From outside, the Church of the Brethren looks like any other church in Lagos on a Sunday afternoon, service had just ended and members of the church were leaving in groups, laughing and shaking hands, stopping for small talk.
But inside, a number of people are still seated, women on the left and men on the other side. Food items: noodles, bags of rice, bottles of groundnut-oil; clothes and house hold items are piled on the ground in the middle of the church.
These are the Internally Displaced Persons in Lagos State, displaced by the Boko Haram insurgency in the north eastern part of the Nigeria, numbering over 300. Sesor, an NGO was there to visit them as part of their Lagos IDP Outreach.
When Ier Jonathan, founder of Sesor walks in, faces brighten in recognition. Sesor has been working with the IDPs since 2014, offering them solace in clothes and food, and in collaboration with other foundations has sent about 30 of the children to school.
Most of the displaced persons have been in Lagos since as early as 2012 while the newest arrivals came in August 2015. Apart from charity from the church and foundations like Sesor, the IDPs cope financially by taking on menial jobs, such as riding okadas and being security guards. The contrast between their simple village lives and Lagos is a wide chasm, they are all waiting for the war to be over, so they can return to their homes.
25 year-old Sarah Ayuba is a mother of two and had been a farmer in her village, Kuabajbe in Chibok LGA of Borno state.
“I plant Guinea corn, ground nut, beans and potatoes. When Boko Haram came to our village, they chased us out, we ran without anything because any person they see they will kill. My husband was first working here in Lagos, as a security guard, then I came too after Boko Haram chased us away. I am not doing anything in Lagos. I want to go back to my village,” she told us.
Mary Kafari is one of the recent additions to the IDPs in Lagos. She came from Blacki-Dutse, a village in Madagali LGA of Adamawa state. “I am a graduate of Computer science and Economics from the Collage of Education, Bama. I came to Lagos 7th August, 2015, because there is nothing to do at home, they have already burnt all our houses. I am staying with my brother now. I am not doing anything in Lagos. We left my Dad and my step mum in the village, my own mum is already late since I was small. One my way here we had an accident and I have internal injuries. Up till now I have back pain, because the car tumble and tumble. We thank God for what we have passed through. When I came to Lagos I don’t have anything since I left my home town; they burn our houses and churches, burn all my documents from primary school to higher institution but I thank God I am alive, I will make it.”
For 32-year-old Elknana Yunana who hails from Maraba village in Mubi LGA area of Adamawa State, he wants to go back home. “I am riding okada in Lagos, I cannot do security because your oga will embarrass you, they will call you Boko Haram that you are Hausa, but we are not Hausa. When Boko Haram attacked my village we ran away, after a week in the bush with no food and water we went back. They killed my brother; I had to wait a week before I went to carry his body to bury. In my father’s compound they slaughtered us. I used rake to rake bodies and bones up to bury with my hands. My father is a retired soldier, he refused to leave. I want FG to end the war so that I can go back to my village and my farm. My children are not going to school because school fees are too much in Lagos. When I have N200, I send them to lesson.”
The overwhelming sentiment was one of loss; loss of a life they’ve always known. They called on the Federal Government to assist them by ending the war with Boko Haram so they can go back home.
With assistance from the elders of the church, Ier Jonathan and her team grouped the IDPs according to their locations in Lagos, collected their data and distributed the food and clothing amongst them.
They promised the people that Sesor would be back in December to celebrate Christmas with them.
Sesôr means ‘we will repair’ in Tiv (a language spoken by about 6 million people in Benue State in Nigeria) and was founded in 2009 and then registered as a Trustee in 2010. Sesôr went on to provide relief materials such as food and clothing to affected villagers. Sesôr has since supported and advocated for survivors of a flood emergency in Benue and continues to provide support to persons who have been displaced as a result of conflict (farmer-herder crises) and terror attacks in Adamawa, Benue, Gombe, Plateau and Taraba by providing relief materials such as food and clothing and by advocating for their rights. Find out more about them here or call 08023143068 and 09094263601.