From Timothy Olanrewaju, Maiduguri
Malam Abubakar’s tea joint at the Teachers’ Estate Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp, located some two kilometres to the business district in the Borno State capital, Maiduguri, was a beehive of activities this early morning. A couple of men sat on a sofa adjacent to a raised platform that serves as the improvised tea table for Abubakar’s customers. Not deterred by the wintry, hazy weather, blowing dust across the expanse of land that has now become an abode for over 3, 000 displaced Boko Haram victims, some men also joined the rendezvous few minutes later.
Beside the tea joint is another table where lots of consumables, such as juice, can/baked foods, biscuit, beverages, sweets, among others, were displayed. At the western side of the camp are hordes of women, selling all manner of items ranging from condiments to local spices, incense (turaren wuta), nuts and blended grains. Such trading points are common sights in most IDPs camps in Borno. No doubt, trading activities are becoming increasingly popular among displaced persons in the camps.
Engaging in trading activities in the camp is a way of tackling idleness, Yusuf Bukar told the reporter during a visit to one of the camps. “Most of us haven’t been doing anything for over one year now that we’ve been here. We can’t farm and it isn’t good for us to be idle,” he said.
But how did they get the start-up capital for their businesses? Yusuf said many of them were lucky to have escaped Boko Haram’s guns with their little savings.
“Some of us kept our money when Boko Haram were forcing people to donate for their cause in Bama. We couldn’t buy anything with our money and when we arrived Maiduguri camp, the money became useful to us,” he said. He also explained that some were given money by their relations in the capital. “Some people used the money given to them by their relations when they arrived at the camp,” he added.
Malam Muhammadu Jeujiri sells firewood at the Dalori camp. The father of three says he makes between N200 and N500 daily. Where did he get the firewood, especially as security measures would not permit IDPs to go out of their camps? His answer was instructive: “I get my firewood from the stem and roots of trees already cut off in the camp,” he said, adding that he sells the pieces of the firewood to IDPs to burn their incense or cook.
“I use the income from my sales to buy few needs for my family because the foods we get here are hardly adequate for us,” he told Daily Sun in front of his tent-house.
An official of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) said the IDPs were encouraged to engage in legal economic activities at the camp. “We encourage them to undertake legal business in the camp rather than being idle because they’ve lost everything,” the source, a camp official told Daily Sun on condition of anonymity. The official said business activities at the camp were part of the “re-integration and rehabilitation” process.
“It is better they are doing something meaningful so that they can continue same thing or improve when they go back to their communities since they may not have the benefit of provision of free foods by government when they leave the camp,” the source said.