By Samuel Malik
The icirnigeria.org has learnt that in spite of improved security in the northeast, particularly in Borno and Yobe States, internally displaced persons, IDPs, who had returned home are still reluctant to go back to the farmlands they left in the wake of the Boko Haram insurgency for fear of landmines and further attacks by the terrorists.
According to a team of assessors, who visited communities in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states, from the Centre of Democracy and Development, CDD, an Abuja-based civil society organisation, displaced persons are concerned about their safety on their farms, even though they wish to return to the farms.
CDD is currently working on De-radicalisation, Counter-Terrorism and Migration, in the northeast, a project funded by the Japanese government through the United Nations Development Programme, UNDP.
“The only places in these communities you see people farming are along the roads, all within the heart of towns. They told us they don’t go to the hinterlands of their communities to farm because they are afraid of landmines or attacks, so they restrict their farming activities to the peripheries of their communities,” Idamwenhor Napoleon Enayaba, a Senior Programmes Officer with CDD stated.
Napoleon headed a team to Maiduguri, Kaga, Jere, and Konduga local government areas of Borno State and said the humanitarian situation in these places is pathetic and inhuman, with economic activities barely picking up.
“Seeming economic activities going on are just at the level where you can barely make anything that can add to the value of life because you can only actually sell in a community where people have the capacity to buy. So, the capacity for demand is high but the capacity to pay for those demands is just not there,” he pointed out, adding, “People just roam around within a confined area.”
Hours after the team left Mandari in Konduga, a community that lives largely on fishing, a nearby village was attacked.
“We learnt that Yari, a village just behind the river in Mandari, was attacked on Friday night, hours after we left,” Napoleon stated.
In Yobe State, home to 134,415 IDPs, the humanitarian situation was no different and the team leader had to escape from a large number of hungry children surging towards him at Pompomari in Damaturu, the state capital. They had sighted him with snacks and drinks but lacked the patience to wait for the distribution.
“Despite the fact that I wanted to give them some, they rushed at me and collected some of the snacks. I had to run into the car when I saw their number swelling. That was a scary experience,” Amuda Stephen Jakande, a Programmes Officer also with CDD, told the reporter.
He added that the IDPs too are unwilling to return to their farms, possibly fearing for their safety as well. Thus, many depend on relief materials from both government and non-governmental organisations. With majority of IDPs living outside camps, Stephen said it was easy to see IDPs from outside trooping into the camps during meal time.
This confirmed what a staff of the National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA, told our reporter about the possible reason why food is not enough for IDPs in camps.
“A woman held me by the trouser, begging for food saying she had not eaten since morning, so I had to give her some loafs of bread and some money. It was sad to see.”
“When it is time to serve food, you see many IDPs coming into the camps from outside. They know the time when food is shared and when they come, you cannot stop them because you know they are hungry,” Garba Abdullahi Sirajo said.
This is understandable, especially given that only nine percent of the about two million displaced persons in the northeast are sheltered in IDPs camps and the camps get more attention with regards to relief materials than communities housing majority of the people.
In Buni Yadi, one of the worst hit towns in the northeast, hunger walks the streets.
“A woman held me by the trouser, begging for food saying she had not eaten since morning, so I had to give her some loafs of bread and some money. It was sad to see,” Jakande narrated.
In Adamawa State, the security situation is far better than in the other two states and people go about their normal activities. In Mubi, Gulak, Madagali, Michika, and others, businesses have picked while people go about their farming activities with little fear.
However, there are cases of attacks in villages in these areas, especially where there are no security personnel.
During a funeral in June at Kuda-kaya, a village in Madagali, suspected Boko Haram insurgents stormed the place and shot dead 18 women, wounding others and setting houses on fire.
When our reporter visited some liberated communities in Borno and Adamawa states in June, the Emir of Mubi, Abubakar Ahmadu, told the General Officer Commanding, GOC, 7 Division Nigerian Army, Victor Ezugwu, a Brigadier General, that while peace had returned to his emirate, some villages were still witnessing occasional attacks from Boko Haram members who cross from neighbouring Borno State.
Ahmadu specifically mentioned Bebel, another village in Madagali, which he said was recently attacked before the arrival of the GOC.
The intense campaign from the Nigerian military has forced Boko Haram out of towns it once controlled. Some of the remnants of the insurgents now resort to targeting villagers and other soft targets. This has forced many displaced persons to seek refuge in towns, and are unwilling to return to their homes.
Malik is on a fellowship programme at CDD by the Institute for War and Peace Reporting