Dogara (file photo)
‘Most IDPs are forced to do unthinkable things just to survive’
By Ahmed Ahmed
Nigeria’s former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, has expressed worry over the plight of internally displaced persons (IDPs), lamenting that most of them are forced to do unthinkable things just to survive.
He stated this in his paper titled, “The IDP Question as a Stain on our Conscience,” delivered at the 7th Henna Balls Awards Night organized by Tozali Magazine in Abuja at the weekend.
His words: “Since women significantly outnumber men; and nearly all are either the de facto and/or de jure heads of their households having lost their husbands and breadwinners to the crises that drove them to the camps, you can only imagine the pressure on such women to do all within their means to earn extra income to support their families.
“This is one major cause of the accentuating cases of exposure of women and girls in the camps to sexual abuse.”
Dogara further disclosed that the need to address the plight of IDPs in the North-East Nigeria motivated him to initiate a bill which led to the establishment of the North East Development Commission (NEDC).
He said that with the right political will, the Commission should be able to help pull together resources for the recovery, reconstruction and development of the North-East.
“The initiative won support of all NASS members because of the pathetic situations and with great difficulty we were able to pull it across the finish line.
“Don’t ask me what has become of the NEDC. I am getting discomforting signals but I don’t have any concrete evidence. So it will be most distressing for me to make a value judgment on the bases of those signals.
“Under our leadership also, we managed to pull all North-East members into a caucus that met fortnightly,” Dogara said.
He further disclosed: “I lead select members on a visit to all the major IDP camps across all the zones with the exception of Camps in Maiduguri on account of scheduling issues with the then Governor.
“We took along with us tons of relief materials which we donated to the IPDs and heard their stories first hand. At the Wasa Camp here in Abuja, we sank boreholes for them and built a dispensary and donated it to FCT administration to run to meet the most immediate health needs of the IDPs.
“We raised money to help address the plight of IDPs and by the time I left office, our account had a balance of over N50 million”.
Dogara said that an estimated 50,000 people had been killed in the region while over three million had been displaced by banditry, ethno-religious crises, farmers-herders clashes and Boko Haram insurgency.
He said that the protracted crises in the region had resulted in conflict-induced food insecurity and severe malnutrition.
“If you look at the condition of Nigeria, especially the Northeast and you don’t feel the pains, you are the one that is sick. No thanks to the activities of these dishevelled terrorists or bandits,” he stated.
According to him the North bears nearly 90 percent of the insecurity brunt of the country hence the largest displacements.
“If estimates are anything to go by, not less than 50,000 northerners have been killed while over three million have been displaced in the Northeast alone,” he revealed.
“No one has the record of Northern lives lost to rural banditry, the farmer-herder clashes and ethno-religious conflicts.
“The number grows exponentially when we add to this, death occasioned by urban violence unleashed by an increasing army of mostly jobless youths suffering from substance use disorder”
He said that more worrisome was that the displaced lack food, shelter, healthcare, access to education, clean water supply and suffer significantly higher rates of mortality than the general population.
“As if that is not enough, there has been public outcry regarding rampant cases of physical violence, sexual assault and abduction unleashed on IDPs across all the camps in Nigeria,” he stated.
“The stories are so deprecating to a point that we have turned ourselves into a world wide object of ridicule.
“Of all the heart-rending stories, it is the plight of women IDPs that bother me the most.
“It is said that, “sex crimes are a serious problem because they violate personal freedoms, traumatise the victim, and often lead to undesired pregnancy, unsafe abortions and complications tied to early childbearing age, or even death.”