000, out of which she sends N20,000 to her siblings in Kaduna State for their upkeep, while she keeps N5,000.
Regina took in for a man who was assisting to meet her needs. “I had to move in with the father of my baby who is assisting me. Government should help us so that things will work for us,” she said.

While stating that there are IDPs in Lagos state even though many are not aware, Ms. Chinagorum Okoro, Communication Officer,, Sesor Empowerment Foundation said many IDPs live in unconducive settlement in Lagos.
According to her, the organisation provides skills acquisition and soft loans to help the IDPs.

“As an organisation, we take care of their medical needs. We want to see how we can work with HMO to lessen medical care, schools for children. They need help, life is not easy for them

*Water, shelter and food are problem. Relief materials are being hijacked on the way and don’t get to them. A lot of them don’t have anywhere to turn to. There are IDPs in Lagos who need help. If Lagosians open their hearts, if government opens its minds, they will know that there are displaced people in Lagos who need their help. Journalists should help to change the mindsets of people towards IDPs,” she said.

For John Okocha, a documentary storyteller and social worker, there is need for psycho-social support that would lead to change of mindsets.

‘Emerging issues in IDPs camps are the same story but how do you tell the story, who do we tell the story? He queried.

“The mentality has not changed. The moment you are displaced, you become second class citizens in your own country.

‘How do you change the mentality of someone who has been raped severally, abused, lost parents? I have seen a 12 year old girl who could dismantle an AK-47. Another little girl carried her little brother and both fell on the ground in the camp.

“For northerners, education is a whole lot. You need to work on their mindsets for them to embrace education. You need to gain their trust to make them talk.”

Corroborating the need for skills acquisition, Adeyeye said, “We need to teach them skills on how to generate money for their families. Major complaint of IDPs is lack of water in their communities of resettlement. My concern is how safe are they when they go back to their original communities? Have we really stemmed the Boko Haram insurgency?”.

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