From Sola Ojo, Kaduna
Before the outbreak of COVID-19 in Wuhan, China in December 2019 which led to a global health emergency and subsequent lockdown as a measure put in place by some governments to check the community spread of the virus, some people have been displaced on either political, religious, communal or crop growers and pastoralists clashes.
Recently, the Federal Commissioner, National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons (NCRMIDP), Sen. Basheer Mohammed, hinted that there exist over 290 camps across the country for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) with a population of about 2.3 million people and still counting due to activities of bandits in some Northern States including Kaduna, Katsina, Zamfara and Niger.
Of course, Kaduna, as a political melt-pot of Northern Nigeria and the third most populous State with about 10 million populace (2006 census projection), in addition to its portion of nefarious activities of bandits in some of its local government areas like Kajuru, Chikun, Igabi, Birni Gwari and Giwa, also has an influx of displaced persons from other states.
According to Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, Nigeria’s North Central and North West Zones are afflicted with a multidimensional crisis rooted in long-standing tensions between ethnic and religious groups and involves attacks by criminal groups and banditry/hirabah.
With activities of bandits which has led to the displacement of hundreds of communities between 2020 and 2021 in some local government areas of Kaduna State, the number of displaced population has grown significantly with difficulty in attaching a specific number to it because it is an ongoing unfortunate development.
Like the International Organisation for Migration (IOM UN Migration) noted, the situation of IDPs in all locations across the seven states in the Northwest is critical and they are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance.
There are a few formal camps available for the
IDPs, but, so many are residing in host communities with little or no support humanitarian assistance from their respective government.
Executive Secretary, The Nigerian Red Cross Society, Kaduna State branch, Sunday Awulu gave a vivid account of IDPs camps in Kaduna his organisation’s quest to ameliorating their sufferings – moving from one IDP camp to another, giving relief items and offering psychosocial services on recovery and how to stay safe as the World fight COVID-19.
“We have been responding to various emergencies in Kaduna State – from road accident to fire incidences to communal or religious crisis to gunmen attacks in communities. As we speak, we just returned from LEA Primary School Mashi Gwari, where the people that were attacked around the railway station, Rigasa, have been taking refuge”, he said.
According to him, “these are the people who have been displaced from their homes. So it is normal that they are in shortage of food, water, medicals and other domestic needs. There is a need for psychosocial support, referrer system and the need for restoring family needs (RFN). It is our mandate to see that the families are reunified after the attack that scattered them”, he added.
“We have a quite number of IDP camps here in Kaduna State spread across some local government areas including Zango Kataf, Chikun, Kajuru, Jema’a, Igabi, Birni Gwari, Zaria. Now, these IDP camps are in two forms: those in structured places like public schools, religious places and those that have been integrated into people’s houses.
“Now, the economic unit of the Red Cross Society has been going around these IDP camps for the distribution of relief items including cash transfer. Even at that, we still don’t have enough resources to cater for them. The IDP camps in Zaria are unique because people come from Zamfara, Yobe and Borno States”.
He however noted that compliance with COVID-19 protocols was not encouraging which was why his organisation was giving psychosocial support where it supplies these camps with some water containers in addition to sensitization describing COVID-19 compliance as “not encouraging at all”
Lamentations of Kaduna displaced persons and their hosts
Secretary, Angwan Zawu, IDP camp, Goni-Gora, Chikun local government area of Kaduna State, Emmanuel Stephen Yari, revealed that there are a total of 868 persons in this camp – 278 men, 342 women and 248 children.
“In the wake of the COVID-19, the traditional leader here in Goni-Gora divided us. Some of us are staying in uncompleted buildings while some were able to secure cheap houses must to sleep and wake up and later converge here.
“We are from different communities mostly from Birni Gwari and Chikun local government areas of the state. We are compiling the list now. We have more than 100 communities displaced in these two local governments alone.
“Many of us ran away from Banda, and seven other communities under Chikun when the bandits kidnapped 58 people from neighbouring communities.
“We have cases of some that have been delivered of their babies in this camp. We came here on January 7, 2020, before the COVID-19 lockdown. The prolonged lockdown made the matter worse for us. We were at the mercy of individuals, religious organisations and non-governmental organisation even up till now. To be honest, it is difficult to comply with COVID-19 protocols because of our population and limited space.
“We have challenges of water, medicals and most importantly, the education need of our children.
“If we have improved security, we would like to go back to our communities. As we speak, our houses are being occupied by these people. Just last week, my cousin brother went back to go and check if the situation has improved. So, he went to his house not knowing that the house has been taken over by bandits.
“We were told that after sighting the bandits, he quickly turned back. But they used a motorcycle to pursue him and shot him dead before he could escape. So, our house is now being used as camps where they keep their kidnapped victims and collect the ransom.
Another survivor with a wife and three children from, Rumana Gbagyi, in Birni Gwari, Joseph Sarki Noma said, “the bandits were killing and kidnapping our people. The event that led to our departure from our homes was when they killed about 7 people including my brother, his child and a woman”, he said tears.
A leader of IDPs in Igabi local government area of the State, Yahaya Fada, ruled out the possibility of COVID-19 protocol as they are in their works for survival with children and aged persons to cater for.
“We are victims of Bandits from the Igabi local government area of Kaduna State. Our people had earlier moved to LEA Primary School, Mashi Gwari, Rigasa, Kaduna for temporary shelter. But, they have to disperse from the school because the pupils have resumed. As of now, we are managing in people’s houses. But if there is a need for us to gather, we will do that.
“We are not talking about COVID-19 now. We are talking about our survival and that is the most important thing to us. Our farm produces, animals and other valuables have been overran by bandits.
“So, COVID-19 protocol is necessary but our survival is important. But that does not mean we don’t want to follow the protocols except that it is difficult if not impossible in this pitiable condition we found ourselves in our own country”, he stressed.
Government and NGO’s efforts to give hope to the IDPs
Commissioner, Ministry of Human Services and Social Development, Hafsat Mohammed-Baba said, due to banditry activities in some parts of the State and influx of IDPs from other states, the facilities in the state have been overstretched.
“We have been overstretched by the influx of IDPs from other states in addition to what we have here. But we have to accommodate them because they are our people. We have to provide a safe space for them. We have to follow the COVID-19 protocol no matter how many they are, working with other ministries, departments and agencies.
“The welfare of the displaced person is very important to this ministry in providing them with essentials that will make their temporary stay a bit okay though it can never be like home. Kaduna State Emergency Board is always there. Ministry of Health also stations health workers to provide testing and whatever medical services that they required.
“This is important because apart from COVID, there may be other health issue associated with the displacement. For example, there may be pregnant women, children and people with disability. Don’t also forget that palliative is continuous support by the Kaduna State Government”, she said.
Perhaps, the commissioner was talking about a few formal IDPs camps in the state. Following the school reopening, many IDPs who were hitherto sought refuge in some of the public schools have to find their way out and give room for children to learn after months of lockdown orchestrated by the COVID-19 safety measures.
For example, even before COVID-19, so many people were displaced at Kasuwan Magani in Kajuru local government area of Kaduna state by the communal crisis that had led to the loss of lives, properties and desertion of several ancestral homes.
According to locals, Rimau village has several IDPs who have been integrated into it without humanitarian support from the government as seen in other climes. The people here live from ground to mouth with no hope of tomorrow let alone of observing COVID-19. Today’s survival is in thing here. Food for tomorrow is also a dream here which sometimes, come to reality with philanthropist and NGOs eventually becoming answers – health and nutrition issues are stories not told.
One would expect that IDPs in villages like Rimau to venture into agriculture for sustainability, but, going to farms is a big security risk due to continuous nefarious activities of armed men terrorising the forests and farmlands in several communities in Kaduna.
Rimau is located a few kilometres from Kasuwan Magani, Kajuru local government area of Kaduna State, a community that has become a haven for many of the displaced persons affected by various disasters that have happened in the Southern part of Kaduna, within the last few decades.
On Saturday, April 10, 2021, an NGO, Bridge That Gap Initiative, commissioned a Skills Acquisition Hub in memory of the abducted and murdered traditional father, of Adaraland His Royal Highness, Raphael Maiwada Galadıma, to reduce the integrated IDPs from falling into a long-term dependency on outside aid during their trying times.
The Hub is to provide displaced women with various skills such as sewing, climate-smart agriculture techniques (vertical suck farming), soap and vaseline making among others with 200 households expected to benefit indirectly from the first year which commenced immediately after the unveiling of the project with the training of thirty (30) women.
Founder of the NGO, Gloria Kasang Bulus, said the decision to set up the Skill Acquisition Hub in Rimau became necessary to ameliorate the suffering of the people in Rimau as one of the villages that now house the IDPs who are now integrated into the community.
“These IDPs have lost their sources of livelihood, as a result of the conflicts which have adversely affected their daily economic activities. So, a large percentage of the women are idle, losing valuable and productive time. These displacements have also made the women over-dependent on their surviving males for survival.
The Districts Head of Kufana, in Kajuru, Chief Titus Dauda, who is among the distressed traditional leaders in trouble Kajuru commended the NGO for coming at a time the people were losing hope and feeling neglected.
“Your NGO has raised the hope of the people, we will forever be grateful and ever ready to support you and ensure this project is well secured and achieved all its goals while we do all we can to keep to COVID-19 guidelines and protocols in our interest,” the traditional father. pledged.