The Southern Kaduna senatorial zone has been engulfed in crisis for long. But last month, the crisis heightened with series of attacks by unidentified gunmen, as well as attacks and counter attacks between herdsmen and farmers in the area.
Currently, no less than 21 communities were affected as the crises spread to the two local governments of Zangon Kataf and Kauru, which led the Kaduna State government to impose a 24-hours curfew on the area. Scores were killed in the various attacks and clashes, with properties worth millions of naira destroyed while about hundreds of persons whose houses and villages were destroyed became stranded with threat of a humanitarian crisis looming in the area.
The situation compelled many who have relatives in other towns to relocate, thereby abandoning their homes to where they could find relative safety and accommodation. But many unable to relocate had to make do with putting up in places within the affected areas they consider safe.
Some individuals and organizations came in to set up IDP camps in the area to cater for those who have been displaced and cannot return to their homes. One of such camp, and indeed, the largest concentration of IDPs in the zone is Mercy Camp.
Mercy Camp is sited in ECWA Christian Academy in Zonkwa, the headquarters of Zangon Kataf Local Government Area, with about 1, 154 people, following series of attacks in the area since last year which led to loss of lives and properties, and rendered those who survived, mostly women and children, homeless. The recent one is the Zangon Kataf crisis that started in June with attacks and counter attacks.
When Daily Trust on Sunday visited the camp, the displaced persons said they were from different villages such as Sako, Gora Sagwazah, Rimin Kaura, Bafai Gida, Sabon Kaura, Chibob, Kurmin Gandu, Kigudu, Warakan, Kibori, Badawa, Yagbak, Kurfi, Goshen, Runji, Gora Gida, Ungwan Ruhogo, Takanai, Ungwan Wakili, Asha A Wuce, among others, all within Zangon Kataf and Kauru local government areas. Luckily for them, the ECWA College which has been turned into an IDP camp is fairly big and also the schools were not yet reopened due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
Most of the IDPs sleep in the classrooms on blankets and mats with a few sleeping on mattresses. There is also no electricity within the school and in the night, they have to make do with discussing in groups or returning early to bed. They rely on the toilet facilities within the school to bath and defecate.
Recounting the some of the unfortunate incidents, some of the survivors and victims who spoke with Daily Trust on Sunday at the camp, pleaded with the government to renovate their houses and provide them with security outfits in their various communities.
Afiniki Caleb, 29-year-old mother from Chibob village, said they started hearing gunshots when they were sleeping around 12am. "I heard gunshots thrice and thought they were vigilante but when I opened the door to see what is happening, I just saw three people wearing black clothes. I immediately closed the door and tried to listen to what they were saying.
"I later opened the door again when I saw smoke coming from our neighbour's house. They also set fire on a car parked in front of our house, so I rushed out to inform some of our neighbours and before I realized it, they set fire on our house where I lost almost everything."
Rose Timothy, 30-year-old mother who was shot on her hand, said she woke up at midnight to the sound of sporadic shooting and so she left to inform her mother-in-law. "On my way back, I saw one woman running who told me that Fulani had come to kill us. I quickly rushed back to look for my children and before you knew it, the invaders had surrounded the house. They opened the window and shot at my hand and asked us to produce our husbands or they will kill all of us. They told us that they only came for the men. They asked us if we are the people responsible for killing their brothers and sisters, and we said no, so they warned us and they set fire on our houses."
Agnes Manasseh, a 25-year-old mother from Warakan community, said the invaders knocked at her door and asked the whereabouts of her husband. They threatened to kill her if she didn't reveal his whereabouts. "They insisted that they will burn us if I didn't tell them where my husbabd was. They poured petrol and set our house on fire. I escaped with burns on my leg alongside my three children that I hid in the bathroom."
She said her husband was inside when they set fire on the house but he escaped through the window.
"Our major problem is to get back home as we are tired of living in classrooms," she added.
Another displaced person, Musa Markus, 14, who was shot on the leg, said the attackers shot him when they entered their house because he's a male child.
"They told my sisters and my mother that they were not going to kill them because they were not killing women but were after men only. They entered and searched the house without seeing any male to kill."
They all called on the government to provide security, food, shelter and medicine for them.
The Secretary of the Camp, Gunners James, said they spend about N692, 400 daily on food and were financially assisted by individuals, associations, churches and NGOs. He also added that the major need of the internally displaced persons is to go back to their homes.
"The immediate need of these refugees are food, medicine and clothes. There is no sufficient water and the children are exposed to contaminated diseases. The mothers are finding it difficult to breastfeed their children and there is fear of malnutrition," he added.
"The local government delegation under the chairmanship of Elias Manza visited the camp and enquired about our immediate needs and he promised to intervene."