Boko Haram: Borno Needs Real Assistance For IDPs


SAN FRANCISCO, June 30, (THEWILL) – Many displaced residents of Borno State who had no hope of where the next meal would come from are now being fed by the State Government. However, with the present economic downturn, further assistance may be needed in order not to turn these displaced people into beggars on the streets. Michael Olukayode writes

Kolo Bukar, is a 39-year-old man, who sells groceries in a town in Borno State , and his humble business, worth about N500,000, was yielding for him a profit of about N5,000 daily.

But tragedy struck for the father of three when his town was attacked by Boko Haram sect about 10 months ago; his shop was looted alongside other businesses and homes. The sect established a caliphate that was ruled with an iron fist and he had to run with his children and wife in order to preserve their lives.

The journey to Maiduguri was tortuous and when he came to the town he had no where to live and he was about thinking the worst for his life until he was told by the people he narrated his ordeal to in Maiduguri that the state government had already prepared a place of refuge for people like him.

He immediately set out for the camp and ever since he has not had any cause to want for food either for himself or his family. Food and toiletries have always been made available to them and sometimes they are given stipends.

Maimunat Ali is 35-years-old and has four children. She was happily married to Abubakar Ali, a farmer, and because Abubakar was hardworking without her having to work, she was getting everything that she wanted – food and clothes. But sometimes last year, all these changed when Boko Haram attacked her town, Damboa, and ended her dreams as her husband was killed by the insurgents.

She had planned to continue to stay in her town and continue to mourn her husband, but had to change her mind when she saw that some women were being raped by the insurgents. She quickly packed the little clothes she could and sneaked out at night from the town and headed for Maiduguri where she knew no one and not knowing the challenges life will throw at her and her four children. All that drove her was the need to survive.

On getting to Maiduguri, she was welcomed by officials delegated by the state government at the entrance to the town for people in her condition and she was taken with her children to a camp where she was allocated a bed space and her children equally given sleeping spaces.

She has been given three square meals daily for her soul and she has crème for her body, she has not run out of sanitary pads when her menstrual period was around and due to the provision of government she has started dreaming without Abubakar. Maimunat has equally acquitted herself well with knitting which she had learnt from other women in the camp; she had come to like Abibat, who is now her confidant as she suffered similar fate with her.

Ibrahim Abubakar, 25 years old, was a commercial driver in Bama when Boko Haram attacked the town. His vehicle was burnt by the insurgents and he escaped being lynched with his vehicles. He came to Maiduguri with barely nothing and lodged at his friend's residence. His friend, Yunus Kyari, has a wife and a child and was living with his family in a room and parlour apartment. Initially food has always been available for him and he was enjoying the reunion with his childhood friend. He even went to town and sometimes got vehicle given to him to drive but this was coming far between.

As he stayed longer without any job, his food ration began to reduce and he quickly got the message. Two months ago, he decided to join the rest of the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) from Bama at the camp created for them. He has come to be fed three times daily without hassles. Speaking on his experience, he said: “It was a mistake to ever think you can be a bother on someone and reserves your respect; I believe I had to go through my experience, especially in the home of my childhood friend,Yunus, to learn any lesson about life.”

Abubakar Bulama, a 22-year-old had to flee to Bosso in Niger when his town was captured by insurgents sometimes last year. He has traversed towns in Niger and even thought he has gotten a home in a foreign land until he was repatriated some few weeks ago by the Nigerien authority. He never wanted to come back to Borno state as he had lost everything he worked for to the insurgents. But coming back, he found himself in a camp for IDPs and all that was on his mind was to flee until he started seeing that perhaps he was important to his country and state as he was fed and had a bed to rest his body on at night.

Though he still cherishes his freedom as he is not allowed to move an inch out of the camp, he is still happy for the daily food he is getting for free.

Kolo Abubakar, Maimunat Ali, Ibrahim Abubakar and Abubakar Bulama may have decided to be patient and watch as the wave of life shift their positions as long as they are alive, all their hope wouldn't have been possible without the provisions at the camps for IDPs in Maiduguri which is presently under threat of survival.

This is so because the economy and resources at the disposal of the Borno State Government are getting smaller and the provision at the table of the IDPs may also get smaller with the state government planning to reduce the allocation of N3.5 million daily to N1.5 million.

In order to prevent this from happening, the Borno State Government has approached the federal government for assistance without any good response.

Lamenting the situation, the Chairman of the State Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) said, “in the past four years, we have not got a good deal because what we received in the last four years was just N200 million and our counterpart Adamawa state that was not hit as Borno state with about six local governments affected received about N4.5 billion. “

According to him, “We had 20 out of 27 local governments captured and we are the worst hit. If you go to Bama, you will see how it was destroyed, even N10 billion cannot rebuild Bama. The activities of NEMA and other federal government agencies like the Presidential Initiatives on the Northeast have also had great impact in Adamawa that was not the worst hit. With the coming of a new president, I believe we might have a better deal.”

He said the state government has had to surmount a great challenge.

“It is quite challenging to take care of these IDPs but the government is doing well in providing three square meals but life is not all about feeding. The sanitation is also a priority in the camps, the health care facilities and the basic needs of IDPs, for instance, the soap and detergent to bath and wash their clothes respectively. They need the body oil and for the women they need the sanitary pads; all IDPs need clothing, baby foods among others.

“ It is quite challenging and is a heavy burden on the state government, this has made us to face a lot of challenges and no matter what the government has invested, it may not be enough and the IDPs have to face one challenge or the other.”

He added that: “We are doing our best but now with the federal allocation not forthcoming or no more regular and with the state government having a lot of responsibilities, just not taking care of the IDPs alone though we constitute a larger part of expenditure in the state, it is very challenging and that is why we cherish the collaboration with international agencies. If they have not been collaborating with us, the humanitarian catastrophe in Borno would have been really bad. The National Emergency Management Agency is now picking more interest in the case of IDPs in Borno state and they are trying to listen to us; for the first time they are asking us on what do we do and how much do we spend, which food do the IDPs consume and what are the problems in the camps. It is a step forward. For the past four years, this is the first time NEMA has shown keen interest to really know our problems and they want to share the problems with us . We have received a high powered delegation from NEMA, we have sat down and given them the template of how much we spent and consume in the camps in terms of feeding and other upkeeps, and they said they are going to partake in it. We hope with the change of government things are going to be better in the near future.”

He maintained that it was hard for government to continue to spend N3.5 million on condiments such as onions, fish, beans, tomatoes, hot and sweet pepper, seasonings, palm oil, groundnut oil, firewood, water and other essential needs of the kitchen and logistics like transporting the food items to the various camps and the ambulances, trucks, labourers. These, he sad, are what is making the government to contemplate reducing the daily expenses on the IDPs to a minimum of about N1.5m/

He said the predicament of the state government should be understood on the background that in the last ten years it was receiving the lowest allocation from the federation accounts.

“This is not only affecting Borno alone but the whole country. The SURE-P money is no more there, the money from the excess crude account is no more there and what we receive is no more than to pay salary and do one or two things. You can see that a lot of states cannot even pay their salaries but because the government of Borno has saved for the rainy days and that is why news of Borno state government not paying its salaries has not been heard.”

He noted that to balance the books, “We invite all the key stakeholders/actors in humanitarian services and those that are willing to partner with the state government to take care of IDPs….

“We are also trying as much as possible to bring down the cost of running the camps on the bill of the state government to the minimal level so that government can concentrate on other developmental aspects.”

“We are mindful of the fact that we have the issue of relocating, rehabilitation and resettlement of IDPs to their various locality. We are made to understand that Monguno is now peaceful and accessible and that people can now begin to go back to Monguno, maybe Gubio and Guzamala. We have access there but Bama that constitutes the largest number of IDPs is still not cleared by the Nigeria Army. The government is doing its best to reduce the cost of running and as a transparent government we must be prudent in the management of our resources.”

He concluded that: “Without their contributions and assistance of foreign governments and international agencies, I do not think the government of Nigeria can overcome this crisis, in terms of fighting and overcoming these insurgents, taking care of the IDPs, rebuilding, restructure, rehabilitating and resettling the IDPs to their various localities at the same time, I believe we are going to do better if the international community especially friendly nations can come to our aid in the shortest possible time. What the government needs to do is too numerous to mention and that is why the intervention of the international bodies is necessary and timely.”