Collins Uma: Deaths and the dearth of governance in Benue (Y! FrontPage)

by Collins Uma

Collins

Benue is known as the Food Basket of The Nation and this appellation depends on the activities of farmers in places like Guma, Gwer West, Agatu and other farming communities. With these attacks, the farmers have abandoned the farms and the few that remain do so at great risks to their lives. A serious food crises is looming on the horizon if these attacks are not checked.

Cholera Chronicles

I grew up with Isiaku in North Bank, Makurdi. Recently I saw him and he was looking all emaciated. From my enquiries I learnt that he had been down with a severe case of cholera and he only started recovering after some intensive care. Isiaku counts himself very lucky to be alive. A lot of others who became victims of the cholera epidemic in Makurdi, including many who could afford the treatment, are not alive to tell their stories.

Cholera is an infection of the small intestine and the main symptoms are watery diarrhoea and vomiting. Transmission occurs primarily by drinking water or eating food that has been contaminated. The severity of the diarrhoea and vomiting can lead to rapid dehydration and death in some cases.

Living on the banks of the River Benue, and having the river as a major source of water supply, makes the people at Wurukum, Wadata, and North Bank areas of Makurdi much more susceptible to this disease. Of these districts, North Bank is the most disadvantaged. Wurukum and Wadata can, at least, boast of periodic supply of pipe-borne water. North Bank cannot. Little wonder therefore that the epidemic was worse in North Bank. Not less than 50 people have died in North Bank within February alone due to this cholera epidemic. Many of these died in their homes as they could not get proper medical attention, and their deaths were not recorded anywhere.

Could these deaths have been prevented? Yes.

North Bank, as the name suggests, lies on the northern bank of the River Benue and is home to two top military installations; the Nigeria Army School of Military Engineering and the 72 Battalion of the Nigerian Army. It is also the host community for the Federal University of Agriculture, Makurdi and the College of Advanced and Professional Studies. There is also the Federal Housing Authority, the Federal Low-cost Housing Estate and the Hudco quarters, all middle class housing estates. All these and more leave one wondering why successive governments in Benue State have generally neglected the development of the area, especially in terms of supply of potable water to the area, leaving most of the residents to depend on water sellers who draw water from the river. The state government knows this so it is funny when its officials act surprised that there is a cholera outbreak in North Bank. This was bound to happen.

One feature the streets in North Bank have in common, besides their untarred natures, unlike streets in other parts of Makurdi town, is the presence of refuse dumps right in the middle of the streets. This poor sanitary condition leaves one with the conclusion that the Benue State Environmental Sanitation Authority (BENSESA) trucks do not consider North Bank as part of their itinerary as they can be seen in other parts of Makurdi daily collecting refuse from houses.

The state government has opened treatment centres for cholera victims in North Bank and Wadata. This is good but, as long as the factors responsible for the cholera outbreak still remain, this is only as good as pruning branches which will definitely grow again. It is just a matter of time before the next cholera epidemic. Also, it is a reactive measure that has come too late. The dead are already dead. It is high time the Suswam-led Benue State government got proactive and took care of the factors that led to the epidemic by concentrating on sustainable developments in North Bank and other epidemic-prone areas.

 

Fulani Armed Forces

Usman used to rear cattle which belonged to Engr Samuel and his wife Lydia Utoo. I speak about Usman and the cattle in the past tense because on February 6, 2014, while his cows were grazing, Usman was attacked, shot dead, and all 70 of his cows stolen by Fulani herdsmen in Makurdi. There have been other attacks like this, prior to Usman’s, but the state governor, Gabriel Suswam, refused to accept that Fulani herdsmen were killing his people. The Utoos, however, are respected members of the Benue community so this attack got the attention of the state government and a team of policemen was deployed to the area. The policemen, on getting to the scene, interestingly, were honest enough to admit that the Fulani men moved about with weapons more sophisticated than what they (the police) had. Apprehending the herdsmen was therefore going to be too difficult.

One question waiting for an answer is: who supplies these weapons to these herdsmen?

Many have died and more are still dying in this ongoing crises. Governor Suswam who initially denied that Tiv farmers were being killed and communities ransacked by these herdsmen has had a volte-face but it took an attack on the Tor Tiv’s village for him to admit there is a problem. About 20 Tiv farmers were killed in that attack. Over 30 others have been killed in other parts of Benue state by Fulani herdsmen.

Benue is known as the Food Basket of The Nation and this appellation depends on the activities of farmers in places like Guma, Gwer West, Agatu and other farming communities. With these attacks, the farmers have abandoned the farms and the few that remain do so at great risks to their lives. A serious food crises is looming on the horizon if these attacks are not checked.

One of the places being frequently attacked is the Adeke community along Makurdi-Naka road. Adeke is fast becoming a ghost town. What is worrisome is that there is a Mobile Police barracks just a few metres from the killing spot yet not even one attacker has been arrested. Is it this easy to overwhelm our security forces? On Friday, February 21, 2014 there was another attack on the Adeke residents which has driven many from their homes. No arrests have been made. Beyond words on radio, Governor Suswam, the Chief Security Officer of Benue state, isn’t giving his people assurances of adequate security of lives and property in the state.

Usman is dead. His cows are gone. More people are dying. More property is being lost. The police is not helping. The state government has passed the buck to the federal government. The reality is that, irrespective of who is supplying them with weapons or what led to the crises, if these attacks by Fulani herdsmen continue unchecked, we might have a situation where the Tiv people will decide to take the laws into their own hands in a bid to protect themselves. God forbid that this should happen.

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Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.

One comment

  1. Is it only the tivs fulani is killing? What about the Agatu ( idoma) people or are they not part of Benue state again

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