From Romanus Ugwu, Abuja
Karamajiji is one of the biggest slums within the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja. It is ocated behind the Military Cemetery, a few kilometres to the City Gate, and home to the Boko Haram Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). It is also a territory with the highest concentration of physically challenged persons.
Reputed as home for People Living with Disabilities (PWDs), Karamajiji is even derogatorily nicknamed Disable Colony. Right from the entrance to the settlement, visitors and dwellers are greeted with countless number of disabled persons helplessly kept along the road to test the generosity of the dwellers and visitors in attracting arms.
Karamajiji is an Abuja enclave, housing the poorest of the poor and the highest concentration of the downtrodden of the city. It is a mini Nigeria ghetto with dwellers from every part of the country cohabiting. Igbo, Hausa, Yoruba, Gbagi, Igbira, the original inhabitants and many other ethnic nationalities are not in short demand there.
Perhaps, due to its proximity to the city centre, Karamajiji surprisingly houses all manners of persons, ranging from civil servants, business persons, motorcycle operators, responsible and irresponsible beautiful Abuja ladies, robbers and fraudsters presumed to be terrorising residents of Abuja and environs.
Living mostly in makeshift shanties and bungalows, it is a community that never goes to bed as it bubbles with all kinds of nightlife with drinking joints and religious activities. It is also home for consumption of all manners of drugs, crime and criminality. In fact, like a city on the hill, Karamajiji has become a melting point for persons with all kinds of philanthropy, trooping in to offer humanitarian services.
But it is a one-stop shop community. Nothing is actually in short demand. Shops, bar joints, auto mechanic/spare parts, taking care of the car owners at the mercies of the deplorable state of the roads, beauty salons, foodstuffs and fruits markets, and expectedly betting outlets for gamblers, all dotted every part of the community.
Karamajiji is a settlement where all manners of hard drugs can easily be sourced, bought and consumed. It has the notoriety of shielding criminal elements. It is an enclave where many criminal operations are hatched.
The poverty level is evidently soaring that most helpless poverty-stricken dwellers now daily depend on such charitable gestures for survival. Withdrawing such altruistic visits by certain individuals and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) means passing death sentence on most dwellers especially the physically challenged and those at the IDPs camp.
Chairman of the Disabled Colony, Ibrahim Sadiq, told Daily Sun that the current harsh economic situation has made living very unbearable: “It has not been as bad we are experiencing it today.” He lamented that the biting hunger has forced the over 10,000 dwellers to resolve to regulate the number of births in recent times, urging the government to send relief materials to them:
“I am among the first settlers in this community. I am from Kano State and have spent 10 out of the 12 years existence of this community. I can confidently inform you that the biggest problem the occupants of this community are passing through today is hunger and almost total lack of social amenities. Again, the philanthropists coming to give us help are drying us by the day.
“With severe hunger in the land, we don’t need to be told to regulate and control our birth. We cannot be looking for how to feed and be producing children. My appeal to the government is to empower those living with disability with skills training and provision of start-up funds to change the narrative for them.
“Yes, we don’t experience robbery attacks since they won’t get anything from us. However, we have a vigilance group charged with the responsibility of protecting us from any form of physical attack since we are defenceless. We want to beg for more help because the camp keeps expanding. We are all potential disabilities because of our involvement in various forms of accidents. I am a victim of polio which made me lose one of my legs.”
The situation of hopelessness and despondence is almost the same if not even worse at the IDPs camp in the Karamajiji community. Chairman of the IDPs camp, Abubakar, said hostilities confronting them have made them miss their homes in Borno State: “Our situation here has been anything but hellish.
“It is not true that the situation is normal back home in Borno State. Boko Haram attacks are still going on in the North East. The truth of the matter is that most of the areas are still under the control of the Boko Haram. We cannot return to surrender ourselves to Boko Haram to be killed.
“If the home is safe, what am I doing in Abuja here? We are going through many challenges at our IDPs camp here especially in the areas of accommodation because we still live in batches, we also have problems of joblessness, lack of healthcare and feeding.
“Sleeping during the rainy season has been hellish. Most of us have pneumonia, asthma. We have lost over 30 persons in the last few years, including the over 15 children we lost last year. We also had a problem of robbery attacks until we formed ourselves into vigilante groups to watch over ourselves especially at night.
“We have spent over seven years now since we fled Borno State due to Boko Haram attack. They had attacked our communities repeatedly, leaving many dead and we don’t have any other option than to run away from our village, Konduga. I trekked inside Sambisa forest, which 90 per cent is under my local government area for three days inside the bush while escaping Boko Haram.
“I lost two of my brothers murdered before me, lost two of my nephews, my sister is still missing with her husband and three children till today. We don’t know whether they are alive or dead since Boko Haram took them away.
“We have followed every rescue of persons from the custody of the insurgents by the military to know if they are among. We have heard several stories including that they killed her husband and married her. It has been four years of fruitless search for her and her family.”
On why marriage is still contracted in his IDPs camp in the face of the harsh economic realities, Abubakar explained: “Many of them lost their husbands and wives during the attacks. Since it was difficult for them to stay alone, we had to organise a small ceremony for them to remarry. Others that have come of age have to also get married. You know nature abhors vacuum.
“There is no better place than home. I am missing many things at home, my farming, the varieties of food, the culture and every other thing. If my hometown is safe, I don’t have any business staying in Abuja. I am not happy facing these new challenges. As a farmer I want to return to my all year round farm.”
Confirming the attacks on the IDPs camp, Abubakar wondered what the attraction from the robbers was, adding that they have been forced to deploy the services of vigilante to stop the increasing spate of the attacks.
Succour came their way when Rochas Care commissioned a Skill Acquisition Centre and offered scholarships to the indigent students. Senator Rochas Okorocha said: “It is built by Rochas Care. It is a reach out and touch programme we do in rural areas to uplift the lives of the downtrodden and the poor of the poor like in Karamajiji.
“We have commissioned a skill acquisition centre built in their honour to train and empower them on skills like computer, tailoring and salon.
“We have realised that somehow we are not aware that the majority of our people living in the rural areas are suffering there. Rochas Foundation is breaking the jinx by reaching out to these rural dwellers to touch the lives of the poor people.”