• Decries burden of taking case 6000 Camerounian refugees
• Says 500,000 homeless, laments attack on Ortom’s village
The Benue State Government has alleged that the federal government has abandoned about 500,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the state while excluding it from the N10 billion Disaster Fund set up for the states attacked by Fulani herdsmen.
Also, the state government has accused the federal government of failing to provide adequate support to address the challenge of over 6,000 Anglophone Cameroonian refugees, who were domiciled in Ikyogen settlement in Kwande Local Government Area (LGA).
The Executive Secretary of the State Emergency Management Agency, Dr. Emmanuel Shior expressed the concern at a news conference in Abuja at the weekend, accusing the federal government of abandoning the IDPs and Cameroonian in the state
Shior, also, lamented that the state had been excluded from the N10 billion, which the federal government promised through Vice President Yemi Osinbajo to give to states affected by insurgency and herdsmen attacks in 2019.
He said no single money had been given to Benue state despite the devastation to its economy as a result of the farmers-herders conflict and accompanying burden of catering for the IDPs and refugees.
He said part of the money could be used to rehabilitate communities and help in the preparation of the return of the IDPs, but the state government had been left to address the conflict, a burden which he noted should not be borne by the state government alone.
Apart from the burden of catering for the IDP in the state, the executive security said the state government had been grappling with the challenge of Cameroonian refugees who are in Ikyogen settlement in Kwande LGA and numbering about 6,000.
He said the federal government “has not done enough in managing the refugees, the federal government only comes in through NEMA to provide relief intervention in the area of food.
But Shior noted that the IDPs “have other needs and the Benue state government is shouldering that almost alone apart from support form international and local humanitarian actors.”
In 2019, he explained that the federal government visited Benue State and made a promise of about N10 billion for states that were affected by Fulani herdsmen attacks.
He added that the state government “has a share in this money. We had been expecting that part of the money be given to Benue state for the reconstruction of homes, schools, markets and all that were destroyed.
“To this point that I speak with you that money has not come. That has also posted a big challenge, because such heavy burden is not supposed to be shouldered by state government alone, federal government has to take responsibility to be in the lead.”
“Even in the area of security, not much is being done. The Operation Whirl stroke by the Nigerian military is not enough, which is why the attackers are still around.
“There is need for federal government to do more in terms of security, there is need to strengthen security efforts, there is need to include other security outfits like the police and perhaps to strengthen the local vigilante to support the military in addressing the challenge.
“As a result of the burden placed on the state government, other areas of governance that are supposed to impact positively on the citizens suffer, because a lot of money is being channelled towards provision of food items to IDPs and refugees. We are appealing to federal government to come in and do a lot more,” he urged.
He appreciated other local and international agencies such as International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), CORAFID, and UNHRC amongst others for their humanitarian support to the state despite federal government’s laxity in that regard.
On the heightened violence, the executive secretary said no less than 13 out of the 23 LGAs in the state had been ravaged, while a number of communities had been sacked and occupied by the Fulani herdsmen, including the hometown of the state governor, Samuel Ortom.
Shior revealed that before now, the herdsmen had sent threats to some communities to vacate their homes, warning that they were coming with mercenaries to fight.
He added that the state government had however set plans on course to return the IDPs to their homes after what appeared to be a decline in the level of insecurity, but had a re-think following renewed spate of violence.
“By October, 2019, the Benue State Government started to consider options for the safe return of the IDPs to their original homes, whereupon, SEMA commissioned an assessment to determine readiness of the IDPs and any issues that needed to be addressed ahead of the safe return.
“In the wake of effort by government to ensure safe return of the IDPs, insecurity resumed in the state. Government resolved to suspend any plan to return IDPs at this stage for security reasons,” he explained.
Shior revealed that the cause of the seemingly unending insecurity in the state was due to the bold refusal to obey the open grazing Prohibition Law which the Benue state has put in place to promote the establishment of ranching, by herdsmen.
He decried that despite the law, herdsmen still go ahead to bring in their cattle to graze openly, destroy crops and farms which is fuelling the killings and ruse in number of IDPs.
He however pointed out that the law was not discriminatory against anybody, neither was it targeted at the Fulani herdsmen, explaining that the chief purpose of the law was to bring lasting solution to the continued challenge of killings in the state.
He said: “What the law simply says is that, anybody who wants to do animal husbandry in Benue state should put the animals into ranches. The offenders who have violated this law and have been arrested and they include Benue state indigenes.”