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Fate of over 200 orphans hang in the balance

The settlement at Tilden Fulani in Toro Local Government Area of Bauchi State is not that of a single family, but of different families brought…

The settlement at Tilden Fulani in Toro Local Government Area of Bauchi State is not that of a single family, but of different families brought together by fate. There are the unfortunate victims of the incessant strives in Jos, Plateau State. They comprise orphaned children and women who lost their breadwinners during the mayhem on the Plateau. Scattered across the local government are several of such settlements all made up of women and children that were displaced by the crises.

No fewer than 200 orphans are said to have been brought into Toro in three buses allegedly belonging to the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS), Kuru and dumped. The Member representing Toro Constituency in the Federal House of Representatives, Alhaji Haruna Ibrahim, told Weekly Trust on Tuesday that some of the orphans were dumped in Tilde while a majority of them who were mainly school age children are currently in Toro.

One of the widows, Malama Salamatu Muhammed, who spoke on behalf of the group, told Weekly Trust that they are not planning to go back to their original houses, noting that no matter how secure the place will be in the future, they will rather remain within Bauchi State. “They have killed our husbands, children and grandchildren. How do you expect us to go back to such places? I don’t even want to hear the name of such places. No matter how secure the place is, we will rather remain in Bauchi,” she vowed.

Also, seven-year-old Hadiza Umar and eight-year-old Sahabi whose parents were killed in the crisis said that they can no longer go to school since they’ve been displaced. “We want to stay here and start attending school,” they said.

The orphans and widows are currently relying on the hospitality of individuals, government and nongovernmental organisations in Bauchi state for sustenance. One of such bodies is the Orphanage Relief Association that started as a local provider but expanded its services with the arrival of more orphans from the Jos crisis.

The chairman of the association, Yakubu Abdulkarim Mai Manja, told Weekly Trust that the association is making plans to give the orphans to parents who are willing to adopt them. “We are working on the adoption strategy currently; we have talked to the authority and they have promised to talk to some people who will adopt the children. We have also announced in mosques asking people to come forward to adopt some of the orphans,” he said.

He further stated, “However, we have rules and guidelines that every parent must fulfil in the adoption process. The parents will be screened by a seven-man elders committee in charge of the adoption process”.

Abdulkarim said the association has given out forms in the town that will be filled by interested parents, which will later be returned to them for screening. “Through the forms, we will be able to know who is qualified for the adoption”.

Speaking on the problem at hand, the General Overseer of the Jos Crisis Orphans in Toro, Alhaji Abdullahi, said the needs of the orphans have gone beyond the mere everyday need of basic necessities. “The problems of these orphans and widows have now gone beyond the issue of feeding or clothing; what they need now is how to begin a new life after losing their parents in the recent crisis”.

He added, “They need a new life because they have been chased out of the place they had been living all their lives; children have become orphans while women have become widows”.

Apart from the immediate relief it provided for the orphans including other victims of the Jos crisis, the Bauchi State government recently announced its intention to provide free plots of land to victims, which will subsequently reduce the burden of orphans as some of them have close relatives who survived the crisis.

The councillor representing Tilde ward in Toro Local Government Area of the state, Malam Isah Abdulkarim, who disclosed this to Weekly Trust during a tour of some of the places where the orphans were situated, said, “We have discussed on how we are going to accommodate the victims by providing them with permanent pieces of land between Magar Gumau, Toro and Tilden Fulani, which are the areas where they are seeking shelter”.

He added that the pieces of land will be purchased from individuals in the areas and given to the displaced persons for free, stressing that, “There is the need for people to also come and give other forms of contribution to the displaced persons so that they can begin a new life in their new settlements”.

However, the Jama’atu Nasril Islam, (JNI) Plateau State chapter said it plans to gather all the orphans in one single orphanage where they will be catered for. The chairperson in charge of widows and orphans in JNI, Hajiya Khadija Gambo Hawaja, said there is the need to do that, while stressing that such a plan will go a long way to ease the ways the orphans can be reached.

She further stressed the need for NGOs and well-meaning Nigerians to come to the aid of the orphans, as there is still a long way to go in terms of making life comfortable for them.

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