Internally displaced persons in Borno State on Monday expressed concerns over the dangers of having orphaned children growing up in camps without any form of parental or government care.
The concerned displaced elders said they are more scared about what the future holds out for them regarding the “untamed” orphans than the next attack by Boko Haram insurgents.
Speaking with PREMIUM TIMES in one of the IDP camps in Kusheri suburb of Maiduguri, TIjani Mustapha, a 60 years old IDP from Konduga Local Government Area said there are nearly a 100,000 orphans that live in different IDP camps across Borno.
He said most of them are growing wild and are uncultured “while they are conscious of what happened to their parents and how they are living without any kind of love or care they needed.”
He said the kids are a perfect recipe for disaster, “worse than Boko Haram, in the nearest future.”
Mr Mustapha raised this concern during a public screening of a filmed documentary on the Boko Haram insurgency titled ‘Uprooted.”
The movie was produced by a local NGO called PAGED Initiative in which victims relate their stories of survival.
The film is used as an advocacy tool for giving a voice to the underrepresented people especially in conflict environments.
Mr Mustapha and many others who watched the film were inspired to open up and shared their experiences and concerns.
“We have to begin to worry about the plights of the thousands of orphans that we have in our society now due to the activities of Boko Haram,” he said.
“Government and indeed we the people must do something urgently to secure the future of these orphans; if we allow them to grow, the way they are being brought up in camps, without adequate love and care, we should as well have to worry about what they will turn out to be in our society.
“I am talking about the nearly 100,000 unaccompanied children who are presently in camps because their parents have died or killed in the insurgency. Some of the parents died during Boko Haram attacks, some abducted and have never been seen again; some were slaughtered or shot right in front of the children and some were killed by the military especially during raids and shootouts.
“These kids are everywhere; within and outside the camps; some came in as babies found abandoned because their parents were killed, some came in as toddlers, some grew up in the camps and don’t even know where they come from, except they are told. Some knew where they came from but have no relation to live with because all their traceable relations have been killed or are nowhere to be found.
“They live as unaccompanied children, who go to bed and wake on their own, without any parental care.”
The aged IDP said he was once a successful local businessman in Konduga but Boko Haram visited his community and took away all that he possessed.
“We are even worried about children who live in the camps with their parents, who have little or no control on how they behave because both the children and the parents depend on handouts given by government and NGOs before they can feed,” he said.
“So how much more of a child that does not know anything called family.”
Another male IDP, Muhammed Abuya, said: “what may happen in the future could be worse than what they have experienced.”
“We fear for the future because there is greater possibility that we may face even a worse insurgency than the Boko Haram by the time these children grow up with the knowledge or memory of how their parents were killed and nobody cared for them. It would be easier for them to engage in crimes that are even worse than Boko Haram.
“The same children, if care is not taken, will turn round to start killing all of us because no one is giving them education both Islamic and Western; no one is giving them care. The government seems to have forgotten about them,” he said.
In February 2017, Borno governor, Kashim Shettima, released an official figure of 52,311 as the number of children orphaned by the Boko Haram insurgency.
The number increased to 56,000 in August of the same year.
That figure, though seen by many as conservative, could have doubled especially with the resurgence of hostility in the region. Governor Shettima had in August 2017 said the orphaned would be enrolled in the 20 mega schools that were being built across the state capital.
The schools are yet to formally open.