No Christmas for IDPS, PWDs in Benue state

COVERNo Christmas for IDPS, PWDs in Benue state

Before President Bola Tinubu announced the removal of the fuel subsidy, forty-seven-year-old Akwacha Mary, who was displaced by suspected herdsmen last year in Ajimaka village, Guma LGA of Benue state, found it hard to afford two meals a day.

Sequel to the attack that displaced her from her home and left her husband dead, her family boasted of two hectares of land where they cultivated and planted crops and consequently fend for their immediate and extended family.

But now, things have become much more difficult for her as she can hardly afford food and medicines for herself and her family with the meagre profits she earns from making brooms in Makurdi IDP camp due to market inflation.

Despite the responsibility of caring for her three children, Mary mentioned that she now relies on the government and individuals to provide food for them in the camp, which she said is scarce, arriving only once every two or three months and barely lasting for two weeks.

Akwaga Mary
Akwacha Mary, with other displaced women in Ichwa IDP camp. Pc: The ICIR
“The government does assist us with food, but the population outnumbers the food. Imagine the quantity of food that will be shared with 2,403 households. Most times, we get a measure (mudu, as it is popularly called by the IDPs) of rice, bean and garri, and that only lasts for a week, especially for people who have many children,” Mary said.

The ICIR gathered the Markudi IDP camp, which has a total population of about 14,315 and a household of 2,403, having to share relief materials from the government and individuals or humanitarian aid that visit the camp.

Occupants of the camp, made of makeshift tents, were sacked by terrorists in different parts of the state and have been seeing an influx of people since at least 2013. The insecurity in Benue state has been long-standing but has been much more deadly in recent times, with an increase in the reported number of casualties.

Gabriel Yev, one of the stakeholders of the IDP camp, who was displaced by terrorists, stated that the Camp usually gets 250 25kg of rice, 250 25kg of Beans, 100 bags of Garri 100 bags, 17 gallons of 20liters of palm oil, 15 gallons of 20liters of vegetable oil. These provisions were supposed to be every month, but they now bring it every two months, with the last one being in October 2023.

He said, “Even though the foodstuffs are shared per household, it still makes no meaning because the highest a household can get is one mudu, and some households have up to 5,6 members or even more. For example, in my family, I have six children, myself and my wife. As such, the items make no meaning.”

Yev, in January 2024, told The ICIR that they have yet to receive the provisions for December last year.

By The ICIR calculation, a mudu of rice or garri consists of about eight tin cups of rice or garri.

With the little they get from the government, life has been so difficult for the IDPs, like Mary and Gabriel, particularly since the removal of the fuel subsidy as they continue to battle to fend for themselves and their family and could not return to their villages due to the non-stop attacks by bandits.

Just like The ICIR findings that there has been at least a 50 per cent increase in some of the foodstuff, the camp occupants explained that they now get a mudu of rice and for N1500 and N1100, what they used to get at N800 and N500 respectively.

‘Fuel subsidy is gone’
On May 29, Nigeria’s new President, Bola Tinubu, declared in his inaugural address that his administration would remove the fuel subsidy. The announcement immediately led to fuel queues as many retailers shut their filling stations, hoarding their stock and creating scarcity with a view to hiking fares later.

Two days later, the Nigeria National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCLtd) officially increased the pump price of petrol by about 200 per cent. The NNPCLtd, in a statement signed by its chief corporate communications officer, Garba Deen Muhammed, explained it was adjusting price upward “in line with current market realities,” adding that “prices will continue to fluctuate to reflect market dynamics.”

The development has, however, led to a sharp rise in the cost of transportation on the different routes and unprecedented inflation of products across the country.

In one of its approaches to cushion the effect of fuel subsidy removal by the Federal Government was the disbursement of N5bn financial support to each state.

While Benue has confirmed it has received N2bn from the total amount, IDPs and People with Disability (PWDs) told The ICIR that they have not received any improved intervention from the government to cushion the effect of the subsidy.

This was despite the promise by the Benue State Governor, Hyacinth Alia, that the palliatives would be used to provide food items like rice in large quantities to each of the 23 local government areas in the state and also provide grants to 5,000 women in the state based on the revised social register of the women cooperatives, among other things.

No subsidy palliatives for poorer Nigerians in Benue
Mary Yev, one of the victims of insecurity attacks in Benue state.
Mary Yev, one of the victims of insecurity attacks in Benue state.
When Mary Yev, 75, learnt about the fuel subsidy removal, she never thought of the immediate impact. In fact, she didn’t know how it would affect her living and wouldn’t bother thinking about it until a week that followed when she was told a mudu of rice had increased by over 50 per cent.

She often managed to get two mudu at N1600 to support whatever the government gave for two weeks. In the case where they didn’t receive any assistance from the government, she managed to get one more mudu of rice and a mudu of beans.

Mary, who was a victim of an attack from suspected militant herdsmen in Tse anwayo Geebe, Makurdi LGA, works as a miller in one of the milling factories near the IDPs, where she earns less than a thousand naira as profit.

“I go to the rice mill to help millers winnow their rice. Sometimes they give you a mudu or more, depending on the number of bags”, she stated.

The ICIR gathered that for over two months, the camps’ occupants have not received any food from the government or benefit from the palliatives meant to cushion the negative impact of the fuel subsidy removal.

Mary’s situation mirrors the plights of all the IDPs who spoke to The ICIR as they revealed that they have not benefitted from the fuel subsidy removal palliatives in the camp.

Speaking to the assistant women leader of the camp, Mercy Nyishember, explained that some of the IDPs engage in street begging, re-winnowing of rice chaff to at least get a meal in a day.

“It’s not easy for us to take care of ourselves and our families, and as such, some people engage in so many difficult means to meet their end, such as street begging, re-winnowing the rice chaff from the rice mills, etc.

“I am aware of the fuel subsidy palliative, but here in the state, we were told that the government instead of giving it to the people, he used it to buy about 100 busses to be carrying people at a lesser cost to ease the transportation cost”

‘We live a tough life…’
Life has been tough for people living in Makurdi IDP camp in the past few months as most families are hoping to get enough sustenance from the government or put an end to insecurity so they can go back home and continue with their agricultural activities.

Mama Kwartakpa, as fondly called, lost her two children to the cold hands of bandits. The attack also led to her displacement and since then has had to battle survival alone.
Mama Kwartakpa (as she is fondly called) lost her two children to the cold hands of bandits. The attack also led to her displacement, and since then has had to battle survival alone.
Sixty-five-year-old Kwartakpa Orke, who lost two of her children during one of the attacks on her village, Tse-orke Anter mbalagh Mbagwen Makurdi LGA, explained to The ICIR that she sometimes thinks of death as the only means of relief from the hardship she has been putting through.

“I came here because of the Fulani crisis that engulfed my community that brought me here. In the cause of the attacks, two of My children were killed, leaving me alone here. It’s been a sober experience, at times, I feel like taking my life, but because everything is hard.

“There is no means of livelihood apart from the government and well-wishers. The food the government gives us is not enough because most times, we get only a mudu of whatever they bring, and they expect us to live on it for months.

This was the same story for Justina Sha from Umenger Village Guma LGA Benue.

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