Theirs is a case of double jeopardy. First, they were sacked from their villages by terrorists and emptied into crowded Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps where they are exposed to various challenges. Secondly, as they wallow in poverty, a deadly pandemic, COVID-19 erupted and they are praying fervently for the disease not to land in their domain.
While they battle the twin horror of social insecurity and hunger, IDPs in Abuja are screaming for attention as the Federal Government, corporate bodies and philanthropists share various stimulus packages for the vulnerable.
At various camps in the FCT, dilapidated infrastructure are common sight. COVID-19 rule of maintaining social distancing is a ruse at the IDP camps because over 2,000 persons are competing for space to sleep as they lay cramped on the floor like noodles. This puts millions of displaced persons in a dangerous position and the situation is worsened by the fact that they are a community with insufficient sensitisation on COVID-19.
Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Mrs Sadiya Umar-Farouk, said IDPs may never return to their ancestral homes, going by the plans to have them permanently resettled in the FCT. But sadly, they are not in the scheme with regards to giving economic palliatives to the vulnerable in FCT.
On Good Friday, IDPs stormed Our Lady Queen of Nigeria Catholic Pro-Cathedral, Garki, Abuja, demanding to be fed. They also begged government and benevolent individuals to extend the palliatives to them.
Coincidentally, a fashion designer, UT Rone, heard their plea and brought gifts for IDPs in Durumi camp: “I came to lend a hand to this community (IDPs in Durumi Camp) because, I feel this period a lot of people are going through a lot of things. There is lockdown in Abuja and there is no funds for people to go to the market because they are not making money.
“I thought I should come and give my widow’s mite and lend a hand to my brothers and sisters here and see what I can do to support them with foodstuff and other things that they need to stay afloat. This is my first time of doing this since the lockdown started. I have been to two places to distribute my own kind of palliatives earlier. I have always been doing orphanages before now. Their condition is pathetic.
“The thing with this kind of situation is that when you come out and look at things you will better understand what people are going through. Sometimes you cannot imagine because you have it fairly good and so you do not know what God is doing for you. But when you come out and see what others are going through then you appreciate what others are going through.
“My heart is torn but I still feel everything is going to be alright. I brought things for breakfast basically, bread, tea, sugar and milk. In other places I had shared bags of rice, tomatoes, onions and seasoning.”
However, in terms of COVID-19 awareness, Mr Ibrahim Aliyu, Coordinator of IDPs in Abuja described it as zero: “We have not seen any official from the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs which is saddled with a lot of responsibilities at this point in time. None from the Commission of Refugees and Migrants, none from the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation that supervises the intervention agencies, neither have we seen anyone from FEMA nor the FCT Minister visit the IDPs.
“We have been able to sensitise ourselves, families, neighbours and the host community based on what we have heard from radio.”
The Public Relations Officer (PRO) of IDP camp in Abuja: Mr Chakule Lawal, of Malaysia IDP camp said: “Some officials were here with liquid soap but our people have not put it to use. We were given two buckets one for water and another where to wash our hands and sanitize but we were not told what to do with it. Those that came said they were on their way to other camps. The people said they will not use it because they are not sure of the source.
“Apart from lack of awareness on the coronavirus, we have not received palliatives of any kind. It is unfortunate that no food, medication, no sanitizer from quarter, none of the 18 camps in Abuja has received any kind gesture.”