With tears of relief, 200 Boko Haram caused widows in Borno State smiled into their permanent homes courtesy Dangote and the Borno State government which invested billions of naira to provide them succour. FRANCIS OKOYE (Maiduguri) reports.
One of the greatest menace created by the nine years of Boko Haram insurgency in Borno State and the northeast region is the making of widows and orphans whose husbands or parents were either killed or abducted and never returned from the captivity of the terrorists.
While the widows found their way to the various Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the various parts of Borno State and other areas, majority of the orphans entered the camps unaccompanied thus leaving them totally stranded to the authorities even after the IDPs camps might have been closed.
According to official figures, about 55,000 widows and 52,000 orphans were recorded in the nine years of terrorism in the state.
This phenomenon has prompted the Borno State government to begin to plan for the future of these victims who might pose another threat greater than the Boko Haram insurgency if the widows are not empowered and the orphans not enrolled in schools.
Thus to achieve this , the administration of governor Kashim Shettima, embarked on construction of modern mega schools in the capital city of Maiduguri in the various communities for the education of the orphans.
To also lend a support to the vision of Governor Shettima, the Dangote Foundation equally keyed in to salvage the situation of the widows and orphans. The Foundation in partnership with the Borno State government built 200 houses in addition to the construction of primary school and healthcare centres in Dalori village named Dangote estate for the upliftment of the lives of some of the lucky widows and orphans.
This gesture by Dangote Foundation and Borno State government did not only erase the memories of the past from the 200 widows and their orphans who benefited, but also placed permanent smiles on their faces as many of them were seen dancing to their sits after receiving their letter of ownership from the founder of Dangote Foundation, Alhaji Aliko Dangote who made the presentation.
Another beauty of the gesture is that the allocation of the houses cuts across ethnic and religious divide as both Christian and Muslim widows and their orphans got the allocations, thus signifying that everyone irrespective of religion were victims of the Boko Haram saga.
The most astonishing aspect of the Dangote estate is the air conditioned classrooms built for the orphans with imported school chairs which made the classes a sight to behold for those who witnessed the ceremony, as the standard seems to outshine even some highly rated schools outside the state.
Each block of the buildings is provided with drip irrigation farmyard, this some officials said is to enable the widows and their orphans engage in farming to provide for their feeding.
inaugurating the 200 houses and others at a ceremony in Dalori area of Maiduguri, the president of Dangote Group and the founder, Dangote Foundation, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, said the Foundation had invested over N7 billion to support displaced persons affected by Boko Haram terrorism in the Northeast.
Besides cash donation, Dangote also promised that the Foundation would take care of teachers’ emolument for five years, adding that he will contribute in the ongoing educational revolution of governor Kashim Shettima throughout the state.
The richest African commended Governor Shettima for his giant developmental strides in the state despite the challenges of Boko Haram insurgency.
The business Morgul, recalled that in 2016 , he had donated N2 billion to the state government for the reconstruction activities, it is undertaking, but the Borno State government turned down cash offer and opted for the provision of building materials worth the amount.
“You recall that it was the decision of the Borno State government that the donation should be in kind, not in cash, which is very rare. So it is against this backdrop that we provided building materials worth N1billion for what we are inaugurating today.
“Honestly, it is not about what we donated, if you look at what has been built, you will see that it is more than N3 billion which is the additional effort of the Borno State government. Since 2012, Dangote Foundation has been supporting Borno State government, and has spent about N7 billion on the northeast challenges. We will continue to work to ensure that the IDPs are finally resettled.
“As we inaugurate the first batch today, we look forward to the building of another set of houses for more widows and orphans.”
Dangote commended Shettima for his prompt payment of salaries and at the same time carrying out giant infrastructural development despite the Boko Haram challenges.
Continuing Dangote said, “For someone to go through what he has passed through as governor, and still had the ability to pay salaries, embark on envious projects, he deserves commendation. He has surpassed a feat even the governors from oil producing states could not achieve.”
He congratulated the widows and orphans that have benefited from the housing structures and called on all Nigerians to contribute in the rebuilding process of Borno State government for the victims of insurgency. He made a cash donation of N100, 000 to each of the widows as part of livelihood support.
In his remarks, Governor Shettima noted that the intervention was unprecedented by a single institution, describing the Foundation as the fourth arm of government in the state, while pointing out that the Dangote Group was the single largest employer of labour outside government in the country.
The governor said the Dangote Village, though very massive, was a ‘tip of the iceberg’ compared to what the Foundation had done to support humanitarian efforts in the region.
Shettima said, “When Aliko Dangote came in 2016, he pledged N2 billion. We requested that half of the money should be used to supply building materials and within two weeks, all the materials were ready.
“We call it Dangote Village because it is a self sustaining community with their own schools, clinics, Mosques and means of livelihood. We now have a symbol of Alhaji Aliko Dangote permanently in the state. I am so glad that we have permanent symbol of Dangote in Borno State. He is a detribalised Nigerian, and beneficiaries of these houses cut across religious and ethnic divide.”
He thanked all the donors, and added that Borno State is now open for investors, noting that the state is now peaceful.
Also speaking, the commissioner for Reconstruction, Rehabilitation and Resettlement, Prof Baba Gana Umara Zulum, said 95 per cent of the beneficiaries were widows whose husbands were killed by Boko Haram terrorists.
Prof Zulum, who is also chairman, Distribution Committee of the Dangote Village , said the criterion for allocating a flat to the beneficiaries is that such beneficiary must be a widow with no fewer than five children.
While commending Dangote, he said the reconstruction effort was now ongoing and that the infrastructure deficit was still huge, adding that the European Union (EU), United Nations (UN) and World Bank had estimated that the infrastructure deficit caused by insurgency in Borno alone amounted to $6.9billion.
He said while N1 billion worth of building materials were procured for the construction of the 200 houses from the money with government’s completion of the rest, another N1billion from the money was contributed in reconstruction process in Bama and other Boko Haram ravaged communities in Borno.
One of the beneficiaries, Ester Ishiaku said Boko Haram terrorists killed her husband seven years ago living her behind with six children. She added that she would have been thrown out from where she was living because she couldn’t pay her rent.
“We thank Dangote and Governor Shettima for wiping away our tears after the Boko Haram terrorists rendered us homeless. We are really grateful,” she said with tears.
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