We regard and note with mixed feelings the visit of the Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and his team to Makurdi, Benue State. We are relieved that the Presidency has remembered its duty to all peoples in Nigeria, especially in the Benue Valley, and has finally shown some welcome but rather belated empathy with the people of Benue State. We look forward to seeing the Presidency visit several communities in the Benue Valley who have also suffered terror attacks.
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. We call on the Federal Government and the International Community to launch an inquiry into the Nigerian Air Force’s failure to take all steps necessary to prevent and forestall these attacks – this failure resulted in the loss of many lives and the displacement of tens of thousands.
We call on 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 these attacks and including these figures in the Displacement Tracking Matrix for Nigeria – without accurate data, we cannot address the problems.
We are glad to see that Makurdi’s airfield is still functional and trust that part of the rehabilitation for affected 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 economies.
We hope 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 whereby, despite the passage of an anti-grazing law, cattle are roaming on the 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.
We note the sum of NGN10billion from our commonwealth, set aside by the Presidency for rehabilitation of affected communities and emphatically state that this sum is NOT a substitute for a single Nigerian life and is no where 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 difficulty who have been impoverished by the triple devils of poor governance, floods and terror. Money will not buy security. A responsible, empathetic and proactive government will ensure effective security.
We call on 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.
We call on the Federal Government to allocate more of our commonwealth 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 these funds are not diverted by federal, state and local government agencies for elections and private interests.
We call for more efficient, proactive and impartial security measures to be put in place to protect the lives of farmers.
We call for a register of all those we have lost in the Benue Valley and memorials for those lost in these terror attacks so that we will say a resounding NEVER AGAIN across the Benue Valley.
We call for justice for those murdered by these terrorists -the Federal Government and the international community MUST fish out, as a matter of urgency, the funders of the terrorists responsible for the killings across the Benue Valley. Justice must be done speedily and be seen to be so done. For without justice, there can be no lasting peace.
We stand solidly behind the Government of Nigeria as it seeks justice for those killed in the Benue Valley and rebuilds the affected communities and are committed to working with all stakeholders to bring about lasting peace and prosperity to the region and Nigeria.
Benue Valley Professionals Network
The Benue-We-Deserve Foundation
Sesor Empowerment Foundation