One may not know the value of life and the benefit of individual liberty, until he finds himself in a predicament that appears to have no solution in sight. Umar Dankano writes on the painful experiences of internally displaced persons between Adamawa and Borno borders in North-eastern Nigeria.
Our correspondent who visited most of the refugee camps reported the displaced occupants, as unkempt and hungry, while staring at any visitor of their new abode in anticipation of any goodwill or assistance, following the seemingly relentless attacks unleashed on the villages between Adamawa and Borno borders by Boko Haram insurgents.
Most of those affected were children, the aged men and women who appeared to be traumatized by the fearful nature of their departure from their comfortable homes to open camps, after trekking long distances to avoid the bullets of the trigger-happy insurgents who kill as without compassion.
Many of the refugees were left hungry and exhausted; this made the children, who could not understand why they were in such dehumanising conditions to cry profusely, while the adults, who could not openly cry, were all gloomy on their faces.
But above all the fear of another attack was the most demoralizing for the refugees to contend with, as some who came from villages in Borno State said, if Boko Haram strikes there will be massive casualties.
One of the displaced villagers, Aliyu Usman expressed fear that “If Boko Haram launches attack here; the casualty level would be monumental.”
Another displaced villager, Abubakar Bakura, also narrates how he lost everything to the attacks adding that his life has been engulfed with misery. He calls on the government to secure the camps to avoid further attacks on Gulak as he said, “The Boko Haram elements are simply becoming unstoppable”.
He added, “I am not bothered by what happens to me because life is meaningless to me considering the fact that I lost everything to the attack but my concern is about the little children whose future may be truncated if an attack is launched here”.
However, narrating her ordeal, bewildered Yamara Babayi revealed that as at the time of her meeting with our correspondent, she neither knew the whereabouts of her husband nor her eldest child. Her predicament was compounded by the fact that their dead bodies could not be traced either.
Babayi and other villagers said the attackers set off bombs and fired into the congregation, before burning houses and taking some villagers hostage during the four-hour siege on the village.
“Most of us had to retreat to the bush or take refuge on trees for the fear of being caught up by the bullets of the Boko Haram attackers,” she said
“Life has become unbearable not by the fact that I am now an IDP but that I lost my husband and eldest son. The fact that I did not see their dead bodies made my case even worse. I now envy those people who found the dead bodies of their loved ones as they have given them a befitting burial.”
Another refugee from Chakawa, one of the affected villages who simply identified himself as Joseph Markus, recalled how gunmen suspected to be members of the Boko Haram sect, in their numbers on that fateful Sunday, struck their village killing and maiming people at will.
According to him “I pray that even my worst enemy should not see the hell we passed through that fateful Sunday when the gunmen came on a killing spree, killing children, women and even the elderly.”
“I lost six relatives to the bullets of the murderers,” he added.
Joseph added that the attackers armed with guns and explosives killed 22 people at a busy Church service in Waga Chakawa village. “The Church, St Paul Catholic was a beehive of activities when the assailants struck,” he added.
Mallam Musa Yero’s account is even more pathetic as he said he would never go back to the village even after normalcy has returned.
“I have decided to leave Chakawa for good as the hell I saw was simply beyond comprehension. My brother was slaughtered like a ram. Our lives are threatened as the soldiers have simply deserted us to our fate as they continue collecting tolls from people”.
An internally displaced person, Victor Walba said the attack which caught everyone off guard started when one of the ushers of the Church rushed in and informed the congregations that two people armed with guns were heading towards the Church on bikes.
“Before the twinkling of an eye, we began hearing gun shots leading to the death of many as more of the assailants, came in Hilux (pick-up trucks) and armoured cars.
“They locked the doors of the Church and shot at worshippers sporadically” said Walba whose father and two friends were equally shot in the Church. One of the survivors, 42-year-old Matthew Apogu, noted that Boko Haram attackers used improvised bombs and guns on the Church.
“The gunmen used explosive devices to attack us as the worship service was on, and many of our Christian brethren lost their lives,” he said.
Apogu said the insurgents took some Christians away as hostages. “We were all dispersed by the attackers, and as the confusion ensued, those that were not able to escape were taken hostage, especially women, children and the elderly, but some were later released,” he said.
As the seeming ineluctable attacks continue, about 20 border villages have been sacked and many of the border villages have turned to ghost of their former selves just as Christians say the attack was targeted at them.
“Most of our church members affected by these attacks have fled to other communities, and they are in desperate need of help,” a source disclosed.
The chairman of Madagali local government, Mr James Abawu Watharda said, so far the federal government, through the National Emergency Management Authority, has brought relief materials to the affected persons.
But many of the internally displaced persons said, they were not happy by any relief as anything short of prevention of crisis is unacceptable to them.
“Anything short of nipping this insurgency in the bud is unacceptable to us,” they added.
The displaced persons have therefore called on the State and Federal Government to do more in terms of alleviating their sufferings caused by insecurity and unhealthy politics in the country.