Lack of basic education, healthcare, sanitation facilities and access to clean water have hit Gwagwada, the new home of over 300 households who fled fifteen villages as a result of banditry.
Speaking at the flag-off of relief materials distribution to the internally displaced persons (IDP), the Village Head, Mr Bitrus Tsuari in a chat with Procyon News said “Since they arrived, the wells which have been the source of water for several households in the community have dried up; the solar powered borehole is only providing drips of water necessitating most of residents to seek drinking water from streams. Our two public primary schools and healthcare facilities are currently inadequate and may be unsafe, especially with the coronavirus pandemic that Kaduna state is still counting cases”.
The Village Head confirmed that those who can farm, have been provided land to start over, there is still the worry however, for those who are unable to farm due to health related challenges and sustained injuries.
He listed communities affected by the protracted banditry to include, Kugosi, Kajari, Katarma, Kankwana, Tawali, Kasauyi, Kuduru, Kugo 1 and 2, Four-Thirty and others Gofa, Kagamai, Togu, Sheshokwa, and Kachere.
Tsauri further said that “All these people have fled to Gwagwada. Two communities have been here for about a year now and the worsening situation has seen an influx of more refugees”, .
A nursing mother of 28 from Kajari, Maimuna Ayuba (not her real name) expressed gratitude to the community who have accommodated them in their homes, “even with the scarcity of water and our reliance on streams, inadequate boarding facilities, we are happy to be here. We are thankful that here we can afford to sleep at night and be at peace at day.
“We are all using one Primary Healthcare Centre in Gwagwada, they are trying for us nursing mothers. For every healthcare challenge, we go there first. However, in the case of complications, it is nearly impossible for women and the aged in the community. When the schools finally open we do not know what will happen to our children, but we are happy being here.”, Maimuna Ayuba enthused.
While most of the IDPs desire to return to their homes, the concern that the end is not in sight is the greatest fear the communities are facing. There have been cases of kidnaps, abductions, extortions and broad daylight robberies of persons who have dared to come around the villages to pick up their items of value.
An influential farmer (name withheld) who pleaded for anonymity, gave insight into the situation “Very armed bandits in their hundreds on motorcycles, invaded our communities countless times. There hasn’t been any occasion where there was no kidnapping, robbery and rape. We reported these concerns to our traditional leader, in each security response, the bandits will run, only to return again, kill and kidnap people for ransoms as high as one million naira and punish the people for seeking help. Later we were paying more. With the increased level of killings after our impoverishment as a result of extortions, we fled the villages and neighbouring communities followed suit.”
A spiritual leader and cleric, narrates the ordeal of the community, “Kidnappings and attacks on the defenceless communities evolved to broad day, morning and night attacks to the point where private property and places of worship were threatened. It is unfortunate that several clerics have kept away from the communities due to the incessant abductions, killings and rape that have brought untold hardship to the rural dwellers and host communities. The people who hitherto, lived in despair have now found refuge in Gwagwada”.
Maiwada Rabiu, one of the beneficiaries, who had taken to farming and the peace of rural dwelling after his twenty five year employment ended without benefits following the closure of the textile industry in Kaduna State has this to say “The attacks began with neighbouring communities. The bandits will pass through without doing us harm; they assured us that we were not the community they were after. As villagers began to leave, they turned to us. We started witnessing kidnappings and the rustling of cattle we use for farming. Currently, about 143 bulls belonging to individuals in the community have been rustled in the past few years. This reduced our productivity even before the wanton killings and burning of property began.”
The distribution of relief materials donated to the affected households by United States Agency for International Development’s Nigeria Early Recovery Initiative (USAID/NERI) in collaboration with Kaduna State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) targeted 300 households to benefit from the items provided for the internally displaced persons (IDP) in Gwagwada.
While responding to concerns over perceived exclusion, the project’s leader of NERI, Chikodinaka Omokhide explained that, ”The beneficiaries were captured based on head counts conducted by the State Emergency Management Agency SEMA which we validated and have arrived at the targeted number of households and persons to benefit from the relief items.”
Omokhide reaffirmed the commitment of the project to peace building, conflict prevention and resettlement of communities ravaged by banditry and other forms of insecurity.
The Executive Secretary, SEMA, Abubakar Hassan, expressed delight over NERI’s support of the intervention. He said “Since my assumption of office, SEMA has scaled up its response and works closely now with partners and stakeholders who can proffer the needed solution towards addressing the humanitarian crisis in Kaduna State for effective disaster risk reduction.
“The Kaduna state government, through reforms, has taken decisive steps to enhance security and peace building”, Hassan added.
The presence of a security formation and operational base in Gadani and Chikun villages will keep the marauders at bay. Until then, the Gwagwada community will continue to remain in need of infrastructure development.
Supplies, equipment for basic healthcare, education water and sanitation facilities even as Kaduna State continues to record new Covid-19 cases is nearly non-existent owing to population explosion.