By Bridget Ikyado
There are over 1.5 million Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) living in various camps in Benue State.
They were displaced from their ancestral homes by armed herdsmen and militias during clashes with farmers and forced to live outside their communities in very excruciating conditions.
The IDPs have had to contend with health challenges, lack of access to healthcare, clean water, access to educational institutions, among others.
For instance, Mr Jacob Ibaah, the camp manager, located in Agagbe, an isolated community in Gwer West Local Government Area, LGA was quoted by the media as saying that situation at the camp is dire.
According to him, two inmates had already lost their babies in the last few days. “One was a premature birth, the other one lost the baby while giving birth.
“As we speak, there is hunger in the camp. Also, they (pregnant women) have no money to go to the hospital; so they delivered in the camp.
“Even a place to give birth is also a problem here; there is a space and a toilet built by Doctors Without Borders, or MSF, which is where most women here use for baby delivery.
“If they don’t have money to go to the hospital, they use the toilet. They give birth there since we are currently congested in the rooms. It’s really tough.
“Also, there is also the issue of an outbreak of measles and other diseases here in the camp’’, he was quoted as saying.
The Executive Governor of Benue State, Rev. Fr Hyacinth Iormem Alia in the course of his electioneering campaign promised to prioritise all resettlement of all IDPs in the state, for them to return to their normal lives.
Since his inauguration, the governor has been coordinating efforts to see to the realisation of this promise.
So far, the State Emergency Management Agency in conjunction with the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), has commenced the biometric verification of the IDPs for proper documentation ahead of the state government resettlement plan.
The governor has also reached out to President Bola Tinubu for the Federal Government’s help to ensure that all IDPs are resettled in a very secure environment.
Such resettlement will ensue that they returned to their farms, and also have access to schools, health facilities and basic social amenities
An internally displaced person in her tent in Gwer West Local Government Area
Ter Tyoshin, HRH, Daniel Abomtse presenting a land certificate for
use in the building of IDPs resettlement camp
These efforts led to a recent visit to the state by a delegation from the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, which was directed by the Tinubu to commence the process of resettling the IDPs.
Tinubu specifically directed the minister, Dr Betta Edu, and her team to evaluate the situation, monitor and develop a master plan for the construction of cluster houses at designated safer places for the IDPs.
The houses whose number will be considered after proper evaluation will have all social amenities to support the communities.
Chidimma Makuachukwu, the National Programme Manager, Renewed Hope Shelter for the Poor, Refugees and IDPs, who represented the minister, has visited IDP camps in Logo, Kwande, Guma, Gwer West and Agatu Local Government Areas.
She said they would fast track the process to ensure early resettlement of the IDPs, adding that the Tinubu is concerned about the plight of the IDPs and the need to provide them shelter in safer environment.
According to her, what is paramount is building secure homes for the displaced persons where it will be easier to provide them with educational facilities, clinics, electricity and markets.
To drive this point, Mr. Aondowase Kunde, the state Commissioner for Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management, says communities must support the initiative.
According to him, the federal and Benue state governments are very committed to the project, as such the support of communities is vital for the successful implementation of the IDPs’ resettlement plan.
Indeed, to ensure the successful implementation of the resettlement plan, the support of traditional rulers in the affected areas cannot be overemphasised.
The government has made it very clear that returning the IDPs home is an important process while providing them secured shelter is top priority.
This process has already commenced. For instance, large expanse of land has been donated in Kwande at Waya and Anyiase for IDPs’ resettlement while in Logo, land was allocated at Azera and Tombu.
In Guma, Gwer West and Agatu, the traditional rulers in those areas have also made a commitment to provide the land needed for the project.
More and more traditional rulers in the state have welcomed the plan and pledged their absolute support.
They say they look forward to when their people displaced due to attacks by gunmen will come back home.
The traditional rulers commended Governor Alia for working to actualise his campaign promise to resettle the IDPs.
The Federal Government is also supporting the displaced persons and other people of the state through its social investment programmes to ease their pains and raise their economic status.
As the Executive Secretary of SEMA, Mr James Iorapuu, said the process for the resettlement of the over 1.5 million IDPs in the state will be driven by patriotism, accountability, openness and equity.
The Alia administration has shown commitment to get all IDPs to a secure environment after 13 years of displacement of families due to insecurity, including children who have been unable to go to school.
This will be given more impetus with the construction work for the cluster settlements which is scheduled to commence in November, according to Kunde.