Christmas: Groups donate food, other items to displaced persons in Abuja

Several groups and organisations have, in the spirit of Christmas,
donated items to people living in the displaced persons’ camp in
Abuja.
Apart from giving the displaced persons, IDPs, and their family
members a sense of belonging as other Nigerians celebrate
Christmas, the groups thronged the camps with food items,
clothing and messages of hope for a better future.
One of the donors was The Teens Church of the Summit Bible
Church, Abuja, who arrived the camp on December 19 with some
clothes, food and other gift items as part of their Children’s Week
celebrations.
“The Children of our Church decided to come and spend some
time with the IDPs, particularly their children, to give them a sense
of belonging; make them feel loved and cared for, even as they try
to re-gather their lives together again from the devastation of the
insurgency,” the Church’s Teen Pastor, Kingsley Bangwell, said.
For the Maidunama Sickle Cell Foundation, a non-governmental
organisation, which also visited the camp, they were there to
felicitate with the occupants and encourage them to see their
experience as a temporary setback.
Rabi Maidunama said the Foundation named in memory of her
father, Mohammed Maidunama, was in the camp to identify with
the IDPs.
Another visitor to the camp was the Atimoh Odili Foundation, a
non-governmental organization committed to the eradication of
poverty by providing tools for sustainable development to
vulnerable people living in rural communities across Africa.
The foundation came with different food items including 1,000
units of 25 kilogramme bags of rice, 1,000 mattresses, and 1,000
cartons of tomato paste.
The Managing Director of the Foundation, Chioma Nwigwe, said
the donation was part of a one-year project by the Foundation to
eradicate hunger among the people.
Ms. Nwigwe said skills acquisition programme sponsored by the
Foundation is expected to take off in March next year to help
empower the IDPs and re-integrate them back into society.
“We do not think just distributing food items will help them when
they eventually go back home,” Ms. Nwigwe said.
“If we provide them food, we would have fed them for a day.
But, if we train them and give them skills to work and earn a
living, we would have provided them a source to feed for life.
“Don’t forget they were traumatised and forced to leave their
homes. Our aim is to help them get back their livelihood when
they get back.”
Rather than give money, Ms. Nwigwe said, the Foundation wants
to ensure that the educated ones among them were given training
on skills that would help them function on their own.
The Foundation, she said, intends to give soft loans and business
outlines that would help the IDPs start their businesses.
“The Foundation is willing to help them as much as they are
willing to help themselves. We will provide the training. But, it is
left for them to take advantage of it,” she said.
A leader of the displaced persons, Philemon Emmanuel, expressed
appreciation to the donors for their kind gesture. He said the
occupants of the camp included about 903 from Borno and 52
from Adamawa, both states, two of the most ravaged by the
Boko Haram insurgency.
“I cannot express our gratitude enough on behalf of the IDPs
here,” Mr. Emmanuel told Ms. Nwigwe. “Since we came here in
January 2014, we have not seen the kind of support the
Foundation has brought for us.
“Even NEMA (National Emergency Management Agency)did not
bring a quarter of the items we are seeing today. We are happy
with the kind gesture of the company.”
Mr. Emmanuel lamented the insecurity in the camp, saying
residents of the New Kuchingoro community, where the camp is
located. sometimes invaded the camp to seize donated materials.
He accused the government of neglecting them.
“For a long time, we have begged government to build a hospital
here without any positive response. There is nothing that
government has given the IDPs here. We are surviving here by
the grace of individuals and philanthropic organisations.
“Our office here was provided by the South African Ambassador.
The school was provided by Pastor David Olatunde, while some
churches and organisations come on a daily basis with medical
teams to carry out check-ups on IDPs.
“There is no security in the camp here. We take turns to provide
security through vigilante groups we put together,” Mr.
Emmanuel said.
As if to confirm the fears of the IDPs, the event was almost
marred by persons who disrupted the distribution of the items.
While the IDPs and officials of the donors scampered to safety, the
attackers swooped on items and packed them away.
But for the emergency security arrangement hurriedly put in place
by the organisers, the hoodlums would have carted away
everything. The only items salvaged were those yet to be off-
loaded from the trucks that brought them.
“When individuals and groups sacrifice their resources to cater for
fellow Nigerians in distress situations, the only responsibility
government owes them is to guarantee a safe environment for
them,” an official of one the groups that came to donate to the
IDPs, Everest Ezeigbo, told PREMIUM TIMES.
“If government does not want the IDP camps, then it should shut
them down and evacuate the people, rather than endangering the
lives of innocent people who come to identify with their plight,” he
added.
In his reaction to the incident, the director general of NEMA,
Muhammad Sidi, said as far as the agency was concerned there
was no recognised IDP camp in Abuja.
Mr. Sidi explained that the only recognised IDP camps were those
in states close to those affected by the insurgency in the North
East region.
“Displaced persons from those states – Gombe, Adamawa, Borno
– ought to go to the camps in those states and not come to Abuja
under the guise of displaced persons,” Mr. Sidi said.
“It’s amazing that an IDP would claim to be from Gwoza, Borno
state, but would refuse to use any of the camps setup in even the
neighbouring states, only to come to Abuja as an IDP.
“There are no formal camps by the Federal Government for IDPs
in Abuja.”

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