Dr Emmanuel Shior is the Executive Secretary of Benue State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA). In this interview with ESTHER ONAH and FAITH IGBUDU, he spoke on the deplorable condition of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) from incessant attacks by armed herdsmen, and how the Governor Samuel Ortom administration is ameliorating their conditions.
What exactly can you point out as what the government of Benue has done in salvaging the poor condition of IDPs?
The governor of Benue state as described by many is a humanitarian per excellence. He has done a lot of humanitarian work as a politician. Remember he was local government chairman, after that he was secretary, and after that he was deputy chairman and then auditor, after that he became minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Along the lines of politics and appointive positions that he held in government, he has continued his humanitarian work. I met him closely when he was chairman of Guma Local Government, then, I was a student of University of Jos. He is my uncle too. I still remember, we would visit his home around Kucha-Utebe in Makurdi and as a young man, Governor Ortom will line people up to share from his salary. I benefited immensely from that largesse. I was in school and that really helped me. That was how he started. I am happy that God touched him and he did not change from the humanitarian lifestyle. Some people change along the line when they have attained certain heights in life. Governor Ortom has continued to be that simple, amiable, God-fearing politician. Today he is the governor of Benue State and he has continued with his humanitarian acts, officially as the governor of Benue State and in his private life, he has continued to help people.
He has executed quite a number of projects but he is not one eager to blow his own trumpet, he always wants others to do it. The problem is that in Nigeria, if you do not blow your trumpet, no one is willing to blow it for you. I recall what his friend Governor Nyesom Wike said, “Benue people you are blessed. Governor Ortom is God sent to you” Wike said Ortom is a governor that has put his life on the line for his people. He appears to be a lone voice in the Middle Belt region. He seems to be the only one speaking against impunity, injustices meted out by some groups or sections of the country and also the evils, negligence and lack of attention to Benue people especially the teeming population of IDPs in Benue that the federal government is not willing to pay enough attention to.The governor and this government has shouldered the responsibility of catering for the IDPs who have been here with us for five years. Yes, I came on board in October 2017, and when I came on board, a few months after the entire state was greeted with the emergence of IDPs.
The figures of IDPs have continued to swell up. Now we have over two million IDPs in Benue. Out of this number 27,000 displaced persons from the military invasion in Konshisha LGA of the state. Lives, properties, homes were destroyed yet, there is little or no intervention to persons of concern from the federal government. The state government has been the one catering for their own needs. Over two million IDPs caused by Fulani attacks on farming populations. Also, the responsibility of looking after them is shouldered on Benue state government. What the people want is to go back to their ancestral homes. And why have they left their ancestral homes. They have because of insecurity caused by Fulani herdsmen attacks. The Fulani have attacked, killed the people and occupied the rural communities and if you don’t remove them from the rural communities, there’s no way we can talk of returning the IDPs to their homes.
Benue State alone who does not control conventional security cannot tackle or remove the insurgents or the terrorists Fulani herdsmen who are attacking our rural communities and have occupied same, this is the challenge.
There is the issue of flood that displaced scores and ravaged properties. How is government managing the challenge?
In addition to herdsmen attacks, we have the challenge of the 2022 flood that has claimed about 24 lives and displaced over 134,000 persons. Some of them have joined the IDPs that are in the camps already while majority of them are in the host communities with their relations and friends. Quite a number of hectares of farmlands, properties, houses have also being destroyed. It’s a really big challenge for Benue state government but the governor has not relented. He has continued to mobilize Benue SEMA to cater for the well-being of persons of concern. He has continued to create an enabling environment for SEMA and other humanitarian partners to work together. From time to time, we get support from spirited individuals, other humanitarian partners in the state to support Benue state government in looking after these people. All of these has resulted in millions being spent on a monthly basis to care for the persons of concern.
It is alleged that Governor Ortom is behind these attacks to score political points. What clarification can you give to this?
I have personally listened to videos online from one John Tondo. Incidentally, he is governor’s brother, and also from one Berger Alfred. For me, it is a case of a prophet having no honour among his people if not, why is John Tondo finding it hard to accept his own? Ortom that Berger Alfred is speaking against, gave him a job, married a wife for him, has he not benefited from Ortom? They disrespect him just because he is from the same place as them. These are the people who are saying that Ortom is responsible for Fulani herdsmen attacks on the Iharev people. Berger Alfred also said that it is when you vote APC, that there will be improvement in the life of Iharev people. That is, APC that has given Emmanuel Jime an appointment and also Terhemen Tarzoor. What about the majority of us in PDP who are in this government? I am a Iharev person from the same Guma local government. As the Executive Secretary of Benue SEMA, I solve people’s problems on a daily basis. I attend to ceremonies in my place, I give people food, all of that come from Ortom. My elder brother John Anger is in this government, Tivlumun Nyiste is the governor’s chief of staff. Ortom in addition to these major appointments, has given appointments to quite a number of Iharev young men and women. Apart from solving people’s personal needs on daily basis, Ortom gives money on daily basis and sometimes I collect the money for people to bury their loved ones, to pay hospital bills. Those who are maimed and wounded from the Iharev axis are taking care of by Ortom at the Benue state Teaching hospital, General hospitals around and Federal Medical Center. So what do they on earth want Ortom to do? They also say that it is because of the Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Act 2017. In the wisdom of our government, that law is to provide a win-win situation for herders and farmers. The same group accusing Ortom of the killings still say Ortom does not like Fulani people and all manner of accusations just because of difference in political parties and interests. As journalists, you have kept tabs with this administration, if all the things said are true or not, you can also tell. This law that they talk about does not target any single individual or Fulani as it’s alleged because Ortom has Fulani in his government, some are personally close to me, the likes of Hon. Tambaya, who is one of my best friends. Governor Ortom is only against terrorists Fulani herdsmen who are killing our people and elsewhere in Nigeria.
I think a few of my brothers are jealous, they are not only jealous of Ortom who is a Nongov man from Guma local government but also for some of us that are in this government but let me tell them, everybody and everything has their own time. Somebody like John Tondo also has his own time. We supported him. John Tondo was in Gabriel Suswam’s government, we rallied round him and supported him. Now, it is another person’s turn and I’m here. I attend to even his siblings and his brothers because I know I am here for all my people. Rather than support us that are here now, they are going round to tell the people to support Alia while they are members of PDP. What kind of jealousy is that?
What is the status of the 10 billion naira emergency funds promised by the federal government?
We have not seen a penny of that money but we are not surprised because the federal government that you talk about is full of lies. This is not the first lie, there are other lies too. We don’t talk about that 10 billion naira any longer, after all, they have a few months to leave office. Only a part of that money was to be given to Benue state for the reconstruction of homes for the displaced persons as the money was for all the three stated affected by herdsmen attacks to share.
But we have moved on. The governor of Benue state has remained relentless in providing for well-being of his people, the Benue people particularly the persons of concern.