Gyang Bere, Jos
Take a look at their photos published on this page. Perhaps the final look! Except something is done and done urgently for them by the powers that be, any moment from now their lives are going to go from the frying pan into the fire. So? Their plea to the government, to charity organizations and to public-spirited Nigerians is: come over to IDP camp in Zawan, Anguldi, Jos South Local Government Area, Plateau State, and help us. And, please, do that before the December 31 deadline given to us to quit our temporary camp expires. Just do something for us before it is too late. If you look well, you will see the plea of mercy written over their faces. If you listen attentively, you could also hear it in their lachrymal voices.
Quit notice letter that turned their world upside down
Welcome to hell. Or, to something close to it. In a month filled with festivities and merriment, the hapless refuges abandoned at the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) Camp in Geo-sciences hall, Zawan, Anguldi in Jos South Local Government Area of Plateau State are going through, perhaps, the most difficult time of their lives. This follows the quit notice served on them by the management of the Nigerian Mining and Geo-sciences Society (NMGS), in whose hall they, the IDPs, have been quartered all this while. In an earlier letter dated Wednesday, October 22, 2019, the management informed the camp coordinator that all IDPs should vacate the secretariat building on or before October 31, 2019.
In the face of the quit notice, these homeless IDPs mostly from Kura-Berom, Kuzeng and Tisa villages in Gashish District of Barkin-Ladi Local Government Area of Plateau State now face uncertain future. Made up of aged women, nursing mothers and out-of-school children, this is coming at a time they are battling to overcome the psychological effects their husbands butchered and roasted like chickens on Friday, June 22, 2018, when killer herdsmen attacked their villages and burnt and destroyed their houses.
The reason the NMGS gave in the quit notice letter was that they wanted to renovate the dilapidated structure and put it into proper use for revenue generation. But elsewhere in the camp it has been generating sad, sorrowful emotions and panic since the news filtered in. Right now, the women, children and the aged are in utter state of hopelessness and complete despondency.
Given the sudden nature of the quit notice, the camp officials led by Joshua Chong approached the management of the Nigerian Mining and Geo-sciences Society and pleaded with them to extend the period of grace to enable them secure another place. Thereafter a consensus was reached between the two parties that the IDPs should quit the camp on or before December 31, 2019.
When our correspondent visited the camp on Monday, December 2, 2019, he discovered that the dwellers are beginning the countdown as the D-day approaches. But their situation presents a peculiar dilemma: where are they going to stay now? They can’t go back home because their houses were completely razed during the unwarranted wanton attack. The general fear among them now is that the enemies might be keenly waiting in the wings to have another field day of killing orgy if they should return to a devasted home. This is because the affected villages lack the reassuring presence of government security.
A look at some of the affected IDPs
Who are these victims waiting to be sent into harm’s way if they should be ejected from the IDP camp without proper arragenment to have them properly resettled? They include 72-year-old aged woman, Asabe Ali. Displaced from Kura Berom village, she lost her aged husband and son when they were killed and, later, buried in a mass grave in the community. Their houses were destroyed and burnt. Without a roof over her head, she lives in the camp with her five grandchildren whose father and mother were also murdered in the attack.
“I am aware that we have been asked to leave the IDPs camp. Our houses were destroyed completely and we have December 31 to quit this place,” she said in the local Berom language. “I don’t know where I will go from here and I am not aware of any arrangement being made by government.”
Ruminating on the present state of things, she said: “we don’t know what we have done to deserve this treatment. I want to go back home but I don’t have a place call home; no attempt has been made to rebuild the razed houses. But I will leave to unknown place with my children if nothing is done before 31 December.”
Fifty-five-year-old Jumai Andrew also finds herself in the same quagmire. After losing her husband and four members of her family, she lives without a house and a breadwinner. Even without the quit notice, she said, life has been tough, very tough. “Nobody looks after us again,” she said. “We eat once in a day. Government and people have forgotten that people still live in the camp. Most of us go out in the daytime to search for menial job to get money with which to feed ourselves in the camp. We are passing through difficult times; we don’t have a single soul in our village, nobody is there, not even a security officer, how can we go back?”
Another woman, 22-year-old Janet Christopher, mother of two who hails from Tisa village, says that the picture of suffering and feeling of abandonment which Jumai painted is something of a common experience for all the women campdwellers.
The woman who lost her husband during the violent attack, today fends for herself and her two children one of whom was born in the camp. Like others she says she has nowhere to go because their house was also destroyed during the herdsmen unprovoked attack. “I have resigned my fate to God,” she said in the local language. “But surviving after leaving the camp would be a miracle to me because nobody gives us food here in the camp. Imagine what will happen if we are taken out of this place.”
The victims also include seven-year-old Josua Jeol, a student of Islamiya Primary School Zawan. He lost his father during the violence and lives in the camp with her mother who goes for outside work to enable her get what she would use to take care of him and his siblings. Joshua who eats once in a day expressed hope that once day his pathetic story will be history. He believed that if he does not die through this period of deprivations and suffering, he will live to be great in the society. But given the quit notice, he is confused as to what to do next.
Christopher Job, 14 and Chuwang Danjuma, 16, are not quite as optimistic as Joshua. This is because they are not in school and they are not learning any handwork. The duo who hail from Shonong village in Riyom Local Government Area of Plateau State, said they live from hand to mouth in the IDP camp, as they move from one restaurant to another to engage in plate-washing to enable them get some money to eat with. They are willing to go to school or learn a work that will better their future, they say, but there has been no sponsor.
Corroborating the bleak picture painted by some of the campdwellers, the Camp Welfare Secretary, Mr. Dakap Alamba, said there is no food for the IDPs. He noted that the dwellers only eat once a day and that only when some good Samaritans brought some foodstuffs for them. He added that they are working together with the authority of Barkin-Ladi Local Government Area to ensure that the IDPs move before 31 December deadline.
Why we asked them to go – Geosiences
Confirming the said deadline, the Administrative Secretary of Nigerian Mining and Geo-sciences Society, Silas Samuel Dagusa, said that the society is not a government organization but a professional body with its national secretariat in Zawan, Plateau State and explained how the IDPs came to occupy its hall since 22 June, 2018 without any arrangement or prior agreement with government to that effect.
His words: “It was on Sunday, June 23, 2018 that people who were displaced from Gashish District of Barkin-Ladi Local Government Area came and requested the hall to hold a meeting with the wife of Plateau State governor. They felt that the hall was a suitable and central area and by virtue of our hall which we used to hire out, they felt they can just come in to hold the meeting.
“My security man tried to stop them when the people tried to force themselves into the hall with their properties. They became violent and he called to inform me of what was going on. I also called my superiors immediately and they said that the traditional ruler within the locality should sign to serve as their guarantor and he accepted to do that with the hope that the people will stay for just three months.
“After three months, I called the traditional ruler and he said the issue is beyond his control now. He said he couldn’t guarantee that the people will leave at the end of the three months. I went to meet the Director of National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and he said they didn’t direct the people to go there and that the issue is beyond them.
“I was pressing that the people should leave the premises because it was an office complex and not a resident. You can imagine the crowd of people that came, over 3,000: men, women, children and the aged. The hall was reeking with urine; the people were taking their bath in the open hall and there was no drainage. Government has not come to find out how the people came to the hall. It has not paid anything since they came in June, 2018. We do not want to demand for anything from government so that when such incident happens in the future, which we are not praying for, the people will not come here again.
“All we want now is for them to go; we will take care of the renovation ourselves. All we want is for government to rehabilitate the people. Let them take them out of our premises. We need our premises back. We had given them a quit notice in October and the camp Director wrote a plea letter and begged the management to help them out and allow them up to 31 December 2019 and the management agreed. We have started bringing in equipment for the renovation; we just need them to go. If they don’t leave before 31 December, we will go ahead with our work and they will be forced out.
“Government just have to find a way of rehabilitating them; they can’t continue to hold us backward. We used to charge N15,000 per event and if you calculate what we have lost since 23 June, 2018, it is not a small money.”
Govt, stakeholders react to the development
Speaking on the matter during their 97th General Church Council (GCC), President of Church of Christ in Nations, Rev. Dachollom Datiri, accused the government of failing in its reponsibility to rehabilitate and resettle the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). “Government has failed us and IDPs have continued to languish in their woes,” he said. “Despite promises by the Plateau State government a year ago, their resettlement is still a mirage. These victims of man’s inhumanity to man that occurred in many parts of Plateau State last year and, especially in Barkin-Ladi LGA continue to remain in their sorry predicament. Their situation is made worse by the fact that spirited individuals and NGOs that used to offer assistance have all grown tired and dry.”
Reacting to the accusation of neglect, the Deputy Governor of Plateau State, Prof. Sonni Tyoden said government has made frantic efforts to relocate the displaced persons. He noted that it has succeeded in relocating most of the communities to their ancestral homes as at December 2018 and added that efforts are being made to relocate others.
“I think people have not been fair to government,” he said. “I think the number of people in the IDPs camp have not been the same after the governor made the pronouncement to rehabilitate them.
“You know movement of of IDPs is not something that will be done anyhow, we want them to move in comfort; they should move to their places of abode in comfort when their destroyed houses are rebuilt and the resources to do that do not just come in a day. Government is doing its best, some of the IDPs have moved. We agree that some are still there and it is not as if we are not doing anything about it. We believe that very soon, all of them will go back to their homes.”
Member representing Barkin-Ladi/Riyom Federal Constituency of Plateau State in the National Assembly, Hon. Simon Mwadkwon said the Gbong Gwom Jos, Da Jacob Gyang Buba, has set up a committee to look into the welfare of the IDPs. The lawmaker who is the chairman of the committee faulted the Deputy Governor’s claim that government has relocated some of the IDPs. He explained that the only movement that has taken place is that of most IDPs moving in droves to squat with their relations living within the city. Other than that, many of them are still stranded in the IDPs camps across Jos South, Riyom and Barkin-Ladi.