By Peter Duru, Makurdi
The Benue State Emergency Management Agency, SEMA, weekend, raised the alarm that it is becoming difficult to return the over one million Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs, taking refuge in camps in parts of the state to their ancestral homes because the armed Fulani herdsmen attacking the farming and rural communities of the state are occupying some of the communities.
The Executive Secretary of Benue SEMA, Dr. Emmanuel Shior who made the disclosure in Makurdi while flagging off the distribution of trailer loads of food items to the IDPs said the government had been overstretched by the burden of providing for the IDPs and called for support from the federal government and the international community.
He disclosed Governor Samuel Ortom had prioritized the welfare of the IDPs saying that the state government had been providing for the needs of the IDPs in the last three years as well as the 10,000 Cameroonian refugees in Kwande LGA, warning that the renewed herdsmen attacks on communities in the state was worsening the IDPs situation.
Lamenting the implication of the attacks, Dr. Shior said the development had led to rising food scarcity and an increase in prices of foodstuffs in Benue state.
“The Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs, have been with us for over three years. We have been struggling and carrying the burden of taking care of them. Today’s exercise, which is food distribution is going to cover about eight official IDPs camps and we are going to extent that assistance to other locations that are hosting IDPs.
“Recently we received another set of IDPs in Gbajimba, we have them in Agasha, in Udei Yuweze, in Agagbe, in Aoundona we have them in Agatu, Kwande, and some other places.
“It has not been easy for the state government alone to continue to cater for the teeming population of IDPs in Benue especially if you look at the escalating cost of food as a result of the continued attacks on our farming population in Benue state.
“There is a shortage of food production in the state at the moment and that has given rise to the high cost of food. And buying food and providing for other needs of the IDPs is quite expensive.
“We are also hosting 10,000 Cameroonian refugees in Kwande Local Government Area, LGA. So when you put that together it is not easy for the state government. But we cannot stop providing food for them as long as they remain with us in the official camps.
“And it has been difficult to return them to their ancestral homes because the Fulani herdsmen who are attacking the farming and rural communities are occupying some of the communities and so we cannot return our people at this point.”
The Executive Secretary also lauded the federal government which through the National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA, in collaboration with SEMA would soon provide the Emergency Agricultural Intervention for the year 2020 flood victims.
“Though that intervention is not targeting victims of Fulani herdsmen, but 2020 flood victims. Of course, when that intervention is finally brought here it will provide some relief,” he said.