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Internally displaced persons take bold steps to move from dependence to self-reliance

30 November 2023
Reading time: 4 minutes

IDPs say it feels good to be self-reliant and to no longer have to depend solely on the government or humanitarian aid agencies to feed their families.

Some internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Maiduguri, Borno State, have taken bold steps to start their own small businesses to make a living – instead of begging on the streets or sitting idly in community camps.

They said the cost of living was now so high that they could no longer depend on humanitarian aid agencies, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) or the government to feed their families.

Baba Kura Abba Yusuf, a displaced man originally from the Bama Local Government Area, told RNI that the insurgency had forced him to flee his hometown about 10 years ago. He said it had been hard in the beginning. He had started many petty trading businesses since he arrived in Maiduguri but they had not worked out. Now he makes caps and is making a good living.

“When I got here, I took refuge at the Yerwa IDP camp. But I decided to leave the camp to try to make a living. I tried trading various goods. It was not easy and some of my efforts did not work out. Now I am making caps and I have a sustainable livelihood. It is good to be self-reliant instead of depending on aid from the government or humanitarian agencies.”

He said there were about 300 IDPs who traded or had small businesses outside and in the market. He urged others to try starting a business so that they would not have to depend on handouts.

Alhaji Goni, originally from the Gamboru Ngala Local Government Area, said he sold sweet potatoes and onions at the market.

“My family and I fled from Gamboru eight years. It was too dangerous there and we were being attacked so often. If we had not fled, we would have been killed.”

Goni said in 2015 he started selling sweet potatoes. He said he and his family had faced many hardships and challenges living as IDPs.

“But now I have a small business and a means of livelihood. I can look after my family. It is much better than depending on aid to live.”

Bakura Ali, originally from the Marte Local Government Area, said he and his family had fled their hometown of New Marte about nine years ago.

“I was still young and had no idea about business. But I started selling soup ingredients, such as salt, pepper and a range of different spices. I make a good living and I am planning to get married soon.”

Muazu Alhaji Modu, the executive director of Spotlight for Transparency and Accountability, said there were many IDPs who had started petty trading and small businesses not only in Maiduguri but also in other places, such as Kano, Abuja, Kaduna and Katsina, to earn a sustainable living.

“Some IDPs received capital to start a business after being trained in various skills,” he said. “The training was provided by the government and NGOs. Unfortunately, not all of them received training and had to struggle on their own capital to start a small business.

“It is good that so many IDPs have started trading and running their own small businesses because it means they can make a living instead of having to depend on humanitarian aid from either the government, humanitarian agencies or NGOs.

Modu said there were IDPs doing business in markets across the country. Their efforts had shown that they had patience and tenacity and they were resilient.

“Their businesses, even though they are small, still contribute to the economy of not only Borno State but also Nigeria as a whole by generating tax, raw material requirements and employment opportunities. They were also helping to alleviate poverty.”

Modu urged other young people, who spent their time sitting idly and waiting for the government to provide jobs, to emulate those IDPs who had boldly gone out to start their own businesses.

“After all the challenges and hardships of this 14-year conflict, starting a small business could make all the difference. They will live a better life and will be able to look forward to a brighter future.”




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