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Published On: Thu, Nov 16th, 2017

Unending asylum: Refugees the world abandoned

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By Ochiaka Ugwu

Mohammed Adamu was a happy man living a quiet life until Boko Haram fighters raided his community of Chibok, a sleepy town in Borno State North East Nigeria. A settlement made popular when the dreaded Boko Haram terrorists stormed and kidnapped about 276 school girls on the Night of 14-15 April 2014.
The 40 year-old-trader who is taking temporary shelter in a makeshift camp in Kuchingoro settlement in Abuja said that his business of “Buying and Selling” in commodities was flourishing until that faithful evening on November 2014 when the Boko Haram terrorists raided the town from two sides.
Adamu (looking up) in an apparent bid to recollect the actual date the ugly incident happened in November said it was an experience he wouldn’t wish his enemies to even imagine let alone of experiencing.
Adamu, who is the unofficial Chairman of Kunchigoro IDPs’ camp, a camp that is located about four kilometers to Aso Rock, Nigeria’s seat of power lamented government neglect of the camp which he said was frustrating.
He even took a lash on the international community and donor agencies for turning their back on them while focusing all attention on North East States of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa living them to their fate.
His words, “I am at a loss on how humanity’s warm heart has suddenly turned cold. Imagine that the world has abandoned us; we are now refugees without refuge (almost crying). I wonder how long I will stay in this camp before going back to my sweet Chibok. I pray it happen soon, because I am home sick”.
It should be known that all donor agencies have relocated to North East where the insurgency is taking place leaving these helpless people to their fate.
On why he choose to come down to Abuja instead of staying in established camps in one of the North East States, Adamu said that the kind of destruction left behind by the raid in his community and what his eyes saw made him to conclude that it will be a matter of time for Boko Haram to conquer the whole of North East and institute Islamic caliphate because of their fire power.
“It was like a dream but the only difference was that I was awake while witnessing everything. I saw people killed like chicken without compunction by these terrorist. They are soulless as well as ungodly. Looting and killings were going on simultaneously without anybody or force to stop them. Blood flow freely and human beings were slaughtered like animals in my very face. I managed to escape with my family in the confusion by Allah’s help”.
On his plan to return home after both federal and Federal Capital Territory Authorities have asked them to go home or return to the established camps in North East, Adamu (looking frustrated) “How can one return to a place that suicide bombing has become a weekly occurrence and without any civil security in place? He asked rhetorically.
Also speaking, Istifanus Andrass, a 45 years old refugee from Gwoza Local Council of Borno State said the journey from the troubled North East area will ever remain green in his memory as he was passing dead bodies on the road when they were escaping.
“It happened very fast,” Andress, a farmer recounts. While the attack occurred on a Monday afternoon, his household stayed hidden till late in the night and ran through the bushes until they arrived a village, six kilometers from Gwoza.
They found safety in the embrace of sympathetic people. “They were very nice to us, they gave us food and received us with happiness” he says.
But his stay was brief in the town as Boko Haram again swept through the town after two months forcing Andress to migrate to Abuja where he considers a safe haven.
Anas Shehu said each of his four cows valued more than N100, 000 but he had to sell them at a giveaway price to reluctant buyers before fleeing the area.
He admitted that he is right now struggling to feed his family with what good spirited Nigerians give them in the camp.
Mindia John, another displaced person from Chibok a town popular for being the home of the abducted Chibok girls, recounted his experience on the way.
“Some cows were so exhausted that they lied along the road and refused to move.”
Another elderly cattle owner, James Kaigama, said he had three cows but he had to leave them behind before fleeing the area only to come here to face worse fate to the extent of not having a roof under his head.
Listening to the IDPs, who talked about their worsening condition, one could feel how they missed their homes. All IDPs and those who had their families with them looked under a lot of stress.
Many of them are being asked to return home where they face uncertain futures. The government has been drumming it that they should return home and live a settled life. But the reality is more multifaceted: civil security has not been restored; roads in and out are often still contested, as are the fields surrounding the towns. Many
buildings lie in ruins and, as a result, returnees are often forced to live in IDP camps even after they have nominally reached their hometown.
“No rational human being will jump from certainty to uncertainty. I have not seen such person in my life. And somebody wants me to return to where bullet and blood flow to no end” Grace James, a IDP from Bama noted.
Another disturbing situation is the plight of women and children in the camps. The children made up 50 percent of the population, but they live under harsh condition. The sanitation is poor and they school under inhuman condition.
Indeed, humanitarian organizations, donor agencies, Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), media and the world over have focused on the IDPs in established camps in the North East and some that are in Cameroun for international sympathy, but away from the media attention, thousands of others are outside the North East were the war is raging. In Abuja, Nigeria’s capital city, more than 15 154 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) are currently taking shelter in 30 camps scattered all over the territory.
The account of this worsening humanitarian crisis in these Abuja camps have been largely ignored by the media, whose attention has been focused on North East where the insurgency is highly intensified.
This was captured in a Data released by FCT Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the government agency saddled with the responsibility of managing displaced people from disaster occasioned by natural happenings in the territory. The study was conducted in 2016 and more people had come after that. The agency has refused to identify these centres as IDPs camp due to its inability to meet international standard.
Director-General of the Agency, Mr. Abbas Idris said in an exclusive interview that much of the people taking shelter at the camps were not victims of Boko Haram insurgency. He said that most of them were displaced by the current realty of economic downturn which made them to turn to the camps to gain from donations been given by good spirited individuals and cooperate bodies.
He noted that their investigations revealed that only about 1500 of them were directly escaping Boko Haram onslaught in North East which is about 10 percent of the IDPs.
He said the agency’s effort to take them back to an established camp in North East was aborted due to some circumstance he could not readily explain.
He said the agency was allocated N500 million from government last year for the welfare of the IDPs, saying that they could be able to access 70 percent of the allocation due to paucity of funds. He said that this is a far cry from the enormous responsibility these IDPs have posed to the agency.
Idris noted that not less than N1 billion is needed yearly to take care of these people.
Investigations have shown that Boko Haram still controls three Local Government Areas in Borno State which had prevented aide workers from supplying aide materials to people trapped in there. It was also estimated by Nigerian government that Boko Haram has killed over 20, 000 people since inception.
According to Global Terrorism Index published by the Institute for Economic and Peace (IEP), it showed that Boko Haram killed more people than Islamic State (IS) terrorist which the former pledged allegiance to.
A recent report released by International Organisation for Migration (IOM) shows that the situation is still dire, with 1.8 million people estimated to have been on the move at the end of 2016. It also stated that conflict and violence caused by Boko Haram insurgency make up more than 90 percent of displacements with 75 percent of IDPs living in host communities.
The fact remains that most of these people in the camp did not come by choice. They are people displaced by current realities of life. People who are fleeing famine and poverty to where they think there are windows of opportunities.
A migration expert, Mr. James John revealed that most of the people could as well be described as Economically Displaced Persons (EDPs) instead of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) given the fact that they were pushed by poverty in their locality and pulled by opportunity in Abuja
An Environmentalist, Mr. Yunusa Sule will rather blame climate change for escalation of Boko Haram insurgency and the migration of these people.
“In 1970, when I was working in Maiduguri, the Lake Chad had a lot of water in it. This made it a centre of activities for the millions of people inhabiting the area with people from Nigeria, Chad, Niger and Cameroun. You have fishermen, farmers, boat transporters, tourists and guides.
“These people were engaged by the Mega Chad as it was called then. But today, the Lake is now a ghost of its former self. The water has gone and has displaced these people who have had their source of livelihood from the lake. The farming, fishing, trading and boat transport communities were displaced. This no doubt gave rise to Boko Haram activities in the region” Sule who escaped to Abuja due to insurgency lamented.
Mohammed Bello, an affected person who is now residing with his family in Abuja blamed desertification for the insurgency and subsequent migration.
“Desert encroachment strongly displaced a lot of farmers in my locality of Kunduga, 25 kilometers from the South East of Maiduguri. It is disheartening to see your land turning to dust in your very eyes because of desertification. It means you may no longer farm within that locality.
“During my childhood, my mother will warn me not to near some
places that have now turned to desert due to high vegetation saying that it may be habouring reptiles of all kinds that may be harmful to human beings. But now, the wind and sand have taken over.
“You hardly see trees in my locality and grass no more grow like before, so most of my town men are going out to find grazing for cattle” he said.
Ibrahim Dauda Yahaya, a native of Yobe State said that most people in their clime are forced to migrate because they were pushed by desert.
Even before the insurgency, every time you see people migrate. They continue to leave in droves. Most people the land condition could not favour will always want to leave to a better place. The idea is to meet minimal living conditions for survival.
“Above all, the other side is always greener. To them most of these big cities like Abuja offer great hope for success and good life”.
Like most States in the Northern Nigeria that are at the mercy of environment, migration appears to be the only alternative for the inhabitants, unless something drastically is done to halt this danger posed by climate change.
According to United Nations (UN), over 50 million people could move from the decertified areas of sub-Sahara Africa towards North Africa and Europe by 2020 and land degradation affects 1.5 billion people worldwide.
Pushed by poverty, the desert and pulled by opportunity, more and more people like Mohammed Adamu, Istifanus Andrees will migrate to secure their future outside their community.

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