The inability of farmers and traders to take possession of their businesses due to the prolonged war on insurgency in the Northeast is raising fresh concerns as despair and frustration set in among key players. FRANCIS OKOYE (Maiduguri) and HUSSAINI HAMMANGABDO (Yola) report.
The Boko Haram insurgency in Borno and other states of northeast could be said to have affected the citizens in different dimensions beginning from displacement of people from their homes as much as crippling the people’s source of livelihood among others. This situation has made life very unbearable to the residents of various communities that were ravaged by the over nine years old terrorists’ crusade of human blood and wanton destruction of properties. But what is taking another toll of hardship on the people, even when peace is relatively returning to most communities, with the displaced persons leaving their Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camps back to their ancestral homes, are the consequences of decimation of the terrorists by the Nigerian Military. With the partial defeat of the terrorists and the drain of their sources of funding by the federal government through the Nigerian military, the insurgents resorted to hijacking of the businesses of the locals, such as fish and livestock selling, which they most times, rustle and hijack from the local farmers and dealers to meet the needs of their drained economy.
Thus, in checkmating the new tactics deployed by the insurgents to fund their atrocious activities especially in Borno State, the Nigerian military placed a ban on commercial transportation of fish to the state. The Army also temporarily closed the Maiduguri cattle market for the same purpose. The ban was contained in a statement by the deputy director, Public Relations, Theatre Command of Operation Lafiya Dole, Col Onyeama Nwachukwu, issued in Maiduguri . The statement warned that some people were taking advantage of the reopening of the route to smuggle fish for Boko Haram insurgents and replenish their logistics to continue with insurgency and terrorism in the northeast.
Nwachukwu warned the public against the smuggling of fish products along the route, saying only fish movement for subsistence consumption was allowed on the route, warning that defaulters would be arrested and prosecuted. This military position had to some extent yielded fruits even though the terrorists devised strategies of invading of surrounding villages to rob foodstuff as the measure taken by the military put them to untold starvation in their enclaves. But in all, the masses still remain the sufferers as the ban has seriously affected economic activities of hundreds of thousands of Borno citizens whose source of livelihood heavily depended on fish, livestock trade and farming.
Speaking to LEADERSHIP Friday over the development, the sole administrator of Borno State Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture (BOCCIMA), Alhaji Ahmed Ashemi, said the protracted ban on the two trades that contribute large percentage of economic activities in the state has put many of the affected traders in continued pains. Ashemi said even though the military blocked the businesses for security reasons and to forestall any event of the insurgents using the supply of fish or cattle to finance their terrorism, the ban has however become so protracted that it has affected thousands of livelihood of citizens and their dependents. The BOCCIMA Boss said, “large number of our population depends on these two businesses for their survival. So, if you close these businesses for long, you are causing havoc to a large number of innocent people. This is the situation, we find ourselves now.”
On the issue of military taking over key businesses in Borno and other northeastern states, Ashemi said such have been rumoured about, adding that the chamber of commerce including the business community have no evidence that this has actually happened. “Maybe we have not done enough investigation to this. But come and talk about not only the fish in Baga, there are a lot of complaints that military personnel have taken over micro businesses in the liberated communities. But this is not something we will rely on to say yes it is taking place, and at the same time, you cannot just push it aside with a wave of hand. And it is possible this could happen. “What I want the military to know is that in every organisation, there are bad eggs. So, the military cannot be exonerated from this. They also have bad people. Probably, this is taking place without the knowledge of the high command. And you know that a businessman in the village, who is not educated, if the military takes over his business, he cannot complain, but will only be grudging, and even if you call him to testify that the military has taken over his business, he will run.
“I want to appeal to the military that the ban on fish and livestock trades in Borno is becoming protracted and if you are winning the battle, you also need to win the peace in the state. So, I want the military to reconsider the ban to ease life for the people,” Ashemi added. Meanwhile, retired military and paramilitary senior officers have maintained their farmlands in Adamawa State despite the insurgency situation in the state that has driven thousands of farmers from the field.
Checks by LEADERSHIP Friday have shown that former governor of Adamawa State, Vice Admiral Murtla Nyako, has been able to maintain Sebore Farms in Mayo-Belwa local government area of the state. Nyako, former president Nigerian Farmers Association (NFA), exports dairy and other agricultural produce and has employed more than 300 workers, serving as administration and filed workers on the farm. Sebore farms has been training people on various agricultural skills and techniques including students’ excursion. Also in the ranks of Nyako is Alhaji Hamman Kojoli, former Comptroller General, Nigerian Customs Service (NCS), and owner of Kojoli farms in Fufore local government area of the state. He is a major producer of rice and other agricultural produce in the state. Kojoli has provided means of employment to more than 50 people, following the establishment of the farm.
In addition, Alhaji Mohammadu Kwairanga Jada, former Controller, Prisons, also keyed into agricultural diversification, by establishing a farm mainly for rainy season farming after his retirement from service. Jada, a major producer of cereal crops, used to sell his farm produce at subsidised prices to the less privileged in the society, to cushion hardship of the masses.
However, in spite of the presence of few of these farmers in the farming business in the Northeast, many farmers are bitter over their inability to go back to their farms even when insurgency has been curtailed largely by the military. For traders, return to normalcy in the region is more than welcome. Alhaji Haruna Bulama, who runs a truck transport company said the lack of business, has pushed them deep into poverty. “Our situation calls for concerns, we cannot wait to see life go normal for us, our families and businesses in the Northeast. Being out of business for long has made us to become poor and poorer and this is not good for our development.
“Government must do all it can to return our lives to normalcy. This is the only way we can pick up the pieces of our lives and move forward. The business community is really sufferings,” he said.