Soldiers in search of the insurgents
YESTERDAY MARKED DAY NUMBER 11 OF THE IMPOSITION OF EMERGENCY RULE IN BORNO AND TWO OTHER STATES (YOBE AND ADAMAWA) BY PRESIDENT GOODLUCK JONATHAN. THE PAST 11 DAYS HAVE BEEN HARROWING for PEOPLE OF THE STATE CUT OFF FROM THE REST OF THE WORLD IN ORDER FOR THE MILITARY TO END THE REIGN OF TERROR BY THE EXTREMIST BOKO HARAM SECT. MANY RESIDENTS OF THE STATE HAVE AGREED TO ENDURE IN ORDER TO ENJOY A SAFE AND SECURED TOMORROW. MICHAEL OLUGBODE REPORTS
Genesis of the crisis…
Boko Haram first came into the consciousness of the nation and the rest of the world in 2009, when the sect laid siege on Maiduguri, the Borno State capital for about five days and it had to take the intervention of the military to dislodge the insurgents. The state, which used to be know as ‘Centre of Peace’ has known no peace ever since. In fact, fear and apprehension reign supreme in the state.
For over three years, the sect members tactical took over the state, going to markets to ask for levies at gun points and kidnapped prominent individuals who only gain freedom on the payment of heavy ransom. Many others have been maimed or killed by the group.
Many fled the state, especially non-indigenes, but to many who do not have a place to flee, they continued praying for a change, even as death kept creeping near them from this agent of turmoil who kill with delight on a daily basis. Even with a Joint Task Force around, this sect continued their reign of terror and have the audacity of hoisting their flag in some local government areas of the state, showing the legitimacy of their authority on the land. Some parts of Maiduguri was no go area to any sane mind as people are picked up at will for slaughter, the laws operating in those areas were different from any other parts of the state. The banned motorcycles were always in use in those areas. Also, some local government areas of the state were taken over and it was gathered that the sect were planning a major attack on Maiduguri.
When the sect attacked Bama, in a rehearsal of the plan attack of Maiduguri, where almost all the security apparatus of the town was grounded, President Goodluck Jonathan woke up and slammed a state of emergency on Borno State along with Yobe and Adamawa States.
But has anything changed in the last 11 days of emergency rule in the state? Definitely yes and the people of the state have had both doses of bitter and sweet tastes with great expectations. Few days after the state of emergency was declared, the GSM networks were shutdown by the military to make communication among the insurgents impossible.
A senior military officer said the shutdown of communication systems had become inevitable “in the successful completion of the task of smoking out the Boko Haram terrorists from their hideouts. It is believed that the sect has links in town that avail them with the troop deployment and “it is better to cut them off so that they can be caught unawares.”
The military officer added: “The closure of the roads leading into the city of Maiduguri and the indefinite shutdown of the four GSM service providers were inevitable. The locals, including residents of metropolis have to bear the brunt of inconveniences of traveling to relations and other destinations outside Maiduguri. We are getting them on an hourly basis, as about 65 terrorists were arrested on Saturday; and today (Sunday) more could be arrested at the various military posts on the closed six roads,” the military said.
The shut down of the GSM lines have drawn the people of Borno back to the days when telephone services were epileptic in Nigeria. For days, many could not get in touch with the outside world. Apprehension is heightened because relatives outside the state are left in the dark about their loved ones.
One of the residents of the town, who simply identified himself as John had his wife delivered of a baby through Caesarian Session and had to source for fund without success from within the state. His baby who should have brought joy added pain as he ran around to friends within the town who are equally affected by the situation and were of little assistance. He said: “What pained me most was that some relatives who at times like this are usually of assistance could not be reached because the networks were all bad. At present, I do not know what to do and how to get money to get my wife discharged from the hospital.”
John is definitely not the only one alone in this predicament as a result of the shutdown of the networks, but most businesses are affected as many people have come to depend on the comfort and medium of reaching others through the GSM.
Apart from being cut off from civilisation for two days during the week, movement was not allowed into or outside Maiduguri, as vehicular movement was stopped with the roads leading to the town blocked by the military. This made many to sleep on the roads. Some residents of the Maiduguri were temporarily imprisoned in their homes as round-the-clock curfew was placed on the 12 wards of the town. Those that attempted to come out were ordered back by the soldiers. Some of them that have the misfortune of not having food at home had to go without food for about 48 hours.
They were not the only ones who had to go on a lean meal. Many people in the town had to readjust their feeding as prices of foodstuffs have skyrocketed. The temporary closures of roads leading into Maiduguri by men of the JTF caused scarcity of essential food items such as fruits, milk and eggs in the town. Vegetables and other essential food items come into the city from the outskirts like Damboa, Lake Chad Basin Areas, Jos and Baga, a town now famous for the attack by the Boko Haram insurgents last April 16, which led to the reported death of 185 persons and massive destruction.
Even with the opening of the closed roads this week, the operation of the military in some areas of the state and neighbouring states have made the prices of vegetables, milk and eggs to shoot up by about 100 per cent in Maiduguri. Investigations revealed that the prices of tomatoes, onions and pepper shot up by 100 per cent. A plastic container of tomatoes which used to sell for N100 now goes for N200; a 50-kilogramme bag of onions sells for N20,000 as against the old price of N10, 000. A crate of eggs is now N1, 500, up from its old price of N850.
The high prices have left housewives to resort to buying dried vegetables of okra, spinach, garlic, meat and fish supplied from the local fish ponds of farmers in Maiduguri.
A mother of three, Adijat Abba said she had difficulties telling her children why they could no longer attend school. The management of their school told her there will be no school “till we observe how the state of emergency turns out to be.”
Abba Said: “It took me the whole day to explain without success to my children why we were turned back at the school’s gate that morning. They cried all day.”
If the people of Maiduguri are complaining, the people in some of the places where the camps of the insurgents were located are crying and fleeing to neighbouring countries to avoid being killed by the bullets of either the military or the militants.
In spite of the current pains, many residents of the state have given the declaration of state of emergency their blessing. Some other residents of Maiduguri who spoke on condition of anonymity said the emergency rule and the deployment of more troops to the states was belated after many lives and property had been destroyed by the Boko Haram gunmen.â€¨â€¨One of them said: “This emergency rule by the President should have been declared in 2009 or 2011, before the destruction of many lives and property by the sect. Now, those soldiers are pursuing the gunmen in the forests.â€¨â€¨He added that before the declaration of state of emergency and the constitution of a 25-member committee on Boko Haram amnesty by the president, there was hardly any day without kidnapping or killing of one or two people in Maiduguri metropolis. “Things have changed greatly in the last 11 days.”â€¨â€¨Though the people of the state are living in pains and still do not know how long more they have to live in in such condition, but are happy that law and order have been restored in the state. Another resident of Maiduguri said: “It is only the living that can pray for better tomorrow. The insurgency gave no hope for tomorrow.” Many residents of the state are aware of this and have continuously agreed to weather the storm which they pray will soon be over.