Residents of Southern Borno and Northern Adamawa are lamenting over the incessant killings in communities in the two states raising the feeling of an orchestrated plan to exterminate them from the country. In this report, BIDON MIBZAR (Abuja) looks at recent developments in the troubled areas.
After many years of enduring the onslaught of insurgency, the plight of the people of the North East, especially Southern Borno State and Northern and parts of Central Adamawa State can be described as pathetic.
While the effort of government, so far, is highly appreciated by the locals, not a few residents in these areas are happy over the ugly development in the two states. They insist that the continuous loss of lives and destruction of properties is compelling enough to bring the situation to the notice of government at all levels.
Government’s effort has been buoyed by the activities of the Presidential Committee on the Northeast Initiative (PCNI) through the provision of improved seeds for farmers and canvassing for loans from the Bank of Industry for small and medium scale businesses.
Others are trying to make schools safer for locals, enlightening social media influencers in the region, provision of medical equipment for maternal and child health, amongst others, but the people have continued to wonder why despite the claim by government that it has degraded Boko Haram, the insurgents have continued to operate freely in the region leaving many dead and others displaced.
For Markus Gyar, a member of the Lardin Gabas Elders’ Forum, the term ‘degrading Boko Haram’ is one phrase used to bamboozle and earn brownie points in the press.
“For a long time, this phrase has occupied the pages of newspapers, which we consider a mere propaganda, because the areas have continued to be under the attacks of Boko Haram, who were freely allowed to operate.
“We say this because the rank and file of the military have continued to feel embarrassed, as they have been refused severally to take trips into the Sambisa Forest.
“While federal government has done well to degrade the Insurgents’, it is really difficult for the ordinary person in the region to understand and accept the meaning of the phrase because some villages here are still being attacked weekly.
“Raids and invasions have become incessant, such that the people have stopped going to their farms. This tells very hard on the health and food security of the region.
“In these areas, the serious and urgent matter of securing life and property has, unfortunately become complex and politicised as even the security officers sent there are complicit in prolonging the insurgency in this region for their pecuniary gains.
“The role of the security agents themselves remains nefarious, as they seem to settle and take over the major trade in consumable foods like grains, beans, livestock, preserved seafood etc. They also engage in other petty trading and farming businesses in the area at the expense of those they are meant to protect.”
While Gyar’s comments might be heavy, the issue put forth by Larba Pinda, who operates a nongovernmental organisation (NGO) that focuses on the care of girls is more disturbing.
While the army and the government may be counting their successes in their occasional victories, the girl child and women still remain the targets for nefarious activities.
“It is very difficult to understand why the girl child in these areas is always being exchanged for money that should have been used for securing the areas and the people.
“We demand that government investigate, discharge and punish all military officers engaging in such businesses and that the abduction and use of girls for money be considered a criminal offence and ransom should never be paid; rather, those involved must be identified and made to face justice,” she said.
Many, including some military personnel in the region hold the view that if the military applies its might and with sincerity, they could “clear the Boko Haram in four days.”
This could be considered ludicrous, but, somehow, looking from their eyes and what they know in training and capacity, the armed forces of a nation like Nigeria is capable of defeating any form of insurrection.
Speaking during the 71st World General Annual Convention of the EYN-Church of the Brethren Mission in Nigeria, held recently, its president, Rev. Joel S. Billi, called on the Borno State governor, Alhaji Kashim Shettima, governor Umar Jibrilla Bindow of Adamawa State and the federal government to expedite action to reclaim Gwoza, Madagali, Gulak, Dille Bdagu, Musa, Killekasa, Yaza and others from the insurgents.
“The war against Boko Haram is not over as propagated, until the people of Gulak and the whole of Gwoza are safe in their ancestral homes.
“We shall consider the war over when we, the people of the Northeast region can freely travel from Michika to Gwoza to Maiduguri and when there is a highway constructed to open the Sambisa Game Reserve area,” he said.
The clergyman was speaking from a point of experience; his place of worship, the EYN Church, the worst hit by Boko Haram, constitutes 54 districts throughout the nation. The Church Headquarters is domiciled in the region and majority of the members are also within the crisis area.
Since the time government asked the people to return to their homes, life has been extremely difficult and many of them have died and are still dying of starvation and simple curable diseases.
Many lamented that there has been virtually little or no care for them, as relief materials meant for them never get to them. In addition, cases of rape are on the increase. The people cannot find the ‘improved seeds’ they were promised by the PCNI.
The skills acquisition programmes do not get to them and therefore cannot be as effective as they should, others say.
It is important, though, to note that the people of this region are resilient and have always managed their basic needs by fending for themselves. At this time of insurgency, attended with wanton destruction though, the residents said what they need is an enabling environment, which includes security, agricultural extension services, farm implements, infrastructure, health, education and civic facilities so that they can rebuild their lives again from scratch.
More so, skills acquisition training and support are said to be conducted only in Maiduguri, Damaturu and Yola – all state capitals, a situation the communities lamented as been one sided.
While many are yet to return and the few who have returned are still scarred of venturing out, “We hereby request that all government programmes related to the IDPs and victims of Boko Haram activities be extended fully to these people. Government must be seen to be fair to all citizenry, regardless of religion or tribe,” Gyar stated.
Gyar further told LEADERSHIP Weekend that the elders’ forum in the area have resolve to present a common demand from government agencies to providing relief materials, rebuilding of burnt or destroyed buildings, and to demand an end to the continuous harassment by insurgents.
Gyar said the group’s frustrations were heightened when the military designated the areas unreachable or difficult terrains. “The forum links the communities to the world by providing information on how to improve themselves, through local skills acquisition, and the like.”
The forum has also submitted compendiums of killings, abductions, destructions of properties in this region to government and other agencies.
The area is said to hold a population of over three million people and home to a diverse ethnic groups including Lamun, Dughwede, Margi, Higgi, Bura, Kilba, Njenyi, Fali, Verre, Gaanda, Chibok, Kanuri, Karaikarai, Bolewa, Ngizim and Fulani among others.
“Government efforts to rehabilitate and restore normalcy to the areas destroyed by insurgency is, so far, commendable but it seems to be selective,” said according to a resident, Binta Ngalma.
She further stated that INEC, which is charged with the responsibility of electoral processes for political representations, is not servicing these areas with adequate materials and staff to advance registration for people to obtain their permanent voter cards (PVCs).
“Where these cards are available the owners have been refused the right to collect them. This has happened in Damboa and Gwoza,” she said.
A native of Madagali and lawyer, Tumba Zira while speaking with LEADERSHIP Weekend lamented that: “In Askira/Uba and Madagali local government areas, for example, elections were never held and those appointed to administer the areas are generally imposed on the people.
“At the moment voter registration is totally absent in Madagali local government area and therefore the people are made to believe that government has little or no interest in their welfare, so despair has set in, to the point that they believe that government of the day came in to worsen their situation.
“We hereby demand the enhanced activities of INEC to cover areas so called ‘unreached’ and with immediate assurance to these people to guarantee their political representation,” Zira demanded.
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