By Abdulkareem Haruna
Not everyone is displaced by the ongoing Boko Haram insurgency in Borno state. But the conflict has affected everybody in many different ways.
There are about 2. 4 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the Lake Chad region, which is predominantly occupied by Borno state. And this mass of displacement largely depends on the government and NGOs for daily sustenance.
In the last seven years, billions of naira have been concentrated on providing lifesaving services to the multitudes in camps and host communities.
These efforts at saving lives of IDPs is commendable, but it has also left out a chunk segment of the society that has been affected by the same crisis in all its ramifications except – forced migration. They are internally constrained persons (ICPs).
The ICPs are those who live in their original homes within the host communities, but whose livelihood has been affected by the conflict. The ICPs did not have to flee their homes, but their sources of income and livelihood have been hamstrung by the same war that chased IDPs from the hinterlands of Marte, Kukawa, Gwoza, Ngala, Krenoa, Kala Balge, to the metropolis of Biu, Monguno, Maiduguri.
The ICPs have lost access to their farms, fishing ponds, hunting grounds, as well as their areas of wood fetching. Many of the ICPs can no longer travel 2km to carry out their legitimate activities that guarantee their daily means of survival.
On Saturday November 28, 2020, armed gunmen believed to be of the Boko Haram group attacked Zabarmari, a rice farming community and slaughtered well over 110 farmers. The unprovoked attack was one of the most bestial in recent times. The attack had further eroded the confidence the farmers earlier had in going to till the lands even in places declared safe by government.
Many of such incidences of attacks on farmers or wood teachers had forced many residents of host communities to lose their means of livelihoods. These population of ICPs are even more in number compared to the IDPs.
In Maiduguri township, the ICPs abound in every nooks and cranny. They live together with their guests IDPs but shared similar pains of hunger and deprivation.
In Dala-Alamdari, residents who are ICPs said they have lost their means of livelihood due to diminishing safe spaces for farming, and related legitimate preoccupation that warrants them going into the remote villages and bushes. Hence they are internally constrained to live within Maiduguri or any other metropolis to compete for the increasingly scarce resources and sources of livelihood.
Sadly, when government and partner NGOs go round to reach out to IDPs in host communities the ICPs are always left out.
“We in Dala-Alamdari, have been neglected and for long even. And most of the times when government officials go round to share food and clothing largess, nobody cares about us,” said Hafsat Mohammed, a widowed mother of five.
They are profiled as non-IDPs, but they too face the same plight that the IDPs face. They have no access to farmlands or any business outside Maiduguri, which are the reasons the IDPs enjoy the supports they are getting.
“As a widow with five children and no one to look up to, I face the challenge of feeding the children,” she said.
“All my kids are not in school except for one that was picked to enrol in the free education programme at the Mega School. I do not have means of enrolling them in public school because there is no money to pay for books, uniforms and food that they would eat at school.”
“The IDPs get access to free medical services at the camp, but we have to pay before we can get medications for our children and ourselves. We could have been able to pay for these if we still have means of livelihood.”
Maryam Mohammed another ICP in Dala-Alamdari said she had to trek long distances, covering about 2km, to access medical services at the former NYSC camp.
“I have no money to pay for medication for my child at the Fatima Ali Sheriff hospital here in Dala, so I had to join other women in going to the camp clinic, where we usually beg officials at the gate to allow us to enter the camp to get medical care because we are not IDPs,” she said.
Before the insurgents took over the hinterlands and causing us to lost our means of livelihoods, my husband used to farm vegetables like tomatoes, spinach and pepper; and I also buy from him and other farmers to sell. Things were very okay for us then. But now we have nothing because we can’t access the farms due to insecurity.”
Mustafa Lawan a male resident of Dala-Alamdari said their community have been neglected by both government and NGOs.
“Whether you are IDP or resident of the host community, the same hunger bites us all. Government should give us all. support. we also need that. We see female IDPs getting most of the supports, they should give the same to our women too. In the past, we don’t wait for the government or NGOs for food handouts or financial supports. But things have changed now.”
The population of Borno has been placed in the region of 6 million people. Of this sum, only about 15,000 are civil servants who take salaries at the end of the month. The rest are either farmers, artisans, traders or those who are unemployed. This multitude of people lack means of survival as the insurgency continues to shrink their spaces of carrying out their legitimate businesses.