In the wake of Boko Haram menace in the country, especially in the North East, many victims were displaced from their homes. Different camps were created by governments, non-governmental organisations and some concerned individuals, where internally displaced persons were accommodated. The aim was to guarantee their safety, feed them and help them and their families to live and return home after the insurgency crisis. Daily Trust Saturday highlights tales of some displaced persons in selected states, including how they have coped with the odds by engaging in menial jobs, trades, as well as skills acquisition programmes to eke out a living.
Hassan Ibrahim (Maiduguri), Usman A. Bello (Benin) & Tijjani Ibrahim (Katsina)
In Edo State, the internally displaced persons are making ends meet despite challenges.
The victims, who are mostly from the North East, engage in menial jobs and small businesses to survive with their families. Those that cannot go to school learn trades at skills acquisition centres in the camp.
The coordinator of the camp, which was opened in 2009, established a primary and secondary school for them at the camp.
Our correspondent gathered that over 70 of the displaced persons are in various higher institutions of learning across the country.
One of the displaced persons, Esther Philimon from Borno State, said she came to the camp after her community was attacked by Boko Haram in 2013.
“I came to this camp with my children empty-handed. But the camp owner takes care of our feeding and accommodation,” she said.
She added that it was not easy for her and other inmates at the beginning, but she later found her feet when they were enrolled in the skills acquisition centre in the camp.
“Our pastor asked us to learn handiwork so that when we eventually return home we could be on our own. I have completed training as a tailor and now working with the skill.
“When we came here, I didn’t know what to do because we came with nothing. I only came here to avoid being killed. But now, I have no regret coming. Even if I go back home today, I can work as a tailor and earn a good living,” she said.
n Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, Ibrahim Musa, 42, who was displaced from Barawa village in Gwoza Local Government Area, now leads a team of fellow displaced persons to engage in firewood business at Kasuwan Shanu. They fetch firewood and sell to people, as well as split it with axes for the owners.
Musa told Daily Trust Saturday that he and his family had spent nine months at the camp in Maiduguri.
“We thought our stay at the camp would be for a while, but the crisis continued unabated. We called on all the people from the village to discuss how to start a new life because we could not continue to survive on free food and others things in the camp. We resolved to look for a source of livelihood since the hope of returning home was not in sight and we could not continue waiting for aids for food and clothing.
“I started with a bricklaying job to feed my family. I also do other jobs to earn a living. Later, the idea of fetching firewood to sell to residents came. We also discovered the idea of splitting firewood for the owners since we have strength to do the job. It is now exactly eight years under Allah’s blessings. The jobs have become my sources of livelihood. They have helped me in many capacities right from the day I started.
“When we started the business, I and my colleague used to earn between N700 and N1,000 per day. Gradually, the profit kept increasing, while more opportunities emerged, like loading trucks and trailers with firewood.
“Recently, our boss travelled to Bauchi to source for firewood because there is no much forest in Borno. We can only get firewood from Buni Yadi and Bauchi.
“We want to return home, but the security situation is not yet conducive. We are praying for the government to defeat the insurgents so that we can return home and continue our major sources of livelihood, especially farming and rearing of livestock.
“I was displaced with members of my family, and I have been living with them in Maiduguri. Initially, we lived in a displaced persons camp, but subsequently, I rented a house for my family and paid my children’s school fees because we cannot allow our children to miss good education. We are now living in a government-owned market and getting our daily bread, as well as paying little revenue to officials of the market.
“I am working with Alhaji Umaru Mai-Itace but praying to return home because right now, some of our colleagues have returned to their villages. But the resettlement exercise has not reached Barawa village. We are ready to return home when the security of the area improves,” he said.
“I am happy that despite being displaced by Boko Haram insurgents, I was able to continue a normal life outside home. I am making fortunes in this job, and God willing, I am gradually raising money to start another business of my own. I am grateful to Allah for blessing me with the strength and sound health to work and earn a decent living,” Musa said.
In Katsina, our correspondent met two displaced persons in Kurfi Local Government Area. They hail from Safana Local Government Area but relocated to the place, where they engage in small businesses to support their families.
Muhammadu Kabir, 45, who hails from Kwangwami village in Safana Local Government Area, engages in commercial motorcycling, with which he fends for his family.
“Incessant attacks by bandits displaced me from my village. We tried to be resilient at the beginning and exercised patience in our village, where we had everything – our families, relatives, businesses and farms – but we became so overstretched that we could no longer stay.
“I cannot recall the number of times bandits attacked our village. They took everything from us, including our foodstuff, domestic animals and farming implements.
“It got to a point that they stopped attacking at night and started coming in broad daylight, to the extent that there was nothing left and they were only using our village as a passage to other targets,” he said.
Kabir added that apart from all their domestic animals and other belongings, two of his motorcycles were stolen by the bandits. That was why he had to relocate to be able to cater for his wife and three children.
He called on the government to improve the security situation in the area so that they would be able to cultivate their farms during this rain season.
Alin Tsabawa also said, “I can count at least nine attacks on our village. There was a time a man and his three married children were killed by the insurgents. The attacks forced me to relocate to Kurfi.
“Many other displaced persons are here. Some of us still go back to the village to do one or two things during the day, but come back to Kurfi to pass the night, for fear of being attacked.”
Malam Ali, who now sells herbal concoction as a means of livelihood, said one of his sons was abducted and he had to pay a huge amount as ransom to secure his release. Consequently, he has no capital to do his business.
“There is no way we can fold our arms and wait for somebody to feed our families. In fact, no one will do that for you. That is why I engage in this business. And we are thankful to God that we get little to feed our family,” he said.
Malam Ali narrated how he was recently attacked by bandits along the Kurfi-Batsari road and collected his cell phone and the little money he had.
“It was a hilly area. As soon as I descended with my motorcycle, I saw them and there was no way I could control the motorcycle to turn back. I matched the brake and crashed. They pounced on me, collected my cell phone and all the money I had on me.
“The following day, I called the number and the person picked. I told him who I was and said I was calling to thank him.
“He asked why I was thanking him and I said because they did not kill or inflict a serious injury on me. I also prayed to God to guide them to renounce their evil acts. He also thanked me and said we should continue to pray for them,” he said.
Safana Local Government, Area, where the two men hail from, is one of the frontlines of the bandits in Katsina State. There are some areas where bandits hibernate.