Many of the internally displaced persons (IDPs) who were evacuated from Bakassi Camp have returned to their communities in Gwoza, only to find their homes trashed or in ruin – others found just the ashes of their burnt-out houses.
As a result, they had moved from one IDP camp in Maiduguri into another in Gwoza because they had no other place to go to.
On October 22, Governor Babagana Zulum announced that all IDP camps within the Maiduguri metropolis would be shut down by December 31.
His decision came as a shock to the residents. Most of the IDPs who left Bakassi – which is now fully evacuated – had returned to their hometowns, or had dispersed into Maiduguri, desperately seeking shelter.
Before the insurgency began in 2009, Gwoza was one of Borno State’s economic centres, contributing especially to the agriculture sector with an abundant production of bumper harvests.
But, as with most areas in Borno State, the Jamā’at Ahl as-Sunnah lid-Da’way Wa’l-Jihād (JAS) had attacked, killing many, destroying facilities and forcing hundreds to flee from their hometown.
The majority of Gwoza IDPs who had been evacuated from Bakassi Camp had returned to their hometown. A few were picking up the pieces they left behind, but most had to start afresh.
Inuwa Haruna, a former IDP and now a resident of Gwoza, told RNI that most of the town’s displaced persons had now returned back home and were settled inside camps.
“Our people have arrived in Gwoza in large numbers and are now in camps because most of them lost everything they owned, including their homes, to the insurgency,” he said.
Troops had been brought into Gwoza town to provide security for residents and IDPs but, Haruna said, there were still no-go areas. Many villages were not accessible, there were still attacks by the JAS, more commonly known as Boko Haram, and many of the returnees’ houses had been destroyed and they had no place to stay.
“Some areas are still not guaranteed safe but the troops have provided full security inside the town, so no one can live outside Gwoza, except for a few large communities, such as Ngoshe, Pulka and Warabe,” he said.
This year had been great for farmers, who had produced bumper harvests. Haruna said soldiers, hunters and members of the civilian joint task force had accompanied farmers to their lands and waited until they were finished.
“To me the return is far better than living an idle life in IDP camps in Maiduguri. There is no work available there. Here we are given secure protection on our farmlands. It’s like getting a second chance at life. We can slowly build up to where we once were.”
Attacks still occurred from time to time in Gwoza but the troops provided safety and most times they defeated the fighters who attempted to attack the town, Haruna said.