Armed Fulani Militants Pursuing Victims to Camp Hideouts: Catholic Diocese in Nigeria – ACI Africa

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By Agnes Aineah
Sokoto, 03 August, 2022 / 4:36 pm (ACI Africa).
The Catholic Diocese of Makurdi in Nigeria has raised alarm over the situation of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in its jurisdiction, noting that the victims of attacks by Fulani herdsmen in the country are being pursued by their assailants even in their camps where they have sought refuge.
In a Tuesday, August 2 interview with ACI Africa, the Director of Justice and Peace Commission (JPC) in Makurdi Diocese, Fr. Remigius Ihyula, said that a majority of IDP camps in the town, which is the capital of Nigeria’s Benue State have no security personnel and are vulnerable to attacks.
“There are hundreds of IDP camps in Makurdi but only a few are official. The official ones are government owned and have security personnel. But a majority of these camps are made up of victims of attacks who come together and put up structures where they start staying without any guarantee for safety,” Fr. Remigius said.
The Nigerian Catholic Priest said that in their camps, which have neither a perimeter wall nor any other security structures, the IDPs face the daily danger of attacks.
“Some victims of attacks have been through multiple displacements. In their makeshift camps, they hear shootings every day and are forced to flee constantly,” he said.
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The JPC official described Makurdi as “the epicenter” of IDPs, noting that the many victims of violence flee from the rural regions of Benue State in search of safety near the city.
He said that the Catholic Diocese of Makurdi has many IDP settlements, adding that the Episcopal See that is under the leadership of Bishop Wilfred Chikpa Anagbe houses “over 80 percent” of the quoted 1.5 million displaced persons in Benue State.
Those who have been displaced fear going back to their homes as the armed Fulani militants continue to wreak havoc in Benue State, which is one of the most affected states by the ongoing insecurity in Nigeria, he said.
“Most people living in IDP camps used to be farmers and are still afraid of going back to the villages to continue with their lives. Militants are hiding in the bushes close to homes, roads and in farms and they kill these people on sight,” Fr. Remigius told ACI Africa August 2.
In a report that the Catholic Priest shared with ACI Africa last month, the Local Ordinary of Makurdi Diocese decried the persistent attacks and displacements of the communities served by his Episcopal See, noting that the people, who are mostly farmers, have not been able to engage in any meaningful activities for the last eight years. 
“From 2014 when the killings and displacement started to peak, thousands have been unable to cultivate their farms or engage in any meaningful economic activity,” Bishop Anagbe said, adding that the situation had led to severe food shortages.
“Benue State is known to be the food basket of the nation but the terrorism has affected the food supply situation,” the Catholic Bishop said.
He added that in the camps, there is “complete loss of human dignity and the prevalence of harmful practices as the thousands who are displaced and taking refuge in makeshift shelters have to rely on unsafe coping strategies to survive.”
“The situation of want has reduced many to a condition unworthy of human dignity often relying on food rations contributed by others whose economic conditions are not better off in any way,” Bishop Anagbe said.
He noted that the crisis in Benue State had created immediate, mid-term, and long-term needs, and explained, “Presently the help sought would center mainly on the immediate and mid-term help that we could access for the IDPs who are in dire need to meet basic necessities of life.”
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In the August 2 interview with ACI Africa, Fr. Remigius highlighted some of the support that the Diocese of Makurdi is providing to the IDPs, ranging from “core relief items” such as food, clothing and blankets, to education and health.
Describing the situation in most camps as dire, the JPC official said, “I went there in our last food intervention to give out what my friends in Rome had sent us and what I saw was sad. The shelters are in a deplorable condition. There are no toilets and no water. This is the highest level of malnutrition I have seen.”
Fr. Remigius explained that the food support came from the Centro Missionario Daniele Comboni, Riccione in Italy, with some support from the Parishes of the Diocese.
In the Diocese of Makurdi, the Good Friday collection is also set aside to support victims of terrorist attacks.
Aside from the food items, the Nigerian Catholic Diocese has also enlisted services of psychosocial support providers who address the many cases of trauma in IDP camps.
(Story continues below)
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Fr. Remigius said that the Diocese, through the justice and peace department, has also been vocal on the political dimension of insecurity in Nigeria, which he said the government has been taking advantage of to gain mileage.
“We realized that the government has been playing politics with this unfortunate situation in Nigeria. For a while, they tried to propagate the false narrative that it was the Fulanis who were being attacked and killed. But we know the truth and we have been trying to tell this truth to the rest of the world,” the Catholic Priest told ACI Africa August 2.
He expressed gratitude to the Catholic agencies that have been working hard to amplify the story of Makurdi Diocese, adding, “We thank Aid to the Church in need, Denis Hurley Peace Institute and you, ACI Africa. You have all been very helpful in telling our story to the outside world.”
Agnes Aineah is a Kenyan journalist with a background in digital and newspaper reporting. She holds a Master of Arts in Digital Journalism from the Aga Khan University, Graduate School of Media and Communications and a Bachelor’s Degree in Linguistics, Media and Communications from Kenya’s Moi University. Agnes currently serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.
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