Farmers in Logo and Ukum local government areas of Benue State, who were displaced by the protracted crisis with herdsmen, have returned to their villages.
The farmers, who spoke with newsmen in several villages in the two local government areas, said that they were enjoying “sweet peace” in their natural abodes.
The newsmen were led to the villagers by Maj. Gen. Adeyemi Yekini, Commander, Operation Whirl Stroke (OPWS), the security outfit charged with maintaining peace in Benue, Nasarawa and Taraba states.
Among villages visited were Jootar, Gov and Iorja in Logo, as well as Gajem and Gbeji in Ukum. The five villages were under the control of Fulani militia until the bandits were rooted out by OPWS.
Throughout the period of the occupation of their lands, the villagers were quartered in Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), scattered through Benue. Speaking to newsmen at Gov, the village Youth Leader, Mr Torngee Iorhemba, commended the federal government for sending OPWS to curtail the activities of the militia.
Iorhemba disclosed that the arrival of the special forces had helped them to return to their homes, adding that they were enjoying a very cordial relationship with the personnel of OPWS.
“OPWS has helped us so much; their presence has helped us to return to our homes. Our only challenge now is that we don’t have any clinic and portable water,” he said.
He said that the farmers were happy to move freely to the markets and to their farms.
At Chambe, Mr Thaddeus Tsav, a community leader, told newsmen that the villagers were happy to be back to their respective houses.
“We are happy that we can travel freely along the Anyii-Gbeji road that was a “death trap” during the crisis,” he said.
Tsav, however, said that the dreaded militias were still in the bushes in some parts of the areas, but added that the troops were doing a “fantastic job in the field.” Mr Richard Nyajo, chairman, Logo local government area, who also spoke with newsmen, said that most of the farmers took refuge at the NKST Primary School IDPs camp at Anyii.
“Since the arrival of OPWS, tremendous peace has been achieved,” he said.
Nyajo said that out of the 35,000 IDPs that were initially quartered at the camp, 27,000 had successfully returned to their homes, leaving a total of 7,000 IDPs at the camp.
Gen. Yekini, in his remarks, told newsmen that a total number of 150,000 IDPs had so far returned to their homes in Benue, and expressed optimism that other IDPs would return to their villages before December.
He disclosed that there were still some areas that his men were yet to access due to the terrain, but said that series of operations were underway to clean up such areas as the dry season was approaching.
Meanwhile, Mr Francis Ayagah, chairman, Gwer West local government area, has confirmed that a total of 33,000 IDPs, out of the 34,000 earlier displaced in the local government, had successfully returned to their homes.
Ayagah, however, said that the returnees had no place to sleep and food to eat.
He urged government and donor agencies to come to their aid.
The chairman of Guma local government area, Mr Anthony Shawon, however told newsmen that he did not know the number of IDPs that had so far returned to their respective villages.
“The returnees are many, but I do not know their number,” he said.
Journalists also visited the Sub-sector II Operation Camp of OPWS at Gov, in Logo during the tour, and interacted with the officers.