From Gyang Bere, Jos
Anguish has become daily companion of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Riyom and Barkin-Ladi local government areas of Plateau State who have been abandoned for 16 years, when suspected herdsmen raided their villages, killed and destroyed their ancestral homes in 2001.
The IDPs numbering about 5,000 currently taking refuge at L.E.A Primary School, Riyom, uncompleted market at the council headquarters Riyom and several others in different locations across Northern Senatorial District of the state, expressed feelings of dejection and uncertainties over their return to their ancestral homes. Farmlands, their major source of livelihood were destroyed and some converted into personal residents and grazing fields by the herdsmen.
Sadly, most of them are bleeding in pains and hardship as they are yet to recover from the trauma they went through, coupled with their current condition and lack of access to medical care and hygienic environment. A visit to the camps by Daily Sun revealed lack of basic social amenities and most of the IDPs, especially children and the aged sleep in crowded rooms on bare floor, while some opted to squat with relations within and outside the council headquarters.
Laraba Philip, a 74-year-old woman, who was rescued and abandoned in the IDPs camp by the military in 2001, is still grappling with hypertension incurred as a result of sporadic sounds of gunshots, when the herdsmen invaded Jol community in a commando style in 2001. She survived the cruel attack, which consumed about 15 persons but lost two of her daughters. Her house was burnt with foodstuffs worth N1.5 million.
The hapless aged woman, lost one side of her limb, sleeps on bare floor at the IDPs camp which appears to have been forgotten by the federal and state governments, as relief materials were not supplied to them seven years after the incident.
Philip lost her husband long before the incident and her hope of survival hangs in the balance, as her son, Yohanna, whom she lives together with in the IDPs Camp was sacked for an undisclosed offense from the state security outfit, “Operation Rainbow”. Her medication for hypertension has been stopped for lack of funds as she urinates, defecates and eats in the same room where children between the ages of five and 10 also sleep on bare floor.
Her pathetic condition was echoed by a 25-year-old Alice James, who hails from Sopp village, also raided by the Fulani herdsmen in 2010. Alice, a mother of a six-month-old baby is willing to return with her husband to their ancestral home but their security is not guaranteed as the entire village was burnt, destroyed and about 500 persons displaced.
According to her, there is no standing house in the village and nobody has returned since 2010 while their farms are closer to villages exclusively occupied by the Fulani and some have been forcefully taken over for cultivation.
Alice got married in 2010 shortly before the incident and deliberately refused to conceive in the IDPs camp due to unhygienic condition of the environment. She was forced to conceive and give birth in December 2016 after an endless waiting to be relocated to her ancestral home, Sopp:
“Is like government has forgotten us her, nobody is looking after our welfare again. I can remember when federal and state governments provided relief materials for us, we can’t access our farms because of insecurity and we have no money to start business, we really need government intervention.”
Justina Bulus and Ezekiel Danbarang who hail from Rakyeng village were displaced in 2012. That was a day Senator Gyang Dantong and Gyang James Fulani slummed and died when the herdsmen pursued them during the mass burial of victims in Madzah village in Riyom Local Government Area.
Both Danbarang and Justina escaped narrowly with their families but no fewer than 12 persons perished during the attack. The village was levelled and nobody has returned due to fear of the unknown while no effort has been made by government to relocate the people.
The two families are squatting with relations in Farin-Lamba community. Their farms were turned into grazing fields as they bleed in hardship with no means of survival.
Chairman of Riyom Local Government Area, Mafeng Gwolson, constituted and sustained security meeting with the two warring factions with a view to broker lasting peace among them. He said the council area built some of the destroyed houses in Bachit District and some of the people relocated from IDPs camp to their ancestral homes while the need of other villages would be looked into if the financial strength of the council area improved.
Senator representing Plateau North, Jonah David Jang, frowned at the House of Representatives for removing Plateau and Kano states from the North East Emergency Development Agency saddled with the responsibility of building and relocating IDPs to their ancestral homes.
Jang is sponsoring an amendment bill to empower the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) to take responsibility of resettling displaced persons to their ancestral homes and farms across the country, saying there is swelling number of abandoned IDPs in Riyom LGA and across Plateau North.
Meanwhile, Plateau State Government approved N200 million in the 2017 budget for the acquisition of relief materials and rehabilitation of IDPs.