By Francis Okoye, Maiduguri
Governing Borno as a state is not an easy task due to the over 10 years of the Boko Haram insurgency that ravaged it.
The state once nicknamed “Home of Peace” was suddenly made a shadow of itself due to activities of the terrorists who intended to establish a caliphate but were uprooted by the gallantry efforts of the Nigerian Military.
Former governor Kashim Shettima who inherited the crisis from his predecessor, former governor Ali Modu Sheriff, at a point battled at the expense of his life in steering the affairs of the state beginning from 2011 when he took over as governor.
Then at the peak of the crisis, Shettima was confronted with a burden of rebuilding structures as the terrorists kept destroying them.
But with the coming of president Muhammadu Buhari and the subsequent change of baton in the military hierarchy, the security situation begun to improve for better, thus enabling government to embark on further reconstruction of both private and public buildings destroyed by the terrorists.
Massive reconstruction were witnessed in most communities seriously ravaged by the crisis like Bama , Damasak , Gwoza and some other communities in both northern, southern and central parts of the state.
The previous administration also made some efforts to tackle one of the root causes of the insurgency which is illiteracy through reconstruction of over 40 Mega schools.
The administration which was also faced with the challenge of catering for its citizens displaced from their homes by the crisis made serious efforts in addressing the needs of the people and resettling them back to their communities.
For this reason, Shettima’s administration created the ministry of Reconstruction, Rehabilitation and Resettlement which was handled by the incumbent governor, Prof . Babagana Umara Zulum.
Through the activities of the ministry, many internally Displaced Persons ( IDPs) were resettled back to their homes after reconstruction of structures destroyed there.
However, the resurgence of the terrorists attacks in some of the communities its IDPs had been resettled, resulted in them fleeing back to the camps they earlier left in Maiduguri.
This has posed a challenge for the current administration of prof. Babagana Umara Zulum as almost 600,000 of the IDPs are at various IDPs camps in Borno state excluding the refugees in Niger Republic and Cameroon.
The biting hunger in the camps and inadequate shelter sometimes ago led the IDPs to revolt against the authority before they were pacified.
Zulum has been taking positive steps towards addressing the needs of the IDPs with assurance of resettling them as his priority.
Delivering his speech at the June 12 Democray Day celebration in Maiduguri, the governor reiterated his administration’s strive of returning the IDPs back to their communities.
He also revealed his planned visit the following two weeks to Niger Republic and Cameroon to confer with Borno citizens taking refuge there to work out modalities for their return and resetlement .
Also confronting Zulum’s new administration is the issue of over N21 billion workers’ pension and gratuity which he inherited from the administration of former governor Kashim Shettima.
The workers had repeatedly demanded the offsetting of the debt from the previous administration before its tenure elapsed, and they have continued to press for the clearance from the present administration, which assured them that government will systematically see that the issue of the gratuity and pensions are addressed.
This, the governor disclosed to the workers after extensive meetings with the labor leaders.
There is also the issue of the biometric exercise embarked on by the previous administration to fish out ghost workers from the civil service which was not completed before the expiration of its tenure.
The exercise though meant to sanitize the system, placed untold hardship on some civil servants whose salaries were tied down for as much as three to four years because they were not captured in the exercise.
But in his wisdom , prof. Zulum who did not condemn the biometric exercise, ordered that the unverified workers be paid their wages pending the completion of the exercise, but with a warning that any worker found as a ghost will face the wrath of law.
The alarming rate of youth unemployment in the state is another issue staring Zulum in the face . Over a long time , the state government had not engaged in any massive recruitment in the civil service and other government parastatals , while most industries that should have been palliative are moribund.
Though the previous administration tried to put something down to engage the youths through the establishment of block moulding plants , interlock making machines that assisted in interlocking most areas of the cities , non resuscitation of the moribund industries never helped in addressing the unemployment rate, which is another root cause of the Boko Haram crisis.
The terrorists had at the early stage of the crisis found the unemployed youths a willing tool to their crusade through induction of many who were told that western education is abomination which literary translate to the word “ Boko Haram “.
While some of the youths who graduated for years without employment tore their credentials to join the crusade, others brainwashed who were in the various higher institutions of learning abandoned their studies to join the terrorists organization.
Zulun in his inaugural address , made it crystal clear the dangers inherent in making complacency of the issue of youth unemployment.
According to the governor , he sees it as a scandal, depriving young men and women of their careers, diminishing the prospects for teeming young people, wasting national resources, aborting chances of societal recovery and creating hopelessness and insecurity.
The governor went further to said that he planned to commission two vocational training centres for men and women in Maiduguri.
“I will resuscitate Technical Secondary schools throughout the state
and provide Youth Empowerment and Entrepreneurship Schemes,” he said.
Access to farmlands due to the Boko Haram insurgency has been a challenge as many farmers in the state have lost their lives to the terrorists while either cultivating or harvesting on the farmlands.
However, with the relative peace experienced in the state for now , government can embark on aggressive farming in the areas peace has emerged to make food available for the masses.
To achieve this , governor Zulum has made it clear that he will use the massive Agricultural equipment procured by his predecessor to embark on extensive Agricultural project in the state. If this is done , both the IDPs who will be returned to their communities and other citizens not displaced by the crisis can partner government for for food sustainability.
Agriculture will also provide job for the teeming youths hence it is done through mechanization.
Opening Of Road Networks
Most roads to rural communities since advent of the Boko Haram insurgency have remained inaccessible thereby making intra state movement a difficult venture.
While some of the roads are no go area due to the presence of the Boko Haram terrorists, the dilapidated nature of others have made them a death trap , hence the terrorists capitalize on the difficult terrain to swoop on travellers.
So Zulum’s government requires thorough collaboration with the security agencies in other to clear those roads first before reconstruction of the dilapidated areas.
The governor knowing the huge economic and commercial potentials of the state and the enormous benefits that may accrue to citizens , took bold steps to initiate the commencement of road construction works along Maiduguri- Dikwa- Ngala road and Bama-Banki Road.
In addition, prof. Zulum directed with immediate effect for the opening of Gwoza–Limankara road and comprehensive maintenance of numerous road networks that greatly adds value to internal trade and commerce in the state.
Speaking on the governance of Borno state, the sole administrator, Borno State Chamber Of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture ( BOCCIMA ), Alhaji Ahmed Ashemi, said he is sure the incumbent governor, Prof. Babagana Umara Zulum will take over from where the former governor, Kashim Shettima stopped.
Ashemi noted that there is much to be done in human development index as he called on the incumbent government to replicate some of the virtues his predecessor embarked on and bring his own virtues to bear on governance because there are no two people that are the same.
Ashemi said:” If you want to appraise the performance or the tenure of the former administration of Kashim Shettima, you have to do it from the event that have happened during the eight years and the circumstances or the condition under which the government operated , and the situation in the state as far as insurgency is concerned .
“ The government came in 2011 at the peak of the insurgency when even Maiduguri was not fully liberated from the terrorists by the Civilian Joint Taskforce ( CJTF). So it was on daily or weekly basis that one local government area or the other is lost to the terrorists.
“ So if you look at the circumstances under which the government operated, you must give him some positive remarks for performing under this strenuous circumstances he found himself.
“Despite all these , he has been able to keep the state together, he has been able to keep the state going. Infact , one area he impressed is being able to pay salaries throughout these eight years despite the fact that he spent heavily on security matters. Some states that are peaceful, we do hear them owing workers 17 to 30 months salaries.
“ In the area of infrastructure, he has not been able to reach the rural areas particularly due to insurgency, but within where he can reach safely and work, he has provided a lot of amenities like schools, drainage and Agricultural inputs. And where you can say that there is some needs is job creation, which I think government is a continuous process, his successor, I am sure will take from where he stopped.
“Human development index needs a little bit boosting in the state. That is to say that there is much to be done in human development index. You see succeses in government have a lot of bearing on the personality and composure and so on of a leader .so , I call on the incumbent government to replicate some of the virtues his predecessor embarked on and bring his own virtues on governance because there are no two people that are the same.
“You may be good in one aspect , somebody else will be good in another. So , I believe that he will continue all the good things that Kashim Shettima has been able to do and then also add his own good ones to make the state a better place to live for all of us”, he added.
On his part, Comrade Bulama Abiso, the Chairman Nigeria Labour Congress ( NLC ), Borno state Chapter, hoped that the new administration of Prof. Babagana Umara Zulum will sit down with Labor and look into some lingering issues and with immediate effect resolve them.
Comrade Abiso noted that since, it is the same government that has transited, there is no excuse from them, having known the suffering of workers under the previous administration of governor Kashim Shettima.
He said:” hope rekindled by the fact that Nigerian government is now out of recession and all the problems we have been getting, is that Nigeria went into recession where the allocation, we have been getting from the government has been dropped.
“That is why many of the issues were not carried along and it lingered till today. So my hope is that the new government will sit down with Labor and then look into these lingering issues and with immediate effect resolve them. They have no excuse because it is the same government that is transiting.
“They know how the workers had suffered, they know how workers supported the previous administration and how resilient they are throughout the period of the last government. We had not gone on strike based on the understanding that we don’t want to compound issues on ground.
“So therefore, the new government, I want to believe have no reason not to look into the problems of workers in Borno state,” Abiso added.
For Mr Wakil Terab , from 1979 to 1983 , when the then governor, Mohammad Goni constructed and established about 12 industries namely: Borno wire and Nail industries: Borno clay products , Borno state flour mills, NEITAL Shoes among others, no other government from 1999 to date cared to resuscitate or revive the industries.
Terab noted that if these industries were revived and made functional, the issue of human capital development would have been addressed by now, saying that it would have created employment opportunities for the teeming Borno youths to engage themselves.
“Our people are roaming the streets begging for N10 or N20 , but the state government then refused to give attention to revitalization of these industries, instead it engaged on conspicuous consumption like these mega schools, he cannot even pay backlogs of pension and gratuity and where are the teachers for the mega schools.
“There are backlogs of gratuities from 2013 till date, so these are some of issues we want the new administration of prof. Babagana Umara Zulum to address so as to bring succor to already devastated Borno citizens,” Terab said.