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Returning Plateau IDPs to their homes

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IT is heart-warming that concrete plans are being made to return Plateau State indigenes chased away from their communities by rampaging armed herdsmen militias over the past year.

The plan, which will be a collaboration between the Nigerian Army under the Operation Safe Haven, OPSH, Jos and the Plateau State Government, is aimed at ensuring that by March 2019, at least 38,000 internally displaced persons, IDPs, spread in 17 camps are returned to their desolate communities, with some of them reportedly occupied and renamed by the invaders.

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It will be recalled that in June this year, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo had, on a visit to the state, promised that despite the reported occupation and renaming of more than 60 villages by the herdsmen attackers the indigenous people would be restored while they would also benefit from the N10 billion which the Federal Government had pledged towards the rehabilitation of the victims of the attacks in Benue State.

It is also very reassuring that troops of the Operation Safe Haven have been despatched to about 40 communities in preparation for the return of the displaced indigenes.

While we commend the Federal Government for living up to its promise to restore the victims to their ancestral communities, we draw its attention to the need to also tackle the root cause of the killings and displacement of Nigerians from their homes.

The armed militias who perpetrated the crimes are still very much around in the forests. In spite of the series of deployments of police and military task forces over the past 17 years when these attacks became pronounced, very little has been achieved towards removing them as threats to the lives and property of the hapless indigenous communities.

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While these land-grabbing armed hoodlums continue hiding in the wilderness unchecked, the resettlement of the IDPs back to their communities could end up a waste of time, resources and further loss of human lives in the nearest future.

Even when the people are resettled they may be forced to sleep with their eyes open because experience has shown that in spite of military and police presence, the pastoral militias conduct their murderous raids almost unchecked. The military must do more to boost the people’s confidence.

The Federal and Plateau State governments owe it a duty to fully resettle and rehabilitate the displaced persons. It was their failure to secure them from the attackers in the first place that led to their ordeal in which thousands of people have already been needlessly and horrendously murdered.

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The returnee villagers should not be merely escorted back to their devastated communities and subsequently abandoned to their enemies as soon as the election season is over. They should also be assisted to resume their livelihood as VP Osinbajo had promised.

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