From Scholastica Hir, Makurdi



Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Ortese camp in Guma Local Governments Area of Benue State were elated on April 3, 2024, when the Catholic Bishop of Makurdi Diocese, Bishop Wilfred Anagbe visited them to celebrate his birthday.


It was his 59th birthday and in his usual way, Anagbe said he decided to, again, fete the downtrodden by celebrating with IDPs instead of making merry at a banquet in town.

He said: “Birthday is a day the celebrant deserves to mark the way he or she wants and for me I had always longed, during Easter, to celebrate it with the rural people because it makes more meaning to me that way than being in the town.

“I felt that these people have not had this for a long time and they have been here from different parishes, let me come here on this day and be with them and celebrate with them.

“Just like on Christmas day when I went to the prison to celebrate with them, this is also to tell them that we are thinking of them. Celebrating and identifying with them makes me happy and I am satisfied about it.”

Ortese IDP camp, venue of the event, is located along the Makurdi – Lafia Highway, about 35 kilometers from Makurdi town. Government officials said the camp houses over 11,000 displaced persons who are living in deplorable conditions, with the number increasing daily as attacks continue in neighbouring communities unabated.

The camp has few classroom blocks in addition to some fairly constructed tents donated by some humanitarian organizations and other poorly constructed ones by the occupants themselves. It lacks some basic amenities, especially water and yet it is the only place they, elderly men and women as well as children, call home for now.

The bishop’s visit and donations, was, indeed, a source of hope as the occupants beamed with smiles all through the occasion.

Addressing the IDPs, Anagbe, who was accompanied by priests and the laity, described the IDPs at Ortese camp as his flocks from Udei Denary whom he had encountered years ago.

While lamenting their displacements from their different parishes, Anagbe expressed sadness that most of them were killed by the herdsmen and while those who survived the attacks are now at IDP camps.

In what can be described as a message of hope, the bishop said he chose to celebrate his birthday with the displaced persons because he is one of them.

“For me, celebrating with the downtrodden is not a new thing because, I usually celebrate almost every Christmas with inmates at the prison to identify with them and give them a sense of belonging.

“This year I chose to celebrate my 59th birthday which comes up every 2nd of April with the Ortese IDPs, which makes more meaning to me because for the fact that the IDPs are happy seeing us, we will also share in their happiness by sharing the little we brought with them.

“I am here as one of you and as an expression of gratitude to God who counted me worthy of these 59 years. Next year, God willing, I will be 60. Given our insecurity and the vicissitudes of life in Nigeria, I am grateful to God and I have come to assure you that with God all things are possible,” he said.

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Anagbe said the Makurdi Diocese has been trying its best in assisting the persons on concerns across the state. He disclosed that Catholic Diocese of Makurdi under his watch has offered scholarship to over 165 IDPs pupils to study in Catholic Secondary Schools across the diocese, adding that plans are also underway to ensure that those of the primary school age are carried along in subsequent enrollment.

He also stated that the diocese is in consultation with the State Universal Basic Education (SUBEB) to see how teachers in the affected communities will begin to teach children in primary schools since they were too young to be separated from their parents.

Anagbe, who further explained that the diocese had tried to sink boreholes in some of the camps which proved difficult, said the diocese has decided to provide potable water for the camp through construction of dams.

“Therefore, do not give up. Remain steadfast in your prayers. He will surely send us a messiah who will defeat our aggressors,” Anagbe prayed.

Speaking for the IDPs, the Ortese IDP Camp chairman, Mr Samuel Imbila, appreciated the bishop and his entourage for always remembering and identifying with the IDPs.

Imbila stated that the over 11,000 displaced persons who live in the camp have been living in deplorable conditions for so long and needs urgent assistant.

The camp manager named scarcity of water, congestions due to inadequate accommodation space, hunger and environmental hazards, among others as part of their challenges and called on the bishop to come to their aid.

  He, particularly, called for the construction of more tents to decongest the IDPs to curtail incessant out break and spread of diseases in the camp.

He said the absence of water to drink and bath in the camp in the last three months coupled with the present heat has posed serious threat to the lives of the IDPs, especially children, who are coming up with heat rashes all over there body.

Imbila informed that already, 25 IDPs at the Ortese camp have tested positive to lassa fever and tuberculosis because of congestion, though they are being treated.

The IDPs are going through hell in terms of water to bath, cook and drink. They, mostly the women, trek for three to four kilometers in search of water and in the process most of them are being ambushed and raped or killed by the marauding herdsmen.

“We want to appeal to the bishop, the government and other well meaning Nigerians to come to the aid of Ortese IDP camp by providing water for the people, because a number of our women here are usually raped by the armed herdsmen on a daily basis in their quest to get water either in the day or night time.

“We need water to avoid out break of cholera and other water borne diseases in the camp,” Imbila said.

A representative of the State Emergency Management Agency, SEMA, Mark Terver, also said the closest source of water for the camp was more than three kilometers away, adding that the women are sometimes harassed by herdsmen in their search for water and thanked the diocese for coming to their aid.

Some of the IDPs, Grace Yila and Joseph Tarnongu, appreciated Anagbe for always standing by them.

“I am very excited to see our bishop and all the people that have come with him. With his prayers and blessings today, I have hope that we will leave here one day,” Tarnongu said.

They called on relevant authorities to fulfill their promises of assisting them to return to their homes.

The occasion started with a Mass where Rev. Fr Solomon Ukeyima, in a homily, advised Christians to see Jesus Christ in the downtrodden and show them love.

Our correspondent reports that assorted food and non food items such as food stuffs, clothing and shoes, among others were donated by the bishop and shared among the IDPs to cushion the effect of their hardship.