Rose Ejembi, Makurdi
Following the activities of the military strike operation code-named Operation WHIRL STROKE (OPWS) over 235,000 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) have so far returned to their ancestral homes in Benue, Nasarawa and Taraba states as at December, this year.
OPWS Commander, Maj.-Gen. Adeyemi Yekini, who disclosed this during a media tour of some of the villages in Benue and Nasarawa states, on Monday, explained that in Benue alone, over 200,000 persons had returned home after the security intervention in their communities.
Gen. Yekini also gave the figure of those who had returned in Nasarawa and Taraba states as 15,000 and 10,000, respectively, stressing that as at now, the whole Joint Operation Area (JOA) has been largely cleared of armed criminals.
“What we have done is to establish patrol bases to be able to cover all areas as much as possible from where troops go out on daily basis to cover all flash points.
“Of course, people who have seen war will always be afraid but we will continue to try our best.”
He said the OPWS had recently done new deployments of more troupes to some areas considered as flash points to further strengthen the security in those areas and encourage more IDPs to return home.
Also speaking, Commander, Sector 1, covering Guma general area, Squadron Leader Victor Ajeye, disclosed that 141,864 IDPs had so far returned home in five council wards of Guma Local Government Area of Benue State.
Ajeye, who gave the estimated population of Guma Local Government Area as 310, 294, said the estimated population at the commencement of OPWS operation in the area was 141, 541 adding that the estimated population presently on ground is 283, 405 while 26,889 are yet to return home.
Some of the council wards visited during the tour included Mabai, Mbadwen, Mbaye Yandav, Nyiev and Mbawa all in Guma local government area of Benue.
The team also passed through the border area of Barkin Kota to Keana and headed straight to Giza in Nasarawa state before returning through Udei and Yogbo Communities of Benue State.
Some leaders of the communities who spoke with newsmen including a former President, Customary Court, Justice Augustine Utsaha and the kindred head of Mbadwen, Chief Abu Ajir, commended the federal and state government as well as the security agencies for restoring security to their area.
Daily Sun observed that thousands of IDPs have actually returned to their homes while farming as well as socio-economic activities have picked up in those areas. Also, no herdsman or their cattle was sighted in all the areas visited in Benue State.
However, their major challenges remain bad roads, destroyed bridges and burnt homes.
Also, there seems to be a general fear from locals especially those at the border areas that the attackers might still return but the OPWS Commander assured them that they have no cause to fear as the troupes would ensure their security.