•Nursing mother struggling with one hand to breastfeed her baby narrates her story
By Peter Duru, Makurdi
24-year-old Mrs Joy Terna is from Giza, the Tiv speaking area of Nasarawa State. She was four months pregnant when militant herdsmen attacked and sacked her community, killing several persons and injuring scores.
In that attack, the invaders caught up with her while she was trying to escape and chopped off her right hand. She is currently taking refuge at the Abegena Internally Displaced Persons, IDP, camp in the outskirts of Makurdi, Benue State capital, cuddling and breastfeeding her five months old baby with one hand.
As the mother of two told her story, she occasionally fought back tears even as she expressed disappointment that those responsible for her predicament walk free.
Why are you in this IDP camp?
Armed herdsmen chased us out of Giza, our community in Nasarawa State. They came one early morning in January, shooting, killing and burning our houses, huts and farmlands.
Many of our people, including my neighbours, were killed in that attack but many others managed to escape.
At that time I was four months pregnant. Everybody ran, including my parents and siblings. I tried to escape with my three year-old-boy but we were not lucky. They caught up with us. I begged that I was pregnant and that was why I could not run.
The one who caught me wanted to shoot me and my son, but I think he later changed his mind.
They held me and continued to burn our houses and looting all the food and property of our people that they saw in our barn.
After that they turned to me and my child. One of them later suggested that they should spare us. He actually said he knew my family, that we were peaceful.
I think they started having an argument on what to do with me and my child. The one who told them that he knew my family pleaded with others to spare my son.
They agreed and he took the boy away from the armed men. He was the one that saved my son and brought him later on motorbike to where our people were taking refuge and my father picked him up.
After that, they contemplated what to do with me. They finally agreed not to kill me but all I could remember was that one of them threw me to the ground and chopped off my right with a cutlass and went away with it.
I bled profusely and crying for help but help was not forthcoming. They left me in a pool of blood of my own blood; I concluded that I was going to die. I was there in the village alone and finally passed out.
I woke up in Shandam Hospital in Nasawara State where I was told that it was the police that later came to our community and took me to the hospital where doctors battled to save my life. After my survival and treatment, I was discharged and brought to the camp where our people are currently taking refuge.
At the moment, all members of my family are here in Abagena but my husband lives in Benin.
As we speak, nobody lives in my community. All the houses there have been razed and some who made attempts to return were either killed or chased away by armed herdsmen.
It is here in this camp that I gave birth to my baby on May 13 with the help of those who provide us medical care.
On life in the camp
It has not been easy. Sometimes when people come here and they see my condition, they extend material and financial assistance to me. That is how I have been surviving. You are forced to share several things including toilet with people you don’t know but fate brought us together. I must tell you that life has not been fair to us. We cannot explain how and why this has happened to us. We had no problems with anybody but suddenly armed herdsmen came after us and chased us out of our ancestral homes. It has not been easy since then.
I find it very difficult to cope, my condition has not helped matters. I cannot wash, I cannot farm. Even carrying my baby with just one hand is not very easy for me. That is what herdsmen have turned my life into.
Message to government
We are pained. The Federal Government has to come clean in this spate of killings of our people by arresting those who have come out in the open to claim responsibility for these attacks. It is only when they do that those of us who suffered most in the attack will be happy, even in our pains. Though for me, this scar and pain will live with me forever.
Secondly, the Federal Government that we voted for has failed to protect us when we needed it most and we are disappointed by their indifference to what we are going through. We want a decisive action from government to end these killings.
We want an end to the killings; we expect that by now we should be back in our communities. We are tired of staying in camp. We want to return to our homes but recently we discovered that those who made attempted to return to their homes were either killed or chased away.
Benue State government is doing its best for us. Individuals and organisations are also assisting us but the Federal Government seems to have abandoned us, it is very painful.
They came here and promised that they would rebuild our homes to enable us return to our ancestral places but, up till now, nothing has been done. If not for Governor Samuel Ortom, we would have all died of hunger and diseases. He has done his best to cater for us but the situation is far beyond the capacity of the state government.
So we are pleading with the Federal Government to come to our aid because we are all Nigerians. They are helping those who suffered Boko Haram attacks, why are they not doing the same for us, what is our sin? We are suffering and we need help.