•Abuja IDPs cry for help
By Magnus Eze
The over 10,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), recently alleged that some people were in the habit of making money in their name.
Their position corroborated an earlier alarm raised by the Borno State Governor, Kashim Shettima, that some non-governmental organisations (NGOs) were defrauding foreign philanthropists by appealing for funds under the guise of trying to help IDPs in the state.
Coordinator of the Abuja camp, Mr. Idriss Ibrahim-Haliru, and Woman Leader, Mrs. Liyatu Ayuba, poured their hearts out when officials of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), the National Commission for Refugees and Ghana High Commission visited the camp March 18, 2017.
They gave pathetic details of how some persons in the name of wanting to help them, instead, capitalise on their plight to defraud unsuspecting, well-meaning persons and organisations.
Ibrahim-Haliru said: “Some of them come forward in the name of helping us, they would go and garner money from people, they would come and take our photographs, video records and go, we won’t see the again.
“We have one that abandoned this school after garnering millions of naira and she left the country; another group took us to the Millennium Park, staged an event, raised funds and materials. I know how many bags of clothes that were donated and food items. From that day, they refused to pick our calls anymore, and it was with much pressure that about seven days after the programme that they released some materials to us.
“I know what I am saying; so many groups have used and dumped us.”
He submitted that it was a pure case of insensitivity and heartlessness for the founder of a certain NGO, who purportedly raised money for the IDPs, to withdraw teachers in the make-shift school within the camp.
“She partnered with some people who provided one or two classrooms, she brought in that container there. She used the IDPs to be raising money; but she withdrew all the teachers that were teaching the children here in October 2015,” he said.
The camp coordinator disclosed that the withdrawal of the teachers for over one year has affected the school as the number of pupils has dropped drastically from over 300 to about 70 in recent times.
He added that the situation was worsened by the volunteer teachers who had also stopped coming to work: “I observed last week that about 70 per cent of the children don’t come to school anymore. We had over 300 pupils, but if you come now you can’t see up to 70 pupils.”
The septuagenarian insisted that the trend of using and dumping IDPs must stop because, as already traumatised people, it makes them angrier.
He appealed to the UNHCR and the National Commission for Refugees to come to their aid by ensuring that the culprits are brought to book.
On the alleged film-making rip-off, Mrs. Ayuba lamented how they laboured at various locations during the shooting of the film after a stressful auditioning session but were not given anything by those behind the project.
She recalled that some other NGOs had visited the camp and taken photographs of tattered and malnourished children, deployed them for sponsorships from international organisations, only to make away with their collections.
“They got financial sponsorship from more than 10 banks and companies, yet they didn’t pay us, the actors, up till now. They keep telling us ‘we are coming,’ since Christmas.”
The woman leader who doubles as the only traditional birth attendant in the camp, also complained that women in the camp were neither registered for ante-natal nor pre-natal health care; adding that the area also deserved attention.
Director of the film production project, whose name was given as Mr. Emmanuel, told Daily Sun on telephone that he was shocked that an empowerment programme to help the IDPs was being misconstrued as a means of exploitation: “I don’t know why they are thinking this way; the woman leader called me that she wanted to pay her children’s school fees and I told her I was in Calabar but will come to see them when I am back.
“When I met them, I told them that what we were doing for them was an empowerment programme; other people paid for the training. And I said, as part of my contribution to the nation, let me select a few of them and put them through in film-making, teach them acting; some of them can’t even speak English but we taught them all these. My idea was to teach them how they can use acting and entertainment to sustain themselves. Some of them said that they can sing; where did I go wrong?
“But I will see them when I come back to Abuja. Everybody has issues; everybody is an IDP, we all have things that we are contending with. I’ve not solved my problems, but they want me to come and solve theirs.”
Politics of ‘no IDP camp’ in FCT
IDPs in the Durumi camp in Abuja have wondered why government was claiming that there are no IDPs in the FCT, starting from the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan and now the President Muhammadu Buhari government.
They said it was erroneous for government not to recognise them, yet wives of people in government visit the camps occasionally to make donations.
Daily Sun gathered that there are more than 10,500 IDPs in various camps within the FCT. There are over 2,700 inmates in Durumi while the Wasa camp in Waru Ward of Abuja Municipal Area Council boasts of over 5,000 IDPs. The rest are camped at Kuchingoro, along Airport Road.
Ibrahim-Haliru argued that no country has suffered the kind of insurgency suffered by Nigeria and remained free of displaced persons and refugees.
According to him, those at the helm of affairs are merely playing with words and pretending over the issue: “Why should someone say that there is no IDP camp in Abuja, but there is IDP settlement? This is all about semantics, playing with words. Your wife will buy 20 bags of rice and come here with all television cameras, yet the husband will say there is no IDP camp in Abuja. Should the IDP be stigmatised by the Federal Government? We are being stigmatised. If you say there is no IDP camp, it means you are not encouraging people to come and donate to us.”
They commended the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) for catering for millions of their kith and kin in the North-East, but maintained that the over 10,000 IDPs in Abuja deserved equal attention and care: “We eat three times a day; go to toilet, sleep, dream, wake up. If America can go to war because of one person, why shouldn’t Nigeria go to war because of over 10,500 persons?”
The IDPs in Abuja, therefore, appealed to President Buhari and his wife, as father and mother of the nation, not to stigmatise them.
According to the camp coordinator, the impression the Jonathan administration gave Nigerians that there were no IDPs in Abuja, which the Buhari government also adopted, was not the best.
He explained that they have forgiven Buhari for neglecting them all these while “because he has tried to win the war. But we are not happy at all that the Federal Emergency Management Agency, meant to handle emergency in the FCT, is not doing anything for us.”
Deputy Representative, UNHCR in Nigeria, Brigitte Eno, who witnessed the donation of relief materials to IDPs at the Durumi camp by the Ghana High Commission as part of activities marking the country’s 60th Independence anniversary recently, explained that the agency had not done much for IDP camps within the FCT because of government’s policy of not recognising such camps.
She, however, noted that the inmates also deserved equal attention as their counterparts in the North-East: “You did not see much of us here because of the government policy that they didn’t want any camp around Abuja and any attention to the camps around Abuja will lead to some issues with the government. But we have to accept that people are here and they are equally displaced like those in the North-East. So, there is need for attention, need for solution, just like those in the North-East.”
Similarly, Director of Refugees, National Commission for Refugees, Amina Ibrahim, assured the IDPs that the commission was aware of their plight and would soon visit them.