Lamentations of the internally displaced: ‘So sad we will be celebrating Christmas in IDPs camp’

CHRISTMAS is just 48 hours away and all over the country. Despite the economic situation, the usual hustle and bustle in preparation for the celebrations is in overdrive. The moods of the people  across the nation are, however, different from one area to the other.

While some people may be complaining of lack of financial resources to satisfy their needs for the festive season, others have other issues they are contending with that are beyond money: it is the thought of spending yet another Yuletide outside their traditional communities.

That, exactly, is the story of Internally Displaced People in Benue State and others, who according to the Force Commander, Operation Whirl Stroke, the military unit in charge of security in the state, Major General Adeyemi Yekini, had returned to their ancestral homes in large number. Major General Adeyemi, last Monday revealed that more than 200,000 IDPs had been resettled in different parts of the state.

Sunday Tribune investigations, however, revealed that thousands of other IDPs are still in some camps across the state and would be spending the Christmas season there.

According to the commander, Guma Sector 1, one of the IDPs camps in Benue, Squadron Leader Victor Ajeye, of the 310, 294 IDPs in Guma local government, one of the worst hit during this year’s herdsmen attacks,  283, 405 people had been resettled, leaving 26,889 yet to return home.

Being a state with a huge Christian population, the IDPs are sad that for another year they are spending Christmas in the IDPs camp. At NHCR camp in Guma, the residents are not happy as they had had hoped that they would be spending Christmas in the communities they were forced to flee.

One of the displaced persons, who simply identified himself as Terna, said he had been in the camp since March this year and did not know when luck would smile on him to return to his ancestral home.

«I came to this camp in March this year when herdsmen attacked our community. Many people were killed but some of us escaped and since then we have been staying in this camp.

“We were able to weather the storm with the assistance of the state government and spirited individuals who visited and donated items to us, though that has since stopped. The state government is still taking care of us .

«Some people have gone back, but some of us whose houses were destroyed still find it difficult to return home. Celebrating Christmas outside my home is a terrible thing I never wished to happen to me but I take solace in the fact that I am still alive,» Terna said.

It was the same story for Mrs Margaret Ucerteala, mother of four who hails from Change village in Yogbo area of Guma Local Government. According to her, she had been living in the camp with her husband and children since February after herdsmen invaded their community, killing more than 20.people.

Ucerteala  said even if they were told to return to their village, they had no home to return to as their house had been completely destroyed and the federal government was yet to fulfill its promise to reconstruct destroyed houses.

When asked how she would celebrate Christmas with her family in the camp, Ucerteala said she never thought they would be spending another Christmas at the cam.

«I never thought we will celebrate Christmas in this camp until this month.  To answer your question, we feel bad but what can we do, except to accept our fate. We return all glory to God for sparing our lives; we don›t pray to experience the crisis of 2018 again in Benue State,” she prayed

For many other IDPs like Mama Mary Nyitsa and her husband, hope of returning home has dimmed as the reality of spending Christmas at the IDP camp has simply dawned on them. Their hope now, like Mama Nyitsa’s, is that “God will one day return us to our ancestral home as others have gone back.”

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