By Brenda Agba
The National Assembly member representing Gwer East/Gwer West Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives, Hon Asema Achado, has appealed to the Federal Government of Nigeria to return, resettle and rehabilitate Benue Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) before building ranches.
Achado made this appeal in reaction to the news of President Bola Tinubu’s approval for the construction of 1,000 houses in Sokoto, Kebbi, Katsina, Zamfara, Kaduna, Niger and Benue States as was disclosed by the Director of Information, Office of the Vice President, Mr. Olusola Abiola as part of a broad plan to address conflicts in the north.
According to statement by Hon. Achado, while the general statement concealed specificities on who will benefit from the houses, part of the press release said the project would include, “ancillary facilities of schools, clinics, veterinary clinics and ranches for Fulani communities in Kaduna and Benue”.
The federal law maker in the statement further said, “As one who has always prayed for peaceful coexistence amongst tribes and groups in Nigeria, I welcome all initiatives that would promote peace and guarantee succour to the internally displaced persons who have been through all forms of trauma and lost their means of livelihood, however, such projects should equally aggregate priorities of the victims.
“For many years now, Benue State has been a killing field with thousands of persons murdered by marauding herdsmen and bandits, while many who managed to survive these attacks are taking refuge in poorly constructed IDPs Camps, under very dehumanizing conditions, a situation that is already threatening the “Food Basket” status of the state. Majority of the displaced persons cannot access their farmlands anymore as such have been taken over by herdsmen or bandits who are grazing freely on the affected areas.
“There are reported cases where farmers who attempt to visit these abandoned villages out of the desperation to feed themselves are gruesomely murdered by the bandits who are fully occupying these deserted villages.
He therefore advised that, as a stakeholder and one of the APC chieftains in Benue, the first step should be directed at deploying security men that would ensure a peaceful dislodgement of the bandits that are unlawfully occupying homes and farmlands belonging to Benue people who are pushed to the IDP camps.
“Without taking this first step, I doubt the possibility of erecting houses in these areas amidst such volatile security situation”, he stated, adding that upon dislodgement of the illegal occupants, the federal government would then, begin the process of returning and resettling the displaced persons with assurance of safe and dignified living in their ancestral communities, giving the returnees recourse for property restitution, compensation, rehabilitation or reintegration to build back their livelihoods and economic development.
He also suggested that stakeholders in each of the affected states be fully carried along in implementing this project, saying because it concerns land, the Land Use Act clearly vests all land comprised in the territory of each state solely in the Governor of the state who holds such land in trust for the people and would be responsible for the allocation of all land in the states to individuals and organizations for residential, agriculture and commercial purposes, while other lands in non-urban areas are under the direct control and management of the local government areas, in which the land is situated.
“Ranching to me is the best practice of animal husbandry that should be adopted all over the world but providing ranches for herders in a state where humans are ranched in Internally Displaced Persons Camps in the fear of same herders will certainly not achieve the desired peace”, the law maker maintained.