No fewer than 483,692 Internally Displaced Persons have been rendered homeless in the wake of sudden heightened state of violence and killings due to renewed influx of armed herdsmen, a resurgence of armed attacks on armed security officials and unarmed citizens, the Benue State Emergency Agency has disclosed.
Dr. Emmanuel Shior, Executive Secretary, SEMA, who disclosed this while briefing newsmen in Abuja on Friday, said no less than 13 out of the 23 LGAs in the state have been ravaged, while a number of communities have been sacked and occupied by the Fulani herdsmen, including the hometown of the state Governor, Samuel Ortom.
Shior revealed that before now, the herdsmen had sent threats to some communities to vacate their homes, warning that they were coming with mercenaries to fight.
The secretary informed that the state government had however set plans on course to return the IDPs to their homes after what appeared to be a decline in the level of insecurity, but had a re-think following renewed spate of violence.
He said: “By October, 2019, Benue State Government started to consider options for the safe return of the IDPs to their original homes, whereupon SEMA commissioned an assessment to determine readiness of the IDPs and any issues that needed to be addressed ahead of the safe return.
“In the wake of effort by government to ensure safe return of the IDPs, insecurity resumed in the state.
“Government resolved to suspend any plan to return IDPs at this stage for security reasons.”
Shior revealed that the cause of the seemingly unending insecurity in the state was due to the bold refusal to obey the open grazing prohibition laws, which Benue State has put in place to promote the establishment of ranching by herdsmen.
He decried that despite the law, herdsmen still bring in their cattle to graze openly, destroy crops and farms, which is fuelling the killings and rise in number of IDPs.
He however pointed out that the law is not discriminatory against anybody, neither is it targeted at the Fulani herdsmen, explaining that the chief purpose of the law is to bring lasting solution to the continued challenge of killings in the state.
“What the law simply says is that anybody who wants to do animal husbandry in Benue State should put the animals into ranches. The offenders who have violated this law and have been arrested and they include Benue State indigenes,” he added.
The Secretary therefore solicited the support of state and non-state actors to support the Benue State Government ensure the implementation of the law.
He said: “If the attackers agree to obey this law, this killings will stop.”