But for their courage and resilience, the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), numbering over 1,400 currently taking refuge at the “Christian Home for the Needy” in Uhogua camp in Benin City, Edo State would have been evicted from the camp last week. According to reports, a combine team of Nigeria Police, Civil Defence and Department of State Security had arrived the camp managed by the International Christian Centre in Edo State to effect the eviction order said to be from the ‘top’.
The security operatives who arrived the camp in about 40 buses with an instruction to relocate them from Edo State to the north met very stiff opposition from the inmates. They were to have been relocated to Kano and Jigawa states respectively. They insisted that the Federal Government should bring the help it intended to render them to the camp, as they were not willing to move. The report stirred uproar in the centre, followed by weeping and wailing while some of them apparently fainted. They said they were comfortable in the centre and asked the security officials to leave them.
“Let them help those that are still suffering. Those hiding in the mountains need more help than us. We that have been rescued should be left here. They should bring the help to us here,” one of the IDPs said. “We are Nigerians and we have the right to live wherever we choose to live,” another said. Most of the persons at the camp are children numbering over 900 with the youngest said to be four months old. One of the IDPs, Tani Philemon, said she had been abducted by the insurgents from her home in Gwoza Local Government Area of Bornu State, but escaped miraculously after several days of fasting.
Addressing reporters after the IDPs voiced their displeasure with the plan, the Edo State Commissioner for Women Affairs, Maimuna Momodu, said she was not aware of the plan to relocate the IDPs even though the security team told her that the instruction was from the Presidency. The IDPs had escaped from the volatile northeast where Boko Haram terrorists had sustained attacks on communities for over five years and they said they were not willing to go back to the northeast where they had been deprived of their freedom of movement and of their studies.
Following this development, Edo State Governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, has assured the IDPs of his government’s assistance while in the camp. Speaking during his on-the-spot assessment of facilities and condition of inhabitants of the camp, in company of his wife, Lara, some senior government officials, the Commissioner of Police, Mr. Damilola Adegbuyi, and the State Director of State Security, Mr. Alexander Okeiyi, on Monday, the Governor said “Nigeria is one, it doesn’t matter whether you are from Borno, Yobe, Adamawa, Kano, Jigawa, Edo, Lagos or Jigawa, we are all one Nigeria. I myself lived in the North all my adult life and that is why I understand the Hausa language. “We will ensure you get all that you need.
These are our children now and I can see that they come from different parts of the country and they are very young children. We will immediately bring 500 bags of rice and five cows and ensure that Doctors and Nurses are deployed to be taking care of them and will help them to develop the school, give them qualified teachers.
“We have to do everything to ensure that they are comfortable and we have discussed with the security agencies, they will ensure that adequate security is provided to protect these children and those whose parents have been identified, we will arrange, at the expense of Edo State Government, for the parents to come here and pay them a visit so that they can reunite with their children. They can still leave them in the camp if they so wish but at least, they will be assured that their children are in good hands.
“If you have any challenges, let us know. I have assigned seven very senior officers; two Commissioners and five Directors who will be around to ensure that the kids are safe. I have also discussed with and asked the Commissioner for Education to straightaway start to build schools for the children. “I know you already have what you call School, but you know in Edo State, we have standard and because Edo is one and we are particularly keen in ensuring that no child is denied quality education.
It doesn’t matter that they are here because of some certain crisis in some part of the country but once they are in Edo State, they have become part of the Edo Community and are entitled to all the privileges. “So we are going to rebuild the school, furnish it and post qualified government teachers here. I think the recent issue was a communication gap. There was a communication gap because the impression that people had was that some of the kids wanted to reunite with their parents.
Of course we know that there is no substitute to parental care, but we said it is better for their parents to come here, see them and when they see them, they will have confidence that their children are in good hands and then decide whether to go with them or to leave them here. “Whatever has happened was unfortunate and I want to convey to these children and to you, the best wishes from Mr. President because yesterday I had a conversation with him and he is very concerned about the welfare of every Nigerian child and the welfare of all those who have been displaced as a result of Boko Haram and he asked me to convey his best wishes to the children and even the elderly ones among them.
“I have assured him that Edo State Government will take full control, provide every support that you need including building a school, provide teachers, provide basic conveniences so that these children will live a very decent life because we never know, one of these might become the President tomorrow. I can see that the kids are in very good spirit. Of course, they miss their loved ones but we understand the peculiar circumstances. “We have taken time to study, through the security agencies, what and who are here, where they come from and how they got here and I think we have all the information now.
What is important and very clear to me is that they are all happy to be here and they want to remain here and I believe any Nigerian and every Nigerian is entitled to live and stay in any place in which he has comfort or he wants to stay and so we will give them every support that they need.” Responding, the Overseer of ICCM, Solomon Folorunsho, expressed gratitude to the governor for his kind gesture.
Speaking to newsmen, Folorunsho, said that the IDPs were brought to the facility from Bornu and Adamawa states, through Jos, the Plateau State capital. His words, “About three months ago, the state government became aware of this camp, because we are registered with the state and Federal governments.
We have had promises that the governor was coming and today, he is here. The camp covers a large expanse of land and has several blocks of rooms and halls, most of which were made of wood, serving as classrooms and bedrooms for the displaced persons. Observers commend the governor for his intervention in this regard and charge the federal government to do all in his power to tackle the menace occasioned by the activities of the Boko Haram sect.
-Respite came the way of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Edo State after resisting eviction order from above, reports Peterclaver Egbochue