Michael Olugbode, in Maiduguri
Marte, a local government in northern Borno, is totally deserted, the chairman of the council, Alhaji Ali Shettima has cried out.
Speaking to journalists in Maiduguri, Shettima said as a result of frequent attacks of Boko Haram insurgents, the residents of the local government had all relocated from the area and are now living in camps.
Shettima, who decried the living condition of the people from the local government forced to live sub-human lives, said many of “my people would have loved to be home now even with the risk of Boko Haram if the military clear us to go.”
He said: “Marte local government is totally deserted, you cannot find anybody in Marte. Many of them are now displaced and in camps in Maiduguri.
“About 70,000 others are in Monguno, we have some at Gajiram and others in Gamboru. Many of the families are divided and the main challenge is bringing the divided families together.
“Because of the insurgency, many of these people who are farmers cannot till the ground and have been made to depend on stipends from others to survive, this is just enough to live and be well.”
Shettima lamented that: “Most of them (people from Marte) have not been captured under the enumeration system of the camps because they arrived at the camps in batches and most times singularly. There are a large number of them without support from government and all the aid agencies. Their complaints have been made to SEMA and the local government, which do assist but this is definitely not enough. The resources at the disposal of the local government and SEMA are not enough to take care of them.”
He said the challenges had been, “how to feed them, how to bring them together and how to return them to their ancestral home.”
He said: “We can only return them subject to clearance from the Army, the people want to go back despite the risk because they are fed up with the condition they are living right now.
But however as a chairman, I cannot risk the life of anybody unless I receive assurance from the military authority that the place is safe and that they will provide security upon return.”
Shettima said: “Until after this is done, then we can move in and provide them with means of livelihood to allow them quickly settle down.”
He disclosed that: “I cannot say the place is safe now for the information I have now is so sketchy, I know we have Boko Haram there now, and these people are merciless and can even kill 50 people at a time without blinking an eyelid. We are appealing to the military to clear them. And it is after the place is cleared of Boko Haram and de-mined that we can move in.
“We as a government we now move to provide the needs of the people, as I am talking to you, the clinics are all bad, the boreholes are all broken down and need to be either resuscitated or perhaps rebuilt.
“We equally need to have a temporary school for the returnees. Our intention is to start the relocation with about 500 families for it will be difficult to return everyone at the same time. We start with a camp and once it is a success, we move into another village.
“We are presently looking at a centre location, a formal ideal location to return them. We have already identified GSS, New Marte and we will use all the infrastructure there, although almost all the classrooms have been burnt down but we will use the premises to accommodate them, it should be able to accommodate 500 families.”
He noted that he has been running the affairs of the council from the state capital Maiduguri.
He said: “You see I am moving around, I move around where we have the people from the local government. I move from one camp to the other to attend to their needs. We have 42 different locations were the displaced persons are staying in Maiduguri alone. Many of these are communities camps. We have 13 camps in Monguno, with people of Marte and Monguno living side by side.”