By Sunday Iduh
Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom has said there is imbalance in the donor agencies’ interventions in the country. He noted that such interventions seem to be tilted more to the North East to the extent of literally ignoring the crisis bedeviling the North Central/Middle Belt region and appealed for intervention of the United Nations (UN) Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Nigeria, Mathias Schmale.
The governor stated this recently at the Benue Peoples House, Makurdi while assenting to the Benue State Peace Building and Reconciliation Commission bill.
“Sadly, we have been agitating for a North Central/Middle Belt Development Commission similar to the one created for the North East by the Federal Government to no avail. It is my hope and prayer that the UN organisation will strengthen its efforts toward this matter and push for much more coordinated donor support not just for the North Central (Middle Belt) and also for the creation of the North Central Development Commission at the federal level.
He disclosed that Benue State government, under his watch has made efforts to consolidate on partnerships for the sustainable development of the state.
“Our areas of special focus include good governance, security of lives and property, promotion of agricultural development, strict adherence to and respect for the Rule of Law, collaborations and partnerships for meaningful development, and upholding fairness and equal opportunities for all through government policies and programmes,” he stated.
Governor Ortom explained that Benue State was passing through a serious humanitarian crisis at the moment with over 2 million Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), stating that some of whom are living in deplorable conditions in IDPs camps while others have been absorbed into host communities where the IDPs sought refuge.
The governor said the security challenges that led to the present humanitarian crisis in the state are now exposing the state to food crisis arising from food insecurity, risks of producing a generation of illiterates as some children have been in IDPs camps for over seven years, and a rising mental health crisis due to unhealed trauma and stunted self-development among others.
He, however, acknowledged and expressed his gratitude to UN agencies, led by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) under the UN multi-agencies “Peace Project” aimed among other goals, at transitioning from humanitarian relief to long term development commitment to Benue people since 2018, under the auspices of the immediate past Resident Coordinator, Edward Kallon and his tireless team, who listened and responded positively to the plight of the Benue people.
Schmale, in a remark commended Governor Ortom, the entire government of Benue State, and the wide range of stakeholders who contributed to the passing of the peace commission bill through the House of Assembly last month.
He stated that the country needs to urgently address some practices which does not promote peace. He said Nigeria should reflect on the importance of actively addressing discrimination and exclusion which can lead to breaches of peace especially in local communities.
“All Nigerians needs to come together and promote the values of tolerance, respect, reconciliation, and human dignity, and remember that being peaceful is the responsibility of every person,” he stated.
The resident and humanitarian coordinator in Nigeria assured the governor of sustained support.
Special Adviser to the governor on Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) and New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), Prof. Magdalene Dura maintained that Sustainable Development Goal Number 16 Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions is a critical pillar in an attempts to reach the global goals.
According to her, “this pillar seeks to promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.
“As acknowledged by the Global Goals online platform, compassion and a strong moral compass are essential to every democratic society. Yet, persecution, injustice and abuse still runs rampant and is tearing at the very fabric of civilization.
“We must ensure that we have strong institutions, global standards of justice, and a commitment to peace everywhere.
“Big challenges need bold actions to overcome them, and that is where the SDGs come in. They are a plan agreed to by all world leaders to build a greener, fairer, better world by 2030, and we all have a role in achieving them. The development and signing of the Peace Agency Bill is a significant contribution by Benue State towards these goals.”
On her part, Dr Helene Teghtegh,
Coordinator, Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) in Benue State observed that the state had gone through so much in the past years with different forms of conflicts, high rate of displacement, a number of deaths, has had people traumatized and people who have lost their livelihood among others.
“As foot soldiers, the civil society is always the first responders, so we see the pain, we feel the pain, we know the pain of the displaced population in Benue state. One thing Benue suffered was lack of immediate response from partners. However, the narrative changed when some UN parties stepped into Benue,” she said.
The governor’s assent to the bill was significant as it coincided with the 2022 International Day of Peace which was commemorated globally. The day was established by the United Nations in 1981. It represents a symbolic globally shared date for humanity to commit to peace above all differences and to contribute to building a culture of peace.