Buhari Must Read UNICEF’s Report on Borno State

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President Buhari

Ring true

By Yemi Adebowale; 07013940521; yemi.adebowale@thisdaylive.com

President Muhammadu Buhari must pick up and read the latest report of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) on troubled Borno State, if he is truly interested in ending the trauma in the entire North-east. Unlike the slanted report our president has been getting on the situation in the war front, this report presents the facts and figures as it is. The long and the short of the UNICEF report is that the terrorists control a large portion of Nigerian territory, contrary to the persistent report of the military to Buhari. It seems the President is being shielded from reading alternative perspective on the situation in the North-east. The few ones around him, who are genuinely interested in the progress of this country, must break this spell, and get him to read this latest UNICEF report.

This daring report titled, “Situation Overview and Humanitarian Needs”, echoes the reality that several communities in Borno State are controlled by Boko Haram. It avers that four local government areas are completely inaccessible for humanitarian assistance as a result of activities of the terrorists. The UN agency said attacks and armed clashes remained consistently high across the state, thus hampering its efforts to reach women and children in need of urgent help.

Yes, Marte, Abadam, Guzamala, and Kukawa local government areas of the state are controlled by the terrorists. This is why aid workers can’t step into them. Also, Kala Balge and Mobbar LGs are like 80 per cent controlled by the terrorists. Civil authority has broken down in these LGs. No police, no military, no Nigerian government in these areas. Boko Haram administers these places.

UNICEF notes: “Many local government councils remain partially accessible. The security situation remains volatile, with a significant impact on humanitarian access…access to Kala Balge LGA (Rann) remains severely constrained. UNICEF has only been able to conduct a limited number of day trips to Rann – Kala Balge LGA, where the nutritional situation of children appears to be deteriorating.

“The number of armed clashes and attacks remain consistently high across the state. A marked deterioration in road security has further increased humanitarian actors’ reliance on UNHAS helicopters to reach many locations, including Monguno, where there are significant humanitarian needs following the arrival of nearly 15,000 newly displaced persons over the past six months.

“Humanitarian actors consider it unlikely that the security situation in the majority of LGAs of Borno State will allow for any population return in the near future, either of IDPs or refugees. The urgency of overcrowding and congestion of camps is rising as the rainy season approaches, particularly in Maiduguri and Monguno where more than 20,000 people are still sleeping under open skies.”

The biggest draw back to the war against Boko Haram is the persistent fabrications by the government that the terrorists had been defeated. Killings by Boko Haram and the Islamic State of West Africa Province (ISWAP) will persist if the Buhari administration fails to face the reality that the war is far from over and tackle it appropriately. All the lies that the terrorists had been decapitated are falling like a pack of cards, with security agents struggling to hold on to areas under their control.

The terrorists are waxing stronger by the day. A triple suicide bombing last Sunday by Boko Haram killed over 30 people in Konduga, on the outskirts of Maiduguri. Just 10 days ago, the terrorists drove the Nigerian military out of Mobbar Local Government. They sacked the 158 Task Battalion located in Kareto village and killed the Commanding Officer, Lt. Col. Azubuike, and several of his troops. The guerrillas are also roaming freely in Marte LG after they successfully dismissed the military base in the town.

Residents are so frightened to return to their homes.

This is why I get very angry whenever I hear Buhari assuring puzzled Nigerians that “security and law enforcement agencies are capable of safeguarding the country, its people and property.” They have evidently failed the people and can’t even protect their military bases. The Army lost scores of soldiers in the last one week after Boko Haram fighters attacked its bases in the Mobbar, Damasak, Monguno and Gajiram areas of Borno State. Huge ammunition was also carted away by the terrorists.

The military inadvertently advertises that the terrorists are alive and kicking. The hand writing is always all over the press statements they issue. I doubt if their Public Relations guys thoroughly read these declarations before pushing them out. A recent one on the battle in the Lake Chad area reads: “For the record, two days ago, about 300 heavily-armed Boko Haram terrorists invaded Darak. However, they were met with stiff Multinational Joint Task Force resistance, resulting in a bloody gun battle, which lasted for several hours. Troops of the MNJTF killed 64 Boko Haram terrorists and captured eight others…The terrorists, however, killed 18 people, comprising 10 soldiers and eight civilians.”

From their own statement, they admitted that the terror group came with “about 300 heavily-armed” men. If Boko Haram can mobilise 300 rebels to battle MNJTF in just one location, then, evidently, they have not been beheaded, as we are being told. MNJTF even confirmed that a “decapitated” Boko Haram killed 10 soldiers in the Darak battle.

Our soldiers are struggling to contain the rebels because they are poorly motivated and poorly equipped. It is so depressing hearing stories of soldiers on the war front being owed field allowances. Army Chief, Tukur Buratai, rubbed salt on the injuries of these gallant officers and soldiers on Tuesday when he accused those involved in the anti-insurgency war of indiscipline and lacking commitment. He added: “It is unfortunate but the truth is that almost every setback the Nigeria Army has had in our operations in recent times can be traced to insufficient willingness to perform assigned tasks or simply insufficient commitment to a common national/military course by those at the frontlines.”

This is a very unfortunate and painful statement from the Army Chief. I was not surprised. Our gallant soldiers lack things as basic as water, yet, they put their lives on the line. Boko Haram parades better apparatus than our soldiers, yet, Buratai wants our men to perform magic. This country has been needlessly losing hundreds of its gallant soldiers to Boko Haram because of these failings. What about the unprecedented and persistent killing of officers by the terrorists under Buratai’s leadership? Some of those killed included Lt. Colonel O. Umusu, Lt. Colonel K Yusuf, Lt. Colonel Abu Ali, Lt. Colonel B. U. Umar, Captain Victor Ulasi, Lt Col Yusuf Aminu and Group Lt. Col. A E Mamudu. Now, Lt. Col. Azubuike. All these happened during his tenure. So, what is this army chief talking about? Buratai has never really been there for the soldiers. That was why I had consistently advocated his removal.  

On the other side, the killings in Zamfara State by so-called bandits have not abated. Just two days ago, the bandits attacked some communities in Tsafe Local Government Area of Zamfara, and killed 18 persons.

Few days back, 34 persons were killed in an attack in Tungar Kafau and Gidan Wawa communities in Shinkafi Local Government Areas. Zamfara is still very much in a mess, with Nigerian citizens relocating to Niger Republic in droves. When a delegation of Zamfara Advocacy Group visited Buhari 12 days ago to complain about the killings, they got feeble assurances from him, with his usual rhetoric. “The police have been taking drastic measures to check the activities of some local elements threatening the peace of the communities, including preventing farmers from going to their farms. I assure you, I get daily reports from people in the field and traditional rulers. I also meet regularly with the leadership of the security agencies, and they have been directed to deploy their personnel to secure the society,” President Buhari said. That was where it all ended. The attacks have continued.

The Scholarship Mess at NDDC

About 200 Nigerians who benefitted from the Niger Delta Development Commission’s 2018 Scholarship are wallowing in pain in Europe. Aside from hunger, many of them run the risk of being deported any moment from now, due to non-payment of their academic fees and maintenance allowances. They were given scholarships to pursue postgraduate studies abroad, fully funded by NDDC, and left the country with fanfare late last year to various universities in Europe. NDDC’s promise was to remit the school fees into accounts of the universities. The sustenance component of the scholarship was to be paid into their personal accounts. All these are yet to happen several months after.  Each beneficiary for the doctorate programme is entitled to about N28 million while those going for master’s degree would each receive about N9 million.

Some of the recipients of the scholarship used their personal funds to commence registration in their various schools after assurances of repayment by NDDC. One of the traumatised scholarship recipients told an online publication: “When we were given the award letter, NDDC was supposed to give us N500,000 as take-off grant but they gave very few people the money and promised others that they will give us the take-off grant later. Till now, we are yet to receive any money from the commission.”

The acting MD of the NDDC, Prof. Nelson Braimbraifa, should do the needful and end the agony of these scholars.

  • Ministry of Works Sabotaging NPA?

Wonders will never end in Nigeria. The news in town is that the Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing has been preventing the Nigerian Ports Authority from fixing parts of the deplorable Apapa ports’ access roads. Yes, that was the cruel dispatch released this week. The NPA “expose” was in reaction to wide condemnation by some port investors, following an incident where a container fell on three cars in Apapa, because of the craters on the road. A General Manager at NPA, Jatto Adams, said the agency had indicated willingness to fix the bad roads, but was banned by the ministry.

Adams added: “While this incident is regrettable, it is on record that the present management of the NPA, under the leadership of Hadiza Bala-Usman, had before now, written series of letters to the ministry, to hand over the port axis of the road to NPA for complete reactivation at NPA’s cost, to no avail. It took the personal intervention of the MD to involve Dangote and Flour Mills with NPA counterpart funds to re-construct the Wharf Road from Leventis to Apapa Port. The NPA is not unmindful of the havoc and damage this road is causing the port operations and the revenue loss, albeit the sufferings to the port users but as stated, the management is handicapped, and not that nothing is being done.”

I am shocked that the Works Ministry is yet to react to this indictment. Then, it must be true. Virtually all the roads into and out of an area, where the nation’s major sea ports are situated, are in shambles, yet, efforts by the NPA to ease the pain are being sabotaged. It can only happen in Nigeria. President Buhari must intervene to empower the NPA to do more on Apapa roads.