Since the Nigerian troops renewed their campaign against insurgency in the north-east, the humanitarian impacts have continued to increase. Then recently, some Nigerians residing in Niger Republic were forcefully driven from their resident community back to Nigeria thus swelling the IDPs camps. OHONBA VINCENT in Gombe examines the situation in this report
Way back in February this year, Gombe State government commenced the second phase in the management of internally displaced persons, IDPS, which is the rehabilitation and assimilation stage. At that point, the state government drew the curtains on the camping of displaced persons to facilitate the next stage. “We are moving away from the phase of relief. We consider that over and we are now getting into the phase of rehabilitation.
“It is in the light of this that Gombe State government deemed it right that we needed to get the people off camp, so that people can begin to get on their feet”, the executive secretary of the State Emergency Management Agency, SEMA, Dr. Danlami Arabs Rukujei, had said when he received officials of Body Enhancement Foundation, a non-governmental organisation, which donated money and materials to the IDPs for petty trade and small scale enterprise.
It was a highly appreciated gesture among the beneficiaries and today, the IDPs form the predominant population in some communities in Akko, Funakaye, Gombe and Yamaltu Deba local governments where they were recently visted by three donor different groups with the intention to assuage their feelings.
A Red Cross source told Nigerian Pilot that 2,000 households were identified and they received non-food items NFIs from UNCHR while PINE is currently distributing beverages and NFIs also targeted at 2,000 households also in the same local governments. The ICRC has equally registered the same number of IDPs and the delivery of their relief materials which include food and non-food items are soon to be received. Sources said the displaced persons are already settling back into the society smoothly.
But the same at the moment cannot be said of the over 9,000 Nigerians who were recently displaced from Niger Republic with claims that they were kicked out by the government of that country in a dehumanizing manner. They trooped into Geidam, Yobe State in their numbers after a three day-plus long trek without food or water. Many people, mostly children and the feeble aged ones died in the course of the trek which is reminiscent of the Biblical exodus Israelites from Egypt.
Ironically, most of these people are not those that fled Nigeria to escape the wrath of insurgent Boko Haram; they are mostly Nigerian fishermen who have settled for about five to ten years at Lalewa community and environs around the Lake Chad basin in Niger Republic.
Talking to whoever wanted to listen was their only means of exhaling their grief. Central to what all those that spoke said were that they were forced out of their abode amidst brutality such that as much as thy desired to leave with all that they had, they could only leave with a few personal effects.
They all somewhat explained that they entire scenario played out like there was a diplomatic problem between the neighbouring countries with the host taking it out on those immediately assessable to them. Genuine as the excuse that the evacuation was to enable the Nigerien Army encamp to battle Boko Haram which killed close to 50 of their men in that vicinity seemed, the question begging for answers is whether the Nigerians should have been thrown out in the manner they claimed.
The disgusting approach to the expulsion order it was gathered propelled the deportees to reject every other proposal from their host and instead opted to return to their fatherland, even if it meant dying out before arrival; and indeed several of them lost their lives.
One Ibrahim who said he had lived ten out of his forty-five years of age doing fishing business in Lalewa said he counted no fewer than 50 dead bodies as they fled back home from the wrath of the Nigeriens whom he said chased and treated them like nauseating animals.
Explaining away the situation, the director of Search and rescue Operations, National Emergency Management Agency NEMA, Air Commodore Charles Otegbade said they had received a little over 3,000 people and were to receive additional 6,000 returnees from the Nigerian government as at the time of gathering materials for this work.
He said information received from the Nigerien government indicated that they wanted to conduct military operations in those areas. He added that they (Nigerien government) offered to relocate them (Nigerians) to some of the IDPs camps across Niger but the Nigerian citizens refused and instead chose to return home and so, the Nigerien government moved them back to the boarder – the one at Geidam which the Nigerians were said to have opted for.
He said the deportees were temporarily accommodated at a primary school and the mini-stadium at Geidam for operational purpose. And because NEMA does not intend to create a permanent camp there, they have contacted the various state governments with a view to relocating their indigenes back to their home states.
To this end, Idi Jidawa, the executive secretary, State Emergency Management Agency SEMA, Yobe state, said he had made contact with the concerned state governments and the responses were encouraging. It was however disappointing when effort to ascertain the state government’s response to the distressed call from the Permanent Secretary of Taraba state SEMA, Mr. Nuvalga Dan-Habu yielded no result because he would not pick his calls, neither did he bother to call back.
But it was gathered from sources that Adamawa state government successfully evacuated 108 persons from Geidam. The source further indicate that 24 of them were from Taraba state and two others from Gombe state. “Those from Adamawa state have been despatched back to their localities and successfully reunited with their families”, the executive secretary of the State Emergency Management Agency, Malam Haruna Furo said.
In the same vane, Press Secretary to Bauchi State governor, Mr. Ishola Michael, said the state government had evacuated her indigenes from Geidam on May 14 and 16 respectively and had reunited the majority of them with their various families across the state.
He said they numbered 720 and were evacuated in two batches. “The initial batch involved 600 persons and the second batch had 120 persons. They were all initially camped at Gamawa local government before their various local governments of origin were identified”, said Michael. He added that the remaining few have been moved to the various IDPs Camps across the state.
Unlike the others, Borno State, according to the chairman of the State Emergency Management Agency, Alhaji Grema Terab said they were creating camps for the deportees from Niger Republic because theirs is a special case.
He said provisions have been made to camp them in the government owned 400 units housing estate on Gubio road. But he quickly added that government was not ruling out the possibility of collapsing the new camp into the existing 20 camps spread across the state in due course.
He said they had received 2,400 people as at the time of obtaining this information and were still expecting more. He said theirs was a peculiar case because many of them, though Nigerians and indigenes of Borno state were born in Niger Republic and have never been to Nigeria before.
He said keeping them in camp alongside other Nigerians to facilitate mixing up would help assuage their plights and trauma; even as Borno state government is looking towards assisting them to start a new life in Nigeria through empowering them economically.