Christian media group, Journalists For Christ International Outreach (JFC) has launched a report of its research on Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) titled ‘Managing Internal Displacement Crisis in Nigeria’ which indicates that Nigerian journalists have not reported IDP issues enough.
The launch which took place in Abuja, Nigeria’s Federal Capital had in attendance journalists, members of the civil society and IDPs from camps in in the Federal Capital Territory.
Welcoming participants at the event, President of JFC, Mr. Lekan Otufodunrin explained the project that gave birth to the report.
‘Managing Internal Displacement Crisis in Nigeria’ is a research report carried out by Journalists For Christ International Outreach with the support of World Association for Christian Communications and Waldensian Church’s Otto Per Mille (OPM), Italy; towards global best practices in guaranteeing the Rights of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) through the Media,” he explained.
Otufodunrin, former Online Editor and Director Special Publications of The Nation newspaper who was represented by Mr. Gbenga Osinaike, Publisher, Church Times, Nigeria, added in his paper that “For a greater part of 2018, Journalists For Christ International Outreach with the support of World Association for Christian Communications, Bread for the World, and OPM, Italy, carried out a study on the media portrayal of Internally Displaced People in Africa. The monitoring covered Nigeria, Kenya and The Democratic Republic of Congo.
“At the end of the monitoring, JFC, came up with a publication titled, ‘Muffled Voices’. It is a compilation of the Media Reportage and Portrayal of IDPs in Africa with case studies from Nigeria, Kenya and DRC. The publication was presented to stakeholders in the media and organisations that relate with IDPs in Nigeria. Associate Professor of Mass Communication, University of Lagos, Dr. Sunday Oloruntola reviewed the publication in 2019 at a media event in Lagos,” he said.
He added that, “From that report, it dawned on us that the issue of internal displacement is no longer what we can take with a pinch of salt.”
Director of Daily Trust Foundation Abuja, Dr. Theophilus Abbah who reviewed the publication asked the Nigerian government to guarantee journalists’ freedom to report IDPs as their constitutional right.
Abbah added that the media has not done enough in reporting the real issues at the various IDP camps.
The erstwhile Editor of Daily Trust, Abbah reviewing the publication noted that there is no enough media coverage of the plight of IDPs by journalists who sometimes are not empowered.
Abbah also noted that the issues of IDPs are becoming common place that journalists seem not to see them. He advised media houses to do more in looking closer into their plights.
“The conditions of IDPs are common place that we no longer see them, we no longer see the need to report them. When I went to an IDP camp here in Abuja, the living condition was not good. This is Abuja for God’s sake, it is not one remote place. The difference between where they live and the neighouring community is very clear. These people have no water, they live in thatched houses and one would wonder if they are equally Nigerians.
“Until BBC, Aljazeera, CNN and other foreign organisations go to the IDP camp to shoot documentary, they may not be well captured because we don’t emphasise them. We pretend these things don’t happen,” he said.
He however commended Journalists For Christ International Outreach and the sponsors of the project who he noted are foreign organisations.
“This research is even sponsored by foreigners; WACC and OPM. We need to take a look at what happens and journalists most time only ask what is the next government assignment to cover or what is the minister saying. From this report we noticed that journalists have failed in their duties of protecting IDPs,” he said.
“The idea is that if you are in an IDP camp, you are in a safe zone; in a territory where the enemy should not come to attack you but in Nigeria, suicide bombers carry out their criminal act in IDP camps and go scot free. We even hear that soldiers also do terrible things. They use those in IDP camps to farm for them without being paid.
“These are abuses on those people’s rights and we need journalists to shout and bring an end to it. Some of these crimes have been reported in the media but emphasis has not been laid on them. Ironically it is the culture of silence that have helped deepen the crimes against IDPs and the only way to overcome crime is by exposing.
“The only way to deal with the evils in the IDP camps is actually by exposing it and this is what this report is encouraging us to do,” he said.
In his recommendation, Abbah recommended that, “Government should guarantee journalists’ freedom to report IDPs. It is a constitutional right which must not be abridged in the name of providing security for displaced persons.
Also on the panel was Betty Abba, Executive Director of Centre for Children’s Health Education, Orientation and Protection (CEE-HOPE) who wanted journalists to look more into the plights of the IDPs especially as it concerns female IDPs.
“The treatment of IDPs in Nigeria is worrisome. As journalists we must continue to speak truth to power,” she said.
Concerned about women and girls in the camps, Abba advised journalists to look into women issues and write more about them in order to draw the needed attention.
“If women in their homes still have issues with getting sanitary pads to use, how much more women in IDP camps? These are things journalists should report vigorously for stakeholders to wade into the crisis,” she said.
A consultant on the project, Mr. Francis Abayomi in a panel discussion mentioned that security agencies attached to the camps often frustrate efforts of the journalists.
“One of the challenges we have today in reporting IDPs is that we have some security agencies who prevent journalists from covering the IDP camps,” Abayomi said.
Also at the event was Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ), Abuja chapter, Mr. Patrick Osadebamwen who applauded Journalists For Christ for a good job, urging journalists to leverage on the research work.
“With a report like this, we can see how to intervene via our analysis and reports so we can draw more attention to better living condition for those who are still in the camp and for those who may find opportunities to leave by virtue of the impact of our reportage that would attract NGOs that may be able to help out,” he said.
The event also attracted IDPs from the Durumi IDP camp in Abuja, some of who took turn to narrate their challenges.
One of the leaders at the Durumi IDP camp who identified himself as Enoch narrated the self-help efforts some of them have put in place in the camp.
“We have set facilities in the IDP camp to be able to tell our stories. We have set up a school but we don’t have enough teachers to teach the children. We also have skill acquisition centre too for IDPs to acquire skills to live a better life when they return to their various homes,” he said.
An emotional Enoch, a graduate of Statistics added that, “Whenever I come to a place like this, I always think about our plights. I always remember my dad that was killed by the terrorists. They killed him and there is nothing we can do, we only trust God.”
He however enjoined Nigerians especially journalists to support the IDPs with their expertise. “I don’t pray that everybody should end up in IDP camp but one day if we don’t join our hands together to cooperate against the evil creating IDPs, it may happen,” he said.