Recently, over 2,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Ogoni, Rivers State, cried out to the Federal Government, through the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), for urgent provision of relief materials to alleviate their plight.
The IDPs were mostly women and children, victims of communal war and cult-related clashes in their areas. They were majorly from Gokana and Khana local government areas. The crises had made the indigenes refugees in neighbouring communities.
They gathered in one of the communities in Khana LGA. They made plea when officials of NEMA visited the crisis-ravaged communities in Ogoni to carry out on-the-spot assessment of the level of damage in the area.
In their tale of woe, the hunger-ravaged IDPs said that several months after the repeated mayhem in their respective communities, life has not been the same. The displaced farmers and fishermen said inter-communal clashes and cult wars have made them lose their farm crops, because they could no longer access their farmlands and homes.
Speaking during the visit, Alice Dekor, a victim of the crisis, lamented her misfortune. She begged government to assist her and her five dependent children. The devastated woman regretted that she lost both her husband and two sons in the crisis.
Dekor lamented that since she abandoned home in May 2019, she has not returned, out of fear. According to her, there was uncertainty in their villages, making some communities ghost places.
Dekor said: “The government should help us because we are suffering over here. We have been here since May 19, this year, and we have not been able to return to our farms because these bad boys are still in our community.”
She told Daily Sun that they live like refugees and depend on alms from government, groups and well-meaning individuals, and there was lack accommodation at their temporary centre.
Dekor also decried health hazards they have faced for months. She declared that their lives were under threat in harsh environmental challenges. According to her, the children regularly come down with infectious diseases because of poor hygiene.
“Over here, we barely eat, as there is shortage of food and we are being exposed to open field shelter.
“Our children fall sick every day; we cannot do anything to fetch us money because many of us are farmers and the (cult) boys will not allow us go to our farms. We are really in need of help, the government should help us,” she said.
Also, Madam Theresa Demua told Daily Sun that she lost her son in the violence. She regretted that a group of armed boys murdered her son while he was returning from the farm.
Demua said: “My son was not one of the bad boys that are causing problems and killings. He was shot dead for something he did not know about.
“Since that time (when her son was killed), my life has not been the same. When he was alive, my son used to help me a lot with farm work. I am old and I cannot do much. I am helpless. I cannot go home again because the boys destroyed our house. I don’t know why they did that, because we are not troublemakers.
“We don’t know what is the cause of all this crisis in our place. We cannot continue to be strangers in our ancestral land because of what these bad children are doing.
“At my age (67), I am not supposed to be running about. I am supposed to be in my husband’s house. We depend on food crops we harvest from our farms. But we cannot do that now because we cannot enter our communities,” she lamented.
Similarly, Mr. Emmanuel Netam has appealed government and corporate organisations to help them out of the quagmire. Netam, from Gokana LGA, expressed worries that, since May when he fled home, he does not know the situation in his compound.
He said: “I still cannot believe that I could flee from home in my life time. We have suffered too much from communal crises and cult wars.
“All of us here are suffering because we depend on what government and some good people give. We need government to use security and sanitize communities in Ogoniland.
“Okay, look at our children, who are supposed to be in school, they cannot go to school and we, parents, cannot help the situation because the cult boys kill at will. We are disturbed because we all want to have moment of peace.”
On his part, the president of the Ogoni Youth Federation (OYF), Legborsi Yamaabana, regretted that Ogoni indigenes who are well-off have not given attention to the security problem in the area. He also noted that prominent Ogoni people did not care about alleviating the suffering of the IDPs in Ogoni.
“I just want to thank NEMA for their swift response to come here for this needed assessment. And I urge them to, with the same measure with which they swiftly attend to the plight of IDPs in the North-East, extend such too in our case because our people are seriously suffering. The hardship is terrible.
“This is an opportunity to call on those of our people we entrusted our resources, to show concern. They have actually not done well.
“They should stop paying lip service and use their contacts to attract international NGOs to help us. Our leaders have been keeping silent”, he said.
However, the coordinator, NEMA, South-South, Walson Brandon, said: “The reason for coming to Ogoni is to carry out on-the-spot assessment of the wanton loss of the people. And we have seen with our eyes the level of damage and we shall go back and write a report and send to the national headquarters, which will on our part, facilitate the process to ensure speedy response, so that succour can come to you as soon as possible.
“We feel your plight and we want to assure you people that relief will come to you as soon as we can fast-track our report,” the NEMA coordinator said.