SPOTLIGHT: Meet Ukan Kurugh, the activist fighting human rights violation in Benue state

 SPOTLIGHT: Meet Ukan Kurugh, the activist fighting human rights violation in Benue state

By Ernen Kaanti

In the English language, a “conditional statement”is one that begins with a hypothesis, and follows with a conclusion. Often, we think of these statements as “if/then” statements.

For example: “If you think that you must have the whole resources at your disposal before you start impacting on the people, then you might be wrong.”

“If you find the above example so interesting, then you are probably not alone.”

“If you are wondering why I am explaining a conditional statement in an article about a human rights activist in Benue State, then you might find the answer in the next paragraph.”

I am bringing this up because of the humanitarian lifestyle that Ukan Kurugh has been rolling out in Benue State for quite some time now and the strong If-statements that have been making him to wag stronger.

Ukan Kurugh who has no legal background other than holding a bachelor’s degree in political science from the Benue State University, Makurdi has a passion for humanism in Benue State that seems to surpass any other interest.

Benue State apart from the economic disgruntlement and farmer-herders crises, is one of the states in Central Nigeria with a very high rate of human rights violation. These violations cut across significant areas of concern including but not limited to child abuse, man slaughter, burglary, sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV).

Despite the establishment of a Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) in the state in January 2023, there have been significant delays in its activation due to a lack of necessary resources, which has hindered support for victims of these violations.

For instance, according to the National Human Rights Commission, over 98% of human rights violations reported in Benue State are related to sexual assaults and related abuses. According to an online Punch Newspaper report on February 8th, 2023, Benue State recorded about 4,000 cases of Gender-Based Violence in the year.

A recent report by the Journal of Family and Society Research 2 (2) December, 2023, said over 51 % of secondary school students experienced abuse in the state.

These issues highlight the urgent need for improved security measures and support systems for victims to address the ongoing human rights challenges in the State.

It was Malala Yousafzai who said that when the whole world is silent, even one voice becomes powerful.

There is no denying that the entire world is in a state of chaos. But amidst all the turmoil, there are moments of hope and inspiration. It is against this background that Ukan Kurugh’s daring rise against human rights violation has demonstrated such a powerful voice of hope in Benue State.

Recently, he was one of the people who raised voices against land-related extortion commonly known as matching-ground in Benue State which the government of Rev. Dr. Hyacinth Alia subsequently solidified by rolling out the policy for prohibition of matching-ground levy in the state.

Apart from having over twenty five (25) orphans in Gboko whom he has been raising and training in school for a period of three years now, Ukan Kurugh in this year alone has facilitated recovery of funds for several individuals for unsuccessful contracts. He has been able to galvanize support for successful surgical operations at the Benue State University Teaching Hospital and Foundation Memorial Hospital in Makurdi on children (boys and girls) born with anorectal malformations who are now living their normal lives.

Mr. Kurugh has also facilitated several surgeries on other people including children born with Macroglossia (enlarged tongues) among several other achievements including a huge financial assistance made available to a young man from the Joseph Sarwuan Tarka University, Makurdi who gained admission in Russia to study medicine but had no funds.

The emergence of Mr. Kurugh from a humble background to the bright hills of saving the phase of humanity in Benue State so that the people can enjoy the rights and privileges that are possible for them has quite been truly intriguing.

In an interview with our correspondent, Ukan Kurugh revealed compelling secrets that would make every one think of the power of conditional statements and why you should consider using them more positively in your life.

According to him his passion for the chosen career of human activism started when his university classmate he simply addressed as Mimica who was helplessly down with breast cancer making him to rally round and raise funds for her treatment using the social media platforms.

He said though Mimica could not make it to the time he was able to raise some funds for her treatment, a strong positive If-statementstrock his mind as to if he could do this using the social media then it means he stood a greater chance to do more by galvanizing much more means for humanity at a larger extent.

Asked what he did with the funds, Mr. Kurugh said, I used the money to settle hospital bills for people and pay school fees for some children.

With what started as a rally-round for a friend, Kurugh said he has since been able to make tremendous achievements in helping people to right certain wrongs in terms of debt recoveries, children school enrollment as well as interventions in children/gender violence/abuse and financial support for medical treatments and a lot more for the most vulnerable in the state.

In the interview, Kurugh confessed that, much like any other vocation, humanitarianism bears its own share of bitterness. There was a moment when I nearly abandoned this calling overwhelmed by the immense responsibility, stress, and peril intrinsic to the field. Yet, it was the uplifting “if-statements”that fortified my resolve, rendering me impervious to the lure of surrender.

Let me start by saying My name is Ukan Kurugh, I am from Benue State, Tiv by tribe. What motivated me to start doing what I am doing now was one of my classmates, Mimica who was down with breast cancer. I decided to rally round to raise funds for her treatment though she was not much convenient with the idea, then l had to go ahead with it.

Unfortunately by the time I was able to raise some money, she gave up. I dismissed the temptation to use the money for myself but rather used it and settled some peoples hospital bills and also paid for some vulnerable childrens school fees. I also used part of the money in putting food on the table for the less privileged. Then l said to myself if I could do this easily even on social media then I can do it for other people again and again trying more avenues so the passion to explore the possibilities of doing more began to grow especially as many people starterted seeking help from me through the social media.

Granted, humanitarianism as a career is a wide industry just like Chef José Andrés once said, it’s not about giving bread to orphans. Its about building a bakery that can fit an orphanage and sell bread in the city.

Kurugh noted that, It was actually a bit challenging because a young man like himself who should be thinking of how to build himself going into this and giving almost all his time and life-squeezing services but then the zeal to save the phase of humanity especially with people continually telling me about their problems, the spirit grew much higher and that is how I have continued doing this.

Besides when l was much younger l had made a vow to God that if I grew up to be a well to do person, l will dedicate half of my resources to helping people. I have really grown up to hate watching people suffer.

Decrying the challenges he faces in the course of threading the rough path of this career Mr. Kurugh however regretted the issues of threats to life and people attempting to bribe him. He also talked about the challenges of trying to balance between personal schedules and career as well as lack of mobility.

It has not always been rosy. The challenges are there. I have had people threaten my life and also people attempting to bribe me and all of that.

Kurugh also talked about the challenges of trying to balance between personal schedules and career as well as lack of mobility.

When he was asked if he thinks has been working too hard to pursue this career and is contemplating opting out soon, Ukan Kurugh admitted he works hard but quitting is not an option.

He expressed his joy that long time observers would agree that he is one of the big proponents of the hectic but rewarding idea in the State, hoping that with time, a generation of such movements will rise from different quarters, not only in Benue State but Nigeria and even entire Africa as it has already started so taking the exit door was not a decision he would not take soon or never.

Recall that when the news of Ukan Kurughs work started spreading in Benue State some time ago, there were many opinions about him. Some believed he would not take it this far before getting tired for want of support and encouragement. Some even doubted his legal foundations for such a legally complicated path he was about to take even questioning his political and economic tentacles.

Those opinions brought the biblical story to mind; When news started spreading about the good work of Jesus Christ, there were a lot of thoughts. Others said, ‘He is the Messiah.’ Still others said, ‘But he cant be! Will the Messiah come from Galilee?

Even to this age, in the lips of some people in this part of the world, you find the narrative that one can generously impact on the people only when he/she is elected into leadership position and so in any position short of that you see them resign to the ill fate of doing nothing for humanity forgetting that a chicken that will grow into a cock is spotted even the day it hatches and here is a young man who has been defying all odds to change the narrative.

It is quite unfortunate that lack of mobility and sabotage from unscrupulous elements in the state are trying to distract him by way of bribery and threat to life. People like this need only encouragement and his call for cooperation and support for this onerous strides for the good of the state and humanity is apt.

Indeed if we ignore virtues and reward evil under our democracy where evil feeds fat and flourishes why benevolence watches and salivates, then we are not only simplifying and increasing doom but rather redesigning a society of servitude encouraging plunder and other social vices to take liberties and Benue State have had enough of troubles.

Inarguably, it is cheaper and more productive to pay employees of social justice and morals to do the things that will ignite love, peace , unity and state progress than to try to pay them to sell their conscience to do things that will not further the prosperity of the state.

Unless the society has a magic wand, and can figure out how it would advance its human right which is requisite for common good in every situation, encouraging morality and legality by building incentives into such structures is highly recommended and the time is apt to do so.

It is therefore urgent for individuals, organizations and the government of Benue State to apparently support and encourage such spirits of sacrificing pleasure, time and resources to save humanity as the government is already becoming over bloated with the explosion of human population and hence cannot directly do everything alone but need volunteers and the commitments of its citizens.

Ukan Kurugh once wrote on one of his social media handles and behind those words I always see an advocate for omnism in one’s faith. He said, “I will be happy if I am remembered for what I am doing when l am gone.”

This shows it obviously has to do with commitment, dedication, encouragement and motivation.There are those who can still survive in this country without the tiniest support from any quarters but then it is important to remind us that there are millions of people out there who need our attention even at the least of it.

On the other hand, like Chinua Achebe once said, “Most of the time when we seek to share our food with people it is not because we want to stop them from starving but because it is good for kinsmen to eat together.”

If kinsmen allowed the voices of apathy to outloud the beautiful melodies of togetherness then we must also be prepared to watch social brigandage find the most favorable climate for infiltration and expansion weakening the very foundation and walls of philanthropic inspirations to abysmal collapse. So it is indeed high time to join hands and build our society into the edifice of our dream.

I have the audacity to believe that as long as lovers of humanism cannot keep quiet when humanity is avoidably suffering, they cannot refrain from encouraging and stop shouting and clapping when they see the bright day of benevolence and egalitarianism breaking so fast.

Societies all over the world must learn the less complex art of lending support and appreciation to the efforts of those who are trying out of their burning desire even with infinitesimal resources as demonstrated by this exceptional brother from Benue State who is trying in his own style to create that humanitarian impact in his stewardship in this inherited world house.

I may not have worked as a die-hard activist such as this young man and probably I can’t say for sure what encouragement for which I would crave.

I however suspect you will agree with me on this: If we treat people who mean well for people well such as this young man and give them incentives to continue doing the things they know how to do and are zealous to do for the betterment of the society, then we might be very happy to see how well it all works out for all. Besides it is said that when a man is appreciated for doing well he is motivated to do more and outshine the past.

It is indeed no time for apathy but time to be tough minded enough to break loose from the chains and ideals of individualism and embrace humanism both as individuals and government.

Hail Nigeria, Hail, Benue State, it is one thing to believe that the goal of humanity is moral and legal rights; it is another thing to commit oneself positively and actively to the ideals of morality and legal rights-the former is intellectual assent, the latter is actual belief. These are days that demand practices to match professions. These are no days to pay lip service to human right, we must pay life service to it.

About the Author

Ernen Kaanti holds B.A Mass Communication from the prestigious University of Nigeria Nsukka. He also holds a diploma in Mass Communication from the Benue State Polytechnic, Ugbokolo. He has interest protecting democracy. Ernen has interest in sociopolitical, economic and human rights affairs. He has flair for both fiction and nonfiction writing and has been publishing with media platforms including


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