22 March 2023, The Tablet

Nigerian president urged to act on displacement crisis

“Our people are butchered and slaughtered daily, and our president does not come to see them.”

Nigerian president urged to act on displacement crisis

A camp for internally-displaced people in Guma, Benue State.
Aid to the Church in Need

A priest in Nigeria's Diocese of Makurdi has called on outgoing President Mujammadu Buhari’s government to stem the escalating crisis in the country's middle-belt regions.

Fr Remigius Ihyula, head of the diocese's foundation for justice, development and peace, told Aid to the Church in Need that the national government is ignoring those forced from their towns and villages by extremist members of the Fulani herder community.

“Our people are butchered and slaughtered daily, and our president does not come to see them,” he said.

Fr Ihyula said that Benue State, the epicentre of the violence, is called the “food basket of Nigeria” and the attacks are causing widespread food insecurity as well as leaving farming families destitute.

Last year, 93 villages were attacked in Benue State alone resulting in the deaths of 325 farmers. More than one million people are struggling to survive in makeshift camps in Benue due to raids that have depopulated large areas.

Fr Ihyula said that extremists “are not only destroying crops and killing people, but also occupying the land so that people cannot return to their farming communities, which has caused hunger and hardship”.

Fr Ihyula oversees Church projects supporting displaced families, providing trauma counselling alongside pastoral care and humanitarian aid.

Six counties in the middle-belt state have seen deadly attacks by Fulani militants since the recent election.

An attack on 7 March left at least 20 residents dead in the village of Tse Jor, after about 40 attackers with machetes arrived on motorbikes. Women and children from Tse Jor and surrounding villages are still streaming into internally displaced persons camps in Naka, 20 miles west of Makurdi.

“The motive could be nothing short of terrorism and the desire to inflict pain and disperse populations to occupy the deserted areas,” said Fr Ihyula.

“The UNHCR [United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees], Red Cross, and MSF [Doctors without Borders] are very active in giving support of various kinds,” Fr Ihyula said.

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