Humans in IDP Ranches
In a heartfelt appeal to President Bola Tinubu, Hon. Asema Achado, a member of the House of Representatives, has called for a prioritisation of the return, resettlement, and rehabilitation of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Benue State before embarking on the construction of ranches. The representative expressed concern that the plan to build ranches may not be feasible without first addressing the security and humanitarian crisis in the region.
“Ranching, to me, is the best practice of animal husbandry that should be adopted all over the world but providing ranches for herders in a state where humans are ranched in IDP camps in the fear of same herders will certainly not achieve the desired peace,” Achado told Tinubu in a press statement on 11 September 2023.
The proposal to construct 1,000 houses in several states, including Benue, was revealed by the Director of Information, Office of the Vice President, Mr. Olusola Abiola, as part of a broader effort to mitigate conflicts in the North. While the details of the beneficiaries remain undisclosed, it was mentioned that the project would encompass facilities like schools, clinics, veterinary clinics, and ranches for Fulani communities in Kaduna and Benue.
Hon. Achado welcomed initiatives aimed at fostering peace and aiding IDPs who have suffered trauma and lost their livelihoods. However, he emphasised the need to prioritise the victims in the planning and execution of such projects.
For years, Benue State has witnessed violence, with many lives lost to marauding herdsmen and bandits. Survivors have sought refuge in poorly constructed IDP camps, living in dehumanising conditions. The displaced individuals face the additional challenge of being unable to access their farmlands, as these areas have been taken over by herders and bandits.
In some cases, farmers who attempt to return to their abandoned villages to feed themselves have been brutally murdered by occupying bandits. Hon. Achado, who represents Gwer East/Gwer West Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives, argued that before considering the construction of houses and ranches, it is crucial to deploy security forces to ensure the peaceful removal of illegal occupants from Benue homes and farmlands.
Following the eviction of those he referred to as illegal occupants, the Rep said the Federal Government should focus on facilitating the safe and dignified return and resettlement of IDPs in their ancestral communities. This process should include provisions for property restitution, compensation, rehabilitation, and reintegration to help individuals rebuild their lives and contribute to economic development.
In his word, “Upon dislodgement of the illegal occupants, the Federal Government would then, begin the process of returning and resettling the displaced persons with assurance of safe and dignified living in their ancestral communities, giving the returnees recourse for property restitution, compensation, rehabilitation or reintegration to build back their livelihoods and economic development.”
Such rebuilding would include reconstruction and rehabilitation of schools and establishing new ones for the internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Benue. Hon. Achado, who is a top contender for the President of the alumni association of one of Benue’s top educational institutions, Mt St Gabriel’s Secondary School, Makurdi, understands that educational institutions provide a beacon of hope and stability amidst the turmoil and displacement that these individuals have experienced. Schools in IDP camps can play a crucial role by offering children in IDP camps a sense of normalcy and routine, allowing them to continue their education despite the challenges they face. This will play crucial role in breaking the cycle of poverty and conflict by providing a pathway to a brighter future.
IDPs Still Live in Fear
In the public appeal to President Tinubu, Hon. Achado also stressed the importance of involving stakeholders in each affected state in the project’s implementation. He highlighted the Land Use Act’s provisions, emphasising that land allocation and management fall under the purview of state governors and local government authorities.
While expressing support for ranching as a global best practice in animal husbandry, Hon. Achado raised concerns about constructing ranches in a state where IDPs live in fear. He suggested that the primary focus should be on ensuring the safety and swift return of Benue IDPs to their ancestral homes.
Hon. Achado commended President Bola Tinubu as a responsive leader and expressed confidence that, in collaboration with relevant stakeholders, the attacks and illegal occupation of Benue farmlands could be resolved in the near future. The representative offered to provide further counsel on security matters in a private capacity as the situation evolves.