News Opinion Persecution in Nigeria

Inside IDP Camps In Nigeria: the True Story

Elizabeth Duille. Photo by Mike Odeh James.
Elizabeth Duille. Photo by Mike Odeh James.

By Mike Odeh James | Truth Nigeria | November 1, 2023

(Abuja) It’s rare when Nigeria’s prestige press tells readers the real reasons why 3.6 million Nigerians are languishing in squalid camps for the Internally Displaced People (IDPs), situated on farmlands that are the envy of the world.

But conventions Nigerian journalism require that atrocities be known only through the language of abstraction. Hence, the Premium Times, which prides itself on investigative journalism explains the causes of the crisis of food insecurity this way: “Major factors contributing to food insecurity include poverty, climate change, conflict and insecurity, increasing population,  poor policy implementation, inefficient agricultural practices, post-harvest losses and low budgetary allocation to agriculture , among others.”

Conflict reporters who have interviewed the victims of coerced displacement tell a different story: “In the heart of Nigeria’s Benue state, terrorists have laid siege to hamlets sheltering farm families but now target internally displaced persons (IDPs) starving in camps,” reported Masara Kim and Adekole Daniel on Oct. 23 in TruthNigeria. “Ms. Blessing Ortseega, a survivor of one of the attacks, shared her harrowing experience with TruthNigeria, recounting how a group of terrorists brutally murdered her mother and pregnant sister before her eyes on October 2 while they were working in their farm. “We were weeding our yam farm around 12:30 pm three weeks ago and all of a sudden, many Fulani people with guns and machetes surrounded us,” said Ortseega in a telephone interview.  “We all started to run, but my mother and sister –  who was seven months pregnant – could not go far,” Ortseega recollected.

Accurate Estimates of IDPs

Mothers cook rations distributed at Abuja IDP camp.
Mothers cook rations distributed at Abuja IDP camp.

According to data from the United Nations, approximately 3.6 million Nigerians from the three North Eastern States of Adamawa, Borno, and Yobe have been displaced from their homes due to violence, war, fear, and hunger, mainly instigated by the war unleashed by Boko Haram and Islam in West African Province (ISWAP). Many other states have vast population of IDPs.

Benue State alone harbors 2.1 million IDPs and 232,000 of these are in camps, whereas the  remaining 1.8 million are squatting with members of host villages,  according to Benue State Governor Hyacinth Alia.

In Plateau State; as a local official told Voice of America( VOA) in July 2023, there were more than 80,000 IDPs sheltering in 11 makeshift camps in Mangu County, according to Markus Artu, the leader of the IDPs in Mangu.

“At least 18,000 of the IDPs were sheltering in a primary school in Mangu, the county seat, following armed attacks that killed at least 350 residents on May 16, according to Artu.

Further west, at minimum 300,000 people are displaced from 12 counties in Niger according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNCHA).

Tribes Forced off Ancestral Land

IDP camp in Guma County in Northern Benue State. Photo by Dede Laugesen.
IDP camp in Guma County in Northern Benue State. Photo by Dede Laugesen.

Why were people brutally removed from their ancestral lands? Although government officials tend to obfuscate when asked this questions, the consensus of the victims of terrorism who spoke to TruthNigeria in Benue, Plateau, Nasarawa, Taraba, and Niger States in parts of Adamawa, the cause is attempts by terrorist war parties to grab the ancestral lands and occupy them for settlement.

Rev. David Ayuba Azzaman of Kings Worship Centre, Kaduna, told Truth Nigeria that there is a plan by Nigerians who speak the Fulani language to grab farmlands belonging to Middle Belters. Assaman claims that  Fulanis were aided by officials of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration from 2015 to 2023.

By aggregating the numbers given by UN officials, the Federal Government, and state governments, the final sum is more than 6 million IDPs.

Kyle Abts, Executive Director of the International Committee on Nigeria (ICON) explains why  the government is understating the number.

“The Federal Government is understating the true number of the IDPS in Nigeria to avoid the country being termed unstable,” Abts said.

“We believe that the current IDP figure in Nigeria is above 5 million,” Abts added.

“From the figures given by the Benue Governor alone, coupled with those of Plateau, Nasarawa, Southern Kaduna, Taraba, and Niger States, we have close to 5 million IDPs, and if you add those of the Northwest and Northeast, we have way over 6 million IDPs, “ according to Azzaman.

“However, the government of Nigeria does not want people to know that Fulani herdsmen are killing local farmers and indigenes, who are mainly Christians.

The same government is quick to hype the IDP figures in the Northeast,” Azzaman added.

Effects of Dislocation

Abts expresses fears that the massive dislocation of farmers in Benue, Plateau Taraba, and Niger States will have grave consequences.

“In the next two years, Nigeria will see rapid decreases in farm production output, education deficiencies, and health concerns that will ultimately lead to higher mortality rates.

“Overall, there was an economic downturn and an inability to raise taxes in their states, but an increase in the public’s dependency on the government. It might not even take two years!” Abts said.

“If you noticed, the herders have virtually rendered the farming regions of Nigeria uninhabitable and unusable. So, if agricultural produce is very scarce in the next few months, there will be hunger,” said Azzaman.

USAID, Civitas Auxilium Foundation, Equipping the Needy to the Rescue

Aid distribution at the CAF school in Abuja. Photo by Mike Odeh James.
Aid distribution at the CAF school in Abuja. Photo by Mike Odeh James.

As the number of IDPs across the country continues to grow, so does the inability of the federal government to manage or help bring relief of the camps of the IDPs.

The good news for many homeless IDP’s is that  the United States International Agency for Development (USAID), the Civitas Auxilium Foundation, and Equipping the Needy, have come to the rescue of the IDPs by providing funds, food, teaching aids, and other items needed at the IDP camps.

Foreign donors such as the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), are funneling funds for IDPs across the country, Kyle Abts, Executive Director of the International Committee on Nigeria (ICON), told Truth Nigeria. More than $1.2 billion USD is given as grants to Nigeria  yearly, Abts said.

“According to, the US government is obligated to give nearly US$1.2 billion, with USAID’s grants and aid accounting for nearly half of that at US$572 million,” Abts added.

“Of that amount, it is estimated between US $200 and 300 million for IDPs, but there are other budget items that could constitute IDP aid, such as food security, food sustainability, and resettlement. Often, the funds are given to registered and recognized partners, but corruption creeps in.”

Disturbed by the continued neglect and social inequality of (IDP women, an organization to help widows set up their own businesses and to educate their children emerged in 2021.  The Civitas Auxilium Foundation distributed 2000 notebooks, has distributed textbooks, desks, chairs, and various reading items to schools in an internally displaced person camp in WASSA, Abuja, central Nigeria. Stephen Enada, a Nigerian American pastor in Atlanta, teamed with Elizabeth Duale in Abuja to get CAF going. Duile, CAF Chief Operation Officer, told Truth Nigeria in an exclusive chat on October 18, 2023, that the Foundation wants to make sure that all the children in the WASSA IDP camp are equipped with writing notes and textbooks, while every child must be given a proper education in line.

“Currently, there are over 5,000 IDPS here in WASSA Camp, and we have been able to reach out to over 1,000 children.”   Women who are capable of running home businesses can apply for seed loans.

Aboje Benjamin Oche, an officer of CAF, also explained that traumatized victims of conflicts are a target audience of the CAF project. “One of the keys to assuage the hurt and trauma of the IDPs, especially women and children, is through literacy programs and other education,”  Oche said.


Mike Odeh James is a conflict Reporter for Truth Nigeria in Kaduna.

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