Though Boko Haram, the Nigeria-based terrorist organization, has been active since 2002, it gained worldwide notoriety in 2014 after kidnapping 276 girls from a school in the northern town of Chibok, prompting international outrage.
The atrocities committed by the terrorist organization have only increased since then.
Local businessman Garba Buzu was overwhelmed by the large number of children begging and foraging for food on the streets of Maiduguri, capital of Borno state in northeast Nigeria. But instead of just feeling sorry, he wanted to do something for them.
His hometown Maiduguri is in the heart of Boko Haram territory and one of the many places seeing a large number of people pouring in as they flee their homes and Boko Haram militants. As a result, the once population of 600,000 has surged to more than 2 million, putting pressure on housing, health, food and water supplies.
Buzu has always had a kind heart and has done much philanthropic work, even getting death threats from the Islamist militants.
He was attacked in 2012 by suspected Boko Haram militants who rode up to his house on motorbikes and fired six shots at him, all of which missed. This was during a spate of high profile Boko Haram-linked assassinations in Maiduguri.
“A number of my friends were assassinated at the time,” he said, shrugging off any further possible threats.
Seeing the people’s plight, however, the real estate entrepreneur decided to do all he could to help and threw open the gates to his 2,000-home estate.
At present, Buzu Quarters has 2,000 two-bedroom bungalows and hosts 1,200 households.
“They can stay for as long as they need to... both Muslims and Christians are welcome,” he says. His offer is valid “until Boko Haram finishes,” even if that happens after he dies.
Buzu goes from time to time to check on his new lodgers and to find out how they are doing.
“It worries me that they don’t have enough food to eat. I wish I could also give all of them food,” he says and does everything in his power to provide for the refugees.
More than 300 households in Buzu Quarters are receiving micro-gardening support and 170 households have been selected for income-generation activities under a project funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
There are 22 government-recognized displaced people’s camps as well as informal settlements on various empty spaces around the city.
But with Boko Haram insurgents wrecking havoc and doing everything to disrupt any efforts of peace and welfare, people seeking sanctuary with Buzu have to be screened as well.
“Nobody can enter just like that,” says Ayuba Muhammed, a leader in one of the camps, explaining that everyone there has to first be identified by someone who knows them, to avoid infiltration by Boko Haram insurgents.
“They find someone who knows Garba Buzu and who knows them also, then he will bring them inside and give them a house.”
Leaders of the communities from where the people fled are responsible for identifying families before they are allowed to stay as well.
“We were with about 10 different families that came here together,” says 17-year-old Zara Muhammed, who fled with her family from Kombi, a village close to Chibok from where the Boko Haram abducted more than 200 schoolgirls.
21-year-old YagaraHamidu, a refugee from Monguno, north of Maiduguri, fled her hometown last year with her husband when Boko Haram attacked, killing her brother and grandfather.
Buzu put the couple up in his home for a week, then offered them a house of their own.
In a city with millions of refugees, thousands of them living in the open, she says, “I have peace of mind and a roof over my head.”