Chonoko, Kagara: An Investigative Reporter`s Grim Experience in Bandits’ Zones
By Abbas Muhammad
As part of it’s commitment to result-oriented investigative reporting and developmental journalism, PRNigeria sent one of it’s best reporters to two communities in Niger and Kebbi states to unravel the behind-the-scene, unreported events surrounding banditry and kidnapping in those places.
After writing many breathtaking stories and features from his investigative expeditions which were done in collaboration with the Wole Soyinka Centre for investigative Journalism, Mukhtar Ya’u Madobi decided to have an interactive session with the press at the PRNigeria Centre in Abuja in the presence of stakeholders from the civil society, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and many others.
The aim of the briefing according to PRNigeria publisher, Yushau Shuaib, was to draw the attention of the authorities to the desperate humanitarian conditions in Chonoko, Kebbi state and Kagara, Niger state, as well as other banditry-ravaged communities in the northwest and north central, and brainstorm on how best to address them.
During the session, Mukhtar outlined some of his observations as follows:
“As a result of incessant bandits’ attacks, people are not allowed to have free access to their farms and work which serve as their major source of livelihood.
“It is disheartening that some farmers even pay a levy to these bandits in order to have access to their farms, not many can afford this incessant extortion as a result there is a looming food crisis in the society.
“Education is another critical sector that was also badly hit due to this insecurity.
“For example, there are about 127 primary schools in Kagara but more than 78 have been shut due to fear of bandit attacks.
“Meanwhile, in Chonoko, some schools that are located within the towns have been turned to IDP camps where the victims are being accommodated. This situation has sent many students away from classes, thereby adding to the number of out-of-school children in the area and the country at large.
“Chonoko town is suffering from lack of potable water supply as investigation showed that IDPs and the residents battle to get water for domestic purposes from the only two available boreholes present within the community.
“This tends to create a hostile atmosphere for the victims and residents due to frustration and the constant need for water by IDPs.
“With regard to shelter, the IDPs in Chonoko are living in an overcrowded settlement where a single room is being occupied by more than 15 persons.
“The men sometimes sleep under trees so the women and children can sleep in the IDP tents. This calls for great concern because disease becomes easily transmitted in this type of under-spaced environment.
“Healthcare system delivery is being dragged to the mud as the Kagara General Hospital was forced to offer skeletal services.
“More worrisome is that, most doctors posted to these areas do not report for duties, citing insecurity as a major concern.
“In the case of Kebbi State, it is unfortunate to learn that NEMA has been donating relief materials to these vulnerable communities but the items are being stockpiled in warehouses by the state government without distributing them to the IDPs.
“Residents of Kagara have been doing the needful in assisting the victims of banditry by providing them with some relief materials aimed at improving their life condition.
“However, the security situation has improved within Kagara town due to the presence of military bases.”
After enumerating his observations, Mukhtar provided recommendations for government and other concerned stakeholders for outright interventions.
He recommended as follows:
“Government and security forces should sustain their efforts toward restoring peace and security to the affected communities.
“Efforts should be outlined and implemented toward rescuing the dwindling educational sector, thereby absorbing back the school drop outs from the streets which is necessary for averting future security breaches.
“There should be transparency and open disclosure in distribution of relief materials to the vulnerable persons in the affected communities.
“Government should further boost the security situation especially in villages by providing sophisticated weapons and other logistics to local vigilantes so as to enhance their activities.” Mukhtar stated.
The floor was then opened to journalists and other attendees for comments, observations and questions.
In her contribution, Hadiza Abdulrahman from Radio Nigeria, commended Mukhtar for a job well done in spotlighting the plight of IDPs in banditry-ravaged zones.
A question was also thrown at the Director of Press and Public Relation of NEMA, Manzo Ezekiel, for a solution towards the hoarding of relief materials. It was suggested that a tracking system be put in place by NEMA to ensure transparency and accountability in the distribution of materials.
One of the participants expressed concern to NEMA over the plight of women and girls at IDP Camps regarding access to menstrual pads and other peculiar necessities.
While responding, Mr. Ezekiel explained that relief materials from NEMA are not single-handedly delivered by them due to security reasons at these IDP areas. Rather, the relief materials are delivered to the state government and local stakeholders whose responsibility it is to ensure the materials get to the right places.
Also regarding the needs of women, he explained that NEMA has a gender unit and a nutrition unit that take care of issues of that nature.
Furthermore, Mr. Ezekiel clarified that the agency is doing its best to alleviate the plight of the victims by providing relief materials to distressed Nigerians within the scope of their limited resources.
Rounding off the conversation, PRNigeria boss, Shuaib, called on journalists to avoid; “ Sensational stories that always weaken the minds and morale of our gallant troops.”
Shuaib urged them to emphasise stories that encourage our troops to be able to do more for the country.
He harped on the need for the media to sustain the pressure on government to do the right thing without seeming to make terrorists look too powerful.
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Report By: PRNigeria.com