Herdsmen attacks: IDPs groan as humanitarian crisis worsens in Benue

Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs, camps in Benue State are currently overstretched as killer herdsmen continue their marauding attacks on agrarian communities in the state.

HMTV correspondent, who visited some of the camps over the weekend, reports that the IDPs are facing a serious humanitarian crisis.

They voiced their frustration, lamenting that they were dying of starvation.

In the last few days, many Benue communities have fallen prey to the killer herdsmen, who also left thousands displaced from their ancestral homes.

Residents of Wandor, Mbaikyor community in the Mbalom Council Ward of Gwer East Local Government Area, LGA of the state, were the latest victims.

The invaders, who razed over 50 houses, huts, farmlands and food barns in 11 settlements, killed a retired army officer, and 16 others.

Prior to that incident, natives of Apa, Kwande and Guma Local Government Areas of Benue State, also fell victims of another round of attacks which left scores killed and several others injured.

The herders, who had invaded several Benue communities with thousands of cattle since the coming of the dry season, relentlessly attacked Ubele, Ochumekwu, Adija, Kano and Ijaha in Apa LGA.

Confirming the attacks, National Chairman of Apa Development Association, a socio-cultural group of people, Mr. Eche Akpoko lamented the unending attacks and killings in Apa by the marauders, saying the attacks were carried out in three days.

He said: “I can confirm to you that there were series of attacks on the following communities: Ijaha-Ibele, where five people were killed; Ochumekwu recorded three casualties; in Adija, one person was killed, same as Kano community, where one person was also killed. These were all in Apa LGA.”

Suspected armed herdsmen also launched several attacks on various communities in Agatu and Otukpo Local Government Areas of Benue state leaving many people dead, others injured and many others deserting their ancestral homes.

HMTV also reports that suspected gunmen launched another series of attacks on residents of Iwili community in Entekpa Ward, located in the Adoka District of Otukpo Local Government Area of the state.

According to a legal practitioner from the affected area, Ada Ocholi, some armed men, dressed in military uniforms, climbed trees to launch their onslaught on the unsuspecting residents.

“I can’t say the number of corpses recovered so far, because yesterday, I was in touch with our youth leader there.

“He told me that they just came back from the bush and there were so many of the gunmen in the bush with military uniforms, and that some of them were on top of trees with sophisticated weapons,” she told our correspondent.

Another source in the area, who said the attacks commenced on Saturday and spread till Monday, revealed that the attacks left several persons injured, while surviving residents of the affected villages had deserted and fled for fear of being killed.

“They came from Agatu which they have been attacking since the beginning of the year. They came through Opaha in Apa LGA and accessed Iwili community in Umogidi from where they also stormed Entekpa,” the local said.

Speaking to HMTV, the Adoka traditional ruler, Och’Adoka Alegwu Samuel Onuh, frowned at the renewed attack on the district, saying the Adoka people are lovers of Fulanis without any previous bad records with the herders.

He said, “We are peace-loving people who have never had any nasty previous records with the Fulanis, but now they have come to attack us and made away with our belongings and the means of our livelihood.”

The Och’Adoka, who condemned the incident in totality, called on the government to swiftly intervene and allow the residents of the communities to go back and continue their farm activities.

“As a community, we are not happy. Up till now my subjects in that entire Entekpa Ward who have vacated the area for fear of being killed have littered around Adoka township and other villages in Adoka.

“We are appealing to the government to deploy security operatives to the affected areas to provide them security so they could continue with their legitimate activities without fear of being attacked,” he added.

Asked whether there was presence of any security agents in the affected areas, the monarch said, “The operatives of the Nigerian Army, the Police and the Nigerian Security and Civil Defense Corps, NSCDC, are all on ground to forestall further occurrence and maintain peace in the place.”

On his part, the Chairman of Otukpo Local Government Area, Alfred Omakwu, while confirming the devastating incident, disclosed that seven lifeless bodies were recovered by Tuesday afternoon, with efforts underway to locate additional victims.

Omakwu stated that military personnel had been deployed to aid in the search and provide support to the grieving communities.

Speaking to DAILY POST on the alleged abandonment of the affected area by the Nigeria police, the spokesperson for the Benue State Police Command, Catherine Anene, said it will be unfair to state that the police have neglected the said communities.

She said, “we have so many teams deployed to these areas to manage the situation.

“We have had injuries and even dead officers in these areas due to efforts being made to manage conflict. The truth is that the police are doing their best.”

Speaking to HMTV, some of the Internally Displaced Persons in the temporary camp at Wesley Central School, Adoka, expressed their grievances on being sacked from their ancestral homes at the time the nation’s economy is biting harder.

‘’Just look at us. We cannot stay in our own village, which is our heritage. We are not doing anything to help ourselves or our families; not that we don’t want to but we are scared of death.

“We are farmers, and the only source of our livelihood is the farms, but these marauders have destroyed everything, killed some of our people and made us flee from our homes.’’

Another displaced person simply identified as Oloche Edo, said, “We have now become refugees in our own land. See how bad the economy is now.

“We are hungry and our children are suffering from starvation and malnutrition, something we would have tried by all means to avoid if we were not displaced.’’

Edache Moses, a displaced person, on his part lamented how the development has halted their children’s education, calling on the government and every other stakeholder to intensify efforts to bring to an end the farmers/herders conflict in their communities.

He said, “We know the value of education, but as it is now, our children who are supposed to be leaders of tomorrow via education are forced out of school.

“How would they become tomorrow’s leaders when they cannot go to school? Is it a crime to stay in one’s community and pursue his legitimate occupation?

“We want the government and well meaning Nigerians to intervene and put an everlasting end to it.’’

Asked how they have been faring outside their homes, they jointly expressed the difficulty they had gone through, demanding that they want to go back to their ancestral homes and continue with their normal activities to fend for their families.

Speaking to HMTV, the Adoka IDPs manager, cum youth leader, Adoka-Ole Youth Council, Advocate Ngbede Ofoine, said the attack on Entekpa Ward of Adoka, which displaced a total of 5,250 persons, has caused the entire Adoka humanitarian crises in the area of food, water, health, accommodation and internal/local security.

He lamented the sufferings of the displaced persons, seeking help from the government, stakeholders and individuals to alleviate their pains.

“At the moment, the suffering of the displaced people is much. It is becoming so unbearable due to the fact that they all left their ancestral homes without a prior preparation.

“Some of them were at the stream, farm, village square and other communities on a visit before this unfortunate event.

“They were not opportune to pick any basic needs like food, clothing, beddings and so on.

“We are begging the government and well-meaning Nigerians to come to our rescue at this critical time,” he added.



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