How Widows, Orphans In Attacked Plateau Communities Survive


    By Polycarp Auta, News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)

    Concerned citizens note that attacks on residents of Plateau by terrorists have resulted in the death of many people while many people have left their destroyed houses, becoming destitute.

    Investigations have shown that scores of people from different communities across the state have died in such attacks from April to date, leaving their wives, the aged, children and relations to their fate.

    With the increased number of the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), it is clear that the victims of attacks — the aged, widows, people living with disabilities and orphans — can no longer rely on humanitarian assistance for survival.

    The attacks have led to killings, wanton destruction of property, including houses and farmlands, have left many of the widows and orphans impoverished, a resident of one of the communities, notes.

    The attackers would kill mostly young men, leaving behind their wives and children with little or nothing to live on, he explains.

    The development has, therefore, made some widows and orphans in some communities in Iregwe Chiefdom of Bassa Local Government Area of Plateau to rely on menial jobs as means of livelihood.

    Most of the widows, who are still young, resort to menial jobs to earn a living for themselves and the aged relations.

    Mr Gastor Barrie, the Coordinator of Relief Distribution Committee of the chiefdom, said that between December 2016 and 2021, no fewer than 826 persons largely men, were killed in the chiefdom.

    He added that the consistent killings had increased the number of widows and orphans in the area, saying “this category of persons largely exist in utter poverty, hunger and squalor.

    “Statistics available to us indicates that currently, there are more than 1,000 orphans and 300 widows who are living in abject poverty in this chiefdom.

    “Not less than 90 per cent of these widows, who are in their 20s in age don’t have any means of livelihood; they depend largely on menial jobs to feed themselves and their kids.

    “Most of the orphans don’t go to school, because there is nobody to pay their school fees and the public school here has been grounded due to the incessant attacks.’’

    One of the widows, Blessing Friday, 28, said that her husband was killed and their house and other property items were burnt down when gunmen attacked their community in September 2021.

    Friday, a mother of three, explained that she works for others on their irrigation farms and get paid daily wage of between N500 and N700.

    “I stopped school in SS1 and got married to my late husband. We were doing well before he was killed during of the recent attacks.

    “We lost everything and I now rely on menial jobs like working on people’s farms or as a labourer on any construction site to survive.

    “I’m currently living with my children in a rented one room apartment because I do not have the means to rebuild our burnt house,’’ she said.

    Friday also disclosed that some of the widows sometimes go as low as peeling melon, breaking groundnuts and palm kernel for others just to feed.

    Another widow, Joy Monday, 29, called on the government to support them with skills and starter packs that would enable them to be self-sufficient and cater for their needs.

    “Majority of us are not well schooled, but we have capacity to learn any skill; if government can train us on skills and empower us to stand on our own, it will solve a large part of problems and we will be able to fend for our families and even contribute to the growth of the society.

    “We are gradually becoming a huge burden to the society; same with the orphans and if nothing is done quickly, things will deteriorate,’’ she pleaded.

    She noted that some of the orphans had started constituting nuisance to the society, because they lack basic things of living.

    Mr Robert Dodo, National President of Iregwe Development Association, described as alarming the increasing number of widows and orphans in the chiefdom.

    Dodo, who decried the plight of this category of people, called on government to come to their aid by providing soft loans and farming tools to enable them to become self-sufficient.

    The national president also called on government to compensate families whose houses, farmlands and other property were destroyed.

    “It is no longer news that Iregwe chiefdom has come under series of attacks in recent times and the effects of these had resulted in wanton destruction of lives and property, materials were carted away and crops on farmlands were destroyed.

    “The rising number of widows and orphans in this chiefdom is also a thing of concern; so, we are calling on government to find a way of supporting these widows and orphans.

    “Government should provide soft loans and farming tools them enable them go into petty trading and farming that will make them fend for themselves and others,’’ he suggested.

    But Mr Chuwang Sha, the Acting Executive Secretary, State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA), said that both the federal and state governments, non-governmental organisations, corporate bodies such as banks, religious organisations and spirited individuals, have supported the displaced persons in the area with various items.

    “We know that there is no amount of items donated to displaced persons that will be equal to the quantum of what they have lost, but to my understanding, they got a lot of attention from various quarters.

    “For me, what the people in that area should clamour for is the presence of security and the need for government to do everything within its powers to end these myriad of attacks that usually lead to wanton destruction of lives and property,’’ he said.

    He also called on government and spirit individuals and groups to support widows, orphans and indeed all the displaced persons in other parts of the state, such as Riyom, Barkin Ladi, Mangu and Bokkos local government areas.