Madagali Attack: The Truth that Must Be Told

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Ring True

with Yemi Adebowale; yemi.adebowale@thisdaylive.com; 07013940521 (text only)

The biggest hitch to the ongoing war against Boko Haram is the persistent lies by the government that all communities occupied by the terrorists had been recovered by the military. As a result, unsuspecting residents return to these communities, only to be slaughtered. That was precisely what happened in Madagali, Adamawa State last week when suicide bombers killed 56 persons and injured 77 in a market in this hapless town. Instead of facing the challenges at hand squarely, the government is placing emphasis on propaganda. This deceit must not continue. No doubt, our gallant soldiers have been doing their best in this war against terror, but a lot still needs to be done. Madagali was an accident waiting to happen. The terrorists have remained in and around this town for so long, abducting, raping and brutalising residents of Madagali and of neighbouring communities, almost on a daily basis. Yet, there was no proactive action by the military. The plea by the community for a military base to be stationed in Madagali did not get the desired attention. The attack last week drew wide attention because of the high casualty figure.

I was impressed when the member representing Michika/Madagali in the House of Representatives, Adamu Kamale picked up the courage to debunk claims by the federal government that all communities hitherto occupied by Boko Haram had been completely liberated. He said on Tuesday that contrary to the claims of the authorities, particularly the Nigerian military, not much had changed in many territories occupied by Boko Haram.

Kamale remarked: “Many villages in my constituency share common boundaries with the dreaded Sambisa Forest, the main base of the Boko Haram insurgents. These insurgents have persistently infiltrated the communities, occupied the villages for as long as it pleased them, kidnapping and killing defenseless villagers in the process. Madagali still has challenges. I am the representative of this area and I know what I am saying. Many of our territories are still under the control of the insurgents.

“They kidnap and slaughter our people at will. Before last week’s attacks in Madagali market, three people were kidnapped and killed a day earlier in the same place. Some of these incidents are actually unreported and because they are not documented, the impression is created that all is well. The claims by the authorities that only pockets of insurgents are still operating are not true. The insurgents are still very much in control of many of our villages close to the Sambisa Forest. They still occupy these territories. Though, the insurgents retreat whenever they sensed the presence of the military, they always return to terrorise the villages and occupy them as soon as the soldiers move to other locations.

“The solution is for the government to provide adequate security for these communities in Madagali by ensuring that the military has a permanent operational base there. We need the federal government to come to the aid of these vulnerable villagers. I am always embittered each time the government asked displaced villagers to return home on the excuse that their communities had been fully liberated. Let the people have adequate security; the psychological loss to our people is devastating. Their problem is beyond sharing food items to them or merely asking them to return to homes that are not secured.”

The situation in Madagali is replicated in many towns and villages in Borno State and some parts of Yobe State. It is very painful that attacks by the terrorists in several Borno communities are also unreported. As at press time, two local government areas in Borno State are still dominated by Boko Haram. They are Abadam and Mobba. Towns like Malam Fatori, Damasak, Gashighar and the outskirts of Chibok are no go areas. The Senator representing Borno Central, Baba Kaka Garbai, remarked recently: “We should not live under the illusion that Boko Haram are decimated or weaken; these are not reality and neither a true reflection of the reality. The reality is that most of the local government areas in Borno are partially occupied by Boko Haram. If the people are moved back to their homelands, you are making them vulnerable to attack. Unless you provide maximum security and return of law and order in these areas, relocating these people would be endangering their lives.”

Clearly, many people in Borno State have abandoned their towns and villages to Boko Haram. I challenge Information Minister, Lai Mohammed to relocate his office to Malam Fatori or Gashighar if he is confident that no Nigerian territory is under the control of Boko Haram.
I am similarly worried that the war against Boko Haram is assuming a frightening dimension in spite of funny stories that we are winning the battle. We are now at a level where military commanders are being killed by the terrorists. Four Lieutenant Colonels have been killed in the last two months. Just on Monday, Lieutenant Colonel O. Umusu, the Commanding Officer, 118 Task Force Battalion in Borno State was killed, alongside his security details, by an Improvised Explosive Device in an ambush. The other three officers killed in the last two months are Lt. Colonel K Yusuf (October 16, 2016); Lt.  Colonel Abu Ali (November 4, 2016) and Lt. Colonel B. U. Umar (November 15, 2016). The military had to abandon Malam Fatori following the attacks on soldiers there. These are clear signs that this war is far from over. This is the reality our gallant soldiers and their commanders should face and plan appropriately. Our brave troops have clearly made progress against Boko Haram, but the battle ahead is still enormous. One thing is certain: Allah will give us victory over these terrorists very soon.

The Wisdom in Ekweremadu’s Single Term Proposal
The proposal for a single term of six years for president and governors by Deputy President of Senate, Ike Ekweremadu is one that should be supported by genuine patriots. The Jonathan administration tried amending the constitution to accommodate a similar proposal in 2014, but it was killed by enemies of Nigeria. A single term will go a long way in reducing the desperation of incumbents, who often defile the electoral course and imperils our democracy in order to remain in office for another term. The Constitution and Electoral Reform Committee of the National Assembly must work very hard to ensure we get this amendment through. For me, six years are enough for any sane public office holder to make an impact.

Ekweremadu was apt when he stated: “A single term of office would reduce desperation and impunity by politicians, as well as the conduct of party primaries. It will reduce the life and death struggle by politicians for control of party machinery. Much of the impunity, violence, and malpractice that defile our electoral system are caused by desperation for a second term of office; a single term of six years for incumbent executives to conclude all their ‘good work’, will certainly reduce the weight and influence they bring to bear on elections remotely or directly affecting them.”

Babachir Lawal, Please Step Aside
I am shocked that Babachir Lawal is still holding on as Secretary to the Government of the Federation, in spite of damaging report about his role in the looting of the funds of the Presidential Initiative on North East (PINE). I am also appalled that President Buhari has not fired Lawal in line with the so-called war against corruption. PINE is domiciled in the office of this SGF. From the interim report of the forensic audit of the activities of PINE by the Senate, the case against the SGF is weighty. He has evidently allowed his personal interest to override his official duties. This is against the rules in the public service. The forensic report showed that some of PINE’s contracts were awarded to companies belonging to top government officials, their cronies and family members. It showed further that Rholavision Engineering Limited, a company, with the SGF as Director was awarded consultancy contract by PINE. I have a copy of the search report from the Corporate Affairs Commission on my table as I write this piece. It clearly shows that Lawal only resigned as a Director of Rholavision on September 16, this year.

Senator Shehu Sani, chairman of the probe panel remarked: “Although, Lawal resigned the directorship of the said company in September 2016, it is on record that he is a signatory to the accounts of the company. Aside Lawal’s complicity, PINE, which carried out the entire procurement activities, contravened laid down rules. Those that awarded PINE contracts took undue advantage of the provision of ‘emergency situation contract award’ in the procurement act to inflate figures. Also, most of the contracts had no direct bearing or impact on the IDPs, who were living in deplorable conditions.”
In the course of the public hearing on PINE activities, its key offices could not convincingly account for the N2.5 billion released to them to tackle the crisis in the camps of the IDPs. The Secretary of PINE, Umar Gulani, claimed that the body spent N203 million to clear grass somewhere in Yobe State, but Yobe State Commissioner for Information, Mohammed Lamin, disputed the claim. “No taipa grass was cleared in the state by any Federal Government agency,” declared Lamin. Gulani’s claim that PINE cleared invasive plants species around river banks in the state at the cost of N253 million was also disputed by Yobe State officials. They also disputed the N422 million PINE claimed was spent on the provision of tents for displaced families in the state. Claims of renovating 18 schools destroyed by the Boko Haram in Yobe also turned out to dubious. According to Yobe State Government’s record, only three schools were renovated by PINE. It is also sad to note that PINE confirmed donating N50 million to a questionable organisation while our unfortunate IDPs wallow in poverty.

The call for the resignation and prosecution of the SGF by the Senate is a fair and just one. Report of his complicity in the diversion of Northeast humanitarian funds is apparent. The contravention of the provisions of Public Procurement Act and the Federal Government Financial Rules and Regulations pertaining to award of contracts is also obvious here. Lawal’s defence has been unimpressive. Bath Nnaji, power minister under the Jonathan administration was forced to resign in similar circumstances few years back. This SGF should not be an exception. My dear Lawal, please follow the path of honour by resigning.

Is Chris Ngige Representing the S’East?
Each time the issue of marginalization of Igbo crops up, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige waves it aside. Just last week, the apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohaneze Ndigbo reiterated that President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration was anti-Igbo. Ngige quickly jumped up to dismiss the assertion, insisting that the president was not promoting politics of exclusionism against Ndigbo. Ngige, who spoke in Enugu, said contrary to the Ohanaeze’s statement, “President Buhari’s antecedents show that he loves Ndigbo.” Haba! Which love, when people from the South East are evidently being excluded from key appointments in federal departments and agencies? Herdsmen have been running riot in this region in the last 18 months, killing and maiming Igbo without appropriate response from the Buhari administration. I wonder if Ngige is truly representing this badly-marginalized region in the Buhari cabinet. Judgement day is around the corner. Very soon, the people of the South East will ask this former governor to come forward and account for his stewardship.