Pastor Solomon Folorusho is the Coordinator, Internally Displaced Persons camp located at Uhogua in Ovia local Government Area of Edo State, in this interview with some journalists, he spoke on how they are taking care of IDPs and preparing them for life after camp among others. Our Man, Ikhili Monday Ebalu was there.
How is the IDPs preparing for life after camp because they will return to their community once it is safe?
The programme here is the same as the one we have with our families and children. So we plan everything for them by helping those who learn a trade to take off. At the moment, the women and others have learnt tailoring and what they are doing now is to mend cloths for others in the camp and also sew new ones, then when we have money, we pay them for the job done and they are saving the money hoping that some day they will go back to their communities and start life afresh. Also, 18 years and above inmates have little farms which they use to practice. We are doing this so that those who want to venture into farming can do so after the camp. This maize you are seeing here was harvested from their farms.
The inmates at the camp were initially above 1000 but now they are over 2000, why the increase?
I don’t know where you got your information, as at today, I can’t give the exact number, it has always been about 2000 plus. At a point the number reduced because some persons were reunited with their families but at some point new persons, especially orphans came who were reunited with their brothers in the camp here. So we are still within the same figures. Right now, Red Cross is here because of the children whose parents were discovered in other camps, they trace them down here so as to help them reunite with their families.
Why are you taking responsibility of the children instead of the federal government as in other camps and what effort has the FG made to ensure their welfare here?
I want to thank the federal government for what they have done here and in other IDPs camps across the country. If they are not supporting us, you would not have seen soldiers and other security agents here. They are putting up an industrial borehole here though it is not functioning now. Edo state government is also helping us, the immediate past governor, Adams Oshiomhole built eight class rooms and furnish them for us, and from time to time they come to intervene but we need more of their intervention. We heard that federal government do more in other IDP’s camp, so we want them to replicate it here. We heard of victim support fund in the area of Education but we need such support here. We are grateful for what they have done for us but we need more.
What was the students’ enrolment in recent West Africa School Certificate Examination (WASCE) and National Examination Council (NECO) in the camp?
About 200 students enrolled for this year’s WAEC and NECO but it was not as good as that of last year, in the sense that not many of them made their papers including Mathematics and English language. Most of them had five credits pass either without English language or Mathematics. About 15 students who have complete results including Mathematics and English Language are currently processing their post UME. Those that sat for Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB) are over 200.
In which universities are they seeking admission?
They choose University of Benin, Nsukka, Lagos and Maiduguri Universities; we gave them the free will to choose any university of their choice. The courses they applied for ranged from Medicine, Law, BioChemistry, Electrical Engineering, Nursing, Environmental Science among others.
Some of the IDPs are already in higher institution, how do you finance their education?
We fund their education from donations. What we do is that when people donate money to us and give us the free hands to utilize it, we share the money into education, health, food, transportation, security among others, so by the time we are able to secure admission for them, we spent from the education pulse. So, we sustain their education through donations. Everything we are doing is just by faith, we are only trusting God because we don’t really have one source that we can say this group or this person will finance their education but we are hoping that the scenario would change this time.
The IDPs were affected by the Boko Haram crisis in the North East and would go back to their community as soon as the coast is clear so what is the purpose of catering for their education?
If I was the one who gave birth to them, will I not take care of their needs? It is my responsibility as a Nigerian, Christian and as a fellow human being to care of those in need. I am standing to mobilise others to partner with us in taking care of them because I cannot do it without the support of others. There are many people who are helping the IDPs that I don’t even know; I believe that the people who are giving a helping hand would want to see their progress just like their own children. It is the efforts of Nigerians, Christian, Muslims and even non-believers, government and all persons who love to see the good of others that the camp is making progress. We are currently funding about 45 IDPs in various higher institutions of learning across the country. Some of them are children of widows. They are in Maiduguri, Jos and Nasarawa Universities and Rahmat Polytechnic among others.
What is the monetary implication, like how much spent so far?
I don’t want to scare people. The best way you can see the value of what you spent is in the good of the people, otherwise it is meaningless. It is in millions, I don’t know how God does it but He is using people, especially journalists who help us to let others know of our plight.
A health center was recently commissioned in the camp, what are the challenges in it at present?
We have two doctors, two Pharmacists and a Nurse from the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC). We also employed another Nurse and we are responsible for paying their salary. So we have the challenge of funds to pay them as well as teaching staff in our school and the securities. We also have the challenge of drugs and equipment at the center. But so far so good we have a health center built by an NGO, there are beds but other equipment are not yet there. Like in other IDPs camps federal government bears the responsibilities.
Sometimes ago, some people like the Speaker of the House of Representatives pledge to assist in the education of the inmates, how far have they gone?
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Yakubu Dogara, has tried for us because he has paid part of the fees we owe. I want to thank him because what he sent to us actually helped us to solve some of the debt we owe. I know he has a lot in his hand because he is attending to various states but we still call on him to use his good office to do more for us. Even the Speaker of Edo State House of Assembly also promised us then, though he is not the speaker now as two other speakers have come after him but I hope they will redeem the promise.
What is your appeal to the public?
Right now, students are beginning a new session and all are going to new classes, so we need textbooks as well as money to pay our teachers. Also we need food stuff so that the inmates would have something to eat.