By Brenda Agba
The Benue State Governor, Rev Fr Hyacinth Alia has called on the United Nations (UN) to aid the Benue State Government in its efforts aimed at tackling the numerous challenges being faced by the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the state.
Governor Alia made this call when he received the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Nigeria, Mathias Schmale together with members of his team in the Old Banquet Hall of Government House when they paid a visit to the state.
Describing the team’s visit as being of great significance as it provides the Benue State Government with an opportunity to strengthen collaboration and make progress towards shared goals, the governor noted that UN undoubtedly, stands as a beacon of hope and peace, tirelessly working towards creating a better and more prosperous world for all.
“Through its relentless efforts, the United Nations has proven time and again that unity, collaboration, and compassion can transcend borders, cultures, and ideologies”, he stated.
Acknowledging the tireless efforts of the UN in maintaining global peace and security in a world plagued by conflicts and turmoil through its peace keeping missions, the governor noted that the UN has successfully prevented conflicts from escalating into full-blown wars, saving countless lives and fostering stability in regions plagued by violence.
“The UN plays a pivotal role in promoting sustainable development and eradicating poverty. By advocating for the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, we witness a concerted effort to address pressing global challenges such as poverty, hunger, climate change, and inequality. The United Nations strives to ensure that no one is left behind, and that every individual has equal access to education, healthcare, and opportunities for economic growth”, the governor stated.
Speaking further, Alia explained that: “Our administration on assumption of office, encountered an enormous humanitarian crises occasioned by various forms of conflicts and natural disasters, which has left us with IDPs, covering thirty seven thousand, four hundred and twelve thousand (37,412) households with a total population of two million, one hundred and twenty four thousand (2,124,000). Out of this number, two hundred and forty one thousand, three hundred and forty two (241,342) persons are in 13 IDP camps while the balance of One million, eight hundred and eighty two thousand, six hundred and fifty eight (1,882,658) live within their host communities. The plight of IDPs cannot be overlooked. SEMA has been directed to put together a resettlement plan, which will be shared with the UN to solicit for intervention.
A dysfunctional civil service with months of unpaid salaries, youth unemployment, hunger and child-malnutrition.
“Benue State continues to experience intense conflicts and tensions as a consequence of herder/farmers clashes, inter-communal skirmishes which have continued to disrupt the agrarian lives of our people; Dilapidated educational and health facilities, which are derivative of the incessant attacks on our communities. Our Primary Health Centers and IDP Camps are in dire need of rehabilitation, requiring assistance in provision of sanitary facilities to eradicate open defecation.
“The strong resolve of my administration is to stem this tide and seek assistance towards ensuring that the IDPs are resettled and reintegrated to their ancestral homes. This requires establishing permanent integrated forward operation bases for security men at all flash points, where there have been cases of incessant armed attacks and displacement of people.
“Security remains a pressing concern in our state, particularly in relation to herder-farmer conflicts. We are committed to finding lasting solutions to these disputes and fostering peaceful coexistence among all residents. We look to the UN for support in implementing comprehensive security initiatives, such as community policing programs, early warning systems, and conflict resolution mechanisms. By working collaboratively, we can reduce tensions, prevent violence, and create an atmosphere of peace and security for all. I and my team are working on a template in this regard and will soon be shared with your office in the hope that adequate support will be received.
‘Agriculture is pivotal to ensuring food security and boosting our economy. Benue State is known as the Food Basket of the Nation, and we aim to unleash its full potential. We seek the assistance of the United Nations in providing technical know-how, training, and resources to promote modern farming techniques, improve agricultural productivity, and enhance value chains. By empowering our farmers, we can ensure a sustainable and prosperous agricultural sector that not only boosts our local economy but also contributes to national food security.
“Building a robust and reliable health system is crucial to securing the well-being of our people. We seek the UN’s support in strengthening our healthcare infrastructure by improving medical facilities, equipping hospitals and clinics, and enhancing the capacity of healthcare professionals through training programs. With your assistance, we can provide quality healthcare services and ensure that our people have access to essential medical care, ultimately leading to improved overall health outcomes.
“As we gather here occasioned by this esteemed visit, let us take a moment to reflect upon the remarkable strides the world, through the UN has made towards gender equality, and yet acknowledge the work that remains ahead. Empowering women to engage in income generating activities is not merely an act of social justice, but a fundamental necessity for sustainable development. It is a proven fact that when women are economically empowered, entire communities flourish. However, we must recognize that women face numerous challenges in accessing economic opportunities. Discrimination, lack of education, limited access to financial resources, and societal biases hinder their progress.
“Therefore, I call on the UN to assist us to collectively create an enabling environment that fosters the growth and empowerment of women”, he appealed.
The governor assured that his administration will begin the transformative process of investing in quality education for women and girls saying, education serves as the key to unlocking their potential and equipping them with the necessary skills to thrive in a rapidly changing world.
Reiterating that Benue State is open for collaboration, investment, and growth, the governor expressed gratitude and reaffirmed his administration’s commitment to the UN noble principles.
Earlier, leader of the delegation, Schmale, said the UN’s priority is to support governments in their quest to provide quality leadership especially as it concerns three key areas which include the Development Agenda, the Peace Building Agenda as well as the Humanitarian Agenda.
According to Schmale, the visit was aimed at not just addressing immediate short term humanitarian needs of the IDPs but also finding lasting solutions to issues leading to their displacement.
He therefore assured the Benue State Government of the UN’s commitment towards ensuring that the IDPs are returned to their ancestral homes.
The UN delegation was led by the governor on a visit to various IDP Camps to enable them ascertain the situation on ground.