Addressing The Plight Of Internally Displaced Persons In Benue

The recurring crisis between Fulani herdsmen and Tiv farmers in Benue State has engendered the displacement of many residents of the affected areas of the state.
Concerned citizens say that the number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in these areas is increasing by the day
Mr Justin Gbagir, the Chairman, Benue Non-Governmental Organisation Network (BENGONET), said that thousands of people had been rendered homeless by the incessant crisis.
He noted that the IDPs were mainly from Agatu, Guma, Logo, Gwer, Gwer East, Kwande, Vandeikya and Makurdi Local Government Areas of the state.
Gbagir stressed that a recent survey of the affected parts by the Anglican Communion revealed that residents of more than 43 villages had been displaced during the crisis.
He, however, alleged that the state government had yet to resettle the displaced persons in the affected communities or provide the requisite security that would enable them to return to their homes.
In a swift reaction, Gov. Gabriel Suswam bemoaned the displacement of several Tiv farmers, stressing that the plight of IDPs in the state had been a major source of concern for the government.
In a statement, Suswam expressed concern that the incessant crisis between Fulani herdsmen and Tiv farmers had continued in spite of his administration’s efforts to provide adequate security arrangements.
He, nonetheless, assured the residents that the state government was working in close collaboration with the security agencies to carry out patrols and mount surveillance in some villages adjacent to the state’s border with Nasarawa State.
The governor said that in spite of the Fulani herdsmen’s attacks, the people of the state should still regard and treat the Fulani herdsmen as their kith and kin, while the herdsmen should also learn to live in harmony with their host communities.
Nevertheless, observers insist that the most worrisome aspect of the crisis is that the IDPs, including children, pregnant women and the aged, who are currently living under trees and in uncompleted houses, are in dire need of accommodation.
For instance, Mr Mbaime Tyokyaa, the leader of a group of displaced persons from one of the villages, said that the IDPs had been having a very harrowing experience.
“We have lost seven members of our family in the last two years to various sicknesses due to our poor health and living conditions,’’ he said.
Apparently aware of the plight of the displaced persons, Sen. George Akume, a former governor of the state, called on the state government to urgently establish camps for the IDPs.
However, Bishop Nathan Inyom of the Anglican Communion of Makurdi has a contrary opinion.
He said that the IDPs should be encouraged to live with their relations in communities which were not affected by the crisis.
Inyom stressed that establishing camps for displaced persons could lead to the mismanagement of funds meant for the rehabilitation of the IDPs in the state.
However, Suswam said that in the meantime, the displaced persons should be mobilised to return to their respective homes, assuring them of adequate security.
Sharing similar sentiments, Mr Hemen Boko, the former National Secretary, Conference of Nigerian Political Parties (NPP), urged the security agencies, especially the police, to provide adequate security for the displaced persons whenever they returned to their homes.
Rev. Fr. Solomon Ukeyima of St. Francis Mission, Daudu, said that as part of efforts to alleviate the problems of the IDPs, his church established a primary school, which had since enrolled more than 623 pupils.
The cleric, however, underscored the need to set up a rehabilitation camp in Daudu.
“The establishment of a rehabilitation camp in Daudu is long overdue and the government should set up the camp as a matter of urgency,’’ he said.
Sharing Ukeyima’s viewpoint, Mr Dave Iorhemba, the former Speaker of Benue House of Assembly, said that it was the duty of the government to provide rehabilitation camps for displaced citizens.
He argued that the state government was still dilly-dallying in plans to establish camps for IDPs in spite of the several resolutions of the House of Assembly soliciting the camps’ establishment.
Speaking along the same line, Mr Adikpo Agbatse, the Executive Secretary of Benue State Emergency Management Agency, appealed to the government to set up camps for displaced persons in the affected areas.
He, nonetheless, conceded that the establishment of rehabilitation camps was a sensitive security issue which required more meticulous planning.
However, the Federal Government is not unmindful of the plight of the IDPs in Benue.
For instance, the Minister of Trade, Dr Samuel Ortom, assured the IDPs that the Federal Government would liaise with the state government in efforts to establish camps for them.
Observers believe that the establishment of camps for the displaced persons would enable them to have a more decent accommodation, while creating a pragmatic platform for their proper resettlement.