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Sallah: Despite food, drinks at camps, Katsina IDPs homesick

Members of the Dija Foundation celebrate with Batsari internally displaced persons in Katsina, during Sallah.

“We had food to eat and variety of soft drinks but it will have been much better if I was at home with my family celebrating the Sallah,” Malama Hassana, one of the many displaced persons taking refuge at Kankara Camp, in Katsina  State, said.

She said, “no matter what is provided for you, there is no place like home.”

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Thousands of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), forced to abandon their homes as a result of bandits’ attacks in Katsina, are presently taking refuge at various camps created to give them temporary shelter. For them, this year’s Eid el-Kabir is a bleak one as they have been forced to celebrate it outside their communities.

The camps are situated at most of the affected local government areas bordering the dreaded Rugu Forest in the state. They are, Batsari, Faskari, Danmusa, Safana and Kankara. Other IDPs are putting up at Gidan Baki in Katsina metropolis.

In these LGAs, several other villagers from the affected communities have abandoned their abodes to central primary schools in their respective councils and other makeshift camps for shelter and protection. Most of the IDPs are women and children.

Some others are accommodated by friends and relatives as well as well-wishers.

Badiya Sani, from Wagini village in Batsari LGA who is taking refuge at Gidan Baki in Katsina town, said “no matter what was done or services provided, “home is better than where I am presently; freedom is far better than a refugee camp.”

Badiya who has lost some relations, recalled that “it took the intervention of God for us to survive the attack on our village,” but she also lost her animals to the rustlers.

She called on government to safeguard their villages to enable them return and pick up their lives once again.

Salamatu, who hails from Gurbi in Zamfara State,  said “no matter how nice this place is, I prefer the peace at home.

“I pray every day and Allah will surely restore happiness to us and one day I will live happily again in my village,” she said.

Murjanatu Garba of Garin Dodo in Batsari, said Sallah is fine but boring in an IDP camp, as the fanfare of visiting people is not there.

“You are locked up here. We thank God for the care and concern showed us but happiness is when you move freely with your relations and friends in your community,” she said.

“Please tell government to make our villages safe, I can’t continue to stay here, my life is in my village,” she appealed.

Daily Trust observed that the IDPs were at various camps provided with rice, macaroni and meat to celebrate the Eid-el Kabir by Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), well-wishers and sympathisers to make the IDPS happy during the festivities.

A breakdown of the persons affected as obtained from the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) showed that in Danmusa Local Government, there are presently 2,566 IDPs from Farwa, Kaka, Unguwar Rabo, Kanga, Leleto, Unguwar Mangau, Kaigar Malamai, Unguwar Maitere and Nasarawa.

In Safana LGA, 1,624 IDPs from Kirtawa, Gobirawa, Alhazawa and Guzurawa have so far been registered and taking refuge. For Faskari, there are 2,566 persons from Kogo, Kafi, Magami, Bangi, Raba and Unguwar Tsanya.

In Kankara, 2,844 persons have been displaced from Zango, Pawwa, Shirere, Gurbi and Yar Tsamiya villages and are presently at Nuhu Science School.

These camps have now become their temporary homes, with classrooms serving as rooms, and living on the mercy and support of government and well-wishers who from time to time take relief items to them.

A visit to Kankara camp showed that most of the IDPs are from Zango village which was attacked July 21. During the invasion, 22 persons were reported killed and 15 others kidnapped most of whom are women and young girls.

The kidnappers have demanded N20 million ransom for their release.

Some IDPs narrate their ordeal on that fateful day, with Nasir Yahaya saying, “the attack of that faithful night was scary and I will leave with it for the rest of his life. “Another victim who was shot died yesterday (Thursday) bringing the number of those killed to 23,” he said

Another survivor, Aliyu Zango recalled: “I was in my room when I began to hear gun shots and people shouting for help. I manage to gather my family and run through the night to arrive at Kankara.

Amina Yahaya of Yar Tsamiyar Jino village, said “we left our village to find some safety in this camp.

“They threaten us daily, molesting women and girls. Our schools, both Islamic and Western are all closed down. We couldn’t bear it anymore and decided to relocate,” she said.

Alhaji Usman Zango said the community is presently compiling a comprehensive situation report  with a view to setting the records straight on what transpired during the bandits’ attacks.

Disturbed by the conditions of many of the IDPs, several projects have been initiated to provide succour to them.

For the state government, several measures are being put in place to address the situation and give respite to the IDPs.

The state emergency management agency said it has supported each of the IDP camps with 300 bags of rice, 30 bags of beans, millet 40 bags, cooking oil and mattresses, amongst others.

A staff of Kankara local government attending to the IDPs said, on anonymity, that an average of 5 bags of rice were cooked daily for the victims with a water tanker provided every day, noting that “sustaining the camp is not an easy thing.”

The state government has also banned the sale of petrol in jerricans as well as Boxer and Kasea brands of motorcycles said to be the preferred choice for transport by the bandits.

As show of concern for the victims, President Muhammadu Buhari is expected to visit the Batsari camp to sympathise with the victims. Already his wife, Aisha, through the Future Assured has visited some of the camps and donated food items to the IDPs.

Spokesman of the police command in the state, SP Gambo Isah, said in a statement that the state Commissioner of Police, SP Sanusi Buba, has since called  for calm and assured the general public that the police and other security agencies were on top of the situation.

“The command is making headway in the effort to arrest perpetrators,” he said.

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