By PETER DURU, MAKURDI

Benue State may be facing, the worst refugee situation in the entire country given the recurrent bloodbath between native Benue farmers and Fulani herdsmen in parts of Guma, Makurdi, Gwer West and Agatu local government areas of the state.

Following the unending crisis, huge refuge camps had sprang up in the affected local government areas. Sadly the sitution in most of these camps are  heart-rending and pathetic.

In Guma local government, close to 3,000 displaced persons are still afraid to go back to their homes for fear of being waylaid by the rampaging herdsmen inspite of the peace moves by the Benue and Nasarawa state government. Most of the displaced persons housed in three separate camps across the council have resorted to begging and engaging in menial jobs to feed their families.

*Some of the displaced persons

Vanguard Metro, VM, gathered that the refugees decided to take their destinies in their own hands and desert the camps because of lack of care and the huge burden on the local government council and state government to cater for them.

At the Saint Francis Primary School, Daudu, which houses over 1,000 displaced Tiv speaking women, children, the elderly and youths, for instance, the displaced persons have abandoned the camp and resorted to seeking better sources of livelihood after alleging that they were abandoned to their fate.

VM gathered from an indigene of Daudu, Mrs. Jane Igba that: “The refugees have abandoned the camps and have resorted to seeking for accommodation and other sources of livelihood in the town, while those who have relations in the town have moved in with them.

”You only see them converging at the camp whenever there is an important issue they want to discuss or whenever any individual, organisation or agency wants to meet with them.

”Outside that, they are all over the town looking for what will put food on their tables. But our fear is that the little facilities we have in the town are being over stretched and we might also be confronted with security issues.

”We also hope that in the near future these people will not start to lay claims to our lands; no one can rule out that possibility because land tussle in a major cause of crisis in our communities”.

Recounting their ordeal, a middle aged man who claimed to be the leader of the camp, James Ugba, said he fled the fighting at Yogbo.  “We resorted to begging around the town and farming for people to take of our families.

”We always come together whenever we see people coming to visit the camp but outside that, we go about to look for food for our families because we ran from our places for fear of being killed only for us to face starvation and death in camps,” he lamented.

Ugba who was flanked by some displaced women, children and the elderly said: “What we are facing is beyond the scope of the  Guma local government council and even the state government.

”You can see the camp for yourself, we hardly get food to eat, no water, no drugs even the accommodation in the school can hardly take a quarter of the refugees in this camp.

”Toilets facilities are not there, most of us are forced, at most times, to defecate  in the open despite its attendant consequences on the health of everyone.

”That probably accounts for some of the deaths we recorded, which was mostly among the children and women in this camp. The truth is that the state and local government cannot cope with the situation in Guma, Gwer West and Agatu at the same time; it’s not possible.

”So we were left with no other option but to take our destiny in our own hands by seeking for accommodation and food outside the camps; we work in the farms for people and at the end of the day get paid; that is how we are surviving at the moment”.

In his account, the paramount ruler of Daudu, where the refugees are camped, Chief Akaa Dajo, noted that the recurrent fighting and incursion into Benue communities by herdsmen had distorted the livelihood of the affected people.

Chief Dajo urged the Federal Government to create grazing routes for Fulani herdsmen around the country in order to avert the recurrent crisis and displacement of persons occasioned by disputes over farmland.

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