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  • Updated: June 19, 2022

Nigerian IDPs And The Unending Struggle For Survival

Nigerian IDPs And The Unending Struggle For Survival

Kuchingoro IDP Camp in Abuja. Source: Google

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Maureen Okpe
Maureen Okpe

Maureen is a media practitioner and an impeccable writer with close to 4 years active experience wor...

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The long years of suffering in Internally Displaced Persons camps have continued to take their toll on victims who have fled the attack of Boko Haram to find succour in the FCT.

As of 2019, according to the  Internal Displacement Monitoring Center (IDMC), there are 50.8 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) around the world.

In particular, Nigeria, the most populous country in Africa, has about 2.6 million people living in displacement. 

Since 2014, Boko Haram’s insurgency has led to considerable displacement in the North East. Additionally, farmer-herder tensions in the Middle Belt and North West have caused eruptions of criminal and communal violence that have caused people to flee their homes.

Climate change also factors into this issue, with flooding triggering most of the 157,000 new displacements from a natural disaster in 2019.

These challenges are unending and create a continuous cycle of people being displaced, often more than once in their lifetime, making them live below the poverty line.

Unhealthy Conditions Of Persons In IDP Camps

IDPs face severe economic challenges as a result of their displacement, with harmful impacts on consumption, health, education, security, housing, labour conditions, and social outcomes.

They face these challenges for long periods of time and for displaced women, it ranges from owning property to working for less pay.

Within IDP camps especially, displaced Nigerians face many difficulties. For instance, in the camps in Abuja, living conditions are extremely poor and housing structures are uninhabitable.

The shelter is precarious due to congestion and damage from rain, and children face a high risk of disease and infection due to poor hygiene. 

Education is also difficult to attain for displaced children whose parents cannot afford to enrol them in schools outside the settlements, as a result of economic inability.  

Reports have stated that vulnerabilities among displaced people have highlighted that gender dynamics also influence access to income-earning opportunities, with women having less access to start-up capital, giving them a lower chance of successfully starting businesses.

This is the situation of women in IDP camps and communities in Abuja as in the case of 24-year-old Blessing Silas, a mother of five from Bama in Gwoza LG of Borno State who fled her hometown as a result of an attack from Boko Haram which killed some of her family members.

The search for safety brought Silas and her family to the IDP community in Abuja.

Narrating life situation in the camp, Blessing said it has not been easy as they manage to get through the day with little income she makes from her business, which is barely enough to provide for their feeding and basic needs.

"I work as a cleaning person for the rich family houses around this area, but the money they pay is so small compared to the work you will do.

"I sweep, mop and wash their clothes three times a week and at the end of the month, they pay me N5,000.

"At first when I started, I was working for two families but later stopped working for one as the insults became too much.

"She complains about everything I do in the house, that I am not efficient and I am slow and lazy. Sometimes, in the presence of my kids and one day after pouring me the water I used to mob the floor for using too much detergent, I left and never went back there.

"I have been working with just one now though I am still searching for more as this amount barely takes us to the end of the month, and sometimes we go to bed without food.

"This makes my children cry before sleeping but I am helpless as there is nothing to offer them most times.

The story of Martha Bartholomew is not so different from Blessing Silas even though she has a business of her own. With the hard times biting, the little capital is far from meeting their needs.

"I sell vegetables (spinach, popularly called 'Aleho' in Hausa). When I buy like a thousand, five hundred naira (N1,500) worth of vegetables, my profit will be N200.

"This is what we will manage to feed me and my children. We buy sugar, garri and sometimes make 'Muyan Kukar' (Baobab leaf soup) and manage like that.

"I had a grinding mill which I acquired on hire purchase when I was pregnant. I put to bed and could not continue the business and periodic payment.

The owner came and took the grinding mill away and since then, I have resorted to selling vegetables. 

IDPs Helping Each Other 

According to the women, their major support comes from NGOs, Churches and associations formed by IDP women, one of which is the Women Together Association.

This Association through contributing in times of need to women in the camp, alleviate their suffering through ways of contributing to members in need.

"The Association help us in time of need, like fetching water and cooking for our sick members", Blessing shares.

"When one of us is bereaved, we cook and keep her company or when hospitalised, we contribute money, any amount, sometimes N50 or N100 to help while they are on the sick bed.

"NGOs and churches donations of foodstuff is what helps us to eat food varieties. They come with things like rice, beans, garri, maize, spaghetti and others. This we cook in bits to manage.

“In December, I visited my mum in Cameroon because it was over seven years since I last saw her and was told that Boko Haram are still in my village.

"My mum in Cameron too has nothing to do to help her financially. No business, nothing. If you go there and see the pitiable condition they are living in, you will cry for them.

“Some people die from hunger, starvation, no soap to even wash their clothes. Now, we do not have people coming to help us as before because things are difficult.

"I am tired of asking for help from the government as the government does not listen to our pleas. 

“In Maiduguri, the government gave grants and loans to help displaced persons but here in Abuja, we did not get any of such grants or loans.

"Even in my village, Galva in Polka of Gaza, the intervention did not get there so I cannot get help from them too.

Continuing, Blessing said, "Six years ago, we wrote our names to the government for assistance. We did not get anything until the COVID-19 outbreak.

"They came and distributed small rubbers, those used mostly to wash hands, with soap and sanitiser. That's what we got. 

“Politicians do come here to campaign but render no financial assistance to us. They just came to campaign and ask us to vote for them and our lives will be better.

"But after the campaign, we no longer get to hear from them.

Speaking on alternative sources of income, Blessing lamented that capital is also required as they need to purchase or hire farmland.

"To farm, you need to have money to buy or rent land, as well as buy chemicals like pesticides and insecticides.

"You will need money as much as  N30,000 to N100,000, then you buy the grains for planting and with the high cost of commodities in the market, grains goes for about N700 per measure.

"The farming system is such that one can work for someone else and commission will be paid. This includes sometimes grain and I can use this to plant on my farm. 

“The farmlands are mostly in Nasarawa State as the land is more suitable for farming. In this place, the land is not that fertile so the yield is not much, yet it is rife with herdsmen intrusion.

"For me, I will appreciate it if I get money to sell my little items like this in a shop. This is because if I want to go into farming, I will not be able to send my children to school.

"But if I am into business, I can prepare them for school and at the close of school, I can go and pick them.

Government Role In Empowering IDPs In Nigeria

According to the United Nations (UN), understanding the extent to which IDPs are currently concentrated in urban areas is an important step toward determining how best to implement programs and policies that enable IDPs to achieve self-reliance through social and economic empowerment.

In Abuja, for instance, displaced persons often lack the necessary skills required to gain formal employment and therefore depend on the informal sector to earn a means of livelihood.

While responding to issues raised by the  IDPs, Deputy Director, Resettlement and Durable Solution, National Commission for Refugee, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons, Musa Kangiwa, said Abuja IDPs are attractions for media, as normal Nigerians are also suffering due to inflation and other factors.

Refuting the claims of not empowering the IDPs, Kangiwa disclosed that the commission, which is in charge of durable solutions, has put in place various empowerment schemes, with some still in process.

He maintained that the job of the commission is to find a sustainable livelihood for the IDPs by relating them with financial agencies and institutions or organisations that can help in their cases to at least alleviate the problems.

“There are places in Nigeria, in this Abuja that are not IDP camps but are worse than IDP camps.

"For the fact that you are an IDP does not mean the government should put you in paradise, forgetting the constitutional right of others. The government cannot make everybody rich.

"In terms of intervention, we have done a lot. One thing with the IDPs is that if you leave a countless truckload of relief materials to them by the end of the month when it is exhausted, they will say they have never seen you before. 

“Every one of them has their individual problem just like every other Nigerian", he stated.

Government Intervention In IDP Camps

According to the Deputy Director, the commission has partnered with many organisations to empower the IDPs economically, which was headed toward making them acquire a better life.

He disclosed that these range from the likes of Dangote to Innoson, the Nigerian Army and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

Kangiwa said, “In collaboration with CBN, we initiated a loan system where IDPs can access as much as N500,000.

"But this can only be through a cooperative with a proper structure; that is a leader, secretary and other appropriate structure with terms and conditions.

“Also Innoson motors, are presently training more than 500 selected persons of concern in various aspects of Automobile engineering/repairs.

"Not to mention other projects like, 'project educate all,' ‘Project skill up,' 'Project NCFRMI GoDigital, and 'Project resettlement city'.

"All these projects are equipped with starter packs to help establish them after the training.

“Although in some interventions not everyone will benefit as certain criteria qualify you access to the loan. Some will succeed while others will not. The good thing is that some of them benefited.

“Not all of them can be trained; somebody who does not have a primary or secondary qualification, how can you train them?

"These are the limitations and the IDPs are economical with the truth as they will not tell you that for one reason or the other they did not qualify for a particular intervention. 

“Some time ago, we took statistics of those that are interested in farming and crop production from their respective association and cooperative.

"We then went to cereal research in Zaria and got hybrid cereal that suits the Abuja soil type and gave it to them.

"The commission bought the seeds in a measured quantity of about N20,000 for a person. They went to Abuja Market and sold it for N5,000.

“Farmlands were provided by the FCT administration. If they had been patient, they would have gotten more from this intervention.

"The few who were patient have about 4-5 hectares of farmland, this is also still on.

"In 2016, Saudi Arabia, through the embassy in Nigeria donated a date farm through the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the commission.

"I personally handled this intervention, with nine states plus the FCT to distribute. But they took it to the National Mosque and sold them.

“Also, there was a collaboration with Dangote to build about a thousand houses but the ones that got it sold it and then returned to the camps.

"Some have taken the IDPs situation as a lifetime situation and do not want to see anything outside of it.

Kangiwa speaking on the plans of the government to exit the camps disclosed, “The solution is to exit the camp and that is what the government is working on.

"Plans are in motion as census of skills will be taken to provide a settlement plan according to what is chosen.

"This is because here in Abuja we no longer have IDPs. What we have are economic migrants who have moved from their homestead to search for greener pastures.”  

Conclusion

Stakeholders have tasked the Nigerian government to invest in innovative ways to support IDPs to become self-reliant in terms of their livelihoods.

For instance, the government could learn from countries like Brazil and Ecuador and develop a labour mobility project that situates IDPs in other parts of the country where they can be gainfully employed. 

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Maureen Okpe
Maureen Okpe

Maureen is a media practitioner and an impeccable writer with close to 4 years active experience wor...

More From this Author

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