In a bid to project the voices of victim affected by conflict in different parts of the country, PAGED initiative a non governmental Organization (NGO) expanded it’s focus from the north east region of the Boko Haram ravaged area to the north central people who have fled their different communities around Benue and Nasarawa state due to farmers,herdsmen clashes, Maureen Okpe writes.
In a visit to the Awe Central primary school internally displaced persons (IDP)camp in Nasarawa state,some of the victims narrated their ordeals and challenges they face in the camp.
The Awe Central primary school IDP camp is located in Awe a some what rural area of the state, though the road network leading to the community is still in good shape,it took the expertise of the driver to manuover the bush part that served as the available link to the school compound as the main gate was shut and could not be accessed.
Approaching the camp one is greeted by the litter of polythene bags,papers and leaves flying around which at some point the pupils came out to gather and set ablaze but will not burn completely because the leaves were not that dried and the smoke will continue to chase us around as the wind kept blowing it towards us, not to mention the over grown bushes surrounding the premises.
A few minutes after our arrival,a snake was killed by some pupils while trying to enter one of the rooms occupied by the IDPs.
Inside the camp,women and children are seen involving in different activities of cooking, children playing in groups as the time of our arrival was during the break period,some children are seen scooping water to drink, from the water holes which is some few feet away from the area the children go to urinate.
Most of the victims complained of hunger, difficulty in sending their children to school even though they live in a school premises,lack of basic health care,privacy.
One thing they seem to have in the common is the complain of hunger and the longing to go back to their homes as life in the camp can not be compared to the comfort they had In their villages.
When asked about the incident that brought them from their communities,one of the victims Ngohumba Bai who was distraught about the incident said:
“It was sometime in January 2017 during the debate of signing the Anti-grazing bill into law,the herdsmen stormed our village one fateful day and began to shoot,butcher everyone on sight while setting ablaze houses and barns as they went along.
“In a few minutes everywhere began chaotic the shouts of wounded dying people,the fear of people running helter skelter to hide in escape of being shot.
“Parents, especially women in quick calculations rounded up children not minding whether there’s or not search desperately for an escape route.
“It was a miracle that I was able to run away with my children unharmed.Along the way litters of dead bodies everywhere that we had to cover the little children’s face to avoid them seeing it as this could cause them to have nightmares.
Narrating how she and her family had taken refuge at the old Secretariat in Nasarawa town but were later relocated to the central primary school as the old Secretariat served as a boarding school and upon resumption they had to leave.
“When we came to Nasarawa town we were first allowed to stay at the old Secretariat but when the students came back from the holidays we were asked to move to this place, Ngohumba said.
“We moved into one of the classrooms given to myself,my husband and my six children,we gave birth to the seventh child here.
She continued “After a while we located one of my husband’s sister who lives in a two room apartment very close to the camp and we moved in with her, the camp room did not have windows and the door do not close completely because it was bad,the cold and mosquitoes became unbearable.
“Living with my husband’s sister is not so different from the camp as myself,my husband and seven children share one room. At night we move our clothes,pots,plates and the rest things aside to create space for us to lay our mat and wrappers to sleep on ,then in the morning we fold them to create space for movement.
Ngohumba hinted that life has not been easy as they have left everything behind starting over from scratch which has been a huge challenge.
“Since we came here we have not gotten any help or relief material from the government, except for one company that came and distributed mosquito nets to families we have been completely neglected.
On how they have been coping considering their main source of livelihood was farming, Ngohumba lamented that “it has not been easy,we usually have rich harvest at home as we farm things like yam,rice, soyabeans and the rest we have never experienced the kind of hunger that is hitting us now.
“As our experience is mostly on farming we engage our selves in farm labour,but the problem is that the people here price us anyhow seeing that we are desperately in need, so for lack of option we accept whatever is offered.
She narrated that “the small money paid cannot be compared to the work done but needs has to be taken care of as such staying idle is not an option.
“Usually we not are paid for a day,there is a form of measurement that is used for a distance using a rope and for that distance 200naira is paid,so it depends on how many one can do for a day.
“Like now if you start as early as 6or 7am you could work as much as 5 or 6ropes,or from 8 to 9am, 3 or 4ropes.
On expectations, She said “we want the government to find a way of bringing peace back to our communities,as we will love to go back home.
“Since the crisis is between farmers and herdsmen government should find a way to create a forum for dialogue,so that we can sit down discuss the way to go about it.
“Government should also help us with roofing sheets zincs,we can mould bricks ourselves and set our own houses up but we do not have money to buy zinc to roof it.
“As farmers we will need seedlings to continue our farming activities as we have lost everything to the crisis.
Ngohumba despite being a secondary School graduate and living in the village has a good command of English her ambition was to become a nurse someday,the stress of raising children, finance and now crisis has dashed all hope for any opportunity to further her education.
“I have the vision of going to school to further and become a nurse and also that my children will go to school too.”
According to the Managing Director PAGED initiative Ummi Bukar reason for visiting this IDP camp is to get the story from the people involved to get to know their needs, their problems and how they are coping in their present environment.
Bukar stated that”conflict is gradually becoming a norm in our society, people are now desensitized on news of conflict so if you hear that people died if they are not your people you don’t even get offended.”
She reiterated that “it is important to put into perspective for Nigerians how distabilizing conflicts are and then maybe we start having this people tended to.”
She further called on the government to put in place conflict preventing measures and security to avoid future occurrence of this conflict because according to her ” the implications is just terrible.”