Some weeks ago, hundreds of internally displaced persons (IDPs) camped at Shettima Ali Monguno Teachers’ Village in Borno State took to the streets to protest alleged ill-treatment by camp officials. The protesters barricaded the Maiduguri-Kano Expressway and caused traffic gridlock. They also destroyed campaign billboards and posters of some political parties. The displaced persons also alleged that the camp officials were unfair to them in the distribution of food and other commodities. They also lamented meagre food rations.
The visit to the camp by officials of the International Committee on Red Cross (ICRC) to extend their humanitarian services and complement the efforts of partners, which was badly managed, further aggravated the crisis.
We recall that the IDPs had protested alleged ill-treatment meted out to them by unscrupulous camp managers in the past. In August 2016, some displaced persons protesting lack of food had also left their camps and barricaded the same Maiduguri-Kano highway for hours. And in December last year, displaced persons living in a camp in Tsafe Town, Zamfara State, went on rampage over incessant attacks on some villages by bandits.
The protesters set the council secretariat ablaze and destroyed 19 vehicles, including three belonging to the World Health Organisation (WHO). These protests paint the country in bad light and should be avoided.
The latest avoidable protest by the IDPs is regrettable. It is unfortunate that the needs of the IDPs are sometimes not met by those in charge of them due to corruption in the system. Government must do something to curb corruption in the camps. Considering the complaints of some of the IDPs, we suggest that they should not be kept in crowded camps to avoid spread of infectious diseases. Government should strive to enhance the welfare of the IDPs. There is the need to give them adequate food and other essential commodities that they need. It is advisable that camp officials should treat them with care and respect.
They deserve benefits and rights that other Nigerians are entitled to. The federal and state governments, especially officials saddled with the task of catering to the needs of the displaced persons, must realise that the IDPs are also Nigerians. It is unfortunate that they were forcefully removed from their homes by circumstances beyond their control.
Many of their children cannot access basic education. They cannot return to their homes and communities. Sadly, some of the female inmates of the IDPs camps were reportedly raped and subjected to sexual slavery. There have been reports of officials demanding sex from female IDPs in exchange for food and other essentials. These dastardly acts must stop. Separated from family and friends, the IDPs have also the right to human freedom.
Therefore, state governments, National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and its counterparts in the states as well as other relevant agencies should ensure that the basic needs of the IDPs are met seamlessly.
The recent allegations of misappropriation of funds meant for the welfare of IDPs should be investigated by the authorities and those involved sanctioned. The selling of food supplies meant for IDPs in some markets in Maiduguri should be stopped.
We call on the government to set up a panel of inquiry to determine the immediate and remote causes of the Maiduguri protest with a view to addressing them forthwith. Any official found culpable of ill-treating the IDPs should be appropriately sanctioned in order to serve as a deterrent to others of their ilk. It is worth emphasising that the human rights of people in IDPs camps must be respected and protected.
We condemn the reported abuse of those in the camps. While the welfare of those in IDPs camps should be prioritised, government must intensify efforts to resettle those whose towns and villages have been liberated from the insurgents. The earlier they are settled in their homes, the better for them and the society. All internally displaced persons are Nigerians and should be treated as such.