N10bn intervention fund: Money will not buy security – Benue groups

Advocacy groups in Benue State on Wednesday expressed mixed feelings over the visit of the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, to Makurdi, Benue State. The groups stated that while the people may feel some relief that the Presidency has remembered its duty to all peoples in Nigeria, especially, in the Benue Valley; they said the interventionist visit is rather a belated empathy with the people of Benue State, expressing that money cannot buy security.

The groups expressed pessimism that the N10 billion intervention fund from the Presidency for rehabilitation of affected communities. They advocated that the money should not imply a substitute for a single Nigerian life; and, “is nowhere near enough for the sheer scale of loss of life, injury, trauma and damage to the lives of the Benue people and their communities.”

“We also trust that this is not an effort to buy the votes of a people in difficulties who have been impoverished by the triple devils of poor governance, floods and terror,” the groups declared. They advocated that, “Money will not buy security;” stating that only, “a responsible, empathetic and proactive government will ensure effective security.”

The groups which comprise of Sesor Empowerment Foundation, Benue Valley Professionals Network, CEE-HOPE, The Benue-We-Deserve Foundation, in a statement, protested: “We are pained to see that while the Presidency’s visit was handled by flight into Makurdi with a Nigerian Air Force plane, the same Air Force and all its arsenal, could not be deployed to protect and to provide surveillance to protect the lives of the hundreds wasted by terrorists who presumably travelled by boat and on foot over terrain that could be easily seen from the air.”

They advocated that the Federal Government and the International Community should conduct inquiry into the Nigerian Air Force’s failure to take all steps necessary to prevent and forestall these attacks, saying, this failure resulted in the loss of many lives and the displacement of tens of thousands.

The groups demanded the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Benue Valley States’ Emergency Management Agencies and the international community to assist the affected communities by publishing the exact numbers of those displaced by Fulani herdsmen attacks and including these figures in the Displacement Tracking Matrix for Nigeria. They were of the view that without accurate data, the problem cannot be properly addressed.

The groups further acknowledged that the visit of the vice president showed the Makurdi airfield is still functional. They anticipated that part of the rehabilitation of affected devastated Benue communities will involve the operation of commercial flights to Makurdi to open up the state for the receipt of sorely needed aid and to grant easier access to farmers for rebuilding of the state’s devastated economy.

They anticipate that the Vice President and his team will also visit communities in Zone C, like Aila, in Agatu and speedily address the breakdown of law and order there. They decried that despite the passage of an anti-grazing law; cattle are roaming rice fields of the communities and destroying their livelihoods.

 “This will help to address the suspicions voiced at the stakeholders meeting, and vehemently denied by the Vice President, that there is a genocidal agenda against the people of the Benue Valley,” they noted.

The groups further demanded the Federal Government to pay compensation to the affected communities, farmers and families who have suffered so much loss and deprivation at the hands of terrorists.

They demanded the Federal Government to allocate more funds to Benue and other affected states to rebuild affected communities and to work directly with communities, CSOs, the international community and other stakeholders to ensure that the funds are not diverted by federal, state and local government agencies for elections and private interests.

The groups demanded more efficient, proactive and impartial security measures to be put in place to protect the lives of farmers.