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Victims of fire beg Borno State governor to come to their aid

5 April 2024
Reading time: 5 minutes

Displaced people say authorities are ignoring them even though they are aware of the inferno that engulfed their huts, leaving them with nothing but the clothes they were wearing when the blaze broke out.

Displaced people who were left with nothing but the clothes on their backs after a raging inferno ripped through their camp in the Fariya community are still struggling to get their lives back on track.

They have not received any assistance from the Borno State government and have called on governor Babagana Umara Zulum to “rescue” them.

The fire broke out on Monday, March 18, at one of the biggest internally displaced persons’ camps, the Fariya Garkin Block, in the Jere Local Government Area.

A five-year-old boy died in the blaze and only five or six of the 1,525 thatch huts and tents were left standing.

Most of the residents were left with only the clothes they were wearing as the fire – stoked by a strong wind – raged through the camp in seconds.

“We were left homeless, without food and clothes. All our possessions went up in smoke,” said Mohammed Tahiru, one of the many victims of the fire.

“There was a very strong wind blowing on the day of the fire which helped it to spread quickly – in just a matter of seconds. Even though firefighters were on the scene shortly after the blaze started, they could not get it under control. By the time they managed to douse the flames almost all the shelters had been destroyed.

“It has been almost two weeks since the fire broke out and we have had no assistance from the government even though most of the camp was burnt to ashes. Even the trees burnt down. And the borehole so we do not have sufficient water. We urgently need humanitarian aid.”

He told RNI that a few of the residents had managed to erect huts but the high price of thatch was out of reach for most people.

“A wrap of thatch costs about ₦2,000 and you need about five or six for each hut. The stiff sticks we use to hold the thatch in place cost ₦1,500 each and the slim sticks used to bind the thatch cost about ₦1,000 each.

“Those who cannot afford thatch are using zinc sheets just to get some shelter. It is extremely hot. Temperatures have been hovering around 42°C. The elderly, babies and young children are suffering the most.

“On top of the scorching heat, it is Ramadan and most adults and older children are fasting from sunrise to sunset. When it is time to break the fast they have very little – if any – food to eat. At night you can hear children crying because they are so hungry.”

Abba Ambare said: “Just look around. You can see that we are suffering. Some of us had small businesses but we lost everything in the fire and used the little capital we had to buy thatch for huts.

“We used to go into the forest to hunt for food but, as you can see, we are weak and pale. We do not have the energy to go to the forest. We cannot move because it is so hot. And we are fasting so we don’t have energy in reserve.”

Abba said urgent intervention was desperately needed.

“Many people do not have anywhere to sleep and they have no clothes – they are still in the same clothes they were wearing on the day of the fire.

“As many as 20 to 30 people are sleeping under one shelter. You can just imagine how people are struggling in this heat. Others are sleeping out in the open without mats or mattresses. They are being attacked by insects and the women have no privacy.

“I have two wives but I was only able to erect one hut. I do not have enough money to build a second hut. So both my wives are staying in the same place under the same roof.”

Bulama Musa, the representative for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Fariya, told RNI that virtually everything in the camp was destroyed.

“We couldn’t save or take anything when the fire started. There are old women and men, young children and infants who do not have any shelter or a place to sleep. A few people – philanthropists in the community – delivered some thatch, sticks and mats. But they could not provide for everyone.

“And we have not heard a word from government authorities. No person from the government has shown any concern.

“The governor of Borno State was informed about the fire but he has not done anything to help. He is aware of the plight most residents are in but he is choosing to ignore it.

“Most of the IDPS in the camp are originally from the Marte, Monguno, Konduga, Bama and Mafa local government areas. They do not come from Jere but their ancestral homes are in the same state. We are pleading with the governor to stop ignoring us and to come to our aid. We are his people and we need to be rescued.”



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