June 22, 2024

Two million Benue farmers sacked from ancestral homes still languishing in camps 7 years after

Two million Benue farmers sacked from ancestral homes still languishing in camps 7 years after

By Peter Duru, Makurdi

Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), who were sacked from their ancestral homes in Benue state by armed herdsmen and have been living in IDPs camps for seven years have increased to two million and are now loudly crying out, lamenting their living conditions.

They said it had been traumatic living in the camps and expressed their desire to return home to their farms which have been taken over by herdsmen.

Narrating their ordeal in camp, 35-year-old nursing mother of four, Blessing Aondofa who left Tse Upam in Guma LGA five years ago to live at the Ichuwa IDPs camp along the Uniagric Road North Bank, said it has been traumatic living in the camp but they could not go back home.

“We cannot go back because armed herdsmen are still roaming our villages and whoever they meet in the village is not spared. We are going through hard times despite the intervention from the state government and other organisations. We want to go back to our homes and return to our farms to produce food from where we provide for our children who are also denied proper education.

“As we speak my husband now goes about searching for menial jobs to do in order to provide for us. But we want to go back to our ancestral homes and work in our farms.”

Another mother of four, Ngufan Imoter from Tse Akajime in Makurdi LGA said she had spent five years in the camp with her family.

“We want to go back because we are tired of living in the camp. You can see the kind of shanties we are living in. No one will like to live in this kind of place. That is why we are appealing to the government to help us return home because our situation in the camp is not improving. We are asking the Federal government to assist the state government in taking us back to our ancestral home and ensure adequate security in our communities which have been taken over by armed herdsmen, and also support us to restart our lives.”

Benue state has in the last six years recorded mind-boggling humanitarian crisis with an initial 17 official and unofficial camps housing over two million of its rural farmers sacked from their ancestral home by rampaging armed herdsmen.

New Year day massacre

In fact, since the 2018 New Year’s day massacre by armed herdsmen in Logo and Guma Local Government Areas, LGAS, of the state that left over 70 dead and thousands displaced, the state has not enjoyed respite from the activities of the armed marauders who continued to attack and plunder the farming communities across the state.

From Logo to Katsina-Ala up to Kwande, Buruku, Guma, down to Gwer West, Gwer East, even Apa and Agatu down to Otukpo, Okpokwu and Ogbadibo Local Government Areas, Benue rural dwellers have continued to come under heavy attacks by rampaging armed herdsmen leaving in their wake, sorrow, tears and blood and large army of displaced persons.

The implication is that the farming communities have become deserted. The people who are known for their prowess in food and cash crop production are forced to find solace in IDPs camps opened across the state by the state government and in some instances created by the displaced persons themselves.
Bebue communities became theatres of wars as days, weeks, months and years went by. Efforts were made by many of the displaced farmers to return to their ancestral homes, but many of those who made that journey never lived to tell the story.

Many were brutally murdered on their way to their abandoned homes or right in their communities that have been taken over by armed herdsmen.

The implication is that Benue people became refugees in their own home and lived on handouts from spirited organisations and individuals as well as what the state government is able to dish out monthly for their upkeep while effects to have peace restored in the communities intensified.

Regrettably, while a few of the IDPs were able to find their way back to their homes, till date large majority of them are still languishing in IDPs camps scattered across the state.

Many have continued to face health challenges in the camps while some have also lost their lives through natural causes and in some instances, after attacks in the camps by armed herdsmen.

Though the present administration led Governor Hyacinth Alia has promised to have the IDPs return to their ancestral homes, that is obviously being hampered by the presence of armed herders in some of the communities and the financial implication of rebuilding the destroyed communities and infrastructure which the resources of the state would certainly not be able to accommodate.

Hence without the far-reaching support of the Federal Government, the return of the Benue IDPs to their ancestral homes would no doubt be a mirage.

While the the displaced persons continue to hope upon hope to make it back to their ancestral homes some day, they have continued to lament their ordeal amid shortage or lack of the necessities of life and the traumatising experince of being holed up in IDPs camps.

In a recent security brief to heads and representatives of selected Unites Nations agencies that visited the state to donate materials to the IDPs in the state, the Special Adviser to the Governor on Security Matters, Col. Alexander Anshungu(retd.) noted that “since 2010 to date, the incidence of herders attacks on Benue farming population and their farmlands have increasingly become a recurrent decimal with serious consequences that have manifested in mass destruction of lives and property worth billions of Naira.

“Added to that is the unfortunate reality that the herders attacks have led to severe displacement of the farming population as well as occupational displacements in the state.

“The number of IDP camps in the state is a testament to this sad development; 14 registered camps as at December 13, 2023. Previous administrations in the state had made modest efforts in dealing with the security challenges in the state; but the situation had remained quite disturbing before the coming of the present Administration.

“Since assumption of office on May 29, 2023, the administration of Governor Hyacinth Alia has taken some innovative steps to salvage the situation. First, the Governor has established a strategic synergy with all the military and para-military formations in the state and to their highest commanders in the country.
“Equally, the Governor has enhanced the logistics for information and intelligence gathering and sharing. The Governor has also reinforced the law to check the prevalence of open grazing and other related security challenges in the state.”


Meanwhile, Governor Hycinth Alia has reiterated his commitment to ensuring the return of all displaced persons in the state to their ancestral homes.

The Governor gave the assurance in Katsina-Ala town where he addressed the people of Logo, Ukum and Katsina-Ala Local Government Areas, LGAs, during his thank-you-tour of that axis of the state.

He said his administration was working with the Federal Government and all stakeholders to ensure that the IDPs return home to live normal lives and continue with their farming activities.

The governor during his inaugural speech in May 29, 2023 also noted that “our State has been tested by crises that have steeled our resolve and proved our resilience. We therefore promise to prioritize the security of lives and property of our people by ending insecurity occasioned by farmer/herder crisis, returning our IDPs to their ancestral homes and providing them a means of livelihood in a new economy.”

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