On Saturday, 5th day of December 2015, I joined a social group (Stop. Don’t Drop) to visit New Kuchingoro camp, which is one of the 12 Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps in Abuja. The group had set aside that day to celebrate with the inhabitants on what they tagged “A Christmas to Remember.” The group which is led by Adiza Ujo in conjunction with Funto Boroffice from Chanja Datti, a recycling company set up a Christmas tree made from automobile tyres and decorated it different ornaments made from upcycled materials such as bottle tops, empty plastic bottles, wine corks, paper plates and disposable cups etc. The surrounding environment was also decorated with balloons and ribbons. It was quite creative, a delight to behold. They brought gift items, cakes, food and DJ to spice the environment with beautiful Nigerian music. The members of the group include Nigerians, Americans, Canadians, Italians, and Bangladeshi among others.
The new Kuchingoro camp is not far from the popular Games village around the city centre. The road leading to the camp is untarred, and dusty. When we arrived at the camp, it was around 8:00am. The IDPs were beginning to set forth for the day. No security presence was seen; we only saw the Police Van drove in about an hour later. I was told that there usually is no police presence at the IDP camp, a lady named Rose owner of “Sweet pot” was carrying out her Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), feeding the IDPs for 1 week, she invited the police to keep law and order in the camp while she fed them. The Saturday that I visited was her 6th day in the camp.
The IDPs consists of men, women and large numbers of children who fled from North Eastern Nigeria from the deadly assault of the notorious Boko Haram. A closer interaction with them revealed that most of them are from Gworza in Borno state. Gworza was one of the major theatres of insurgency in the Borno state, so the IDPs’ stories can be better imagined. Gworza was captured by the insurgent. Some of them want to return home, but the claim that Gworza has been re-captured by the Nigerian Army still has not convinced the IDPs to return home.
Although most of them are from Gworza Local Government Council, their Senator at the National Assembly, who lives in Abuja and who is the Leader of the current 8th Senate, Senator Ali Ndume has not visited them in over a year of their stay in the camp. Not even their Governor, Kashim Shettima who visits Abuja regularly has not visited them.
The official figure of people in the camp is put at 1,011 but the unofficial figure is more. Out of the total figure, children constitute about 45 per cent. The facilities in the camp are over-stretched.
There are only 15 toilets for the over 1,011 IDPs. They are all pit-toilets. Some of the toilets were donated by the Australian government, while others are from individual Nigerians. They are not enough, so most of them defecate openly around the neighbourhood. Even with the presence of the toilet, some people still prefer to, urinate and defecate openly.
They have a common kitchen where food is prepared, but most of the shacks in the camp have kitchens internally or externally beside their shacks. The foods cooked are those donated by concerned individuals.
The camp is filled with make-shift clustered shacks made from cartons, polythene bags, clothings, and woods which cannot stand a strong wind storm.
The camp has solar-powered electricity, provided by the Australian government. It keeps the place illuminated at night, sense of surveillance and helps to ward off reptiles and other animals.
They are bore hole and 4 water tanks, so the IDPs queue up to get their water. An IDP informed us that they supplied by the wife of former FCT Minister, Bala Mohammed.
The clothings were mostly given to them from individuals and groups who visit them. They are not enough so they have to wear them many days and dirty. Worse still, this is cold harmattan season, but many of the kids have no clothes to keep them warm.
They have a small box sick bay. The chairman of the camp, Philemon Emmanuel told us that a medical doctor comes every Tuesday to provide health services to the IDPs. The doctor works for TY Danjuma foundation owned by General Theophilus Danjuma, one of Nigeria’s former Army and Defence Chief. There are pregnant women there but there are no ante-natal facilities. During childbirth, they take women to hospital for delivery. We found a mentally-ill person in the camp, but not receiving treatment. They fear that his situation could get worse and constitute danger to others. Speaking to some of them, one could feel that they are depressed and needs trauma healing and other psycho-social supports.
The Police that we saw in their van are from Lugbe Division and they were 6 in number. Some of them were with arms, while others are without arms. They came on personal arrangement. This means that there is no security in the camp. The vicinity is not properly-fenced which is a security threat to the vulnerability of the IDPs.
They have a nursery and primary school. According to the treasurer of the camp, Marcus Buduwara, the school existed before the IDPs arrived the camp. It is run by a missionary, known as Pastor David who graciously allowed all the children in the camp to attend without a fee. The clergyman pays his teacher and provided the desks.
The camp is run by 4-member elected officials. They are the chairman, vice chairman, secretary and treasurer. The porta cabin serves as their office. They supervise the day to day happening in the camp, as well as share the gift items they receive. We did not notice NEMA and Ministry of health officials.
Their environment is dirty and unhealthy. There is poor sanitation there. The land they use for the camp is owned by the Gwaris, an ethnic group in the capital city. One of the members of the ethnic group told the IDPs that they will stay in their land only for two years. Now, its almost two years, and the government which promised another location has not provided any. This makes their conditions worse.
Their social life
They have converted a part of the camp to a soccer pitch where they play every evening. They also sit in clusters to play cards and share folklores. Some of those who are Christians find nearby churches to go worship and seek the help of God to solve their problems.
The main challenge
Some of the IDPs are graduates, but has no job. One of them, Marcus puts it this “give us hook to catch fish instead of giving us fish.” Those who are not graduates are farmers; they are used to harvesting and making large sales during this time of the season, but cannot go home to farm. The frustration among young men and women in the camp is increasing. There is need for deliberate effort to engage this young people so they do not become vulnerable to crime. It is a security threat to leave able-bodied young men, not in school, idle and unhappy in Abuja. To avoid the outbreak of epidemic which could be disastrous in the capital city of Nigeria, more supported and interventions is needed form the pubic.