Rose Ejembi, Makurdi
There is now palpable fear on the eight designated internally displaced persons (IDP) camps across Benue State following the alleged withdrawal of policemen attached to the camps.
Recall that following the incessant killings of farmers occasioned by the invasion of Fulani herdsmen into the state since January this year, over 180,000 persons including women, children and the aged became tenants in IDP camps.
The people, many of whom cannot yet return to their villages as a result of security threats posed by armed Fulani militia who they alleged are still very much around in most of the affected villages.
Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom had raised alarm about the alleged withdrawal of policemen penultimate Wednesday during the visit of the National officials of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) led by its national Chairman, Uche Secondus.
“I have just received information now that policemen in IDP camps have been withdrawn on the directives of the Inspector General of Police and I have no control over them,” Ortom said in an emotion-laden voice.
Speaking later in a chat with newsmen, the governor disclosed that he would commence visit to the IDP camps starting from next week to address them on the need for them to seek alternative place of refuge.
“I will be going to the camps to visit them to tell them to find alternatives because there is no point keeping them without security.
He also revealed that Rivers State Governor, Nyeson Wike had redeemed his pledge of N200 million which he promised the state during his visit in the wake of the herdsmen attacks.
“The N200million Governor Wike promised is in the account, I will use the money to mobilize them and whatever we get at the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) will be distributed to them,” Ortom said.
But when our correspondent visited three of the eight camps located in Makurdi and Guma local government areas of the state on Thursday, many of IDPs were seen gathered in groups apparently to discuss the development.
While policemen were found at Abegana camp in Makurdi, some of the IDPs at RCM primary school and Humanitarian Refugees camps all in Daudu, Guma Local Government area told our correspondent that the policemen withdrew on Wednesday.
The chairman of IDPs at Abegana camp, Philip Usatse told our correspondent that although, they got news of withdrawal of policemen from IDP camps but said that he was not sure if the directive would affect the camp.
Mrs.Tabitha Kwatse, mother of four from Kaseyo village in Guma Local Government Area of the state is among the 34,000 IDPs taking refuge at the Abagena Camp on the outskirts of Makurdi.
Kwatse who disclosed that she cannot yet return back to her village because Fulani herdsmen were still occupying the area said efforts by some persons to return to the village in the past had caused them their lives.
The mother of four who stood with other women discussing the issue when our correspondent approached them lamented what would become of them after the police withdrawal since they cannot yet return to their homes.
“We are just hanging unto the little string of hope left in us here. How can anyone ever withdraw policemen who have been guarding us at the time we are yet to return to our villages? We are afraid to go back home because of insecurity and now, they are withdrawing security men from our camps. I just pray it’s all rumour because I don’t know what we will do if it’s true.”
Pa Ortese, an elderly person at the IDP camp located at RCM primary school, Daudu, said he also heard the news and true to it, by Wednesday night, policemen who were deployed to the place were nowhere to be found.
“We were told that the policemen deployed to this camp are expected to leave the camp and you know if such a thing happens, we are not safe.”
Another IDP who simply gave her name as Hembadoon said even the usual police patrols carried out at night did not take place on Wednesday night.
Also at the United Nations Humanitarian Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) camp in Daudu, Mrs Dooshima Joel who spoke through an interpreter said the report of withdrawal was brought to them on Wednesday.
“We have been living in fear since then, we cannot go back to our communities because Fulanis are still there. Now they are withdrawing policemen from guarding us here. So, where do we go from here,” she asked rhetorically.
However, the camp commandant at the Daudu camps, Omirigbe Angela confirmed to our correspondent that they were informed of the withdrawal of policemen from the camp disclosed that 10 policemen were deployed to each of the camps.
“It is true, we were told yesterday (Wednesday) that the policemen deployed to the two camps in Daudu here would be withdrawn today but as you can see they are still here. Ten policemen were attached to each of the camps in Daudu.
Efforts to get the reaction of the spokesman of the state command, DSP Moses Yamu failed as he did not pick the call.