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Kebbi: Thousands of starving IDPs in Zuruland return home amidst uncertainty

…Says, “We prefer to die in the hands of bandits than hunger.”

by Achadu Gabriel, Kaduna

Abubakar Galadima (from Dankolo Village) at one of the IDP camps in Diri Daji, setting to return home with his 3 wives and 24 children.

Amidst rampaging banditry activities involving killings, kidnapping and livestock rustling surging in Zuru Emirates, in Kebbi State, in the past three months, several camps of internally displaced persons (IDPs) have sprang up, our findings have revealed.

Our correspondent reported that after many weeks of hunger and starvation, under undignified conditions in IDP camps, thousands of surviving victims were seen streaming back home on Monday even when there was no guarantee for their safety and well-being. 

Our reporter noted that, Sakaba Local Government Area of 1,260kmsq land area of Kebbi State shared border with part of Niger State, where bandits, believed to be in collaboration with Boko Haram, have acquired a large territory in there.

According to him, the IDPs were, on Monday, seen lined up with their belongings by the roadsides waiting for vehicles. Some were seen trekking back, loaded of goods on their heads.

“I will rather return with my family and die like a man than allow starvation to kill us here like unwanted animals,” said Abubakar Galadima, 45, an IDP at a dilapidated  government building beside Sakaba LGA Secretariat, at Diri Daji, in Zuru Emirate.

Galadima, who hails from Dankolo Village, has been there for three weeks with his three wives and 24 children.

“The first and only time they brought raw food here was some two weeks ago, and it caused a lot of fight here,” said the lean and weary looking man. Since then, we have literally been starving with all these children crying for food all the time,” he said.

Galadima’s village was attacked at least three times in the past one month. Though, no one was killed, all cattle in his community were rustled. “As you can see, we have already packed our load and we are just waiting for a truck to come and take us back home,” he said.

Scores of women and their children were seen with their goods arranged and ready to leave. The situation was the same in all the IDP camps visited. Heavily pregnant Jamimah Benjamin, 34, gave birth two weeks ago under trauma at the United Missionary African Church (UMCA), Diri Daji.

She had managed to escape from her Talata Village in Sakaba ward and walked for five hours through thorny shrubs and bushes with her two little kids to the tarred road in Jan Birni, the next settlement with a good road linking other towns. 

It was from there that they were helped by a kind motorist to complete the 17km journey to Diri Daji. “I gave birth at the gate of the church when I arrived here that day; that was two weeks ago. We named the child ‘Joshua.’ But my people and I are ready to return home now.  We are dying of starvation here,” she said.

“This is not the first time we are returning,” she pointed out. “Two days after I gave birth here, we could not bear the condition, so we returned,” she said.

With little Joshua just two days’ old and back to Talata Village, heavy shooting was heard from across the next village. It was a cue that the bandits would enter their village after finishing with their neighbours.

The men of Talata Community quickly gathered their wives and children and guarded them to a thicket in the swamp by the bank of a river that flows through the village; among them was Jamimah and her two days’ old infant, his 7 and 5 years brothers.

“The place was infested with snakes. One crawled over to my sister’s back, but did not bite her. The grass was itchy and it was very uncomfortable,” she told our reporter. The children were crying but we muffled their mouths. The shooting started from 9am in the morning until 4pm in the afternoon,” she said.

After that experience, their men again ensured they returned to Diri Daji. But now, they are set to leave for Talata Village.

“They are always welcomed here,” said Rev Dauda Sule, who oversees the Church. “At the peak of the violence, they were about a thousand IDPs here; but most of them have returned home or have found better places to go.

“Yes, there is problem with food. The church cannot do much, and the elected representatives are not doing anything to assist,” he added. “The other time that the chairman of Sakaba LGA, Hon Lawal Dan Hausa, came here, he only brought sachets of ‘pure water;’ that’s all!” he said.

It is estimated that there may be about 10,000 IDPs from the displaced community scattered to many parts of the LGA that are considered ‘safe’ for now. The IDPs come from the following communities in Sakaba LGA in Zuru Emirate: Tunga Kadai, Bazama, Mai Komo, Kaiwa kasa, Yakila and Robin. Others are: Kukumo, Makeri, Lani, Tikawa, Madi, Katuntu, Ungwan Zama and Kudanhu.

Findings show that between the 13th and 29th April, bandits killed the following at Sakaba Town: Tanko Audu, 40; Auta Gurgu,70; daughter of Tashi Kataba, who was backing her son, and Bala Mai Saska, 75.

Villagers said that an estimated 1,000 cows and 500 sheep were rustled by the bandits within the same period.

All attempts to speak with chairman of Sakaba LGA, Hon. Lawal Dan Hausa, was not possible as his phone number was not connecting.

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