Agony Of IDPs In Abuja: As Landlords Re-displace Them

Agony Of IDPs In Abuja: As Landlords Re-displace Them
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Where do the Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs, run to when the uncompleted building that shelters them after they fled their homes following the Boko Haram activities, is being reclaimed by the owner? CHIKA MEFOR- NWACHUKWU captures the agony and pain of these displaced persons in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, who have to grapple with another displacement

Food, shelter and clothing are the three basic necessities of life.

These necessities have been far from the reach of many Internal Displaced Persons who had sought refuge in the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, after the Boko Haram sect, sacked them out of their homes years back.

Many of them had settled down in an open field in a make-shift hut to shelter themselves. Some who were lucky had found uncompleted buildings to settle in. The luckier displaced persons were recognised by the government but many of these IDPs who had settled in Abuja were never recognised years after they sought refuge in the capital city.

Baba Ali Buduge, is among the displaced persons who settled down in a partially completed building in Durumi II, fall into this category. Buduge and many of his kinsmen fled Bama in Borno State after their local government fell to Boko Haram. They came in search of a new lease of life. They were fortunate to have discovered the partially-completed building and have been staying there since 2014.

They were at least happy that they had found a building to lay their heads but this happiness had been cut short, as the owner of the land and building had come back to reclaim the land. Buduge and his people are once again displaced. It is now a case of the displaced being re-displaced.

During The COVID-19 Lockdown

Earlier, during the first 14 days COVID-19 lockdown imposed by the Federal Government, this reporter had visited the camp where Buduge who is the chairman, lamented that they were not captured in the government’s palliative scheme which includes Conditional Cash Transfer and distribution of foodstuffs and other basic necessities, geared towards alleviating the sufferings of vulnerable Nigerians during the 14-days lockdown aimed at curtailing the spread of the novel COVID-19.

The father of eight narrated how he had severally submitted the list of families in the camp to the Chief of Durumi, adding that they have however, not been captured in the list of beneficiaries.

“We heard on the radio that government was sharing money and food, but we haven’t seen anything. Government has not given us anything. I wrote down our names and gave it to the chief but we didn’t get anything. I heard that it was shared, but I didn’t get. There was a time that we heard that the government will be coming, we went to the place where they said we will get the money, but nobody came,” he added sadly.

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The building, he had told this reporter, houses about 102 persons (as at then) including orphaned children, and widows and widowers. He stated that apart from some NGOs who occasionally visited them, the people survive from the meagre resources and income of their young men who usually go out on a daily basis to eke out a living,

He, however, lamented that the then directives by the government to ban the use of tricycles (popularly known as Keke) in the Abuja city centre, had jeopardized their means of livelihood.

“Many of our youths were driving Keke, and they were able to remit money to the people who owned the Keke, and at the same time, helped us in the camp. But since the ban, they have been rendered jobless. The owners of the Keke collected them, since they could not remit enough money as they used to,” Buduge had lamented.

He had added that many of them have resorted to working as labourers at building sites, and he said that such jobs were not easy to come by.

He further revealed that despite the rough situation, many of the men in the camp have been able to cater for their families with the menial jobs they have been doing, and bemoaned the current situation of the families in the camp which was aggravated by the lockdown.

“Before the lockdown, to get a job as a labourer was very scarce. You have to know someone at the site, before you can get a job. We used to get small jobs like cutting grasses. Some of us are doing petty trades in barrows, but now, with Covid-19, we can’t do anything. We are now at the mercy of kind-hearted Nigerians who come here once in a while to help,” he had narrated with sadness.

 The Displaced Being Displaced Again!

Buduge had lamented during the lockdown period that their fate was hanging in the balance, as the owner had severally threatened to eject them and had pleaded with the government to intervene and save them from imminent homelessness.

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Two months back, Buduge’s worst fear happened as the owner of the uncompleted building they were staying in, sent them parking, with the building being demolished.

“The owner of the house said he wanted to use it. He had really tried for us. He gave us three months’ notice. We couldn’t leave because I didn’t find any where we could move into. I searched and searched. I even went to Area 1 IDP Camp, but we were told there was no place for us,” he said.

Narrating how he came about the building, Buduge stated that after he was able to narrowly escape the Boko Haram onslaught, he had arrived Abuja and noticed the building, and got approval from the former owner to stay. He added that after he had settled down, his family, relations and townsmen who were stranded in Cameroon came over to join him in the building.

“Boko Haram killed our chief, they slaughtered him. When the attack was too much, I ran into Cameroon. I stayed there, but I wasn’t happy there, so I entered back into Nigeria through Banki. I crossed to Kumshe where I was caught by the dreaded group. They were all armed. It was only God that helped me escape. I left my family in Cameroon and came here. When I secured here, my wife came with my children, and my town’s people started coming too,” he reminisced with sadness.

He lamented that their houses were razed down, their crops destroyed and their cattle stolen by Boko Haram, and added that his community in Bama has become a shadow of itself.

“Anybody you see there now must be a Boko Haram member. I was a farmer in Bama. We planted a lot of things on our fertile land. Some others reared cows. I will really love to go back home when everything settles. It is better than staying in another man’s land where you are at the mercy of people for survival,” he said.

Buduge is even more anxious to go back to his home town after they were removed from the little shelter they had found.

New Shelter

Buduge revealed that he had found another space for his people to build make-shift houses, while some others were still at some part of an uncompleted building which have not yet been demolished. He lamented that the new huts they had hurriedly constructed drips water whenever it rains and that they have been living with severe cold.

“When it rains, it enters inside our make-shift homes. We have to use buckets and containers to gather the water. We are always cold. Our feet are always cold. Our children are always sick because of the dampness. We really need help,” he said.

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Apart from the bad living condition, Buduge added that he would have loved all the IDPs to be harboured at the same area which would have enabled him look after everyone.

“Before, we were staying together. It was easier to know what each one of us needed but now, we are staying in two different places. It is very difficult for us,” he said.

Life after the COVID-19 Lockdown

Life for these IDPs have not yet returned to normal as many of them who had started little businesses, had spent their capital during the lockdown. For them, their lives have somehow returned to square one.

Fatima Abdulraman, another displaced person in the camp, explained that she was selling tularin wuta, locally-made incense before the lockdown, adding that after the lockdown and all, she couldn’t return to the business as there was no money left to do that.

“Before the lockdown, I was getting small profit from the business. I get sometimes N3000 or sometimes nothing depending on how the day goes. Even though all the profit still goes in to take care of my children, I was content. But right now, I have nothing. I have resorted to begging sometimes to feed my children,” she said.

Fatima who is a widow and a mother of six, narrated how her husband was killed in an accident around Habiba Plaza, two years ago and added that his death has worsened her family’s situation.

“He went to see some of our town’s people around the Plaza and was hit by a vehicle. When he was alive, he did manual jobs which had helped us feed but now, the burden of taking care of my family is on me alone,” she said.

The 30 year old widow and the other IDPs are wondering when they will return to their normal life again. Boko Haram group had begun its activities in 2009. The United Nations’ refugee estimates the conflict has displaced 2.4 million people and put more than seven million at risk of starvation.


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