Call it a case of double tragedy, you will not be wrong. If disturbing reports from the camps of internally displaced persons located in parts of Northern Nigeria are anything to go by, then there is every reason to believe that these unfortunate Nigerians are in for more troubling times. Until situation and circumstance turned them to refugees in their own country, most of these people were living peacefully in their various communities and engaged in sundry means of survival. That was before the terrorist group, the Boko Haram, struck in their determined bid to overrun the North Eastern states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa, ostensibly to impose extremist Islamic-style hegemony in these parts.
Following their displacement from their various communities, these victims of terrorists attacks were resettled in selected camps in the capitals of the affected states, including the Federal Capital, Abuja. But it will appear that in spite of relief materials pouring in from government and individual quarters, respite, indeed peace, may continue to elude them.
THE internally displaced persons, IDPs, camps have recently been in the news for the wrong, nay disturbing, reasons. Incidents of unwanted pregnancies, rape, child labour/trafficking and sexually transmitted diseases have begun to rear their ugly heads in the various camps that are their temporary homes. Only last week, five IDPs in some camps located in Maiduguri who were screened for malaria and HIV/AIDS by a non- governmental organisation, NGO – The Business and Professional Women, tested positive to HIV/AIDS.
The leader of the NGO, Dr. Ismaila Watila, disclosed that most of the results showed ‘early infection’. The five IDPs, according to Dr Watila, were among the 1,000 persons who had so far come up to be screened by the group. He regretted that many of the IDPs did not show up for the exercise. “We are conducting free screening for IDPs in HIV, malaria and other disease conditions. The programme is being conducted by the Business and Professional Women in conjunction with the National Agency for Control of Aids, NACA and the Sure- P,’’ he said.
Watila said that the exercise was aimed at finding out the health status of the IDPs with a view to preventing the spread of diseases among them.
“We started on Monday, February 2, 2015 and so far we have screened over 1,000 out of the 8,000 IDPs in some of the camps. Out of these, only five have tested positive to HIV/AIDS. Statistically, the number appears insignificant as it represents just about 0.5 percent of those screened. But as a doctor, I see the number as alarming because it is a dangerous trend going by the happenings in the camps,’’ he said.
Watila disclosed that the affected IDPs had already been counseled and referred for treatment. “What we do usually is to treat those who tested positive to malaria and other diseases immediately. Those who tested positive to HIV/AIDS will be counselled and transferred to the State Specialist Hospital for proper medication,’’ he said.
He gave further reasons for the enlightenment programme. “We are conducting enlightenment campaigns for the IDPs on the need to maintain a healthy living. We also enlighten them on how to play safe. The whole thing is to reduce the prevalence of disease conditions in the camps,’’ he said. Watila said that the group decided to flag off the programme at the NYSC Camp because it is the largest IDP’s camp in Borno State.
“We started in the NYSC Camp because it is the largest out of the seven IDPs camps in Maiduguri. We are trying to ensure that the IDPs remain healthy, even after they return home,’’ he explained.
Mallam Idrissa Usman Izge who is an IDP from Gwoza Council Area Area, one of the councils taken over by the insurgents since August 2014, gave reasons why some inmates contracted the dreaded virus. “Many IDPs have been infected with HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases because we don’t have money to buy condom and the state government refused to provide us with such. But what is giving us greater concern in the camps is the issue of rape. In most cases, women are the ones raping the men,” Izge stated.
IDPs in Adamawa not affected by scandal
Although there are reported cases of rape and sexually transmitted diseases in most of the camps, those overseeing the IDPs camps in Adamawa State have exonerated the camp from the said allegations.
Similarly, the National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA in Adamawa State has debunked media reports of child abuse and trafficking in camps located in the state.
The NEMA Coordinator in the North East, Alhaji Sa’ad Bello who oversees IDP camps in Adamawa State, insisted that such allegations are unfounded. Bello said his reaction became necessary because the report did not specify which of the six states in the North East where the crime is being carried out.
“Those of us here in Adamawa have not had any case of child abuse or child trafficking. However, we will not speak for other decamps, but in Adamawa there is no reported case of child abuse,” he said
Bello disclosed that the minors in the camps were under the firm control of their parents and guardians while the security agents are closely monitoring the movement of persons and vehicles in and around the camps.
NEMA constitutes panel to probe allegations
Apparently jolted by the reports of rape, child trafficking and rising occurrence of sexually transmitted diseases, the Director General of the National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA, Muhammad Sani-Sidi, has constituted a high powered investigative panel to look into allegations of rape and child trafficking in some internally displaced persons’ camps in the North East.
According to a statement issued from NEMA’s Senior Information Officer, Sani Datti, the panel, which is expected to complete its investigations within two weeks, is mandated to verify allegations by the International Centre for Investigative Reporting; interact with all stakeholders and carry out town hall meetings in all the camps mentioned in the allegation.
The panel is also expected to interact with the University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital, North East Zonal Office of NEMA, and State Emergency Management Agencies in the affected states as well as the Department of State Services, DSS, The Red Cross, Nigerian Army and the Nigeria Police.
Members will also dialogue with IDPs and theirs leaders in the camps and other international players.
In the event that the allegations are true, the panel will determine if there is any culpability on the part of government agencies and to do any other thing which in its opinion, will facilitate the accomplishment of the assignment.
Membership of the committee were drawn from DSS, Nigeria Police Force, Nigerian Red Cross Society, Office of National Security Adviser, National Human Rights Commission, and National Agency for the Prohibition of Traffic In Persons, Journalists Against Disaster Initiative and NEMA.
The Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps, International Organisation for Migration, SEMA Borno, SEMA Gombe and SEMA Adamawa are also members of the committee.
Abandoned by politicians
Meanwhile, as the electioneering campaigns gather more steam, IDPs in Dagba, a suburb of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Abuja, have called on the government to hasten the resolution of the issues that led to the upsurge in the incidents of insurgency in the country.
The refugees, who said they are desirous of returning to their fatherlands, noted that their plight in the camps have become unbearable. They alleged that apart from NEMA, other agencies of government have remained insensitive to their plight. They claimed that they have been living under the mercy of God with no hope where to get their next meal.
One of the IDPs, who identified himself as Habib Wazari, alleged that promises of providing basic amenities to them, have not been fulfilled. According to him, NEMA visited them in December 2014 and pledged to cater for the children and take the pregnant women to hospitals. But till date, the promise has not been met.
Another IDP, Hajayi Mohammed, regretted that the men in the camp now take up odd jobs in a bid to raise little money to feed their families. She called on the government to beef up security in the camps because some young men come from the neighbourhood to harass and try to rape them in the camp.