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Evacuation from camps is a political ploy to keep governor in office, say IDPs

2 December 2021
Reading time: 4 minutes

As the December 31 evacuation deadline draws closer, many internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Borno State are reluctant to return to their communities which they fled because of persistent attacks by insurgents.

Some said their former communities were still under the control of the Jamā’at Ahl as-Sunnah lid-Da’way Wa’l-Jihād (JAS), most commonly referred to as Boko Haram, and others said their communities were still being attacked by extremists.

On October 22, Babagana Zulum, the governor of Borno State, announced his plan to shut down all IDP camps in the state by December 31.

He said the decision was informed by the recent improvement in the security situation in the state as well as the need to return the IDPs to their ancestral homes.

Some IDPs believed that Zulum’s directive was a “political” move. They said he was preparing for the 2023 election and that returning the IDPs to their communities was a ploy that might help him to keep him in office.

Some IDPs in the state had already returned to their ancestral communities.

Fatima Usman, a Maiduguri resident, said every IDP should be sent back to their lands even if their communities were still under attack by insurgents.

But, she said, she had heard that some IDPs had already returned and they had found their community in a shambles. Their houses had been burnt and they did not have a place to shelter.

She said many of the IDPs who were being evacuated from Bakassi Camp did not have a place to stay. “All they can do is pray to the Almighty.”

Usman believed the IDPs should abide by the governor’s directive. By returning, they could revive their communities though farming or other businesses.

“If they stay doing nothing but sitting in the camps, their lives will never improve and they will not learn about the importance of becoming self-reliant.”

Tahir Bukar said there was not much IDPs could do to make their lives easier in the camps. Most were unemployed and lived what little they could get by begging on the streets or from what the government and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) gave them.

“This year many farmers produced a bumper harvest. If the IDPs return to their lands, they will be self-reliant and can contribute to the socioeconomic development of the state. Their lives would be far more productive and they would be among people they have known for a long time.”

Kaka Alhaji Dunoma, a human rights activist based in Maiduguri, said that “based on human rights laws”, the government was not at fault because it had the constitutional right to return IDPs to their communities.

He said the government had let them stay in the camps and that same government could provide all the things necessary requirements they would need when they returned to their communities.

Dunoma, using Bakassi and Gubio camps as examples, said the government and NGOs had built schools in the camps and the IDPs had all the basic amenities they needed. They would get the same back in their communities because their fundamental rights as humans could not be denied.

“Many IDPs were critical of the government, saying it had neglected their rights but the government had acted legally by providing social amenities, such as schools, hospitals, security and protection.

He the IDPs should not resist or disobey the directive. “Reviving their lands is more important than adjusting to the urban way of life, which was difficult because there were no jobs and most of them lived in poverty. He said they should keep praying to the Almighty and ask him for guidance. ”

About the author

Aisha Sd Jamal