Two Years after it was Deserted, Bama Ready for Return of Residents

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US heeds Buhari’s call for assistance, pledges additional $41m for Lake Chad Basin Region
Tobi Soniyi in Abuja and Michael Olugbode in Maiduguri

The Borno State Environmental Protection Agency yesterday said Bama town would be fit again for residents’ habitation by the next two weeks. The town, one of the largest in the state, had been completely abandoned by residents since September 2014 following attacks and subsequent occupation by Boko Haram terrorists. The sole administrator of BOSEPA, Alhaji Nassir Surundi, who disclosed the town’s imminent readiness to receive returning residents, said massive clearance of weeds and fumigation to rid the area of pests and rodents had commenced.

This was as the United States yesterday announced more than $41 million in additional humanitarian aid to help people affected by the current insurgency in the North-east, which has resulted in severe food shortages, particularly, in communities within the Lake Chad Basin. The basin, spanning parts of seven countries, including principally Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon, and Niger – but also the Central African Republic, Sudan, and Algeria – is notorious as the central point of the Boko Haram insurgency. More than six million people in the region are said to be in need of emergency food assistance, while 2.6 million people are displaced.

The US assistance came after President Muhammadu Buhari’s recent appeal for assistance from the international community to take care of the humanitarian crisis caused by Boko Haram’s devastating attacks in the North-east.

Surundi said 1,000 personnel had been deployed to Bama to facilitate the clean-up of the town, which at the peak of the Boko Haram terrorist assault was a “killing field”. The insurgents were said to have thrown thousands of corpses into the Yedzaram River and boreholes in Bama town and left many carcasses of both humans and animals on the streets of the town when they were pushed out by the military last year after about one year occupation.

Speaking to journalists in Bama during the supervision of the on-going fumigation and cleaning work, Surundi said he was acting on the instructions of the state governor, Alhaji Kashim Shettima. Shettima was also on a weeklong relocation to Bama to supervise reconstruction works as part of the efforts to make the town ready for human habitation.

The BOSEPA boss said 17 streets had so far been cleared of giant weeds that had taken over the town since residents fled in the wake of attacks by Boko Haram insurgents in September 2014. He also said fumigation and other sanitation exercises were being carried out against snakes and other reptiles that had turned residential houses into their abode due to the absence of human habitation.

In the continuing effort to succour the suffering people of the North-east, the US Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, told a high-level gathering on the humanitarian crisis in the Lake Chad Basin that his country would contribute an extra $41 million to the relief work. The meeting was on the margins of the 71st United Nations General Assembly.

With the latest announcement of assistance, the US would be providing more than $359 million in humanitarian aid since last year to help people affected by Boko Haram-related conflicts.

The US Department of State said the country continued to be the single largest humanitarian donor to the region.
This new funding to United Nations and NGO partners will help tens of thousands of people receive critically needed humanitarian assistance, including food, water, shelter, and services to address acute hygiene, protection, and nutritional needs.