Old men and women who spoke to Sunday Sun insisted that the Federal Government must rebuild their homes, chase away Fulani herdsmen who are occupying their land
Gyang Bere, Jos
In the 17 camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) spread across Barkin-Ladi, Riyom and Jos South local government areas of Plateau State, the refrain that resonates is: “We have been abandoned to die, with no home to return to after Fulani herdsmen butchered our husbands, children and destroyed our houses.”
The situation of the IDPs is made worse by the revelation that the Federal Government, which pledged through Vice President Yemi Osinbajo to provide a N10 billion intervention fund for the rehabilitation and resettlement of destroyed farming communities in the state, is currently dragging its feet on the promise with no visible effort being made towards fulfilling it.
At the moment, the IDPs are passing through excruciating pain, anguish and sorrow in the makeshift camps where the aged women and children wail daily in hardship and hunger. The aged women who lost their husbands during the bloody attack have resolved to return home, but they have demanded that their homes be rebuilt by the government in line with the pledge of the Federal Government while also insisting that adequate and sustainable security, which is currently lacking, is provided, to assure them of safety when they return to their homes.
Sadly, in one of the horrendous attacks by the killer herdsmen, over 350 people were wiped-out on Saturday, June 23, 2018, in Gashish District of Barkin-Ladi LGA and Shonong villages of Riyom LGA of Plateau State.
The Committee on Resettlement and Rehabilitation of the IDPs headed by AVM Bala Danbaba revealed that 1,891 persons perished in the attacks, 59,008 persons were affected in Jos North, Jos South, Bassa, Riyom and Barkin-Ladi Local Government Areas of the State.
It was revealed that 50,212 persons were displaced from their original places of abode in 118 communities while 87 villages and farmlands were destroyed. Most of the houses that were not burnt were taken over and being occupied by the herdsmen.
Meanwhile, Church of Christ in Nations (COCIN) put the casualty figure of the attack in Barkin-Ladi LGA over the course of three days, June 23 to 25, 2018, at 350 with 1,714 persons displaced, 474 houses burnt, 1,430 farmlands torched or destroyed and 12 churches destroyed.
Findings by the Church also revealed that 43 persons were killed in Bokkos Local Government Area in March 2018; 5,617 persons displaced, 2,513 houses destroyed, nine church buildings destroyed and seven villages dislodged.
Also, 253 persons were killed in Bassa Local Government Area between September 2017 and October 2018. While 11,457 persons were displaced, 1,345 houses were destroyed, 16 villages were dislodged and nine churches were destroyed.
Old men and women who spoke to Sunday Sun insisted that the Federal Government must rebuild their homes, chase away Fulani herdsmen who are occupying their land and provide sustained security as condition for their return.
Ngo Martha Magim, a 76-year-old resident of Gura-Berom in Gashish District of Riyom Local Government Area is currently a refugee at the Geoscience IDP camp at Anguldi. The old woman survived the bloody bloodshed narrowly, but at great cost. She lost three children, including the husband of her daughter and their seven children, who were wiped-out in the attack. Gura-Berom was razed to the ground by the marauders.
Also, her aged husband was shot dead. Ngo Martha is like a walking corpse at the IDP camp; she has nobody to fend for her.
“I have nobody to help me, I was told that government wants to take ushome; I wish that would have happened long before now, but how will the government take us home without rebuilding our houses that have been destroyed?
“Where are we going to sleep? I am homeless now. I lost my house, three children; my daughter, her husband and seven children. These are the people who are feeding me. Where will I start from if I am asked to go without adequate arrangement from the government?”
Her camp mate, 82-year-old Matina Doro, who had a fracture agreed with Martha position. Doro’s house in Gura-Berom in Gashish was completely destroyed by the herdsmen, who first removed the roofing sheets before demolishing the walls.
“I fell down at the IDP camp and sustained a fracture on my leg. I have been passing through unimaginable pain in the camp, coupled with the trauma I had during the attack. As I speak with you now, I don’t have a home where I can return to, the house was burnt with my entire foodstuff and our farm with the crops was turned into grazing field.
“I want to go back home because staying at the IDP camp makes me a refugee in my own land, but there are necessary things that the government needs to do before we go home. They need to rebuild our homes and provide us with sincere security personnel that would be ready to protect us.”
Lidya Bode, a 44-year-old resident of Nigore lost her husband, a brother and three children during the attack. She expressed her frustration this way: “I don’t have a house to go to; we have been hearing that we are going back home, we don’t know if government has rebuilt our houses. Federal Government said that it would give us a mobile police unit, but it has not done so. We don’t have houses, we don’t have food to eat and we are not sure of our security, all these are our concerns.
“We are purely farmers, it is from what we plant that we pay school fees for our children and solve some of our problems, but when we were attacked and displaced, our crops in the farm became a grazing field for herdsmen. We did not take any harvest and the crops were destroyed. We are waiting on government to take us home to die in our land, if they cannot rebuild our homes.”
Another inmate of the camp from Shonong village in Riyom Local Government Area, 43-year-old Laraba Sunday, was displaced in 2012. She lost her husband, brother-in-law, wife and seven children. The village was completely destroyed with no single house standing.
“We can’t go back now because we don’t have anywhere to live. Besides, what about our security, has government done anything about that? Our crops were destroyed and used to feed livestock. Shonong is a condemned village, nobody is there now except the Fulani who forcefully took away our land to build their houses.”
The pathetic story of Kaneng Ishaya from Kakuru village in Gashish District is not different as she lost her first son in the bloody attack.
Her words: “My husband is in the village trying to safeguard the village because herdsmen are taking over our land. All the houses in Kakuru were razed to the ground and we don’t have food at home. We want to leave the IDP camp because we are not used to the regimented life, but government must come to our aid and rebuild our houses burnt by Fulani herdmen, before we will return home.”
In the same manner, 65-year-old Bature Joseph, a native of Tissal in Gashish District told Sunday Sun: “We heard on the radio that government was planning to take us back home before the end of the year, but we have not seen any action.
“We appeal to the governor to fulfil the promise he made so that we can go home. We don’t have houses again; our houses have been brought down, we don’t have any where to put our heads. If we are leaving here, government should be able to rebuild our houses for us to go back. I lost nine people who are my neighbours.”
When Plateau State Governor Simon Lalong visited the community, in preparation for to the rehabilitation and resettlement of the IDPs, 57-year-old Iliya Gwap, was a member of the delegation sent to Gashish District from the IDP camp. Apart from the governor’s inspection of site for the Mobile Police Squadron, nothing serious has been done to relocate the people.
His words: “We have been in the IDP camp since June 26, 2018. Nobody is talking to us about the rebuilding of our homes which was completely burnt by the Fulani herdsmen. Cows were led to graze in our farms without restriction. The Fulani are building houses on our lands without any form of authorization.
“I was part of the delegation during the visit of Governor Simon Lalong to the community. He has made adequate arrangement to construct a permanent Mobile Police Squadron in the area to provide security for our return.
“But our concern now is that, we don’t have houses that we will go and stay. Government said they are going to rebuild our houses, but we have not seen any sign of doing that. We were together with the governor in the village and he said he came to thank the people for their patience and the UNESCO for providing accommodation to receive security personnel.
“Another trouble is the issue of food. No family harvested their crops in the farm. It was the Fulani that harvested some and grazed their cattle in the farms. Hunger is staring on most families now, some are yet to recover from the trauma of losing their loved ones during the attack.”
Meanwhile, the Nigerian Army under the Operation Safe Haven (OPSH) has assured the over 38,000 IDPs spread across 17 camps in Barkin-Ladi, Jos South and Riyom Local Government Areas of Plateau state that they would be relocated to their ancestral homes before March 2019.
Speaking on the relocation exercise, Commander of the Operation Safe Haven (OPSH), Major General Augustine Agundu, said: “We had earlier set up a committee to assess the extent of destruction within the deserted villages and the possibility of establishing Strike Force Bases as a prelude to encouraging IDPs to return to their ancestral homes.
“The committee undertook a painstaking tour of 40 villages and categorized them into three based on their findings, namely villages that were abandoned out of fear of insecurity; villages that were attacked with some houses partially destroyed and villages that were attacked with some houses completely destroyed.
“We will ensure the return of IDPs to the villages abandoned out of fear in phase one which started on November 20 and would end on December 30, 2018, while the return of IDPs to the second category – villages attacked and some houses completely destroyed and not completely destroyed in phase two and three will commence from 10th January to 5th March, 2019 and beyond.”
Gen. Agundu said seven villages, including Hei, Burdinga, Kuzen, Kazok, Razat, Zat and bet; and Maraba Kantoma were villages that were abandoned out of fear while 24 villages that were completely or partially destroyed include Kubong, Kedawan, Ratis, Kasa Shonong, Shonong, Najahai Shonong, Kufang, Mase, Nicha, Zim, Jong, Swai, Zargok, Jeko, Pwabiduk, Kaching, Nengon Gashish, all in Gashish District of Barkin-Ladi Ladi Local Government Area of Plateau State.
He expressed satisfaction with the zeal and courage exhibited by the IDPs to return home, saying that the Command would move down with men to the villages abandoned due to fear this week and beef up security in the area before returning women, children and the aged.
Gen. Agundu said that the Command would establish Forward Operation Bases in strategic locations to dominate the general area in order to give confidence to the inhabitants to return home.