Victor Balogun - October 19, 201805
The Executive Secretary of the Benue State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA), Mr Emmanuel Shior recently called on the federal government to prioritise the huge humanitarian crisis in the Nigeria’s north central state. Addressing a visiting team of Nigeria’s Joint Response led by its coordinator, Wangari Wanjau, the SEMA boss specifically called on International communities as well as concerned humanitarian agencies to mount pressure on the federal government to deploy urgent intervention to enable the agency scale up its operations in the IDPs camp.
We share the apprehensions of Benue indigenes and groups that have expressed concerns over the situation.There is no doubt that the increased devastation witnessed in Benue state in the last two years may have aggravated the challenge of hunger; most especially considering that the largely agrarian population has been forced to abandon their lands and therefore denied their livelihoods.
It should be appreciated that the facilities at the IDPs camps may have been overstretched and thereby rendered grossly inadequate in meeting the needs of various categories of peoples in the IDPs. Therefore the quest for urgent intervention to appropriately address the fast deteriorating conditions of IDPs in Benue state should be accorded the desired priority by government at all levels. It is indeed inappropriate; and if not callous to subject victims of violent conflicts to double jeopardy in IDPs camps where they ought to have access to reasonable assurances of comfort.
There has been increasing concern over the worsening humanitarian crisis orchestrated by widespread violence which torpedoed several communities in Benue state. Following devastation that heightened across the states since 2016, thousands of families forced into Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camps have been living under agonising conditions with no hope of early return to their homes. At different times in the past, the Benue state government, the state Emergency Service Agency as well as concerned groups and individuals have sounded the alarm over the humanitarian situations in IDPs camps. There is however a growing concern that the situation may degenerate further unless urgent steps are taken to halt possible descent into precipice.
Only recently, a coalition of civil society organisations in Benue state called on the federal government to wade into the deteriorating humanitarian crisis in IDPs camps. The coalition through its spokesperson Justin Gbagir emphasised the need for continuing humanitarian assistance to stabilise families that have been broken and battered by violent conflicts.
Whereas no fewer than eight IDPs camps are currently in operation in Benue state, none of the facilities could adequately cater for the needs of IDPs. Considering the distressing alarms by Benue state government and SEMA, it is evident the resources so far committed to addressing the humanitarian crisis in the IDPs camp have been grossly inadequate. Certainly, the IDPs irrespective of their large numbers deserve optimal attention possible. It is shameful that the government cannot monster the required capacities and resources to cater for vulnerable citizens whom the society owes the responsibility of support and solidarity.
It is also compelling to note that about eight million people are faced with humanitarian challenges in the northeast region states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe which were occasioned by Boko Haram insurgency that has lingered for over seven years. In the last quarter of 2017, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) described the humanitarian crises in Nigeria as most severe. If anything therefore, the humanitarian challenges arising from the devastation wrecked by armed militiamen across the middle-belt states comprising Adamawa, Benue, Kaduna, Nasarawa, Plateau and Taraba have compounded the situation in Nigeria leading to increasing frustration amongst the IDPs, aid personnel and security agencies.
While activities of SEMA are expected to be complemented by National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) in addressing humanitarian challenges, distressing reports in IDPs across the country call for a thorough reappraisals of the operational modalities of emergency management agencies in Nigeria. It is indeed saddened that citizens who are victims of unpremeditated violence across the country are subjected to avoidable neglect at IDPs camps. It is disturbing that improvements in emergency activities in Nigeria have remained elusive in spite of series of damning reports by concerned local and international groups including notable bodies like Amnesty International, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) as well as other humanitarian groups.
Speaking at a forum in New York on Strengthening the Humanitarian and Development Partnership, UN Resident Humanitarian Coordinator for Nigeria, Edward Kallon noted that humanitarian assistance entails averting famine, dealing with serious health issues as well as the requisite capacities to address recurrent outflows and inflows of displaced people. We therefore call on the government at all levels to prioritise the welfare of IDPs. We call for urgent intervention to redress the situation in IDPs camps in Benue state.