■ Laments husband’s death as hunger disease ravage IDPs in camp
■ We are dying here silently –Father of 19 children, grandchildren
Linus Oota, Lafia
Thirty-year-old Mrs Regina Fidel Jam, now wears sorrow like a garment. Her 32-year-old husband, Fidel Jam, was killed by rampaging Fulani herdsmen when they invaded Tse-Igbatim village, Adudu, Obi Local Government Area of Nasarawa State on April 13, 2018, resulting in the wanton killing of 32 persons.
The blood-thirsty herdsmen left a trail of death, burnt houses, destroyed foodstuff and other valuables. The mayhem which claimed her husband was like a sharp, red hot knife driven through her heart. The gruesome slaying of the husband prevented him from seeing the birth of his only son, born on May 3, 2018, in the IDP camp at SS Peter and Paul Church, Lafia, where she is taking refuge.
When Sunday Sun visited the camp in the company of a Benue State governorship aspirant, Prof Tor Iorapuu, his media assistant, Andrew Oota and Reverend Father Moses Iorapuu, two days after she gave birth, Regina was in agony and sobbing over her loss, despite the best efforts of sympathisers to console her. In fact the more they spoke words of comfort to her, the more she quaked with sobs, saying that nothing could replace her husband.
Hear her: “My husband was a good young man, honest and hard-working. Our first two children were girls and I have just given birth to a baby boy for him. He is no more to even see his only son, how can I take care of him, who will provide food for the children?
“I want the government and security agencies to help me find the killers of my husband. I am a very poor woman; I don’t know how I will cater for the new born baby now. Life will be very tough for me and my children. I cannot cater for them alone, I don’t know where to run to now; I don’t know what to do, people should help me.”
To worsen her plight, after escaping from the village, Regina had no roof over her head. She and her children took shelter under a mango tree alongside other displaced persons. This was their situation until the parish priest of SS Peter and Paul rescued some of them and gave them refuge in the church.
After she had calmed down a bit, she recounted the events of the fateful day she lost her husband and said: “On April 13, 2018, we woke up with the sad news that herdsmen attacked nearby villages and he quickly asked me to pick our two little daughters. My third pregnancy was already nine months and I was close to delivery. He gave us transport money to proceed immediately to Lafia and also go on to Makurdi for safety.
He said that he would join us later in the day. Just few minutes after we left, the herdsmen invaded the village and shot 32 people dead, including my husband.”
Sunday Sun also visited other locations, where over 79,000 IDPs abandoned by the government have taken refuge in abandoned buildings along Lafia-Makurdi road. These ones have been left to their fate. The sight of mothers tending to malnourished, emaciated, fragile babies would make even a stony heart bleed.
The tiny babies were so weak that they could not even summon the strength to cry. You wonder whether they would last for another week before death claims them. Such is the degree of destitution the IDPs have been reduced to by neglect.
They fled their homes with little or no belonging in the wake of the attacks by killer herdsmen. In the camps they are huddled together: men on one side while the women and children are on another side. Daily they contemplate how long their nightmare will last.
But they may be in for a long wait, as the war to eliminate the entire Tiv farmers in the state is far from coming to an end. From Keana, Obi, Doma and Awe local government areas of the state, they came hoping to find peace, but have been made refugees in their own land.
They are fed up with staying outside their homes and want the government to help them return to their ancestral homes.
One of them, Joseph Atam, 52, who narrated his ordeal said he narrowly escaped death in Awe Local Government Area in April alongside his entire family of two wives, 19 children and grandchildren, when armed herdsmen sneaked into the village at night, shooting sporadically and razing buildings and huts in the village.
He spoke further: “When we first got to Lafia, my family and I were sleeping outside under a tree before we finally got here to join some of our relations. There are no toilets for all the hundreds of people here. Most of us defecate in the open, including our children. This is contributing to the health hazards. This is not kind of condition one would wish for at this age when I am supposed to be in my house till my time to meet my Creator.
“I’m appealing to the government to direct the military to chase away the herdsmen who have taken over our communities so that we can all return to our homes. Nobody is taking care of us here, the government of the state is not even aware of our plight here.
“If that is not done and quickly too, I am afraid many of us may die here. There is no water to drink here and no food to eat. The SS Peter and Paul Church has done enough and they have exhausted all their resources on us. We are dying here silently.”