The fire disaster that rocked the Muna Elbadawy Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camp on Friday in Maiduguri has left thousands of its inmates in a more precarious situation.
The Muna Elbadawy IDP camp located at the outskirts of Maiduguri metropolis was hosting more than 10,000 households. The fire has destroyed hundreds of shanties and properties, a situation that has worsened the deplorable condition of the IDPs who have been residing in the area for more than seven years.
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Findings revealed that the fire disaster happened Friday afternoon from one of the tents where cooking was taking place, and this led to the destruction of tents, mud houses, shanties, food items, household materials, and other belongings of the victims.
The investigation further revealed that the fire has destroyed 2,028 shelters with the majority of the thatch houses, mud houses, and their properties including food, clothing materials, and other essential household items.
One person was reported to have died while 11 others sustained injuries in the fire incident.
A victim of fire seen at the remains of her burnt down properties with her two children, Challu Hassan, said, “I went to fetch water from the main tank some 200 metres away for the family use. Suddenly, I heard people screaming about the fire disaster and when I turned to see where the fire was taken place, unfortunately, the fire had swarmed large portions of our areas. I rushed to pick my two children to safety and God helped me to rescue them unhurt.
“I spent two nights with my children at the neighbouring areas where the fire did not affect in the camp, but yesterday, I decided to return to our site where my shanti is and a neighbour dashed me an old mat which I am using to sleep with my children. All the food items and our clothing materials were burnt in the fire and my husband has travelled. I am calling on the government to assist us in our precarious situation,” Challu said.
Another victim of the fire disaster, Zainab Babagana, who is an IDP from Mitini village, Mafa LGA, said, “The fire has burnt down my room and I lost my entire properties except for the clothes on my body. We believe in God and leave everything in His hands. This incident has increased the untold hardships we are going through. We have lived in Muna Elbadawy IDP camp for six years and I have two children; one had died two years ago. We are appealing to government to provide us with shelter and food to alleviate our suffering. We are also happy that the state government is planning to resettle us back home.”
Falmata Mustapha said, “This fire has worsened our austere economic conditions. We have no shelter to sleep, our food items and all our household materials have been destroyed and we don’t know where to start. I lost everything in the fire. We sleep in our neighbours’ tents and they also give us food to eat. Even the slippers I am using, it was one of the women that dashed me yesterday. We are appealing for government’s intervention to begin a new life.”
Another victim, Abatcha Mustapha Gawa, said the fire has plunged him into another difficulty. “I have two wives and 13 children. All our food items and other households were destroyed in the fire. Apart from losing all my household materials, my major concern now is the destruction of the entire properties I bought for my two daughters who are to be married next month,” he said.
Gawa added that, “We are living in the camp due to the security condition but our hope to return home is being restored by the state government because even this season, we went to the village and planted our crops, and luckily, we had a bumper harvest but unfortunately, the harvested grains were destroyed by the fire. We are appealing to governments at all levels and non-governmental organisations to come to our aid.”
Gawa said they welcomed the state government’s plan to resettle them in their villages. “We are ready to obey the government because they are the ones that brought us here. If they ask us to return home, we will not say no. We prefer to live in our ancestral homes where we go to our farms and even help others.”
A 25-year-old newly wedded IDP and victim of the fire, Bakura Abacha Gimba, who said he was displaced from Mijigini village, told Daily Trust that the fire has destroyed his mud house at the camp. “This house was built during my wedding ceremony last year and the fire has destroyed everything. What Is left for me and my wife are the clothes we are wearing. I slept here yesterday (Sunday) because my uncle brought a piece of locally made dry grass ruffing (Zana) to cover the top of my mud house.
“We are pleading to the government and other non-governmental organisations to assist us with food and household materials because as I am talking to you, even if you give me food items now, we don’t have the pot to cook them and no container or buckets to fetch water. For the past three days, I am using the clothes remaining with me. No mat or blanket to cover the harmattan cold because all my belongings have been consumed by the fire,” Gimba said.
Governor of Borno State, Professor Babagana Zulum, has, on Saturday, while on a sympathy visit to the victims, directed Borno State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) to list and submit details of the number of affected households for proper intervention by the government.
Zulum said the state government was looking at all possible ways to collaborate with the federal government and humanitarian partners to come up with a mechanism to resettle them and other remnants of IDPs in and around Maiduguri back to their ancestral homes or nearby towns.
The governor lamented that many do not understand why the Borno State government is trying to resettle IDPs back to their ancestral homes. He said the government was not forcing any IDP back to his/her home.
The governor further explained that the resettlement will enable them to reestablish their lives and give them the ability to properly discipline and safeguard the moral upbringing of their children. “This will also allow the host communities to develop by decongesting its population,” he said.
Governor Zulum was briefed and conducted round the IDP camp during the visit by the NEMA Coordinator (North East), Usman Mohammad Aji, and the Director General of Borno SEMA, Hajiya Yabawa Kolo.
The NEMA coordinator informed the governor that the fire started at about 1 pm from one of the tents at the camp where one of them was cooking. However, it was brought under control by personnel of the State Fire Service.
Similarly, the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Hajiya Sadiya Umar Farouk, has expressed sadness over the loss of life and properties at Muna Elbadawy IDP camp and lymphatic with the victims of the incident
A statement signed by Deputy Director, Information, of the Ministry, Rhoda Ishaku Iliya, directed NEMA to immediately dispatch relief materials to the affected victims at the camp, while assessment will be conducted to ascertain the cause of the fire and also the level of damage, “Farouk called on all persons living in the IDP camp to be safety cautious to prevent incidences of fire outbreaks.”
Meanwhile, NEMA yesterday distributed food items to the victims of the fire disaster in Muna Elbadawy IDP camp.