Chaos in the Niger Delta Although I write reports almost every day on what has been happening here in Nigeria, I am always afraid of making very detailed descriptions and still be unable to express the reality and complexity of the problem. Today, however, I do need to be more thoroughly detailed so you can feel – or at least catch a glimpse of – what has been going on here.
Unemployment in the region is alarming. No statistics are shown, but everywhere I go I see people in despair for a coin so they can buy at least a roll. Heavily armed police officers on the roads make any trip twice as longer by stopping travelers and finding ways to get bribery. I was astonished to see, the other day, two cops extremely glad after getting a 200 Nairas (around 1.60 dollar) pay-off. Don’t think that is worth much here – a bunch of bananas costs 250 Nairas. Last Tuesday, on my way to the James 1:27 Orphanage, I saw a dead man left on the street side, his body entirely burned. The odor of burned flesh made me nauseated. Later I saw four young men – maybe the man’s killers – laughing as they buried the corpse seven feet away from the curb in that empty lot.
I went to the James 1:27 Orphanage to visit the children again and check the progress of two bedrooms under construction we recently paid to be finished. This is the Orphanage where we housed Esther, a girl we rescued the last time I was here. I found most of the 50 children undernourished, living on small daily serves of cassava bran with water, or sometimes a mouthful of beans. Little Victoria, around 4 years old, begged us for a piece of bread. All the children there are suffering from a skin disease that resembles mange and nobody could find the cause. [PICTURE 1 – Children with skin harmed] It is suspected that the mattresses and/or the small blankets are related to the cause, but the orphanage can’t afford to replace them. The whole situation is very saddening and really needs our care. I promised, on behalf of the Way of Grace, to help them more. Maybe because of the orphanage’s poor condition, Esther ran away two months ago and tried to come back to her village. [PICTURE 2 – Esther on the day we rescued her] When our team was looking for her, Esther’s stepfather said she had showed up there but she wasn’t there anymore. Diana understood she had been cast away again and started looking for her on the streets. She eventually found her in rags and brought her back to the orphanage. According to the orphanage’s pastor, when they washed her, they noticed she had been seriously abused and her genitals were severely hurt.
Later on I went to revisit the twelve children (ten boys and two girls) who had taken shelter in the abandoned rooms of the old CRARN Orphanage. Through a local family who was willing to take care of them, we have helped by providing the children with food, clothes and schooling since last June. [PICTURE 3 – At the old CRARN] Much to my surprise, I found, at the old orphanage, the office reopened and two NGOs working in a partnership. They claimed to have been taking care of the very same children since last September by giving them two meals a day. Minutes later, the children came to me and told me they hardly get anything from those NGOs except for a serve of cassava bran now and then. I realized those five or six old orphanage’s ex-employees, who had long been unemployed, were just using the old workplace as a way to raise funds for themselves. All the children asked me to keep on helping them through Godwin’s family and eventually the boys virtually begged me for a football, because theirs had been irreparably flat for days. The next day, when I came by with a brand-new football which I had brought from England, they were so cheerful that it seemed I had made a major dream of theirs come true. Then I proceeded to the Salvation Army, where we house Little Samuel, a very special boy we rescued from the streets and pay for his care. [PICTURE 7 – Samuel, 8 years old] Although they have a great building with rooms, houses, a
temple and a big yard surrounding it all, now they take care of fifteen children only and have just four employees due to lack of funds. [PICTURE 8 – Salvation Army] After leaving it, I went to look for Mrs. Mabel’s family, who had gotten in touch with us over a week before, asking for help. They asked us to get two children who had been found on the roadside within five days, and they couldn’t afford to take care of them at all. I arrived there and met them both. The first one they had found sitting on the roadside was Bassey, a quite shy nine-year-old boy who only remembered the region he was from, but didn’t know the name of the village he used to live in. [PICTURE 5 – Bassey, 9 years old] According to him, his father brought him there and abandoned him. When we met, he was wearing a shirt of the man who had rescued him, and no shorts, no underpants, nothing. Mrs.Mabel told us that when he was found, his clothes were literally rotten, he was starving and had no idea where to go, so he decided to sit right there and stay. The second child was Favour, around 5 years old, a very cute girl who had no clue about the name of the place she used to live in. [PICTURE 6 – Favour] She was also found on the roadside with her whole body hurt.
There were slash-like wounds all over her back and head, but she tried to explain them as the result of being hit by a big machine. Her rescuers think she may have been hit by a truck and got hurt when hitting the pavement. Because of the situation in which she was found, Mrs. Mabel and her husband called the police. They took her with them and, speaking in her dialect, tried to spot her village. As they couldn’t, they just brought her back. As for Bassey, next Tuesday Uduak, who works with us, will take him around the Oron villages in order to try to locate his village so that we can try a process of reconciliation between his family and him. However, in Little Favour’s case, we don’t think we’ll find her family, so I need to find an orphanage by this weekend where she can be sheltered and cared for. I also visited what they call “the Stepping Stones big construction” and all I saw was good foundations with a lot of weed growing there – a sign that there little work has been done there. According to SSN members themselves, their funds are scarce. That disappointed me, because since the beginning of the year I saw them leave the “witch children” behind due to numerous political conflicts they got involved in, and they started to develop other projects in different states and in Ghana. Within the last three weeks, our team rescued and coped with the situations of four boys: Samuel, Michael and David (three 8 year olds) and Israel (6 years old). As I previously mentioned, Samuel is under our care in the Salvation Army; David was sent to the Women and Children Welfare Department; Michael’s and
Israel’s families were found and they were both reconciled. However, today, three hours ago, here in Eket I got bad news from Oron: Michael came to Chief Medekong’s home almost unconscious and with blood all over his clothes. When they checked him, they saw a huge cut in his head. [PICTURE 8 – Michael] They promptly provided him with some aid, called the police and took them to Michael’s house. Once there, they inquired his father, who claimed that his brother – Michael’s uncle – had hit his head with a bar. The police spotted and arrested his uncle around an hour ago. Still on our way to the base, our team got a phone call from Joy, an employee with the Stepping Stones, asking for help. Her mother had found a 13-year-old girl named Glory in an empty lot behind a soccer field. The girl said she had been left there by her family, but she lived in a different village. Glory has just been rescued and will stay in our base until we find her an orphanage. Meanwhile, we will try to find her family. I also visited the 200 children in Uyo, in a temporary shelter where the government put them after taking them from the CRARN Orphanage. After our last visit there in July and the heavy criticism we made of the government through the media, they apparently decided to do something: they hired more people to take care of the children, enrolled almost all of them in schools in the region, gave them school uniforms and hired a nurse for the shelter. I saw the children arrive on a bus and the cook make
them a caldron of vegetable soup. It was very good to see them again, but that place certainly still lacks the most important thing: love. The children are more emotionally wanting than ever; they do need psychological treatment. [PICTURE 9] Amid and around all this chaos are, literally, thousands of “churches” that preach prosperity and worshiping Mammon. Wherever you turn your gaze to, you’ll see their posters and flyers about campaigns filled with promises, most of them related to prosperity and deliverance from the power of witchcraft. Others promise the miracle of marriage. “Apostle” Helen Ukpabio, who made that unfortunate movie that has tormented the Nigerians’s minds, started off a new campaign promising several miracles, including immunity against witchery attacks, riddance of nightmares, promotion at work, and the end of financial impotency. Meanwhile, family values, and anything else related to the Gospel of Christ, are fading away. Hell is being set up. In streets, everywhere you look at you can see fights and many other ways of corruption of the being. And children are still the first burden to be cast away when things get out of control in the family – so they are rejected, abused and abandoned as far as possible from home. I haven’t missed one chance to meet with pastors here and have long conversations about the GOSPEL, and I have had good, remarkable moments. With God’s grace, from February on we will broadcast Caio Fábio’s messages on the local TV. Today I finally managed to meet with the directors and start to set the
details. As costs are high, I am buying only half an hour a week, but I am sure that this is going to make a major difference in the lives of those reached by the message, just as it has made in my life and yours. Throughout these two years, the only thing I saw improve here â€“ yet, very slowly â€“ is a road that links a chaos to another chaos and the oil company to the airport. Let us all stand firm, together, in this battle. Kisses to all, Leo Santos Eket, Niger Delta â€“ Nigeria November 18, 2011 Translation: F. R. Castelo Branco | NOV21