Several groups and organisations have, in the spirit of Christmas, donated items to people living in the displaced persons’ camp in Abuja.
Apart from giving the displaced persons, IDPs, and their family members a sense of belonging as other Nigerians celebrate Christmas, the groups thronged the camps with food items, clothing and messages of hope for a better future.
One of the donors was The Teens Church of the Summit Bible Church, Abuja, who arrived the camp on December 19 with some clothes, food and other gift items as part of their Children’s Week celebrations.
“The Children of our Church decided to come and spend some time with the IDPs, particularly their children, to give them a sense of belonging; make them feel loved and cared for, even as they try to re-gather their lives together again from the devastation of the insurgency,” the Church’s Teen Pastor, Kingsley Bangwell, said.
For the Maidunama Sickle Cell Foundation, a non-governmental organisation, which also visited the camp, they were there to felicitate with the occupants and encourage them to see their experience as a temporary setback.
Rabi Maidunama said the Foundation named in memory of her father, Mohammed Maidunama, was in the camp to identify with the IDPs.
Another visitor to the camp was the Atimoh Odili Foundation, a non-governmental organization committed to the eradication of poverty by providing tools for sustainable development to vulnerable people living in rural communities across Africa.
The foundation came with different food items including 1,000 units of 25 kilogramme bags of rice, 1,000 mattresses, and 1,000 cartons of tomato paste.
The Managing Director of the Foundation, Chioma Nwigwe, said the donation was part of a one-year project by the Foundation to eradicate hunger among the people.
Ms. Nwigwe said skills acquisition programme sponsored by the Foundation is expected to take off in March next year to help empower the IDPs and re-integrate them back into society.
“We do not think just distributing food items will help them when they eventually go back home,” Ms. Nwigwe said.
“If we provide them food, we would have fed them for a day. But, if we train them and give them skills to work and earn a living, we would have provided them a source to feed for life.
“Don’t forget they were traumatised and forced to leave their homes. Our aim is to help them get back their livelihood when they get back.”
Rather than give money, Ms. Nwigwe said, the Foundation wants to ensure that the educated ones among them were given training on skills that would help them function on their own.
The Foundation, she said, intends to give soft loans and business outlines that would help the IDPs start their businesses.
“The Foundation is willing to help them as much as they are willing to help themselves. We will provide the training. But, it is left for them to take advantage of it,” she said.
A leader of the displaced persons, Philemon Emmanuel, expressed appreciation to the donors for their kind gesture. He said the occupants of the camp included about 903 from Borno and 52 from Adamawa, both states, two of the most ravaged by the Boko Haram insurgency.
“I cannot express our gratitude enough on behalf of the IDPs here,” Mr. Emmanuel told Ms. Nwigwe. “Since we came here in January 2014, we have not seen the kind of support the Foundation has brought for us.
“Even NEMA (National Emergency Management Agency)did not bring a quarter of the items we are seeing today. We are happy with the kind gesture of the company.”
Mr. Emmanuel lamented the insecurity in the camp, saying residents of the New Kuchingoro community, where the camp is located. sometimes invaded the camp to seize donated materials.
He accused the government of neglecting them.
“For a long time, we have begged government to build a hospital here without any positive response. There is nothing that government has given the IDPs here. We are surviving here by the grace of individuals and philanthropic organisations.
“Our office here was provided by the South African Ambassador. The school was provided by Pastor David Olatunde, while some churches and organisations come on a daily basis with medical teams to carry out check-ups on IDPs.
“There is no security in the camp here. We take turns to provide security through vigilante groups we put together,” Mr. Emmanuel said.
As if to confirm the fears of the IDPs, the event was almost marred by persons who disrupted the distribution of the items.
While the IDPs and officials of the donors scampered to safety, the attackers swooped on items and packed them away.
But for the emergency security arrangement hurriedly put in place by the organisers, the hoodlums would have carted away everything. The only items salvaged were those yet to be off-loaded from the trucks that brought them.
“When individuals and groups sacrifice their resources to cater for fellow Nigerians in distress situations, the only responsibility government owes them is to guarantee a safe environment for them,” an official of one the groups that came to donate to the IDPs, Everest Ezeigbo, told PREMIUM TIMES.
“If government does not want the IDP camps, then it should shut them down and evacuate the people, rather than endangering the lives of innocent people who come to identify with their plight,” he added.
In his reaction to the incident, the director general of NEMA, Muhammad Sidi, said as far as the agency was concerned there was no recognised IDP camp in Abuja.
Mr. Sidi explained that the only recognised IDP camps were those in states close to those affected by the insurgency in the North East region.
“Displaced persons from those states – Gombe, Adamawa, Borno – ought to go to the camps in those states and not come to Abuja under the guise of displaced persons,” Mr. Sidi said.
“It’s amazing that an IDP would claim to be from Gwoza, Borno state, but would refuse to use any of the camps setup in even the neighbouring states, only to come to Abuja as an IDP.
“There are no formal camps by the Federal Government for IDPs in Abuja.”