By Amos Aar
INTERNALLY Displaced Persons (IDPs) at Baka camp, North Bank, Makurdi in the early hours of Sunday blocked the Abuja-Makurdi highway in protest over the alleged stealing of food items supplied to the camp on Saturday by the Benue State Emergency Agency (BSEMA).
The Benue State Government had on Saturday resumed the routine distribution of food and non-food items to IDPs in the state and extended the gesture to orphanage homes and other people of concern for the first time.
State Commissioner for Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management, Kunde Aondowase, and the Executive Secretary, State Emergency Management Agency, (SEMA), Sir James Iorpuu, who briefed journalists at the agency’s headquarters in Makurdi during the flag off of the distribution said, the state governor, Rev. Fr. Hyacinth Alia, provided a total of eighteen thousand, seven hundred and fourteen (18,714) relief materials for distribution to IDPs in the state for the month of September.
The food items distributed according to the Commissioner include 5,118 bags of 25kg rice, 3,580 bags of 25kg beans, 2050 bags of garri, 4010 cartons of noodles, 321 gallons of 25litres of groundnut oil, 180 gallons of 20 liters of red oil, 414 bags of Maggi, 359 bags of salt and 254 bags of sugar while other relief materials include 600 mattresses, 914 cartons of soap and 872 cartons of detergent.
According to them, the governor also directed that the relief items should be extended to orphanages and rehabilitation homes in the state such as Mama Abayol Orphanage, Apir Rehabilitation Center, School of Special Needs Aliade, Gwer LGA and that of Vandeikya LGA as well as the host communities of the refugees in Ikyogen, Kwande LGA of the state.
But the food items supplied to Baka IDP camp located at 72 Army Barracks Junction, North Bank, Makurdi were reportedly stolen on Saturday night by “thieves, area boys” according to a viral video on Facebook.
Some women who spoke in the video blamed SEMA for bringing the items in the night without security to be packed away by people who overpowered them.
During the protest, the women who were rolling on the highway and chanting a song in Tiv language, “se yõ i hemba see“, meaning, ‘they have overpowered us’, called on the state government and security agencies to intervene in the matter.
TheExecutive Secretary ofBSEMA, James Iorpuu, had earlier expressed concern on Saturday during the flag off of the distribution that some IDPs sold part of the food given to them to enable them to purchase detergents and other items and warned against it.
Iorpuu, who noted the anxiety of Benue people over the delayed sharing of the federal government palliatives, said the items distributed yesterday were not palliatives, assuring that they would be properly informed when the sharing of palliatives begins.
The Humanitarian Commissioner, on the other hand, announced that the state government in conjunction with the International Organisation for Migration, (IOM) and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, (UNHCR), are in the field to collate data for a verifiable database for the IDPs in the state to enable humanitarian and donor partners assist the state properly.