By Peter Duru
BENUE State is currently facing the worst humanitarian crisis in recent time following the sharp rise in the number of Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs, the state government is currently grappling with.
Though official figures had it that over 1.5 million IDPs are taking refuge in several official and unofficial camps as well as host communities spread across the state, but latest figures put the number of IDPs in the state at close to 1.8 million; a development that is way beyond the carrying capacity of the state government.
This sudden swell may not be unconnected to recent armed herdsmen attacks in Guma, Makurdi and Gwer West Local Government Areas, LGAs, that forced the locals to flee for safety.
Findings from some of the official and unofficial camps in Makurdi and Guma LGAs indicated that the inmates have become weary of their continuous stay in the camps and are asking that the Federal Government accord some degree of attention to their plight as is being done to IDPs in the North East by resettling and supporting them to pick up the bits and pieces of their lives again.
At the Tse Yandev IDPs camp on Makurdi-Gbajimba road, though an unofficial camp, the chairman, Gabriel Yev, hinted that the last one month had witnessed a surge in the number of persons running into the camp for safety.
He said: “Our figure in the camp has reached 10,102 inmates and recently the figure increased again to 10,407 made up of 3,457 male and 6,645 female and the number of households have also increased from 5,249 to 5,384 after the recent attacks by armed herdsmen.
“We are faced with challenges here; the IDPs situation in Benue has grown beyond what the state government can cope with; so we are pleading with the Federal Government to come to our aid as being done in the North East.
“We are also Nigerians and we deserve attention; our destroyed villages should be rebuilt to enable us return home because we are tired of living in camps.”
A nursing mother of four, Mrs. Washima Liambee who said she fled into the camp five month ago from Orogbo, lamented that she was tired of living in makeshift shanty covering that had not been able to protect her and the children from rain.
“We want to go home to our communities; all we are asking is for the Federal Government to rebuild our homes so that we can return to our communities.”
For David Nande who few weeks back fled with his family from Sengev, Gwer West LGA, it was his second time of running into an IDPs camps following herdsmen attacks.
“My family and I were displaced in 2012 and after battling so hard to put my house in order I went back with my family one year after and this year 2021 herdsmen came again and burnt our houses and farm land and I and many others have again been forced to flee.
“At the moment, apart from the support we get from the state government, spirited individuals, churches and organisations, I also do menial jobs to sustain my family. But
“I am tired just like everyone of us here. The Federal Government should fulfill its pledge of resettling us. They are doing it for the IDPs in the North; why is Benue State different? We certainly cannot continue to live like this.”
At the Uikpam IDPs camp in Guma LGA, Timothy Gar told Arewa Voice that the number of inmates has continued to swell in the last two months, thereby adding to the humanitarian situation in the state.
“We are all tired of living in this camp and we want to return home. We are begging the Federal Government to treat us like Nigerians as it is being done to the IDPs in the North East.
“The Federal Government cannot continue to pretend that the herdsmen crisis in Benue has not created a humanitarian crisis in the state. We are asking that our destroyed communities should be rebuilt and the victims resettled as being done in the North East.”
Speaking on the situation in the state and demand by the IDPs, Executive Secretary of the State Emergency Management Agency, SEMA, Dr. Emmanuel Shior who had persistently cried out over the humanitarian situation in the state, lamented that the Federal Government seemed to be playing politics with the situation in the state.
He said: “The humanitarian crisis in the Benue State is worse than the situation in the North East especially in the challenge of food, shelter, WASH and medical care.
“Regrettably Benue State government, with well over 1.5million IDPs, is shouldering these responsibilities which is not fair because the challenge is too huge to leave on the shoulders of a state government alone.
“The IDPs challenge in Benue is not only a humanitarian crisis but one that affects the development of the people. It is a challenge of development because the infrastructure in most parts of the attacked and sacked communities were also destroyed and need to be rehabilitated.”