Minna — The plight of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) across the country has continued to assume worrisome dimensions with the rainy season wreaking havoc on their dwelling places. Our correspondents in Benue and Niger states in this report shed light on how these displaced people are affected by the rainy season.
For Mary Shiadon, a displaced mother of five at the Ortese camp in Guma Local Government Area of Benue State, the situation is disheartening since the rainy season began.
She relies solely on her meagre income from sales of firewood fetched from the bush to feed the family and to regularly repair the tent made of brooms/sticks and mosquito nets.
The woman, who had lived with her husband and children in the camp since in April 2021, hails from Nyiev Council ward of Guma, said that the only menial job to depend on was fetching of woods.
“Some of us break woods sourced from nearby bushes which we sell as firewood, then use the proceeds to buy leather to cover our tents.
“But, as the rains persist, rashes are all over our children’s bodies because of the poor condition of the tents. It’s a sad situation and we don’t know how much longer we will be here to cope with it. I have no doubt that if they (government) give us security today, we will be glad to return to our homes,” she said.
Similarly, an elderly widow, Rebecca Anum, whose husband was hacked to death by the invaders who sacked her entire village in Yogbo over a year ago, also sells firewood within the camp for survival.
Anum, who at the time of our correspondent’s visit, was relishing a bowl of sorghum meal with few other women in front of her makeshift tent, lamented that the rainy season has brought untold hardship to them.
“My five children, as a result, have left to Abuja to eke a living. Perhaps, that would lighten our suffering in this un-spacious tent,” Anum added.
Corroborating what the women said, the Ortese IDP Camp Chairman, Hur Awabo, said the major problem in the camp now was hunger.
One of the uncompleted Buildings occupied by Fulani IDPs in Three-Arm Zone, Eastern By-Pass Minna
He said, “There is real hunger. That’s our immediate problem. Our tents are spoiled. Our challenge is completely in the hands of the federal government. If they say it is enough; then surely, they will put an end to this nonsense.”
Also, Ogete Samuel, who has lived with five members of his family including his wife for two years now at the IDPs camp situated along Uniagric Road in North Bank, Makurdi, said their challenges were being heightened by the rainy season.
He said, “It’s not easy coping during the rainy season with this kind of tents. We only manage standing in the structure when it starts raining. Some standing in their tents still use leather to protect themselves. Some tents are not even good enough so we are often drenched whenever it rains.
“Even the menial jobs are no longer forthcoming. We used to go out for manual labour on farms when we are hired for farming work and get little money to sustain ourselves.”
Orduen Fabian, who also has a family of seven in the same camp for two years lamented the extent of suffering since the rains began.
“We are suffering because of this rain as our places of sleep are not well organised. We survive by going out to look for menial jobs in nearby farms but now we are afraid of going out to look for anything because of crisis everywhere,” Fabian added.
On his part, Yev Gabriel, the Uniagric Road camp commandant, explained that the situation had been so bad as he stressed that they had been subjected to a very difficult living condition though still better than being killed in their homes.
He posited, “It’s terrible but we are surviving. Menial jobs are also not available anywhere in this rainy season and we are scared of going out due to the security threat in our country. We survive by individuals’ and organisations’ philanthropy. Some can’t even afford one meal a day.
“The IDPs are multiplying because of the incessant attacks every now and then. In my camp, we used to be a total of 3787 households but now we are over 4000 households. The population before was over 7000 but now we are up to 9000.”
The situation of IDPs in Niger State is not different. As the rains intensify, the living condition of the IDPs seem to have deteriorated, coupled with the difficulty in going out to do menial jobs in order to put food on their tables.
When it rains during the day, some of them who engage in illegal gold mining say they take cover under trees until the rain stops. Majority of them at the gold mining site are women and children since their men had returned homes to engage in farming.
The IDPs also have to contend with mosquito bites as virtually all the camps and uncompleted buildings where they live have no doors and windows to control the influx of mosquitoes at night. Sadly, they have no treated mosquito nets.
More so, some of these women who struggle to make ends meet as artisanal miners say they return home most of the time with as little as N200 daily despite the tedious nature of the work they do.
Daily Trust Saturday also gathered that more IDPs, including Fulani from Kontagora and Mariga LGAs, have continued to relocate to Minna due to continuous invasion of their settlements and communities by the bandits.
One of the Fulani IDPs from Rijiyyan-Daji, Kontagora Local Government Area, Lami Musa, who was found alongside dozens of IDP women at a mining site in Minna, said they arrived Minna two weeks ago, due to continuous invasion of their settlements by the bandits.
“Everybody had to run. They attack us almost every day. Even farmers in communities where we settled all ran away. We learnt about mining when we arrived in Minna because feeding is very difficult for us. If not for the situation, what will a Fulani woman do with mining of gold? But we have no choice. The uncompleted building where we stay has no windows and doors but we have no choice,” she said.
A widow, Maryam Isyaku, from Rafi Local Government Area whose husband and four children were killed by bandits, said they were living in a very difficult situation.
Isyaku said, “The room in which we live now has no concrete floor; it is built on a swampy area. Sometimes because of rain, you see our mats wet and yet we manage it. The roof is also leaking and we couldn’t rent a befitting house to stay in. I am not into any business because of lack of capital. As for menial jobs, we are strangers; we don’t know where to find any. I now live with eight children; I cry day and night thinking of the future of these children.”
Another widow, Hafsat Abubakar, whose husband was also killed by bandits, said she was into bean cake and masa business due to lack of menial jobs but decry low patronage, adding that, “I started this business after we were displaced out of necessity because to feed and pay house rent became difficult for us. Recently, we were nearly sent packing by our landlord until someone came to our rescue and helped us pay. We sit here watching the wonders of the world with expectations that God will intervene one day.”
Shehu Ibrahim, one of the IDPs in Maikunkele, Bosso Local Government Area, lamented government’s neglect of their plight without any humanitarian support.
“While we are battling with the bandits as internally displaced persons, flood has ravaged our homes. All we planted – yam, maize, guinea corn, were washed away by flood. We were also affected by the construction of Zungeru Hydropower Dam, but nobody came to our aid. Our houses, worth between N2m and N10m have all been pulled down by flood due to excessive rainfall. As we are now at the IDP Camp, we won’t be able to return home. For three years, the government has not come to our aid with anything.
“We now live in rented houses. We face a lot of harassment from our landlords. We don’t have anything to do and the situation is worse during this rainy season. We now live like orphans begging to eat,” he said.
Abdulmalik Ibrahim said “we are homeless, we are farmless, we have nothing to do. It is people in the neighbourhood where we live as IDPs that assist us with some money to buy drugs if we fall sick.”
Similarly, Yahaya Usman, an IDP from Shiroro Local Government Area who lives in a rented house in Maitumbi area of Minna, said before the rainy season, “Some of us slept outside, but with the rain now, about 10 of us sleep in a 10ft room. We packed ourselves in a room because I can’t afford to rent more than one room. We are into artisanal mining to feed.”
Another IDP, Aisha Sanusi, told Daily Trust Saturday that “We are into mining to feed. Where do we get menial jobs? The people who live in Minna don’t have any jobs; where do you expect us as visitors to find menial jobs other than illegal mining?”
Meanwhile, the IDPs in Government Secondary School Zumba, Shiroro also lamented that they go through trauma each time rain falls, especially during the day when students are in schools.
Mubarak Danladi, one of the IDPs there, told our correspondent that “whenever it rains during the day, we manage the veranda. From morning till evening, we stay outside because of students. So, if the rail falls, we remain outside until students close from the school.”
The IDPs decried lack of menial jobs to do even as they are faced with hunger and poverty. They have also called for humanitarian support from well-meaning individuals while appealing to the government to do everything possible to enable them return home permanently.