For many refugees camping in Tse Yandev/Ichuwa Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) Camp along Joseph Sarwuan Tarka University Raod in Makurdi, Benue State, life during raining season is difficult as they rarely sleep with their eyes closed.
The refugees were displaced by the unending farmers-herders crisis bedevilling the state. The camp has more women and children than men. A male refugee who spoke with WikkiTimes explained that the men had gone to look for jobs outside the camp.
Sixty-year-old Antwem Kwaghando was among the women widowed by assailants who invaded Yalewata, her village in Guma Local Government Area. She also lost her three children to the attack that claimed her husband in 2019.
“I have been here since 2019 unfortunately during one of the attacks my husband and three children were killed. I have been here struggling to live life alone,” Kwaghando wailed.
Kwaghando who was preparing beancake for herself when our reporter visited the camp on Friday, said life has been a living hell for the past years in the camp.
“Life has never been easy from the first day I arrived here, this tent is all I have where I sleep but the rainy season has made it more difficult for me,” she groaned. “The rain drops heavily into the tent. If it rains the night before daybreak I get wet myself.”
Bridget Unongo 75, was making Amala [yam flour] for her children who had gone out to find daily paid jobs. She shares same ordeal as Kwaghando.
Terrorists murdered her husband in 2019 at Yalewata, Guma LGA. She has since been battling life with her three children in the camp.
“I stay here with my three children who usually go out to look for what we can eat, I have stayed in this camp since 2019,” she explained.
Bridget stares at her children while rain mercilessly soaks them in their leaky tent.
“When rain falls, all I do is stay up and weep in the night. I watch the rain beat my children. This tent can’t even accommodate me but we have to stay here because it’s all that we have,” she narrated. “It has not been easy for us, the dry season is quite a better time because the rains don’t fall but now we are suffering.”
Thirty-five years old Philip Iorver who also hails from Guma LGA, told WikkiTimes that catering for his three children has been a difficult task away from home since 2019.
“I have three children here and we live inside this tent. It has been a difficult time here but we have accepted our fate.” he said. “At night when the rain is heavy I watch the rain beat my family which is something every father will be pained about. The experience is traumatic.”
“Many have traveled to other states for those who are still alive, you see that the majority of the people here are women and children,” said Philip.
ORPHANED BY TERRORIST
Nadoo Igaba was eight when she was orphaned by the terrorists at Yalewata. Her mother had gone for petty jobs when this reporter visited the camp.
Nadoo weeps as she narrates her father absence in life.
Nadoo and her siblings
“My father was killed in 2019 when herdsmen attacked our village,” she recalled. “We were fortunate enough to escape to Makurdi town but my father was killed we have stayed here since 2019 and it has not been a good experience living here with my siblings.”
“My mother has been up and doing trying all she could for us to have a place to lay our heads but still, it has never been enough. We sleep here at night and rain keeps falling on us, my mother has been buying big leathers to cover our house (tent) yet rain beats us at night,” Naddo narrated in tears.
‘WE WANT TO GO HOME’
From Kwaghando to Philip, all they want is to go home and have a better life for themselves and their children.
In a unanimous voice, they appealed for a better life either to return home which was taken over by headers, or a better place to live in the camp
The chairman of the Tse Yandev/Ichuwa camp, Tar Abraham, was not around during our visit. When contacted via phone, he explained that “life has been difficult for people here especially now that the rains have come.”
He appealed to the government to come to their help.
“For us here, we have been left to care for ourselves without any help or assistance from the government. Our camp, they said, has not been registered by the past administration. Now we are hoping that the new government will help us by registering the camp and giving us aid as we hope toreturn home.”
In data released by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC), Nigeria has the highest number of IDPs in Africa. As of 2020, the total number stands at 2.7 million. Many od these people, the report says, were displaced by violent conflicts across the country.
Efforts to speak with the Executive Secretary of the Benue State Emergency Management Agency, Sir James Aondakaaa Iorapuu, proved abortive as he was not on the seat during our visit to his office. Also, attempts to reach him through his personal assistant were fruitless.