Thursday, January 19, 2017

NIGERIA'S ENDANGERED IDPS

During the Christmas holidays I saw a documentary on Al-Jazeerah about refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo domiciled in Malawi. It featured one of the Congolese refugees who was formerly a popular rapper in the DRC (before threats to his life forced him to flee and become a refugee), and showcased life at the refugee camp, as well as the rapper's attempt to regain as much as possible every bit of the life he left behind in the Congo. Many things about that refugee camp struck me as out of the ordinary, compared with those in Nigeria. For one, make shift shelters have given way to brick bungalows, raw food was adequately dispensed as and at when due, and I think to some extent quite more for some people, because the rapper in the documentary claims (and it was shown) he gives excess of his to families with more mouths to feed, seeing as he is a bachelor and lives alone. This United Nations administered refugee camp had running water, and was like a small town only that there is a gate that restricts movement, allowing people who had genuine reasons to go outside it to leave for a specified period only, then return. Believe me, except what I saw on that day was stage managed, I could have sworn that most people's existence in that camp was far better than those of most Nigerians who live free, talk more those who have found themselves in Internally Displaced Peoples', IDP camps because of the ongoing war against the dreaded Islamic Fundamentalist group, Boko Haram in the northeast.


I cannot recall at anytime, besides the provision of makeshift shelter, that the IDPs in Nigeria's northeast had any cause to celebrate, though not that anyone in an IDP camp would or should have anything to celebrate, but if one considers the austere situation that brought them to the camps, then little mercies like the one I highlighted with the situation in Malawi would've been enough cause to celebrate, unfortunately this hasn't been the case with the Nigerian IDP, whom I daresay, that save for the inclement weather Syrian refugees have to contend with presently, as well as political issues surrounding their situation in Europe, are far better in terms of welfare and related matters.


To say that the IDPs of Nigeria's northeastern states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe, have been dealt the wrong hands of fate will be an understatement. These escaped literally with their lives in their hands, onto the protection of  government that provided camps for them. From the very first day they set their foot 'pon those camps, it's been one sad news to the other. At the initial stage when the economy was bouyant under former president Goodluck Jonathan, and even after stealing some of the funds allocated to the welfare of those displaced by Nigeria's "war on terror", the IDPs were not treated like humans. I saw pictures of IDPs been dished bland "jollof" rice using spades and shovels for instance. There were widespread reports of sexual abuse of mostly female IDPs at the hands of those who managed the camps, and personnel of security agencies deployed to those camps.


These cases worsened with the emergence of the President Muhammadu Buhari government with its "lean purse" policy. Now the people in authority, who had a bit to spare for the IDPs after  corruptly enriching themselves with the much in the days of plenty, had little or nothing to spare for the welfare of the IDPs after removing their part, as their cut now became the whole, and that scandal lingered for a while, till it fizzled out of press coverage, not because the situation got better but as with everything Nigerian, noise just simply dies down after a while (especially when government feeds to the press, yet another arrest of an opposition politician for embezzlement while in power, and the gullible get carried away by the frenzy thus created four another while), and the IDPs continued to suffer for no just cause (not that there's even a just cause for them to suffer). Those who escaped death at the hands of Boko Haram, found it at the hands of  government-induced malnutrition and hunger, and the pictures are there for all to see. Of course, the abuse of IDPs continued not only unabated but with impunity and  shamelessly, under a regime flaunting a no-nonsense approach towards corruption as it's credentials, so much so that the secretary to the federal government, awarded a contract for the clearing of weed around IDP camps to a company in which he has interest, and as if that wasn't even bad enough, the company had the temerity not to deliver on its trivial mandate for the millions of naira allocated to it, and yet the man neither resigned from his position, nor the government fired him.


And just as usual with all things Nigerian, when it seems government have become so steeped in its ways over a subject that the people simply just let go, especially at this period when Human Rights Activists have either in the main pitched their lot with the government in power, fearing retribution and silencing that's become the lot of those who felt to continue where they left off with the previous  government, only to hear that a Nigerian Airforce jet bombarded an IDP camp in the Rann (a border town between Nigeria and Cameroon) area of Borno state, on Tuesday. Depending on which media you're listening to, the death toll is between fifty and two hundred, involving personnel of Medecins Sans Frontieres, MSF, International Committee of the Red Cross, ICRC and several IDPs who according to eye witness accounts, were on a queue to collect humanitarian materials. As usual the  government owned Nigerian Television Authority, NTA has stuck with "accidental incident" at an IDP camp as the body of its news item concerning the unfortunate event, totally withdrawing the naming of the culprit in that dastardly act, except when it involved condemnation by the president and his order to concerned authorities to investigate the matter (with findings that will never be made public even if the order is complied with).
AFTERMATH OF THE BOMBING OF AN IDP CAMP IN RANN, BORNO STATE BY THE NIGERIAN AIRFORCE.

What is most baffling for many an observer of this event is how the Nigerian Airforce, which had in the past claimed that it restrained from bombing Boko Haram insurgents severally because they had people suspected to be innocent civilians (including at some point, the abducted secondary school girls from Chibok) in their midst and may be using same as human shield, yet in this matter opted to bomb civilians on a queue, not once, not twice, but thrice (according to eye witness account)! I cannot even begin to imagine the trauma, already  traumatized IDPs affected by this incident are presently going through, after the dehumanization they had witnessed at the hands of those saddled with the responsibility of their safety and well-being so far, only to now have to suffer this as well. When one of the survivors told the press that the government was out to wipe them out I couldn't but empathize with his situation. Who wouldn't think such, having gone through their many predicaments?


'kovich


PICTURE CREDIT:
- https://www.pulse.ng.com

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