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Madagali: Facing Desolation, As Famine, Unemployment Rage



Madagali, a local government area on the north tip of Adamawa State, which once prides itself as the economic hub of the state with its rich agricultural plains and a UNESCO World Heritage Site is now facing desolation no thanks to famine and infrastructural collapse from incessant Boko Haram attacks. AGBO-PAUL AUGUSTINE reports

In 2011, Anthony Kabidu, 32, celebrated the conclusion of his final examinations after four years of arduous work at the Modibbo Adama University of Technology, Yola, Adamawa State. He was full of hope that the future holds much for him as a graduate of Urban and Regional Planning.

Kabidu had hope for an employment in a high flying property company or perhaps in the Works and Housing Ministry either at the federal or state level. “I even envisioned owning a property firm by now to contribute my quota to the Nigerian economy,” he said with nostalgia.

Contrary to his dreams, Kabidu is a Kiosk owner in one of the corners of Yola, the Adamawa State capital where he sells a handful of provisions after fleeing the onslaught of Boko Haram after his community, Midlu in Madagali local government area was invaded in 2014.

The woes of the Madagali-born town planner did not only end in the destruction of his community and the lack of job placement, he cannot get a farmland today even as his local government and Adamawa State have more than enough land to go around everyone in the state.

After the Boko Haram group was largely degraded in the North-East, Kabidu returned to a ruined community faced with scarce land because no one can venture beyond 1 kilometre from their ruined homes.  Remnants of Boko Haram fighters lurking in the farmlands constantly kill farmers daily.

“The farmland shortage has created a new wave of problems for us. The relatively safe land for farming is hard to get as people scramble for it for use. As I speak to you, I can’t get a piece of land to farm in my community because the few safe areas had been occupied,” Kabidu lamented.

Madagali is under siege of hunger, youth joblessness, infrastructural challenge, lack of amenities and worst for the people, the fear of being killed by remnants of Boko Haram terrorists.

Just like Kabidu, not a few of the residents of Gulak, Midlu and other agricultural rich lands of Madagali are languishing in poverty, hunger and deprivation as a direct consequence of insurgency.

The local government is located on the northern region of Adamawa State bordering Borno State. LEADERSHIP Weekend on visit to the area observed that the LGA is part of the contingent areas around the dreaded Sambisa Forest.

Residents of the area told our correspondent that only 5km of land separates Madagali from the Sambisa Forest on the Yola-Maiduguri highway. Sambisa Forest is bounded by Bama, Gwoza, Damboa, Konduga, Askira-Uba and Chibok all in Borno State.

Like the areas in Borno State, the Boko Haram insurgents unleashed mayhem on Madagali in 2014 destroying anything on their path, killing and maiming residents of the communities in the local government.

The aftermath of the attacks were ruins of homes, hospitals, schools, food stores, farmlands, bridges, roads and the sacking of thousands from their comfort zones.

The direct consequences of the invasion is the over 80 per cent of the people living in the camps of the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Adamawa and other parts of the country.

The youths were hard hit as many whom are graduates now turned commercial motorcycle (Okada) riders in Abuja, Ibadan, Ado-Ekiti and even as far as Lagos to make a living.

While those who chose to stay in Madagali and around Yola, are roaming the streets in search of a living as the lack of job opportunities has further compounded their woes.

Residents of the LGA described LEADERSHIP Weekend as the first news media to visit Midlu community since 2015.

Hannah Bazah, 26, who was in labour when LEADERSHIP Weekend visited the area had to be delivered of her baby at home by traditional birth attendants. “We have several pregnant women who have nowhere to be delivered of their babies, this is just one of our biggest challenges in Midlu,” said a local resident.

Speaking to LEADERSHIP Weekend on the current situation in Madagali, the district head of Midlu, Mr Lawan Destiny Mbularawa, said the area has been facing lots of challenges since the area was invaded by insurgents.

He revealed that it is sad to say that hunger, starvation, lack of employment and critical infrastructure is now threatening lives in Midlu, adjudged the economic hub of the local government area and a major food basket of Adamawa State.

He said as simple as toilet is lacking in his area. “We lack even toilets, our schools, hospitals, roads, bridges, food stores, farmlands all destroyed by the Boko Haram terrorists and are yet to be rebuilt.

“Many of our people are full of fear of being killed by the insurgents who are prowling in the bushes. We cannot go beyond a kilometre outside our homes, and this has made farming very difficult for us.

“The military headquarters is in Chibok in Borno State, although the security agencies have started going into the bushes, our people are still very much afraid of venturing to cultivate their lands.”

The traditional ruler lamented the absence of government attention in his domain and generally, the council area in terms of rebuilding damaged infrastructure and job creation, saying the situation has impacted negatively on the people.

“Others are getting attention from NGOs but Madagali is getting nothing and only a few of our politicians are concerned about our plight. They cannot leave us in this terrible state, we need attention,” he pleaded.

While showing LEADESHIP Weekend round his community, the district head said Madagali is blessed with agricultural products as corns, guinea corn, groundnuts, beans, sweat potatoes, sugar cane and banana from the Fadama region.

He recalled with wistfulness how Madagali used to be the darling market for merchants and traders who come from the mountains of Cameroon, Central African Republic, Maiduguri, Potiskum, Konduga, Banki, Makurdi and the eastern part of Nigeria to buy agricultural products in large quantity unhindered.

But today, to trade in the area, people must be escorted by a large contingent of military troops and has created a diversion from the area to other safer places.   

One of the concerns of the people, Mbularawa said are the destroyed bridges linking the area to the outside world. He said most of the bridges were destroyed by the Boko Haram terrorists group in 2014.

“From Uba to Dhlimamkara, there are five bridges destroyed by Boko Haram in 2014. These bridges link Baza, Minchika, Shuwa, Gulak Sabon Gari, Kasin Hausa before Gwoza in Borno State. These are heavy bridges and it’s difficult to access during the rainy season.

“We don’t care about rebuilding of our homes for now, all we want is that our schools, hospitals, markets, roads and bridges be rebuild to relief us the pains we are in now,” he added.

A science teacher at the Government Day Secondary School, Midlu, Mr Samson Augustine, told our Correspondent that the Boko Haram terrorists targeted its science teaching facility and vandalised the equipment. This according to the Mathematics and Physics teacher, the vandalisation crippled the school’s capacity to teach science subjects.

He said two of his colleagues were killed on their way from work. “Students have vacated the school, only a few find the courage to come back for learning”.

Augustine said the school is in constant fear and students don’t stay more than 15 minutes for a subject. “We only have theoretical teaching because there is no laboratory for practical work. The worst is that we now teach with fear as all teachers stay by the window while teaching to keep a watch on movement around the school”.

The narration of Mr Mark Papka, head master of Gubla Primary School is of sorrow and sadness as the 2014 invasion of the LGA by the terrorists chased away most of the 2000 pupils of the primary school.

“The school lost about five teachers who were killed in the crisis. We used to have about 2000 pupils but now we have only 130 pupils today coming to school,” he said.

Three days before LEADERSHIP Weekend visited the school, residents said the insurgents attacked a nearby community, a grim reminder that safety had not fully returned to the area.

He lamented lack of teaching aids including water and recreational facility in the school. The primary school now operates between 8am and 11am as against 7am and 1pm because of the atmosphere of fear.

“We have forwarded our complaints to the Local Education Authority (LEA) and the Ministry of Education and nothing has been done from the authorities. The situation is precarious as lots of our pupils walk for 1km to school in an atmosphere of insecurity,” he said.

Expressing his frustration to LEADERSHIP Weekend, Mr Wilson Abasa, a 2012 Physics graduate of the University of Maiduguri who is seeking land to go into farming said youth unemployment is driving many young people into trauma.

He said many of the youths who went into entrepreneurial ventures got their shops burnt leaving them dejected and traumatised.

“Many of us here are NCE, ND, HND and degree holders without jobs. Even the last recruitment done by the Nigerian Army, about 200 youths from this area applied and no single one got a call. “Safe farmlands are difficult to get, jobs difficult, no place to do business and no home to stay; our situation is precarious,” he lamented.

Visitors avoid Sukur UNESCO World Heritage Site, residents calls for protection Africa’s first cultural landscape to receive the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) World Heritage List inscription, the Sukur cultural landscape is feeling the impact of war as surrounding communities told our correspondent that from the beginning of the site it has been without visitors for some time now.

The World Heritage site has seen visitors since the 1960s until the level of insecurity in the north east forced tourists to stay away from the rich site.

Sukur Cultural Landscape is a UNESCO World Heritage Site is located on a hill above the village of Sukur inMadagali LGA. It is situated in the Mandara Mountains, close to the border with Cameroon.

Its UNESCO inscription is based on the cultural heritage, material culture, and the naturally-terraced fields.

The stoneage iron smelting community is an ancient settlement with a recorded history of iron smelting technology, flourishing trade, and strong political institution dating back to the 16th century.

The site contains palaces, prisons, homes for title holders, sons of the land, shrines and others.

The landscape is characterized by terraces on the farmlands, dry stone structures and stone paved walkways. The terraced landscape at Sukur with its hierarchical structure and combination of intensive and extensive farming is remarkable.

Its inscription by UNESCO, done under the Criteria of iii, v and vi in 1999, is based on the cultural heritage of the Hidi’s Palace complex and village, material culture, and the natural terraced fields, which are in an intact condition. These aspects are cited in the citation which states it as “The cultural landscape of Sukur is eloquent testimony to a strong and continuing cultural tradition that has endured for many centuries.” Sukur is one of the country’s two UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

The Sukur Cultural Landscape is a national monument as determined by the Joint Instrument of the Federal Decree No. 77 of 1979 (now NCMM ACT, Cap 242 of 2000) and the subsequent legal authority of the Adamawa State Government as in Gazette No. 47 Vol. 7 of 20 November 1997, and the written consent of the Hidi-in-Council.

Residents urged the federal and Adamawa State governments to do all it can to encourage visitors to the cultural site as the fear of insecurity has impacted negatively on the image of the area.

At Kasin Hausa, a community close to the site, resident said since late 2017 only officials of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) had been seen visiting the site. The cultural site is not only the pride of Adamawa State but Nigeria in general.

When LEADERSHIP Weekend contacted the Adamawa State Government for its reaction to the development in Madagali, officials told our correspondent that the commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mallam Ahmad Sajoh, travelled with the state deputy governor out of Yola for an official assignment. 

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