Sunday 7 June 2015: Sesôr and friends (Tee-A of TymeoutwithTeeA and Betty Abah of Cee-HOPE Foundation) visited a missionary church hosting hundreds of displaced persons in Lagos and donated relief materials to survivors of the Boko Haram attacks who have sought refuge in Lagos. The relief materials donated included staples such as rice, beans, pasta including noodles, adult and children’s clothes, toys, shoes, sanitary items, educational materials and cash towards transporting the IDPs back to their temporary homes. Sesôr also registered 13 children, 15 women and 18 men for the first phase of its educational and livelihood support programmes for survivors.
Explaining the first phase of Sesôr’s educational support programme, Sesôr’s Programme Officer, Nike Ademulegun explained that Sesôr will be working with partners to help enrol the children in school and contribute towards paying their school fees and other educational costs such as uniforms, books etc. Ademulegun further added that “Sesôr welcomes support from individuals, companies and other bodies as we pilot our livelihood support programme which is geared towards helping some of the IDPs get back on their feet by providing opportunities for them to earn a living. This will go a long way towards helping them heal and regain a sense of dignity.”
Sesôr’s media team, led by Communications Officer, Jasmine Asekome, spoke with some of the displaced men and women who told their stories.
Juliet* (names have been changed to protect their identity) fled from Michika some months ago. She had five children, two of whom were killed in a bomb explosion. Two others were lost as they fled. She made it out to Lagos with only her two year old child. She expressed the hope that she would find her two lost children but her eyes reflected the toll these losses have taken on her.
Isa from Hong told us his story (paraphrased). “Boko Haram militants attacked my house at midnight. My wife told me to run because they (Boko Haram) were not attacking the women and girls but only the men. I ran through the bush and they started shooting at me. I stumbled and fell and lay still. They came to where I was lying, one of them stood on my back and shouted, ‘Infidel is dead!’ and they turned back. I hid for a short time in the bush and then sneaked back to my house. It was burnt to the ground. I went to my neighbour’s house and found my wife camping there – the Boko had spared the women and children this time. But she begged me to leave in case they came back. I ran to Lagos and left my family behind. I now regret doing this. I talk to my wife who is safe for now with the children but I want to go back to them.”
30-year old James from Gwoza in Borno State said his only living relative, an uncle, his uncle’s wife and all his cousins were slaughtered right in front of him. He and a few others managed to escape and flee into Cameroun. But life in Cameroun was harsh and harder than even being on the run. Someone advised him and a few of the survivors to come to Lagos. He says they found a truck and started the journey back to Nigeria and found their way to Lagos. He says, “I have been in Lagos for two weeks now. I am all alone in the world. Purpose of life for me is lost. I need help. I am psychologically unstable and emotionally battered. There is no use for existence.”
Asekome adds that, “Sesôr will continue to tell the stories of our fellow Nigerians who have been so badly affected by the insurgency. These people are real. Their stories are real life, not just a news item. We cannot forget them. We hope to galvanise Nigerians and the government to work to rehabilitate them. We hope that getting them to talk about their harrowing experiences will help them start dealing with the trauma they have gone through and instil a sense of hope. They need hope to regain their sanity and strength, hope to believe and hope to live life.”
Mr. Tunde Adewale aka Tee-A addressed some of the male IDPs who were present, pledging his support for their cause. Speaking with the Sesôr team, he said, “The reality of this situation hits you when you meet them in person and hear their stories. I will try to do my part to help them get jobs or with their businesses so they do not have to rely on handouts.”
Sesôr’s Executive Director, Ier Jonathan-Ichaver while addressing members of the Church and the over 200 IDPs who were gathered at the Church thanked the church for their sacrifice as they have continued to support the displaced. Jonathan-Ichaver went on to say, “We are overwhelmed by the response of our friends and supporters to the call for help. They have made donations in cash and kind towards the relief materials. We are grateful to our many supporters for their generosity even in these tough times. We hope that this will be the first of many interventions and look forward to helping those affected get counselling and other support to get back on their feet and return home when it is safe for them to do so.”
The Chairman of the church’s Welfare Committee, Mr. Mike Tarfa, thanked Sesôr and her supporters for their support. “For most of the IDPs, the church is usually their first port of call when they get to Lagos. Some of them had families already in Lagos while we had to house the others. We are happy that some bodies have been supporting us. One of them is Sesôr and you can see all the materials they brought in.”