From Rose Ejembi and Scholastica Onyeka, Makurdi
Benue Governor, Samuel Ortom, has signed the state Peace Building and Reconciliation Commission Bill into law.
Speaking during the event which also marked the 2022 International Day of Peace celebration with the theme: “End Racism. Build Peace,” Governor Ortom told the United Nations’ delegation led by Resident Humanitarian Coordinator (UNRC), Mathias Schmale, that the state was passing through humanitarian crisis with over two million Internally Displaced Persons, (IDPs), living in deplorable conditions in Internally displaced people (IDPs) camps.
According to him, Benue has witnessed over 200 attacks by rampaging Fulani herdsmen between 2011 and June 2022 with over 5,000 people and property worth over N500 billion destroyed.
“Unfortunately, the security challenges that led to the present humanitarian crisis in the state are now exposing it to food crisis arising from food insecurity, risks of producing a generation of illiterates as some children have been in IDPs camps for over seven years, and a rising mental health crisis due to unhealed trauma and stunted self-development among others.”
He called on the UN to strengthen its efforts and push for much more coordinated donor support not just for the North Central but also for the creation of the North Central Development Commission at the federal level.
“With all that the UN has done for the people of Benue, the people still needs UN support to advocate the promotion and protection of our rights as a people; advocate the observance of the rule of law, to ensure equity and justice for all Nigerians.
“We need training and capacity building on managing trauma; we need you to continue to support us as we move post assent to operationalise the law and further cascade this development to the community level.”
Ortom, who noted that the only solution to Benue’s problems is peace and development, urged all and sundry to join hands to bring about peace and see development flourish in the state.
The UN Resident Humanitarian Coordinator (UNRC), Matthias Schmale, commended the governor and the entire state government as well as stakeholders who contributed to the passing of the bill through the House of Assembly.
He said Commission would be a key mechanism for coordinating peaceful responses to conflicts as they arise.
He pledged the willingness of the UN, in collaboration with their partners, to continue to support the Benue State government in its pursuit of peace and stability just as he urged all to recommit ourselves to standing up against discrimination and intolerance to build a Nigeria that allows everyone to exercise their rights freely and fully.
Presenting the Bill for the governor’s assent, the Speaker, represented by his deputy, Christopher Adaji, said the state legislature was prepared to enact more laws for good governance, describing the passage of the Peace Commission Bill as historic.