There are over 2.9million Internally Dsiplaced Persons (IDPs) in Nigeria, a figure which is estimated to be on the increasing side as a result of incessant terrorist attacks on Nigerian communities, especially the Northern region. How are the IDPs surviving since the forceful eviction from their communities? Who provides aid for them and the challenges they are facing as they settle in another location. In this special report, ADESOLA IKULAJOLU takes a journey to the popular Karonmajigi IDP camp located in Nigeria’s Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja.
Isa left his village in Borno State when they were attacked at night by terrorists. The terrorists killed several villagers while some were injured in their rush for safety when they launched the attack that fateful night, Isa narrated. Isa was young when the incident happened and had to leave the terrorist-infested community with other villagers who searched for a safer place.
Musiu found himself in Federal Capital Territory, Abuja with other villagers. They settled at Karonmajigi, an outskirt along airport road in Nigeria’s capital where they formed a camp for the Internally Displaced Persons(IDPs).
One of such persons who also escaped with other villagers is Isa’s friend, Musiu. They both can’t recall their journey into the Karonmajigi camp as they struggle to narrate their ordeal to this reporter.
“The fighting is too much,” Isa said as he continued stocking his damaged fridge with soft drinks which now serve as the only means of livelihood for him in front of his makeshift aluminum room.
Many other Isas and Musius- old and young also exist in the Karonmajigi IDPs camp where they all struggle for survival after being displaced from their community.
…Karamajiji IDPs Camps
Karonmajigi is situated at the back of the National Military Cemetery nearby Kuchingoro in the northern region of Abuja. Formerly an undeveloped hectares of inhabitable land surrounded with trees, now a community housing thousands of humans including an Internally Displaced Camp.
Karonmajigi IDP camp is one out of the 18 in Abuja which currently houses over 1,000 displaced persons including children and women. It is home to those who had been displaced from their homes by Boko Haram. Abuja has a total of 31,029 IDPs, according to the 2021 figure by National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and Displaced Persons (NCFRMI, the government agency incharge of displaced persons.
Oldmen and women seated on the floor under the tree begging alms, with children clad in torn clothes hawking round, few bike men struggling to get customers and discussing in their hausa language- this introduces the entrance into Karonmajigi before walking over 20minutes to the IDP camp while bike will take about 5minutes to ply.
Most of the IDPs in Karonmajigi are from Yobe, Borno and Adamawa. They are sometimes referred to as “unauthorised” by FEMA but well recognised by the Refugees Commission.
Forced to forge a life for themselves outside of the much-needed care and very necessary watch of the government, Karonmajigi IDPs the camp is left uncared for by her own government. This has left many of the men to resort to hard labourers on farms they do not own, drivers, security; just to keep providing square meals for their children and wife.
According to data by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) in its 2021 index report for Nigeria, there are over 2.9million Internally Displaced Persons with Borno having the highest figure of 1,630,284 persons in over 30 camps.
Terrorist attacks in the Northeast have rendered many homeless and displaced from their town in search of safety.
No education for our children- Internally Displaced Women
For 13-year-old Khadijat, access to education is a mirage since she arrived at the Karonmajigi camp for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) who were ejected from their original communities in Northern Nigeria. Khadijat is not the only one affected, other children in the camp are also caught in the web of poor access to education.
The Karonmajigi IDPs camp is located along airport road, Lugbe, in Abuja Municipal Area Council of the Federal Capital Territory.
When this reporter met Khadijat, she was seated in front of the only building that serves as school for the IDPs. She struggles to speak in English while also playing with other children in the camp.
Khadijat could not recall when she was moved to the Karonmajigi IDP camp but she could recall that she was moved from Maiduguri when conflict evicted her family from their community.
Fatima Mohammed, a struggling mother, narrated her journey into the Karonmajigi IDP camp after being evicted from her home in Adamawa. Aishatu and other women have been battling with the problem of having their children enrolled in school.
Despite being forced to leave their homes and find settlement in another state to escape witnessing another deadly terrorist attack, a large percentage of the children at the Karonmajigi IDP camp do not go to school.
“Our main problem is the lack of education for our children in school. There is a government school here. That is where our children go to, but you know government school, there is no proper teaching and some of the women don’t even have the money to take their children to the government schools,” Fatima told this reporter.
“..So many people will come here to listen to ask about our children and promise to tell the chairman but we won’t hear anything again. Many people will come and say select children. Chairman will say -go back home and then, nothing again. Many people really want to help but we don’t know what is going on.”
Fatima explained how parents in the IDP camp are struggling to pay for the West African Examination Council (WAEC) since help is not coming for their children. The complaint was lodged to the chairman of the camp, Mr. Abubakar but rather than proffer help, he told Fatima that “no one will write WAEC.” Since then, no child has registered for WAEC at the Karamajiji IDP camp.
Raquel Kasham Daniel, the Director of Beyond the Classroom lamented the poor access to funds by parents at the IDP which makes it difficult for them to sponsor their children to school.
“The government should intervene in the matter by empowering the parents to be financially stable to care for themselves and enroll their children in school”
Raquel used her organisation to provide access to education for over 130 children at Karonmajigi community, since help is not coming for them.
This reporter saw the only building servin g as a school for the children, now in a poor and collapsing state. The small classroom had wooden desks packed in one side of the room, some of which are broken and begging for repair with charcoal littering the floor. This is not close to what a definition of conducive learning environment should be.
…More Out-Of School Children
According to UNICEF “all children, no matter where they live or what their circumstances, have the right to quality education.” This right to education seems not to apply to the children of the internally displaced persons in Karamajiji.
One in five out-of-school children in the world is a Nigerian. In Nigeria, out-of-school children account for 10.5 million, making the figure the highest rate in the world which indicates that one-third of Nigerian children are not in school.
With the population of the IDPs, clear indication exists that the displaced children account for the larger percentage of out-of-school children. With this deficiency, education practitioners highlighted that the lack of access to education by children in the IDP camp will pose a threat and contribute to increasing number of out-of-school children.
This reporter walked round the camp to observe the living condition of the children. Many of them were seen begging alms while some hawk round the neighbouring communities. Some of them trek as far as Jabi, Lokogoma, Berger, Wuye, Utako- all of which can take over 45minutes to enroute.
No Medical Help For The IDPs
Aishatu Bala is one out of many women at the Karonmajigi IDP camp who speaks and understands English language fluently. She was also displaced from her Adamawa home.
Aishatu battles with a head pain that has refused to go. When she discovered the pain was getting too much for her, she approached the national hospital where she hoped to receive treatment. As an IDP, Aishatu thought she would be attended to but she was told to pay the sum of 10,000 before she could meet with the doctor.
With the pain and disappointment, Fatima returned to the camp and continued living with the condition. In search of relief and better health, she (Fatima) is struggling to raise over 30,000 for her head pain to be attended to.
This is the fate of other internally displaced persons at Karamajiji camp- no medical help. They all struggle to get themselves treated at the hospital if they can afford the payment or resort to self-medication while some die in the process of no medical attention.
“If we are sick, we take ourselves to the hospital. I was told that before I can see the doctor, I must pay 10,000 without paracetamol or anything. That was how I turned back. I want to gather 30,000. We don’t have access to any hospital, we are the one taking care of ourselves,” Aishatu told this reporter.
Fatima on her own side said she can’t remember when last anyone from the IDP camp visited the hospital as the only medical help they get is from Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and churches who usually come for outreach.
This was not the situation for the IDPs when they initially moved to the camp. The two women (Fatima and Aishatu) recalled there used to be a time when the national hospital used to have a scheduled time for the IDPs but now, they have been told that ‘it has closed’.
Fatima has been the one maintaining the borehole donated to the IDP camps. She does this by repairing the tap anytime it gets spoiled to ensure that the camp members have regular access to water. She also takes care of the borehole to prevent any traces of water-borne disease as her own way of contributing to the IDP to eradicate medical complications since they struggle to access medical help.
We Don’t Depend On Government To Survive- IDP Officials
Before Usman was evicted from his home in Borno, his dream was to become a manager. He completed his Bachelor of Science degree in Management from the University of Maiduguri.
In 2014, terrorists launched an attack on Usman town. That was the last time he saw his town before being forced to move to FCT in search of safety to form a camp with his people where they are surviving with inadequate government attention.
Usman is the Secretary of the Karonmajigi IDPs camp.
For Usman and other men in the Karamajiji IDPs camp, their means of livelihood is dependent on how hard they work. They engage in menial jobs to feed their families without waiting for any government help for the internally displaced persons which Usman said it scarcely come.
“Nobody here relies on what the government gives the IDPs. We are working. Some are doing business while some are working as security in companies. If you check the camp now, you will see they are not around because they have all gone about their businesses.”
“Nobody is idling around. This hall you see, no one gave us. We make use of our money including the houses. We cannot say we have much problem because we are solving it,” Usman told this reporter.
Usman explained that during the Ramadan period, the Minister for Agriculture brought food (corn and garri) for them while the Refugee Commission also provided support for the camp members but the internally displaced persons still search for help to survive by themselves.
Like Fatima told this reporter, Usman also agreed that they receive help from NGOs and religious bodies who come to do outreach.
“Our children are attending schools that we can afford around here. We’ve been here for a long time since 2014 and the government has been supporting us in their little way as we are under the Refugee Commission. Some NGOs always give us some sensitization and food items.Many NGOs also sponsor our children to school apart from the government,” the Karonmajigi IDP Secretary told this reporter.
On access to medical attention, Usman said: “If anyone gets sick, I will collect a letter of authorization and give it to the person. Everyone’s name is on the hospital’s database. You must register. If you’re not known, no one will attend to you.because there is a need to collect letters from the Refugee Commission.”
Due to the activities of Boko Haram and now the infiltration of Banditry, the level of insecurity in Nigeria has heightened in recent years, mostly in the northern part of the country. More internally displaced persons are relocating.
Investigations have shown that IDPs are largely left to fend for themselves, with inadequate support from the government. Karonmajigi IDPs are not the only one lamenting neglect by the government, their counterparts in Abuja are also facing similar pains spurring them to survive all by themselves.
This story was supported by Journalists for Christ through World Association of Christian Communications (WACC) and Bread for the World – German Protestant Agency for Diaconia and Development.