A News Analysis by Bridget Ikyado
There are over 1.5 million Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) living in various camps in Benue State. They were displaced from their ancestral homes by armed herdsmen and militias and forced to live outside their communities in very excruciating conditions.
Moved by the condition of the IDPs, the Executive Governor of Benue State, Rev. Fr Hyacinth Iormem Alia had in the course of his electioneering campaign promised to prioritise the resettlement of all IDPs in the state, for them to return to their normal lives.
Since his inauguration, the governor has been coordinating efforts to see to the realisation of this promise.
So far, the State Emergency Management Agency in conjunction with the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), has commenced the biometric verification of the IDPs for proper documentation ahead of the state government resettlement plan.
The governor has also reached out to President Bola Tinubu for the Federal Government to provide a helping hand to ensure that all IDPs are resettled in a very secure environment, where they will not only be able to return to their farms, but also have access to schools, health facilities and basic social amenities.
These efforts led to a visit by a representative of the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Dr Betta Edu who was mandated by the President to commence the process of resettling the IDPs.
President Tinubu specifically directed the minister and her team to evaluate the situation, monitor and develop proper plan for the construction of cluster houses at designated safer places for the IDPs to move in, just as security measures to curb insurgency were also put in place.
The houses whose number will be considered after proper evaluation is done, will have all social amenties to support the communities.
Chidimma Makuachukwu, the National Programme Manager, Renewed Hope Shelter for the Poor, Refugees and IDPs, who represented the minister, has visited IDP camps in Logo, Kwande, Guma, Gwer West and Agatu Local Government Areas.
She said they would fast track the process to ensure early resettlement of the IDPs, noting that the President is concerned about the plight of the IDPs and the need to provide them shelter in safer environment.
According to her, what is paramount is building secure homes for the displaced persons where it will be easier to provide them with educational facilities, clinics, electricity and markets.
To drive this point, Hon. Aondowase Kunde, the state Commissioner for Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management, says communities must support the initiative.
According to him, the federal and Benue state governments are very committed to the project, as such the support of communities is vital for the successful implementation of the IDPs’ resettlement plan.
Indeed, to ensure the successful implementation of the resettlement plan, the support of traditional rulers in the affected areas cannot be overemphasised, since the government has made it very clear that returning the IDPs home is an important process while providing them secured shelter is top priority.
This important process has already commenced. For instance, large expanse of land has been donated in Kwande at Waya and Anyiase for IDPs’ resettlement while in Logo, land was allocated at Azera and Tombu.
In Guma, Gwer West and Agatu, the traditional rulers in those areas have also made a commitment to provide the land needed for the project.
Already, the Mue Ter Ichôngo, Kwande Area Traditional Council, His Royal Highness Simon Baver, the Mue Ter Ipusu in Logo Area Traditional Council, His Royal Highness Enoch Iorhuna, the traditional head of Ad’Agatu, His Royal Highness Onah Ngbede, the Ter Guma, HRH Dennis Shemberga and the Ter Tyôshin, HRH Daniel Abomtse, have all welcomed the plan and pledged their absolute support.
They said that they look forward to when their people displaced due to attacks by gunmen will come back home. The traditional rulers commended Governor Alia for working to actualise his campaign promise to resettle the IDPs.
The federal government is also supporting the displaced persons and other people of the state through its social investment programmes to ease their pains and raise their economic status.
As the Executive Secretary of SEMA, Mr James Iorapuu said, the process for the resettlement of the over 1.5 million IDPs in the state will be driven by patriotism, accountability, openness and equity.
No doubt, the governor Alia administration has shown unwavering commitment to get all IDPs to a secure environment after 13 years of displacement of families due to insecurity, including children who have been unable to go to school.
All this will change soon as assured by Mr Aondowase Kunde, the Commissioner for Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management, who said construction work for the cluster settlements will commence in November, thus ending the 13 years of homelessness suffered by IDPs in Benue State.
****Bridget Ikyado is the Principal Special Assistant to the Executive Governor of Benue State on Media, Publicity and Strategic Communications****