Sexual assault, underage marriages, and widespread hunger are plaguing internally displaced persons (IDP) camps in the North.

Busy Bee November 8, 2023
Updated 2023/11/08 at 9:50 AM

Recently, there have been reported incidents of rape, theft, and child marriage occurring in numerous Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps located in Northern Nigeria. Investigations conducted by Arewa PUNCH indicate that these distressing occurrences are a direct result of ongoing insecurity, which includes issues such as kidnapping and banditry plaguing numerous communities and cities across the 19 northern states of the country, as well as the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.

Some of the states where instances of rape and child marriage have been documented include Borno, Benue, Niger, Kano, Bauchi, Adamawa, and Kebbi, among others.

The alarming and dehumanizing conditions, marked by sexual abuse, forced marriages, hunger, and poverty, continue to pose a significant challenge for the IDPs. They fervently hope for a swift return to their native homes, but the battle against insecurity persists as terrorists continue to wreak havoc on the citizens.

During a recent visit to several IDP camps in Benue State, carried out by the Sexual Offences Awareness and Responses initiative, a non-governmental organization, Chibuzor Njoku, the Project Officer, expressed deep concern about the rising incidents of young girls being subjected to molestation within the camps. Njoku called upon both federal and state governments to urgently address this issue.

The NGO sounded the alarm while conducting interventions in IDP camps located in three Benue Local Government Areas: Anyiin in Logo LGA, Gbajimba; Uikpam in Guma LGA, and Naka in Gwer West LGA.

Furthermore, Arewa PUNCH’s investigations shed light on the ongoing molestation of young, vulnerable girls within the IDP camps. This discovery prompted the NGO to establish a Camp Child Protection Committee at these various camps, aiming to serve as a protective shield for these young females.

When discussing child rights within society, Njoku emphasized that these rights encompass protection by both parents and society, proper care, safeguarding against child trafficking, and protection from domestic violence, among others. Therefore, he urged parents and guardians to work together to consistently uphold the rights of children.

Just last week, Arewa PUNCH reported a distressing revelation of underage marriages flourishing in the Adamawa IDPs camps, despite widespread hunger and inadequate healthcare facilities.

These child marriages, also known as child marriage, continue to occur in the Internally Displaced Persons’ camps in Adamawa. For example, at least five child marriages were documented in one of the IDP camps in the current year alone.

What’s most troubling is that, despite the difficult circumstances faced by the vulnerable individuals residing in these camps due to the 14-year Boko Haram insurgency that displaced many families, underage couples are contracting marriages indiscriminately and stories of love are still being found.

Arewa PUNCH conducted an exclusive interview with two families from the five in the IDPs camps who got married this year. Bakura, a 17-year-old originally from Michika, married Aisha, a 15-year-old, in January 2023. Similarly, 21-year-old Babagana, an SS 2 student who migrated to Adamawa from Bama, mentioned that he got married in July 2023 at the camp and identified his wife as Hafsat.

“She is 17 years old, and I have a deep affection for Hapsat. She is incredibly lovely,” he affectionately described his partner.

Meanwhile, in recent conflicts between herders and farmers in Obi and Awe Local Government Areas of Nasarawa State, which resulted in the displacement of more than 4,000 residents, women and young girls faced numerous challenges due to what was alleged as the state government’s neglect.

The affected communities included Chabo, Daar, Tse-Udugh, Kyor-Chiha, Ayaakeke, Usula, Hagher, Joor, Tyungu, Ugba, Angwan, and Ayaba – all situated within the two LGAs.

During Arewa PUNCH’s visit to the IDP camps at the Central Primary School in Awe LGA, some of the women and girls were observed in helpless situations, while others resorted to soliciting money from passing motorists and commuters to secure sustenance.

Joseph Amuwa, the spokesperson for the IDPs, disclosed that due to the absence of security personnel around the camp, some of the IDPs had tragically lost their lives due to frequent attacks by criminals who frequently infiltrate the camps, often under the cover of darkness.

He recounted how some of the women in the camps had experienced harassment, abductions, and sexual assault. This grim situation, he emphasized, was not confined to the Awe IDP camp alone but extended to similar camps in other states.

Amuwa shared a heart-wrenching account of two nursing mothers, Mercy Chahur and Adasho Deborah, who witnessed the agonizing loss of their children, one after the other, due to the absence of medical facilities in the camp.

Consequently, he made a plea to the federal and state governments, as well as non-governmental organizations and compassionate individuals, to extend their support to the people, particularly those in vulnerable circumstances.

The spokesperson for the IDPs also implored them to work towards finding a lasting solution to the challenges faced by the IDPs in the state and the nation as a whole.

“It is truly distressing to witness expectant women giving birth on the bare floors of classrooms, exposing the nursing mothers and their newborns to dire conditions. It is imperative that government at all levels address our plight. The IDPs require all the assistance they can receive to endure the hardships in the various camps,” urged Amuwa.

Due to the sustained attacks in several northern states of the country, the estimated count of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Nasarawa, Benue, Niger, and Plateau states has surged to over 500,000 in 2023, according to data compiled from various local and international organizations.

Although there has been an improvement in the security situation in some parts of Nigeria, with a decline in the scale of attacks, numerous Nigerians are still being forced from their homes by criminal groups, bandits, and other terrorist organizations.

In 2022, the International Organization for Migration reported that over 3.6 million people were displaced in Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Taraba, and Yobe. Unfortunately, this trend is not yet over, as bandits continue to threaten many areas of the country and sadly achieve their criminal objectives.

On July 14, 2023, Plateau State alone hosted an estimated 18,751 internally displaced persons, according to a report from the Gideon and Funmi Para-Mallam Peace Foundation. The report specified that these IDPs hailed from eight different local government areas within the state.

In the context of addressing the challenges faced by internally displaced persons across the nation, Ezekiel Manzo, the spokesperson for the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), informed Arewa PUNCH about the federal government’s efforts. He revealed that the government had initiated an emergency intervention program in several affected states. This endeavor, he explained, is set to be extended to all 36 states in the country and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.

Manzo elaborated on the various interventions in progress. For example, NEMA has commenced the distribution of relief supplies as part of a Special National Economic Livelihood Emergency Intervention sanctioned by the Federal Government for the benefit of citizens. The distribution has already begun in Taraba, Bauchi, and Gombe states and is slated to cover all 36 states, as well as the FCT, to support communities affected across the nation.

Similarly, Mr. Ladan Ayuba, the NEMA Coordinator in Adamawa State, expressed concern over the prevalence of underage marriages within the IDP camp. He remarked that while he observed many couples with children, he hesitated to comment on marriages in general. He believed that individuals should be free to make their own choices, and these marriages were contracted with the consent of their parents. Thus, they were considered a right for those aged 18 and above.

“Regrettably, considering the ages of these recent couples, it implies that they will be dependent on their parents and even the government, and this is not an advisable or encouraged situation.

I intend to arrange a meeting with the Executive Secretary of the State Emergency Management Agency and collaborate with our development partners to address this issue. We will also engage with the camp leaders to sensitize them about the importance of preventing such occurrences. It’s not just about the love they profess for each other; they should wait until they reach a suitable age for marriage. This way, the husbands will be better equipped to support their families without having to rely on sporadic assistance.

This matter is of significant concern, and I am grateful to Arewa PUNCH for bringing it to our attention. We will strive to ensure that these individuals have a brighter future, even while they are residing in the camp,” responded Ayuba to an SMS sent to his phone.

Additionally, our correspondent, conversing through a Hausa interpreter, spoke with Abba Umar, the Chairman of the Fufore camp, to inquire if he was aware of the five marriages that had taken place in the camp. He promptly corrected the number, stating that there were six such marriages.

However, he expressed his disapproval of underage marriages, even though he acknowledged the value of marriage. Umar pledged to make every effort to prevent such occurrences in the camps, especially in the Fufore camp, going forward

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