By Faith Igbudu and Ochowechi Elizabeth
Olam, a hilly community located on the popular University of Agriculture (UAM) Makurdi road in the North Bank area of the Benue state capital, previously an abandoned government property, does not need any introduction to people in Makurdi city.
It is easily accessible as is strategically located along a major road, beside the Federal Housing Estate in Makurdi.
The IDPs camp at Olam is unofficially allocated to the displaced persons by the Benue State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA). In fact, the agency has made repeated efforts in making sure the IDPs are relocated to the officially allotted camps, but to no avail.
A visit to the camp by The Voice revealed that the place is highly uninhabitable. The make-shift tents are easily destroyed whenever there is rain or strong wind. There are no basic amenities such as electricity, water and toilets, even as there are no trees in the place for shelter.
The displaced persons were seen taking shelter in the make-shift nylon sacks houses that are converted into homes which fly away easily whenever there is rain or wind.
But they have vehemently refused to move and have equally chosen to stay in their harsh conditions, no matter the ugly situation.
Why the IDPs refused to go
It was discovered during the visit that the refusal of the IDPs to leave the unofficial camp could be traced to insecurity, same reason that propelled their displacement from their ancestral homes.
According to the IDPs, the said camp in Olam where they are temporarily taking refuge is necessitated, accusing the Benue state government of violating their human rights and treating them with disdain.
About two thousand six hundred and seventy two (2,672) persons are taking refuge in the said unofficial camp, said the camp authorities.
Isaac Ornguga, an IDP, who the persons of concern selected as Camp Secretary said they were residing in the place because of insecurity.
“The crisis has truly touched some of us. Even Ukor-Ikpiam camp has been once hit by Fulani herdsmen crisis and one of the rules of treating IDPs is that, where a particular crisis has reached before, that locality is not fit to host displaced persons.
“Till now, there are pockets of killings going on for anyone caught isolated on their farmland.
The security is porous, it will not be fair if displaced persons are taken back to the troubled spots under the guise of a camp.If they want to do us well, they should site a camp in the town for us” he insisted.
Why the Olam IDPs camp is unofficial
Executive Secretary, State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA), Dr. Emmanuel Shior has explained that the IDPs camp at Olam is unofficial because it is not originally allocated by government. He stated that instead, the state government has established a camp at Ukor-Ikpiam and directed the displaced persons to move there.
“Benue state government has approved the establishment of the Ukor-Ikpiam IDPs camp to accommodate the persons of concern.
“Most importantly, the governor has directed the deployment of security agencies here -SWAT a new police formulation, guarding the persons of concerns.
“We are working together with Live Stock Guards who are parading the bushes to ensure it is safe. We are also working and connecting with the soldiers in their unit in Ikyoo, (which is the vicinity), so with these efforts, we want to assure all our noble partners, ActionAid, Medecin sans Francis (MSF), Queen of Culture, the Red Cross and all our volunteers that this place is safe,” he noted.
According to Shior, the decision by government to locate a camp at Ukor-Ikpiam was to help decongest the IDPs in Daudu who are in the primary school, and to allow school children attend to their education as well as properly situate the ones at Uni-agric road.
He has called on the IDPs to disregard the rumours making round that the place is unsafe, saying that such bad reports were coming from criminally minded persons who are not displaced but want to continue to cash-in on the misfortune of the IDPs and by benefiting from the handouts usually given in the camps. He insisted that if the IDPs relocated to the government approved camp, they would be properly taken care.
IDPs vow to die in Olam camp than relocate to Ukpiam
Samuel Kpete, an elder in the Olam IDPs camp told The Voice that they prefer to die in the unofficial camp than relocate to Ukpiam where government is directing them move.
According to him, some persons who had wanted to go to the “insecured” Ukor-Ikpiam camp have gone, the people remaining in Olam were them that felt the place is not conducive and safe.
“Protection of lives and property should be sacrosanct to every government, rather, our government wants to take us back to a place we had ran away from I and that is why we have refused to move.
“The place called Ukor-Ikpiam is a security threat zone, a place they will not be willing to stay for a few hours. In 2014, Ukor-Ikpiam was attacked during Governor Suswam’s administration.
“We have told the government that we cannot go there but nothing has been done about it. This place is more safe for us and it is better we die here” Kpete said.
Also, Yanguchan Ayangeor, a 46 year old woman in the camp, laments that they have been cut-off from every form of civilization and assistance.
“When it rains, we do struggle to save our belongings rather, we choke ourselves to prevent being beaten by the rain. We cannot sleep again because there is no space since we are many. In the morning, it is terrible.
“There is no light here, no money, no schools for our children and no means of survival. Sometimes Non-Governmental Organizations and churches come to our aid but it is never enough. We live every day hoping to return to our homes one day, but we cannot move to a pace