Daily Trust (Abuja)

Nigeria: Plateau - Displaced Herdsmen Narrate Ordeal

Jos — Fulani families now staying in camps in Riyom and Barkin-Ladi local government areas of Plateau State received relief materials presented to them yesterday by the Special Task Force (STF) and the Plateau State government after initially insisting that they would not accept relief materials from the state government.

Mutual suspicion reigns between Fulani communities which have been having frosty relationship for years now with their Berom neighbours whose leaders run the state government. Fulani residents of parts of Riyom and Barkin-Ladi local government areas where people who launched attacks that led to many deaths between July 7 and 8 were sent out by the STF which embarked on an exercise it said would rid those places of the deadly attackers.

When the STF arrived with relief materials yesterday at a nomadic primary school in Dogo, in Barkin-ladi where some of the displaced Fulani families are staying, they readily accepted the relief materials presented on behalf of the STF by its Commander, Major General Henry Ayoola, but rejected the materials offered by the state government until they were persuaded by the National Secretary of the Miyetti-Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN), Alhaji Saleh Bayeri.

At the Dian Bachit Nomadic Primary School in Ryom, the STF nearly returned the relief materials it took there. Commotion arose first when some Fulani residents of communities around the area moved over to the internally displaced persons brought there and for whom the STF provided the relief materials, making it difficult to determine the genuine internally displaced persons.

As this was being sorted out, some among the people asked to know whether the items, mainly bags of rice, cartons of indomie noodles, and bags of sachet water, were safe for consumption or whether they were poison from the state government. It was after the STF returned the materials to their trucks and the women among the internally displaced persons said they wished to have the materials that the men acquiesced and the materials released.

The Dogo camp had 660 displaced persons, mainly children and women, but authorities said they had not yet documented those in Batchit.

The STF, commander, while presenting the relief materials, told the internally displaced persons to bear their condition, difficult as it might be, as it was only a temporary one. The Ardo in Dogo, Idris Gidado who received the relief materials on behalf of the displaced persons thanked the STF for its magnanimity in supplying the materials.

But earlier reports indicated that thousands of people who were moved out of their villages to temporary camps by the military Special Task Force (STF) were deprived of foods while over 300 children sleep in a classroom.

The military Special Task Force in the state had asked people living in Mahanga, Kakuruk, Maseh and Shong 2 to vacate their residences within 48 hours for military operations there. They were moved to four camps in Barkin Ladi and Riyom local government areas.

The Executive Secretary of the Pastoralist Reserve Saleh Momale told Daily Trust that "for the first time since the evacuation of the Fulani pastoralists on Monday from their homes, some of our members were allowed to visit some of the camps. The situation on the camps was found to be deplorable as people did not eat since they evacuated their homes. They haven't got access to medical services. In terms of shelter, only old women and children sleep inside primary school classrooms. In one of the classrooms in Ngel Gagere, it was found that 300 children slept inside a classroom.

"There was rainfall from late hours of yesterday (Tuesday), up to this morning (yesterday). Women and children sleep outside and suffer from extreme cold due to the rainfall. There is fear of the outbreak of pneumonia as well as other diseases associated with trauma and exhaustion. Security was not provided in three camps despite the assurances by the STF.

"Following donations by philanthropic Nigerians, some relief materials were presented by our representatives including food items, cooking ingredients and warm clothing. The STF also delivered some relief materials in two of the camps and deployed its military health personnel to provide treatment in one of the camps.

"In view of these worrisome circumstances, we are optimistic that the STF has completed its military operation and should recall the people back to their houses in the early hours of tomorrow; if they have not done that. We also call on the STF to immediately remove the blockade on Fulani pastoralists and allow them access markets in Kura falls, Barkin Ladi, Bokkos and other adjoining areas.

"We continue to appeal to humanitarian organizations to come to the aid of this traumatized people. We call on the Fulani pastoralists to remain calm as they have been within the last 48 hours. We invite the media, human rights organizations and other civil society groups to take time and visit the areas to see for themselves the realities on the ground rather than depending on hearsay."

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