Borno is the worst hit state by the Boko Haram insurgency, and many would have thought that the herculean task of its reconstruction would take ages. Michael Olugbode who visited some of the affected communities, reports that much has been achieved within little time
The Post Insurgency Recovery and Peace Building Assessment Report on Borno showed that destructions worth six billion dollars have been inflicted by insurgents in the state. 20,000 persons were killed, two million displaced, about one million houses, 665 m unicipal buildings and 201 healthcare centres were destroyed. A total of 5,335 classrooms and other school buildings were destroyed across 512 primary schools, 38 secondary schools and two tertiary institutions.
The infrastructure took ages to build and those were the efforts of numerous administrations but the destruction which is obviously massive would equally take ages to rebuild; but it is often said that where there is a will there is a way; and that it takes a step to start the journey of miles; it is equally true that the ocean is a body of drops of water. In keeping with these sayings, it is right to say the journey to rebuilding Borno from the rubble of Boko Haram destruction has started gradually as the governor of the state, Alhaji Kashim Shettima and his people have picked up themselves from the ground where the insurgents have reduced them to, dusted themselves up and are starting their lives over again.
Where few months ago laid the rubble of Boko Haram destructions, buildings have started springing up and people have started leaving from camps where they were consigned to in the last few years back home to their homelands; though heads bowed but with the resolve to pick up the pieces of their lives and begin all over again.
Aware of the task ahead, the governor immediately he was reelected last year and inaugurated a newly created ministry that is new to the lexicon of Nigerian administration, the Ministry for Reconstruction, Rehabilitation and Resettlement with a mandate of rebuilding all communities, private homes, public structures as well as rehabilitation of victims.
Shettima who was equally aware of the daunting task before him and the new ministry, shunned sentiments and the need to placate politicians and appointed an academic and renowned engineer, Dr. Babagana Umara Zulum to oversee the new ministry. Zulum before his appointment had distinguished himself as the rector of the state owned polytechnic, Ramat Polytechnic where his performance was stellar.
The team was apt, a governor who wanted new homes and lives for his people and matched with a consummate and proven achiever commissioner who is not prepared to grease a political machinery but rather interested in making a mark and a place in the history of his state as an achiever extraordinaire.
With the needed framework well developed, the task of getting the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) a place they can call home instead of living a life of refugees in camps; reconstruction works were started with communities in Kaga, Maiduguri, Jere, Konduga and Bama Local Government Areas having the first shot in the phase one. The government as a matter of priority had picked communities based on immediate access to avoid interrupting the military operations which were ongoing. So much was achieved in a short space of time with the Borno State Government working in over 20 different sites.
In the reconstruction work, affected communities were remodeled to meet certain standards, schools, district head palaces, central mosques, primary healthcare centres, and water supply boreholes destroyed by the insurgents have been re-built. Equally rebuilt were the Nigerian Police Quarters, General Hospitals and dispensaries, local government secretariat; Police station and barracks, Magistrate Courts and the complex of the Federal Road Safety Commission with emergency clinic, office and staff quarters, among others. The Government also rebuilt and remodeled destroyed schools, healthcare centres and other affected areas.
Apart from the rebuilding of destroyed communities, the state government built and inaugurated a resettlement estate named Yerwa Peace Estate, comprising 500 units of two-bedroom flats which is now being permanently occupied by insurgency victims of Umarari, Gwaidamgari and Jajeri communities which were completely razed down during the military offensive that led to the final exodus of Boko Haram from Maiduguri. The Boko Haram had earlier controlled the three communities for two years, after chasing away residents who lived there for decades.
The train of reconstruction of destroyed infrastructure has moved to local government areas such as Kaga, Mafa, Dikwa, Konduga, Gwoza, Damboa and parts of Bama. The communities in the local government areas are wearing new looks and the faces of destruction have been consigned to history.
One important thing in the management of the reconstruction work in Borno is financial management and transparency shown. This was recently captured at the inauguration of some projects financed by the Victims Support Fund, the Executive Director of the Fund, Professor Sunday Ochoche could not but state that: “We gave Borno building materials worth N200 million and cash of N50 million for payment of labourers and other coordinating items to reconstruct 24 public buildings we identified in Dikwa but to our pleasant surprise, the Borno State Government used the same materials and money to reconstruct not only the 24 public buildings to standard but added 16 others. This is remarkable.”
The Chairman of the Fund, the venerated Gen. Theophilus Danjuma (rtd) was so impressed with the work done after a tour round the rehabilitated sites, that he immediately agreed to the commencement of work under the same sponsorship in Bama. He said the “judicious use of resources by Governor Kashim Shettima” was impressive as there is no more money to be thrown around. He said the Fund had little to play around with and needed to be judicious in its spendings, lamenting that of the over N50 billion pledged by corporate organisations, individuals and government institutions during the fund raising, about half the amount has been redeemed so far.
Danjuma said: “Let me say here that there is no dignity for someone living in IDPs’ camp, we are witnessing the inauguration of public building in Dikwa township. The total money spent in reconstruction was 250 million naira.
“We were able to construct 39 projects including General Hospital, local government, police barracks and 35 building which IDPs will move in from camp to the township.
“We are going to start reconstruction of Bama township as soon as possible so that people will relocate to their homes. The funds are limited and that is why we have to work together, we will provide money to everyone and building materials will be given to build their homes under supervision,” he said.
With effective fund management the reconstruction, rehabilitation and resettlement of Borno is on track and attracting organisations from all over the world, the Borno State governor who was well aware that this could take years and may not end until after he exited office, has the will to travel quite a mile and take the train to every nooks and crannies which was not only touched but torched by the satanic Boko Haram. Though the burden may be heavier than the state, but the process has already started and the rest of the world has jumped on the train.