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5 Months After, 30,000 Plateau IDPs Await Soothing Balm



As Plateau state government receives report of the technical committee on the modalities for the return of the over 30,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the state to their various communities, ACHOR ABIMAJE (Jos) takes a look at the conditions under which the IDPs have survived in the last five months

At last, the over 30,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) in various camps in Plateau state, may soon step their feet again on their ancestral homes. This new hope came as the technical committee set up by the Plateau state government to work out modalities for the return of the IDPs to their homes, recently submitted its report to the government.

The IDPs were dislodged from their ancestral home in May 2018 following an attack on some communities in Barkin Ladi and Riyom local government areas of Plateau State by suspected herdsmen. The attack left over 200 people dead.

The attackers had gone wild destroying houses, worship centres and schools and forcing the people to take refuge in the different IDP camps scattered all over the state.

Some of the IDPs have been living in camps since as far back as 2011, a situation that has worried many watchers of event in the state.

It is against this background that the Plateau State government set up a technical committee to work out modalities for the return of IDPs to their original homes.

The committee while submitting its findings to the state government disclosed that 1,801 persons have been confirmed killed and 50,212 others displaced in recent attacks in Plateau state.

The Committee chairman, AVM Bala Danbaba (retired), while presenting his report said that the committee identified 115 communities cutting across Jos North, Jos South, Bassa, Riyom, Barkin Ladi and Bokkos local government areas, that were affected by the crises.

He said that the committee, whose one month period was later extended to two months, received 55 memoranda and visited 27 camps where the IDPs are camped.

He noted that the committee also identified 87 villages and farmlands that were destroyed and, in most cases, annexed by herdsmen in the five local government areas.

Danbaba said: “The only IDPs’ camp we did not visit was the one at Lere in the Dorowa area of Barkin Ladi local government. We could not go there because of security concerns.”

He said the committee also visited all the affected communities for an on-the-spot assessment noting that the committee had recommended that the IDPs be returned to their ancestral homes but that the exercise should be carried out in four phases.

“The committee also emphasised the provision of adequate security in the affected areas because the IDPs are willing and anxious to return to their homes, if security was guaranteed,” he noted.

LEADERSHIP Weekend investigations reveal that the IDPs have been going through hell living in the camps. In fact, it was gathered that relief materials in the camps are grossly inadequate while there is little or no medical facilities in the camps leading to the frequent outbreak of diseases in the camps and deaths.

Women in the IDP camps are also not safe as they are allegedly being molested and sexually harassed before they can access daily meals for their children and themselves.

Worried about the condition of the IDPs, the President of Church of Christ in Nations (COCIN), Rev. Dr Daxhollom Chuwang Datiri wrote a letter to President Mohammadu Buhari in which he complained about the frequent attacks on Plateau which have left in their trail over 38,000 refugees in over 10 IDP camps, with very little government assistance.

In the letter, he said the Church has been overstretched trying to provide succour to these poor victims of what he called man’s inhumanity to fellow human beings.

“The attacks on the Plateau have left in their trail over 38,000 refugees in several IDPs camps. The living conditions in these camps are deplorable. There is inadequate supply of relief materials and this portends a serious humanitarian crisis to the state,” Rev Datiri said.

He also stressed that these refugees cannot be allowed to live in IDPs camps indefinitely adding that the IDPs themselves long to return to their ancestral homes and called on government at all levels to work hard to ensure that adequate security is provided for these IDPs to return to their homes.

He called on the government to ensure rehabilitate the people as many of them lost their homes and farm lands to the attacks. “I call on President Mohammadu Buhari to follow through on his response during our visit on the 6th November, 2018 to direct the Inspector General of Police (IGP) and NEMA to take prompt and appropriate action,” the priest said.

But the Plateau state government says it is doing all it can to ensure the IDPs are adequately provided for even when it acknowledges that the condition in the camps is deplorable.

Recently the Plateau state commissioner for Women Affairs and Social Development, Mrs Anna Talatu Musa Izam raised the alarm that over 300 women in different Plateau IDP camps are raped daily.

Izam who decried the living conditions in the IDP camps said apart from living with the guilt of rape, the women are also languishing in abject poverty as they lack access to relief materials while some are sleeping on bare floor and no place for privacy thereby susceptible to rape.

She said the attacks going on in Plateau villages have left many women living in vulnerable conditions. She informed that the governor recently ordered her ministry to give the IDPs priority attention and deploy toiletries and clothes to ameliorate their plight. “To be able to do a good job, we set up a committee to take care of the IDPs through data capturing,” the commissioner said.

“The committee came up with forms to take the record of all women and children living in the camps to ensure everyone is carry along.”

A socio-cultural organisation, the Plateau Youth G-17 Peace and Progress Forum, has also alleged that women in the IDPs camps face molestation and sexual harassment before they can access daily meals for their children.

The organisation called on the federal government to urgenly fulfil its promises to the people.

The convener of PY G-17 PPF, Dachung Bagos, told journalists that it is on record that Plateau State has well over 30,000 people, mostly children and women, in the IDP camps across the state.

Bagos who is also the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate for Jos East/Jos South federal constituency in the 2019 elections, said the living conditions of the IDPs are horrible and continue to deteriorate by the day due to negligence and disregard by the government.

He said: “Reliable information has it that women are being molested and sexually harassed in the camps before they can access daily meals for their children. Most of the children are now out of school with little or no hope of any form of education.

“Rural agriculture has been severely disrupted as farmlands are being destroyed and harvest is low within the axis because many can no longer go to their farms for fear of being attacked or killed by herdsmen. These citizens have lost everything and now live on hand outs in IDP camps.

“Both the federal and Plateau State governments should be held accountable and should be reminded of their pledge and promises towards assisting these IDPs by rehabilitating, reintegrating and relocating them back to their ancestral homes before the end of 2018.”

Meanwhile, Governor Simon Lalong while receiving the technical report of the committee, warned that the state government would not tolerate indiscriminate occupation of lands by any group in the guise of land grabbing.

According to him, “Today marks another historic occasion in the life of this Rescue Administration as we receive the Technical Report of the Committee on Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). It is also worthy of note as we strive to fulfil promises made to address the challenges that confronted us as a people.”

He pointed out that the scenario in the state was that of despondency, despair and discomfort.  Also, arising from waves of attacks on some communities in Riyom, BarkinLadi, Bassa, Bokkos, Mangu, Jos South and Jos North LGAs of the state are loss of lives, properties and land grabbing.

The governor said certainly, the deaths and loss of property of all victims cannot go in vain, as it is also the responsibility of government to exhibit duty of care towards them and all citizens stressing that it was in this spirit “that on assumption of duty in May 2015, we made it a priority that Security, Peace and Good Governance must take the centre stage for any meaningful and sustainable development.”

Governor Lalong also noted that the development led to the establishment of the Peace and Reconciliation Committee that met and made far reaching recommendations for government to implement stressing that amongst these recommendations are what “we have today as the Plateau Peace Building Agency, the first of its kind in the country and doing a good job of advocacy, pro-activeness in conflict  management.” He added that another far reaching recommendation which government embraced was tackling the issue of IDPs.

He recalled that when President Muhammadu Buhari came to Plateau State on a 2-day working visit on 8th March 2018, “I lend my voice to the national concerns about the spate of structured and premeditated violence through farmer-herder clashes in some parts of the country, including Plateau State. I also gave assurance that there will be no land grabbing and that all displaced persons will be resettled and rehabilitated in their original places of abode.

“Things might be slow in policy implementation, but in the spirit of ‘slowly, but surely’, as well as patience, we have been able to make some phenomenal achievements in ensuring that peace returns and is sustained. This we have achieved during our three years of uninterrupted peace.

“As some of our strategic initiatives in engendering peace and security in the State, my administration attracted the establishment of the 205 Combat and Rescue Units in Kerang and Mobile Police Squadron  in Shendam as well as the recent approval to establish Mobile Police Barracks in Gashish District of Barkin Ladi.”

He said as a demonstration of support towards government’s efforts, the community through the Nigeria Electricity Supply Company (NESCO) has given a temporary site for Mobile Police Barrack, pending development of its permanent site.

The governor said all these are in addition to procurement and distribution of security vehicles, equipped with modern communication gadgets. “Recently too, I approved the recruitment and training of neighbourhood personnel attached to Operation Rainbow for Community Policing and intelligence gathering.”

He urge citizens of the state to avoid unnecessary incitement and spreading of false information that further give wrong impression as if nothing is being done to address the plight of the victims and the citizens in general.

Lalong commended individuals and organisations for the support they are giving to the IDPs. He reassured all the IDPs that as a government, it truly share in the burden of their challenges. “We are not relenting on our efforts and God willing, it will be a thing of the past,” he said.