Borno on the Mend


The Borno State Government recently unveiled its remarkable progress in many sectors. Olawale Ajimotokan who toured some sites in Maiduguri, reports

The flight to Maiduguri                                                  

This reporter was in the media delegation to Maiduguri for the Special Town Hall Meeting organised by the Ministry of Information and Culture and Borno State Government in acknowledgement of the gallant role of the military and security agencies in the fight against insurgency in the North-east.

The media contingent, joined by other soldiers, left Abuja aboard the NAF C-130 Hercules aircraft, often used to transport troops and military supplies to the front lines in the troubled zones.

Save for the deafening noise and fear of flying a military plane, where regular routines usually observed in passenger plane; fastening of seat belt, safety procedures and placement of luggage were waived, it was a memorable flight.

We arrived the well secured NAF Base in Maiduguri after flying for approximately two hours.

Under heavy security, the convoy drove into the city, through Pompomari Layout and Damboa Road to our hotel, where the Borno State Commissioner for Information, Hon Mohammed Bulama, received us.

Even as dusk approached, Bulama guided the team on selected tours of projects undertaken by Governor Kashim Shettima, to signify a renewed atmosphere for peace in the state, put at its throes, for many years by insurgency.

Schools for orphans

Governor Kashim Shettima said the state was building about 34 mega schools with boarding facilities for children orphaned by the insurgency. The crisis severely impacted the state leaving 52,000 orphans and 54,911 widows. Shettima said 17,000 of the orphans along those from neighbouring states will be admitted by the mega schools. He said the policy is to avoid stigmatisation of the orphans.

”Education is the greatest tool for change. If we do not take these orphans by educating them and giving them a good home, they will take care of us 10 to 15 years down the line,” Shettima said.

Boost in agriculture

There is an upsurge in agriculture in Borno State after the military dislodged Boko Haram fighters from all 27 local government areas. The state has registered 18,000 farmers to cultivate rice on 18,000 hectares of land in preparation for this year’s planting season.

The state Commissioner for Agriculture, Mohammed Dili, disclosed this when he showed reporters the workshop, where newly acquired tractors, mills, threshers, planters and harvesters for rice planting were kept.

Under the programme, each farmer will cultivate an average of one hectare of land.

Farming output was drastically reduced while the insurgency disrupted economic activities in the region.

Dili said before the crisis, the state had available for cultivation, 67,000 hectares of land in the Chad Basin Authority, the largest in West Africa, for the production of rice and wheat. The basin was severely hampered by the crisis as farmers scampered from Boko Haram bandits, who also burned farm settlements.

“I am amused when I get hints that Kebbi, Zamfara and Ebonyi are the largest rice producing states in the country. If not for the insurgency, there is no state in the federation, including the whole of West Africa that can match Borno in rice production,” Dili said.

Rice is majorly cultivated in Marte, Mongonu, Kukawa, Kala Balge and Ngala in the northern district. It is also grown in Jere, Maiduguri Municipal Centre, Konduga and in the southern district of Shani, Bayo, Biu, and Hawul.

Dili said before the insurgency, the state government in 2011 procured 31,000 brand new tractors fan track, 1,000 tractors, 1,600 planters, 50 harvesters and 600 rice mills. The combined number of harvesters nationally is 45.

“We also have some threshers, air-baler, combined harvesters and cultivators in preparation for our post insurgency programme. About 80 per cent of our population is agriculture-based. We make them to form cooperative societies and to complete the entire value chain. We prepare the land, provide the machineries, cultivation implements and the entire input that are required and at the end of the day we have a processing machine.”

He lauded Governor Shettima for his foresight, by procuring more than 10,000 farming units of irrigation materials, brought into the state in 750 containers.

In addition, Borno is promoting drip irrigation which allows water to be conserved at its premier centre in Maduguri.

The advanced farming technology, according to the honorary adviser to the governor on special project, Ibrahim Ali, allows for two farming seasons and production of about 3,000 tons of tomato.

Existing beside this is a seedling protecting centre that can produce tomato, pepper and any seedling. It has a capacity to produce eight million seedlings per month, ready to plant.

Revamped health infrastructure

The Borno health sector is brimming in response to the subjugation of insurgency. A new hospital for women and children, located on Dikwa Road, Maiduguri and named after former First Lady, Mariam Abacha, is one of such. The ultra-modern hospital has 250 beds and is equipped with state-of-the-art equipment.

In spite of the security impasse, the Borno State Hospital Management Board (BSHMB) made progress in maternal and child-health, general surgery and other fields.

The State Specialist Hospital is a major hospital within Maiduguri. The centre has Borno State and the nation in the forefront of healthcare by reversing the narrative of medical tourism in India, Turkey and Europe.

It is a post graduate training institution with an accreditation for the training of consultants in obstetrics and gynecology.

The Chief Medical Director of BSHMB, Dr. Salisu Aliyu Kwayabura, said there are now 44 ultra sound scans for the 38 general hospitals in the state. Kwayabura said the intervention has resolved to improve maternal and children health delivery.

Some of the latest ultra-scan machines it acquired include the E10, E990 C, FODI, CT Scan, MRI, digital radiography and Echo Scan.

The CMD said until the procurement of the equipment, Borno had one of the worst indices of maternal mortality of 1,000 deaths per 1,500 lives in the country.

He said up to September last year, the average maternal mortality in the hospital was in excess of 15 women dying every month, as a result of labour complications.

 “Now since we acquired these equipment and invigorated training, what we have from November–December and January was an average of 1.5 deaths per month. We lost a woman in December with 367 deliveries, 67 Caesarian sections. We lost two women in October. We lost two women in November as a result of complications of delivery out of 396 deliveries with 76 Caesarian sections. And in January, we lost two women out of 386 deliveries and 65 Caesarian sections. So you can see what we have been able to impact and that is in relation to our status as a post graduate training institution,’’ Kwayabura said.

He stressed that from 2011 to date, the management increased the number of doctors from 62 to about 129. In addition, it equipped about 750 nurses and midwives over the past five years and injected back into the system.

Kwayabura added that the Borno State Government sent 100 girls to study medicine in Sudan, which is known for its high quality training in the field. Also many of the diseases and medical problems in the state revolve around women and children.

Solar module factory

Borno has also forged ahead in the post insurgency period by pioneering a robotic solar module factory in Nigeria.

The honorary adviser to Governor Shettima, Ibrahim Ali, said fabrication of solar module will provide rural community the power they need for their boreholes, clinics, schools and markets. Similarly, he said individual users can also use the power in their houses.

Ali, a former Minister of Petroleum, described the project as state-of-the-art that once laid, the machine will be robotic; partly 70 per cent robotic and 30 per cent manual. The factory has the capacity to produce 40 megawatt of modules per year.

Ali said Borno would consider mounting solar modules to tackle the challenges in the rural water supply where it was increasingly becoming impossible to use generator or diesel engine and start working on it. Most of modules will have no battery as they work in day time from 7a.m. to 5p.m. He said the state will complement the national electricity generation by adding about 50 megawatts to the national grid.

State university to take off

Educational pursuit was disrupted at the height of the crisis. With the new lease of life, the Borno State University is set to admit students for its programmes after it was granted license by the National University Commission (NUC).

Borno and Zamfara are the only states in the federation without state universities.

Its present campus was originally built as an information centre by the immediate past governor before it was upgraded by the current administration.

The Borno State Commissioner for Higher Education, Ahmed Usman Jaha, said the university would operate five faculties, including Education, Arts, Pure Sciences, Management Sciences and Social Sciences.

Jaha said the institution would take off this quarter with 50 remedial students and 500 arts students. The remedial programme will run for seven months.

“The idea of the state university was mooted in 2011, but as soon as we got recognition from NUC, we awarded a contract of N3.5 billion to build the faculties, lecture theatres, a library and staff quarters. The contractor said all the projects will be completed in four months. We will source for lecturers from University of Maiduguri,” Jaha said.

Teachers’ Village

After the insurgency, the blocks of flats along Kano Road, hitherto used as Internally Displaced Persons’ (IDPs) camp, has now been allocated to teachers.

Borno State Commissioner for Information, Bulama, described the Ali Mongunu Teachers Village as the only one of its kind in Nigeria. The village accommodates 400 houses varying from 2-3 bedroom flats.

While taking journalists on tour of the village, Bulama said it had to be renovated so teachers can use it as was converted as IDPs camp for three years.

Bulama, said the village will be allocated and eventually sold to the teachers. He said priority will be given to the present occupiers of the flats.

Housing estates

Bulama said the government had built over 3,000 houses since it came to office. One of the tastefully built estates is Zana Mustapha Garden and it will be allocated to indigenes of the state. Each building in the estate is made up of six blocks of three and five bedrooms flats. It will be let out at the cost of N30,000 per annum and eventually given out to the occupiers. Bulama said the estate will be completed latest May this year and allocated to civil servants, business people, members of the civil society and journalists. Governor Shettima told the media that some of the flats will be given out free to people that offer to foster at least three of the 54,000 children orphaned during the insurgency.