Boko Haram: When IDPs Prefer To Live In Camps

By James BWALA Life in most of the Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps in Maiduguri, the hotbed of the Boko Haram insurgency has been in its lowest ebb. Gloom, anxiety, self pity fill the faces of people in these camps owing to the fact that they miss their homes so much but could not return. Reason is so obvious; it is not safe yet to return home. Aishatu Audu, an IDP, who also helps other women in cooking at the Dalori camp, told National Trail that life has lost its meaning because people are no longer their brothers’ keepers. She said she has been praying for peace to return to her village ‘Shettimari,’ a place synonymous with her 46 years sojourn on earth. According to her, until Boko Haram struck she never knew suffering, as all she does is farming and taking care of her children. “We do not have money neither do we have palaces. Our village has no electricity, but we lived happily in our round-hut with our children and they play happily before us. We never knew that people can kill other people for no just cause. But here we are with dashed hope. Our children, some of them are nowhere, husbands have been killed. All of us here are mostly widows; all we could do is waiting day and night for what government is promising. We really want to return to our once happy homes,” she said. In the camp along Konduga Road, government has evacuated over 300 people – children and the aged – from Bama Local Government Area. People from this area fear that the war against Boko Haram insurgents may just have begun and their hope of returning home soon may not be possible. Speaking on the recent return to Maiduguri of some of the IDPs who were return back to Bama and why she was still in Maiduguri, Aishatu said: ‘Bama is second home to Boko Haram like Gwoza, which is their former caliphate. I believe the evacuation of the remaining people in Bama to Maiduguri is the best government has done, but returning them is the wrong some people cannot forgive government. Nothing seemed to be going on in those areas, there is fear that just as the Boko Haram returned to Gworza and killed many people when the people are about packaging themselves again, they may likely head for Bama also with a mission of reclaiming it from the military forces. If they did come back, the lives of these innocent children – who are mostly orphans – and the aged who could not run out of Bama due to their aged would be in jeopardy. So, I think that informed the reason why some people desire to return among those who were said to have return. “I appreciate government for the efforts to evacuate them back, but they did not seek the consent of the people. When they first evacuated them they said it was because the lives of innocent citizens are in danger. But those who went back and return said their lives is better here in Maiduguri and they feel more safe here than back in Bama.”
She said although the evacuation is a burden on government, it was necessary if the effort of government towards ending the Boko Haram crises is anything to go by. Speaking on the problems they are faced with in the camp, Aisha said “Our major problem after food is where to sleep as there are inadequate bed spaces in the camp. Because of the poor sanitary condition, we are also exposed to mosquitoes, especially women and children, and we also have inadequate mosquito nets. Even when few mosquito nets are provided, there are no places to tie them because we sleep on the floor,” she said. Aisha also complained of lack of drugs at the camp’s clinics, disclosing that the only drug they get was paracetamol. “No matter the complaints, all you get is
paracetamol and when we go to hospitals in the town, they ask for money, which we don’t have,” he explained. But she said, for most of them, going back to their homes is like asking them to go back and have a date with death. She said, they prefer the camp for now because even when they cannot afford three square meal at least they can sleep with their eyes close because of the presence of the security operatives within the metropolis. According to her, those who were evacuated back home and return said, those areas are not habitable. Recalling when they were first brought to Maiduguri, Aisha said, “The children and the aged have suffered much at the hands of Boko Haram before soldiers took control of the local government. Some of them watched their children being slaughtered before their eyes but could not do anything. They have seen horror and lived day by day suffering at the hands of Boko Haram without help. Some of them died because of lack of care, and now that the war against Boko Haram is becoming a reality towards bringing it to an end. I think these people deserved to have peace at least and not to be faced with another bloody situation.” National Trail also observed that some of the victims who are currently housed at the 200 housing estate along Gubio road have been getting visitors regularly from well- meaning Nigerians and NGOs who brought food and medicine for them due to their conditions. Some of them who recently return back to camp said, they return owing to lack of food and fear of the unknown.


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