Michael Olugbode in Maiduguri
Over 2,000 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) from Guzamala Local Government Area, who fled at the peak of Boko Haram insurgency to Maiduguri, Borno State, were escorted back home yesterday by the Nigerian military.
This is the first batch of IDPs to be escorted back to Northern Borno who, until recently, threatened by pockets of insurgents, before a military operation, â€˜Operation Last Holdâ€™, was launched in the area, which rattled the insurgents and cleared landmines from farmlands.
The IDPs who were transported from the Bakassi camp in Maiduguri yesterday morning in long buses numbered about 2,043, represent 378 households.
This, according to the military, is the first batch of IDPs who willingly expressed the desire to return to their communities to resettle and resume their traditional occupation of farming and fishing as well as other socio-economic activities.
Speaking during the commencement of the movement at the Bakassi IDPs camp, the head of the military counter-insurgency operation in the Northeast (Theatre Commander Operation Lafiya Dole), Major General Rogers Nicholas, stated that the earnest desire of the Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai, has been to ensure that IDPs who are willing to return home to begin a normal life are assisted back home.
He noted that the modalities to return the IDPs home were jointly worked out by the Theatre Command, the Borno State Government and the Guzamala Local Authorities.
Nicholas added that the military has reinforced security in the locality and that the traditional farm clearing (sharandaji) to declare the farming season open has been earlier conducted in Gudumbali.
He assured the returnee IDPs of adequate protection while they resettle, adding that Operation Last Hold has been inaugurated in the theatre to operationally cover the locality and other communities.
The Theatre commander also urged well-meaning Nigerians and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to support returnee IDPs with farming implements and other relief materials to enable them settle back quickly into their respective communities.
The state Commissioner for Reconstruction, Rehabilitation and Resettlement, Professor Babagana Umara, while addressing the returnee IDPs, stated that their resolve to return home is a welcome development that will fast track their socio-economic well-being. He assured them of the Borno State Government support as they return home.