The hungry looks on the faces of inmates and cries of children at the Tiv Traditional Council Hall and the Bali Legislative quarters, St. Paul Catholic Church and NKST Church, Bali, clearly captured the pitiable conditions at the internally displaced persons camps when our correspondent visited the places on Wednesday.
Several IDPs fled their homes following attacks on communities of Gazabu, Utsua Daa and Bornon Kurku which left many dead and houses torched in attacks linked to suspected herdsmen.
One of the inmates, 74-year-old Stephen Mchivga, who struggled to speak with our correspondent, following days without food according to him, said his children brought him to the camp after 10 people were killed in his village on their farms on Thursday.
Mchivga said, “Food is the major challenge facing us. The little food the chief of Tiv in Bal i, David Gbaa provided for us has finished because we are many. Sometimes, we allow the children to eat, but even at that, the children cry helplessly because they are hungry.
“We didn’t plan for this. We ran for our dear lives and nobody at that moment could think of carrying any food. It’s one week now that we have moved into the camp and nobody including the council chairman or the state governor, Darius Ishaku, who we voted for in 2015 and 2019, has sent food to us.
“We fled the herdsmen bullets, but now we are dying of hunger at the camps. Herders’ bullets kill at once, but hunger bullets kill slowly and it’s most painful.”
For a mother of six, Mrs. Mgba Dorcas, feeding children and catering to their daily needs are the most pressing issues she copes with.
Recalling how her husband was killed by suspected herders at Igboor near Bornon Kurku, Dorcas said her husband was shot at a close range while trying to escape attack on a Friday afternoon.
She stated, “I saw them chasing my husband like a busy animal with cutlasses and guns. When they noticed that he was running faster than them, they opened fire on him and shot him dead. The children and I would have also been killed but for God that saved us. I don’t know how I am going to cope with the children without my husband.”
She tried to speak further but the tears on her cheeks debarred her as they flowed nonstop from her eyes while also trying to stop her seven-month-old baby whom she cuddled from crying.
Mrs Wuese Terlumun, delivered of a baby boy three days before our correspondent visited the camp, said life was becoming unbearable for her and her newborn. According to her, she needed medical attention for herself and the baby but she lacked money to go to a hospital.
She added, “My major concern now is how to get food to eat and survive first before I can think of anything. I need to take my baby to the hospital and there is no money to eat food, not to talk of going to the hospital. I know that God who preserves this baby will do His miracle again. I developed high blood pressure when I was told of the killing of four members of our family by herdsmen. Many thought I would die with the baby. The news shocked me and I developed high blood pressure instantly. I was given local herbs to take to lower the blood pressure.
“We then proceeded on a long journey of nearly 40 kilometers. We slept in the bushes for two days and arrived in this camp on Saturday afternoon. I went into labour that same day and was delivered of a baby boy on Sunday morning. My baby cries all day and I don’t know what the problem is. My husband got a drug from a nearby medicine store for her, but he has not stopped crying.’’
The 24-year-old woman who said she was also not feeling well requested help in tackling some of the medical challenges, food and shelter problems confronting them, adding that most of them sleep in the open and uncompleted buildings.
Another woman, Mrs. Iveren Tyozenda, who gave birth on Saturday, also lamented food scarcity among other challenges facing them in the camp.
Tyozenda, who said she needed mosquito nets and drugs for her new baby, appealed to the governor to assist them with relief materials to lessen the suffering they undergo.
In his comment, the Chief of Tiv in the Bali Local Government Area of the state and Chairman, Taraba State Tiv Traditional Leaders Council, Zaki David Gbaa (Ter Bali II), wondered why people were always subjected to inhuman treatment.
He noted that 65 people, mainly his subjects, were killed by herdsmen in Gazabu, Utsua Daa and Bornon Kurku communities within three days, forcing over 10, 000 thousands of them to flee to camps in Bali.
Tyozenda stated, “The cries of the children are all over the camps as you can hear yourself. In less than three days, the IDPs have finished over 10 bags of corn. It has been a week now since the people ran into the camps and the government has not considered it necessary to provide them with food and other relief materials. We need food, potable water and at least a First Aid kit. We voted for people who represent us and no one cares to visit us in this trying time.
“My heart bleeds. Corpses of 49 of my subjects killed in Bornon Kurku have yet to be buried. Their corpses are in the bushes. It is unfortunate that the problem started in Benue State where some Fulani were killed by hoodlums and the Fulani in the Bali Local Government Area in Taraba started killing my people.
“We are not from Benue State and we know nothing about the killing of the Fulani in Katsina-Ala Local Government Area of Benue State as alleged. Why are we being killed for something we know nothing about? We are indigenous to this area, but the treatment being meted out to us is not a reflection of our status. We are being treated like settlers and second class citizens. The Taraba State government should work towards helping us to build confidence that we too can be protected by the government. This is the rainy season and over 10,000 people, mainly farmers have been displaced. This is an omen of an impending hunger.’’
Amid the IDPs helplessness, the Executive Chairman of Bali Local Government where the crisis happened, Prince Musa Mahmud, assured that the crisis would soon be over and the affected persons resettled.
Acknowledging that 38 Tiv people were killed and nine Fulani murdered earlier in Benue, thus sparking off the crisis in the council area, Mahmud told our correspondent during an interview that government would make efforts to end the crisis and ensure the quick return of the IDPs to their homes.
He said, “I have initiated a peace move between the two ethnic groups and soon all those displaced will return to their homes to continue with their normal lives. We are making efforts to send food to the IDPs, but the most important step we are taking is to prevent a recurrence of the crisis in the local government. In the days ahead, we will hold a security meeting with all the traditional rulers and security agencies to map out strat egies that would prevent any outbreak of crisis in this area. Even if the people are returned to their homes, how would they cope with the rains after their homes have been burnt?
Commenting on the matter, a camp leader, Matthew Baki, said the most pressing thing before the IDPs was how to get food to eat.
Baki said, “We want to see food first, then we can begin to discuss how the people can be assisted to make temporary shelter pending when they can rebuild their homes.”
It was however gathered that the governor had approved the release of relief materials to the IDPs.
Gbaa, who said he collected the materials on behalf of the IDPs, commended the state government for coming to the aid of the IDPs.
He urged the government to probe the killings to find a solution to the crisis which usually happened during the planting season.
On its part, the government said it was doing everything to restore peace in the state.
The Special Adviser to the Governor on Media and Publicity, Mr. Bala Dan-Abu, told our correspondent that the governor was aware of the development and had taken steps in corroboration with security agencies to end the killings.
“The governor has taken action but it’s not for the public. Concerted efforts are being made to address the killings and forestall a future occurrence,” Dan-Abu said.
Also, in a surprising move, leaders of the Fulani and Tiv last Saturday signed a peace agreement to end the killings.
In a communiqué signed by Alhaji Adamu Abacha (Sarkin Fulani Bali) and Zaki David Gbaa, Ter Bali II and Chairman, Taraba State Tiv Traditional Leaders Council, the parties agreed to stop the killings to pave way for the displaced people to return to their homes.
The groups also resolved to come together and live in peace as brothers and sisters. The communiqué noted that the meeting agreed to inaugurate a 15-man committee to find a lasting solution to the crisis and encourage the people to work together for the peace and security of the state.
The communiqué read in part. “The committee would preach peaceful coexistence in the local communities in the state and encourage the people to report suspicious movement and criminal activities in their domain to traditional rulers and security agencies.”
Source: Nigerian Newspapers Online