…But no homes to return to; they lament
By Peter Duru, Makurdi
The spate of killings in parts of Benue state by suspected militant herdsmen may have been contained successfully by the joint military Operation Whirl Stroke which was launched in the state last May to stem the killings, many of the 500,000 Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs, are however still trapped in the eight camps and villages where they are currently taking refuge.
While many have been able to find their way back to their communities and ancestral homes to pick up what was left of their lives, several of the victims are living in despair in the camps with nowhere to go to following the total destruction of their homes by the marauders.
Most of the IDPs who acknowledged that peace had returned to the communities however lamented that the failure of federal government to fulfill its pledge of rebuilding the villages and the homes of victims which were destroyed by the marauding herdsmen had left them bewildered and helpless.
The victims who spoke when the Commander of Operation Whirl Stroke, Maj. Gen. Adeyemi Yekini led reporters on a fact finding tour of the hitherto troubled communities, commended the efforts of the military personnel to ensure the return of peace in the communities but decried the failure of the federal government to fulfill the pledge of rebuilding their homes.
90-year-old Pa Vincent Agbol who hails from Tse Atoro Udei, found his way back to his community, only to discover that none of his buildings was standing while his food barn was completely looted.
He said “I came back to my village because the military have restore peace in my community and I would rather prefer to die in my ancestral home but unfortunately my houses, food barn and farmland were all destroyed and looted and as we speak I’m thinking of going back to the camp because I don’t know how I will survive with my family without a roof over our heads.”
At Yogbo, also in Guma local government area, 62 year old widow, Mrs. Ngor Ukaar, said she returned home following assurances that herdsmen had vacated her community only to discover that none of her houses and huts was standing.
“I don’t have a house to live in with my children, all we did was to build a makeshift house where I currently live with my children and grandchildren.
“The Federal government promised to help us rebuild our houses but until now they are not telling us anything and I cannot continue to live a life of misery in the IDPs camp, that is why I moved out but if nothing is done by the government to help us pick up our lives again we might find our way back to the camp.”
The plight of the IDPs was re-echoed by some of the paramount rulers of the affected communities who appealed to the federal government to fulfill its pledge of rebuilding the villages and homes of victims to enable them return to their ancestral homes.
The royal fathers who lamented the continued stay of the victims in IDPs camps across the the state observed that the intervention of the military Operation Whirl Stroke had returned peace to the troubled communities but stressed that the IDPs had no homes to return to.
District Heads of Mbadwen, Chief Abuu Ajii, that of Niev, Chief Bernard Shawa and their counterpart from Yogbo, Chief Joseph Gbkyo made the appeal when they separately hosted the Commander of Operation Whirl Stroke, Maj. Gen. Yekini.
The District Heads said “the military operation has restored peace to most of our affected communities but our major challenge is that most of our communities, houses and bridges were razed and destroyed by armed herdsmen.
“As we speak, peace has returned to the communities but there are no homes for our people to return to because the invaders destroyed most of the communities. That is why many are still in the camps because without the necessary assistance from the federal government they might not be able to return to their ancestral homes soon.
“Our people are tired of living in the IDPs camps, they all want to return home but without roofs over their heads it might by difficult to compel them to leave the camps.”
Earlier, Gen. Yekini who stated that the operation had succeeded in restoring peace to Benue, Nasarawa and Taraba states disclosed that over 236, 864 IDPs had returned to their ancestral homes in the three states since the operation commenced with over 201, 000 of them being Benue indigenes.
He assured that the thriving peace would be maintained and appealed to those who made it back to their various communities to support the operation to succeed.
Gen. Yekini who explained that in the last seven months he had deployed men to the various troubled communities to ensure effective patrol of the villages stressed that he had equally neutralized and arrested armed herdsmen and militia groups operating in the said communities.