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IDP Chronicles: Once self-employed, visually impaired man now forced to beg for alms

IDP Chronicles: Once self-employed, visually impaired man now forced to beg for alms
November 22
12:30 2021

Lawal Makaho, a 50-year-old visually impaired man, used to reside in Basa, a village in Shiroro LGA of Niger state, before the activities of bandits forced him to relocate with his family to the internally displaced persons (IDP) camp at Central Primary School, Erena.

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Despite his disability, Makaho was able to survive and eke out a living — but displacement has now rendered him helpless. Before his forced relocation, he managed to fend for his family through his modest earnings. Without help from anyone, he used to go from door to door to deliver water in jerry cans across the village. He also used to work on farmlands where he made extra money.

“When I was in my village, living was a lot easier even though I am blind, it was still better than this IDP camp where we have been left to our fate,” he said.

Makaho said he had to escape his village even though he had no relatives, friends, or anywhere to run to. He was afraid of the bandits whose stock in trade is to invade, kill and abduct.

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“I didn’t want them to kill or abduct my family because I can’t afford the millions they usually demand a ransom,” he said.

BORN WITH PARTIAL IMPAIRMENT

Makaho and his son

Makaho and his son

Makaho was born with vision impairment. Initially, he could see partially during the day but not at night. He said he lived with this condition until he became totally blind as he grew into a man. He never had the opportunity to get an education; he thought schooling was only possible for physically fit people.

But his lack of education did not stop him from exploring means of making income. When he delved into the business of supplying water to houses and small restaurants, Makaho ran it as a one-man business.

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“It will surprise you that I did that business alone even though blind. I was born in the village so I knew virtually all the routes that led everywhere in the area,” he said.

Makaho got married 12 years ago, but that was after five women had rejected his marriage proposals because of his disability.

“I couldn’t get married as early as I expected because no woman wanted to marry a blind man,” he said.

FROM BASA TO IDP CAMP

“The killings, kidnapping and constant invasion became too much, people with eyes were dying every day in Basa.”

Sometime in April 2021, before the commencement of Ramadan fasting, Makaho left his village to resettle in the Erena IDP camp. He left after five members of his extended family including his younger brother were brutally killed by bandits.

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“After the killings, we stayed behind to observe the funeral prayer. While in the process, bandits raided the whole village again and people started to run, leaving the corpses behind. I escaped to Erena with my family after this event and have since remained here,” Makaho recounted.

Despite his aversion to alms-seeking, he had to resort to it when life in the IDP camp became unbearable. With no money to buy food to fill their bowels, Makaho succumbed to begging; he now sits in front of the Central Mosque in Erena and also moves around in search of succour.

“People usually give me money or even some food items. Sometimes, they give me a plate of garri, sometimes I go home with N100 or even N200 naira,” he said.

‘WHO TALKS ABOUT SCHOOL WHEN HUNGRY?’

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Makaho did not want his children to have limited options like him. He wanted them to have an education and opportunities in life, but the relentless bandits’ attacks in Shiroro LGA disrupted learning, resulting in the closure of several schools.

Given the state of his finances, he has since dropped the desire to have his children enrolled in school.

“Who talks about school when the stomach is hungry?” he asked.

“I have five girls and one boy, the girls are usually at home helping their mother with the house chores while my little boy who is about 3-4 years old directs me to places where we beg around the town.”

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