By Faith Igbudu, Matthew Ajai-Kume and Egbe Attah
The Benue State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) has accused the Federal Government of partiality in the treatment of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the country, saying it behoves the central government to treat all Nigerians with fairness and justice.
In an exclusive Interview with The Voice Newspaper, the Executive Secretary, Benue State Emergency Management Agency, (SEMA), Dr Emmanuel Shior said Nigerians, no matter their ethnicity or religion deserve equal treatment from their government.
The accusation by the SEMA boss is coming against the backdrop of complaints from humanitarian groups on the pitiable condition of internally displaced persons in Benue communities as a result of attacks by armed herdsmen.
It has been alleged that while IDPs in other parts of the country, especially those displaced by bandits and Boko Haram insurgents in the North East and North West parts of the country are being treated well by the federal government, those displaced by activities of armed herdsmen have been ignored by agencies of the federal government.
According to the Executive Secretary of SEMA, since IDPs in other camps in different parts of the country are victims of violence as those in Benue state, the Federal Government should treat all fairly.
He stated that the federal government has the constitutional responsibility to protect lives and property of the citizenry, and equally care for the people in need, not in anyway considering regional preferences.
“A lot of attention and noise have been made about the North East as if it is only the North East that has IDP problem. If you look at their figure in relation to the IDPs here in Benue, you will see that it is a similar situation to what is happening in the North East.
“Buhari is not the President of any particular ethnic group, or political party, he is the President of Nigeria and so, it is his responsibility to look after all of us and so I don’t see any reason why the president cannot direct that enough attention be given to Benue and the IDPs, and even the refugee challenge which is essentially the responsibility of the federal government, it should not be left for the Benue State government alone to shoulder.
“You can remember that the Vice President visited Benue State about two years ago and promised providing N10 billion for some of the states that were affected by Fulani herdsmen attacks, and part of that money is supposed to be given to Benue State government but since that time till date, as I speak with you, no kobo of that money has come to Benue,” Shior recalled.
Dr Shior further attributed the huge humanitarian situations in Benue State to the resistance by the Fulani herdsmen in obeying the Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law enacted by Benue State Government in 2017, saying that there have been continued attacks on rural farmers.
According to him, the wisdom in the law signed by Governor Samuel was not in any way targeted against any group but was done in the overall interest of both the herders and farmers in the state.
Stating further the lack of proper attention by the federal government to cater for the needs of the IDPs in Benue State, Dr Shior insisted that more priority was being given to a particular region facing a similar issue, to the detriment of others.
Speaking on unofficial IDPs camp located at the Federal Housing Authority, along University of Agriculture road in Makurdi, the Executive Secretary said the governor had earlier directed SEMA to relocate the displaced persons to the official IDPs camp in Uikpam and other camps where security has been provided for both persons of concern and the host communities.
“Those IDPs were initially gathered at number 72 Barracks road, Makurdi and recently the Chairman, Makurdi Local Government Council drew our attention to the situation and the need to move them. But without elaborate arrangements, they were relocated there. The governor has asked that they be relocated. That place is not even a camp, it belongs to federal housing and so we cannot encourage persons of concern to stay there.
“Again, there’s another problem which is political but better be called a ‘mechanised approach’ to the IDPs’ situation. Members of that community who have no challenge but because they know these IDPs, get handout from the government, infiltrate the camps, collect the interventions and sell them,” Shior stated.
He however, appealed to the media to assist the agency to relate to the federal government the deplorable state of the IDPs.
“We are happy to share our concerns with you (The Voice) as one of the biggest media outfits in the state. We feel you have a role to play in helping us pass this information. You can help us draw the attention of the federal government, you can help us draw the attention of the international community and other stakeholders to the plight of the Benue IDPs.
“The problem is not over. We still have the IDPs. Benue state government is buying food on a daily basis. We appeal to the federal government and international agencies to come to our aid,” Shior pleaded.
Gov Ortom challenges proponents of open grazing to media debate
In another development Governor Samuel Ortom has challenged any one in Nigeria who has a contrary view to ranching of livestocks in Nigeria to a media debate.
The Benue State Governor threw this challenge recently, during the burial of his uncle, Samuel Atule who until his demise, was the head of Anya family in Nzorov, Nongov, Guma Local Government Area of Benue State.
“I want to challenge any one who is against ranching of animals which is the best global practice to a media debate to put the records straight” Governor Ortom challenged.
“I wonder why Nigeria as the giant of Africa, in the 21 Century would allow animals to be roaming the streets as well as destructing farm crops, this practice is unacceptable and condemnable in all ramifications,” he maintained.
He said: “I will not stop advocating for open grazing prohibition and ranches establishment in the country, till the right thing is done. Am not afraid of any intimidation from any corner, person or group since I know am on the right path.”
According to Governor Ortom, he owes nobody apology on any comments uttered on critical matters that concern Nigeria, be it security or whatsoever, as far as, the comments are targeted at the peace, unity, progress and development of the country.
Governor Ortom further charged the youths to shun all vices that can truncate their future and rather embark on issues that can up lift them in the society.
The governor who thanked all that attended the burial appealed to everyone to continue to pray for his family.
In his funeral oration, the Speaker, Benue State House of Assembly, Titus Uba, consoled the Anya family for the loss and described the deceased as a man of peace who stood firm for the progress of his community.
On their part, Tor Lobi, Chief Moses Anagende and Ter Guma, Chief Dennis Shimberga expressed sadness over the death of the Late Atule describing him as a hard-working person who worked for the up lift of his society and Benue State in general.
In their separate funeral orations, Benjamin Mzondu, Rev. Akpen Leva, Caleb Abah and Mr Iorbee Ihagh said they are saddened by the demise of Moses Atule at the time, the governor needed his advise as the leader of Anya family which the state governor is part of.
They charged the people of the state to sustain unalloyed support to Governor Ortom to enable him provide democratic dividends to the state.
In his sermon, Pastor in Charge of Deeper Life Bible Church, Gboko, Rev. Mike Orker read 1 Corinthian 10 and charged all to return to Christ Jesus who is the helper of the helpless while he urged Governor Ortom, the wife of the deceased, the deceased’s two children and the entire Anya family to put their trust in God.
Benue Fulani leader, others back ranching
Meanwhile, a Fulani leader in Benue South district, Mallam Sabo Turkur and other stakeholders in the district have backed the decision by Northern Governors Forum (NGF) to proscribe open grazing of livestock throughout the region and indeed the entire country.
The Chief of the Fulani community in Zone C who made this known recently when he spoke with The Voice, said the move by the governors is a good one and that it will resolve the farmer-herder conflict in the country. He decried the spate of violent crimes in the country, especially, the recent kidnap of school children in Kankara, Katsina State and Government Science College, Kagara in Niger State.
Also speaking, the Imam of Otukpo Central Mosque, Alhaji Umaro Zuberu, applauded the development, saying the move will help to bring the herder-farmer crisis to an end.
The cleric said that when Governor Samuel took the position, many did not understand him, but, it is now clear that it is the means that will tame the herder-farmer clashes in the land. He however, advised the governors to put in place, the necessary machinery that will aid the herders in ranching their livestock.
On his own part, the Coordinator, Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), in Benue South, The Very Reverend Frederick Onoja, said the resolution to outlaw open grazing is a welcome develpoment. He maintained that, it will end the animosity between herders and pastroralists in the country and the resultant destruction of lives and property.
The cleric however, advised the forum to be sincere in their intention, stressing that they should put the necessary measures in place to make ranching workable as most herders do not know how to go about the business of ranching.
He condemned the spate of inter-tribal and communal clashes in the country, especially the recent one between Ibila and Ukpa people in Oju Local Government of Benue State. He called on the communities to live in peace and harmony.
The Second Class Chief for Otukpo Local Government, Dr Samuel Onuh, said the decision by the two fora is most commendable, adding that it will stop the incessant killings by bandits in the land. He thanked God that Governor Ortom’s position on open grazing has been understood by his colleagues, urging them to go ahead to implement the decision.
The Oba Yoruba in Idomaland, Dr Umar Ajakpe and his Kanuri counterpart, Alhaji Garba Geryma, also agreed that the governors’ decision is a step in the right direction, but urged them to do the needful by putting the necessary facilities in place to make the business of ranching easier for the herdsmen.
Dr Umar specifically, pointed out that, the Fulani should check the criminals among them while farmers should also caution their members, stressing that, not all herders are criminals and not all farmers are saints.