Faith based media NGO, Journalists For Christ (JFC) International Outreach has concluded a day stakeholders forum on the welfare and rights of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Abuja, asking the media to promote rights of the displaced persons.
The event which attracted journalists, social workers and representative of IDPs in Kuchingoro camp, Abuja, was one of the activities in the project titled: “Advancing the Rights and Welfare of Internally Displaced Persons Through Media Monitoring, Investigative Journalism and Media-driven Advocacy.”
Sponsored by the World Association for Christian Communications (WACC), Canada and Brot Fur die Welt (German Protestant Agency for Diaconia Development), the project targets highlighting issues of the IDPs towards bringing such to the fore.
Project Officer of JFC on the task, Dayo Emmanuel at the event said the project is about promoting the issues of IDPs using the media for the relevant duty bearers to take action.
Welcoming participants at the event, Vice President of JFC and Deputy Director (Training) at the Voice of Nigeria, Lagos, Mrs. Ugonma Cokey said the media participants were invited in order to use their capacity to heighten advocacy to solve the problems confronting the IDPs. “You must put a face to the IDP stories and bring them to the fore while focusing on the human angle which might even make you an expert in reporting IDPs,” she said.
Stating the objective of the event, Project Advisor, Sanmi Falobi said the program is focused on how the IDPs can be helped to overcome their challenges. “How can we as members of the media help to ameliorate the sufferings of the IDPs?
“It is about how we can use the media to make them forget their painful memories of the past and their present hardship, we want to use the media to get the attention of those who can help,” he said.
Secretary of the Board of Trustee of Journalists For Christ, Mr. Gbenga Osinaike, took the participants through the background of the project.
“The project started in 2018 when we sold the idea to WACC in a proposal about the plight of IDPs in Nigeria and they bought into it,” he said.
Osinaike continued that, “This is the third leg of the project being sponsored by WACC. The first publication we did was called ‘Muffled Voices which was a fall out of the media monitoring of some newspapers in Nigeria.
“We are still working on how to escalate the issues using media intervention. We are here to advance the issues of IDPs strategically using media as a driving force,” he said.
A session of the event fielded three panelists who shared experiences working with IDPs.
Ene Oshaba, a development journalist has been an influence in the IDP camps who has used her media skills to facilitate engagements with the displaced persons.
According to Oshaba, poverty is prevalent in the IDP camps. “In the IDP camps poverty is still very high, so many of the children are not going to school. I had to face the children and women,” she said.
Oshaba, who writes for Blueprint newspaper, Abuja, added that, “There are lots of women whose husbands have been killed and their sons kidnaped, so they are left with taking care of the children in their poverty, most times they are exposed to abuse because they want to take care of their children, they have to succumb to pressure. So I towed that line to do my stories, I put myself in their shoes and try to do my best.”
Another panelist, and staff of a faith based NGO, Africa Arise, John Wakawa, wondered how many participants at the parley have visited any IDP camp. He said his organisation is an evangelical organisation always running around with mission works and caring for the less privileged.
“I am from Borno State, same place most of the IDPs are from, my cousins, my brothers and sisters are in the IDP camps, so you should know it’s so emotional. They need psychosocial support getting back into the society, overcoming the trauma is a whole lot of issues,” he said.
Continuing, he said what some of the IDPs asked for was so interesting.
“You’ll wonder what answer we got at one of the camps when we asked how we could intervene. Their answers are one of the most profound answers. They said just give us education. They could have asked for food, roofs over their heads, better clothing or money, but they asked for education.
“Why I found the need for education very important is because stopping their education is exactly what the insurgents wanted to achieve. That is the mantra of Boko Haram; western education is evil. If they are successful enough to keep them out of school, then Boko Haram won,” he said.
Wakawa however praised the courage of IDPs who embraced education as priority need and are now educated, helping to teach the little children in make-shift schools under the trees at the camp.
“Courageous people like Gideon, Luka and Hanatu have started teaching the children under the trees. The three of them are now on stipends from our organisation, they need more hands to join them,” he explained.
Bunmi Atteh is the Project Manager for the Full Life Empowerment Project (FLEP) at the Kuchingoro camp who was also on the panel.
Atteh talked about the challenges IDPs are facing on a daily basis.
“There are several widows and children between ages 10 and 15 years old who cannot go to school, there are men who are incapacitated and without jobs. The needs are numerous. We cannot just assume their needs, we needed to do community assessment project to know what they need,” she said.
Stating further, she said FLEP commenced a health program to supply drugs and cater for other health challenges.
“We have a project called medical personnel volunteer program where we have nurses and doctors who volunteer because the IDPs have very limited health care. Many young children and women who cannot access healthcare are catered for under this program.”
According to Atteh, the organisation also offers educational intervention, supplying books and teaching materials to the make-shift schools in the camps. “We are there to serve them to connect with them in their situation, there are physical and health issues; a lot of the youths need care to stabilise their minds,” she said.
One of the leaders in the Kuchingoro IDP camp, Enoch Yohanna at the media parley relayed his experience and how he has been severally displaced.
According to Yohanna who was first displaced from his community in Borno State, due to activities of the Boko Haram insurgents, the displaced persons have been through the highest degrees of hardship.
“I have been displaced times without number, I was displaced from my home state in Borno, I have also been displaced in Abuja here. We have issues that are supposed to be of federal interest but the issues have not been addressed,” he lamented.
“We have different categories of the people that are displaced, there are people that are being displaced presently and there are people going to be displaced next. These are the three categories,” he explained.
Talking about the recent closure of some IDP camps in Borno State, Yohanna said, an average IDP wants to return to his natural habitat on the condition that the environment is safe. He also said that the IDPs want to solve their own problems if so enabled.
“We IDPs look into ways to solving our own problems. I’m not convinced and I will never be convinced that the Nigerian government is ready to appreciate what we are doing.
“Being displaced is an opportunity because it is better than being killed. Those that were jobless have started working. It is a success story today that we have little health and education interventions courtesy of the NGOs like FLEP and Africa Arise. We have also created jobs for ourselves. For instance, if you request for 1,000 bags of beans I will place a call and you will have them from our farms.
“We the IDPs have looked into our own situation and already providing solutions, with the help of God we are surviving, we want the media to help us. We appreciate what JFC and its sponsors have been doing in highlighting our plights. We are calling on Nigerians to support these people,” he said, concluding that, the IDP issues are growing day by day and if journalists keep quiet, IDPs will continue to suffer.
*Story by Dayo Emmanuel and Immanuel Adeyomoye