“With the attack on Tse Jor on [March 7], there are now eight villages near Naka that have been depopulated and taken over by Muslim tribes, whose militia make up the killing parties,” Tikyaa told CNA. “Many of the children show signs of malnutrition. The state government makes ration deliveries only once each month, and when food runs out, the people in the camps try to earn money by doing jobs or begging in the streets of Naka.”
“The UNHCR [United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees], Red Cross, [and] MSF [Doctors without Borders] are very active in giving support of various kinds,” Father Ihyula said. “The UNHCR particularly has been of tremendous help, offering temporary shelters and protection-related support to the victims.”
“While the Benue state government has tried its best under the circumstances, the federal government has neglected the sufferings of the people,” he said.
“From the point of view of the Foundation for Justice and Peace and the Catholic Diocese of Makurdi, our challenge to effective intervention strategies has mainly been the constant attacks and displacement in multiple areas,” he added. “It has been overwhelming dealing with this situation.”
On Benue’s southern border with Cameroon, attacks by Fulani Muslim terrorists claimed more than 50 lives of Catholic parishioners in the remote mountains of Kwande County from Feb. 26 to March 2, according to media reports.
The villages came under attack following the Feb. 25 presidential election, which certified Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate, as the winner. The APC was the known preference of the radicalized militias to win the pivotal presidential race, according to observers at the Denis Hurley Peace Institute, which has argued that the APC win has emboldened the terrorists to attack with impunity.
Benue was won by the APC in the presidential campaign, and the upcoming round of gubernatorial elections on March 18 will see the APC rallying behind a suspended priest as their candidate for governor, Father Hyacinth Iormem Alia. The bishop of the Diocese of Gboko suspended Alia in May 2022 because canon law does not allow priests to be involved in partisan politics.
Alia has reportedly condemned the attacks on the heels of the election and said through his media spokesman that some political groups in Benue have attempted to “cash in” on the APC win.
“My reading of the APC win in Benue is that the people have been deceived to believe that the APC will retain power, and it would be foolhardy to be in the opposition given the benefits of belonging to the ruling party,” according to one priest who would only speak under the condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation.