Benue Killings: Ortom makes first visits to IDP camps amidst complaints food shortage



Governor Samuel Ortom made his first stops at Logo and Guma local government areas on Wednesday, more than three weeks after communities in the two areas were besieged by herdsmen.


Over 100 villagers were killed in successive attacks on communities across the two councils, according to witnesses accounts to PREMIUM TIMES.


The state government buried 72 of the victims at a newly-built grave site near Makurdi on January 12.


Mr. Ortom made the first stop at the only camp in Tse Ginde, Guma LGA, around noon on Wednesday, promising displaced persons better security and a lasting solution to the invasion by herdsmen.


Residents complained of shortage of food, water and basic amenities.


“They shared food to us but it’s not regular,” said Miracle Theophilus. “We look for what to eat and drink by ourselves.”


Mrs. Theophilus, 20, told PREMIUM TIMES she fled to the camp with her one-year-old son after her village was attacked in Guma on January 2.


Since then, she has lived with about 2,000 others at the camp without mattresses or mosquito nets.


Also, no water reservoir was available at any of the five camps currently opened in Logo and Guma LGAs.


“I’ve just approved money for the construction of boreholes,” Mr. Ortom said to the elation of the displaced persons at Tse Ginde camp Wednesday.


“We will ensure that your well-being is prioritised going forward,” added Mr. Ortom, who addressed the crowd in English and Tiv.


The governor said the recently signed law against open grazing would help curb more attacks.


“This is our land and we will not be intimidated or displaced,” he added.


The governor also stopped at the camps in Anyiin, Abeda and Ugba, the seat of Logo LGA, reassuring the inhabitants of improved supply of food items and amenities.


Emmanuel Shior, the executive secretary of Benue State Emergency Management Agency, told PREMIUM TIMES the supplies were arriving slow, but everyone would soon be touched.


“We’re aware of complaints about shortages in food and water, but we’re working nearly round-the-clock to ensure that everyone gets what is necessary to survive at the camp,” Mr. Shior said.


The official said the state was currently running seven camps of displaced person, two of which were recently opened to accommodate victims of the crisis in Cameroon.


Thousands of refugees fleeing the liberation struggle in the English-speaking parts of Cameroon have reportedly entered many states in Nigeria in recent weeks, including Benue which has a border with southern Cameroon.


The victims of the January 1 attacks in the state said they were ready to return to their communities, but security agencies have yet to clear the areas of threats.


“We’re here because the government warned that we shouldn’t go back to our villages because they’re not safe for now,” said Iorliam Saanmoiyal, a 37-year-old father of two. “I moved here with my wife and children after our village was attacked, but I don’t think I can endure the hardship at this camp for long.”


“My son has been vomiting and feeling feverish since four days ago, but there’s nothing I could do to help because I left my farm to run to this camp.”


Red Cross volunteers here said they’ve recorded “many” cases of diarrhoea since the camps were opened earlier this month.