Race against Time for Grace Taku, Alice Loksha

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Ring True with Yemi Adebowale, Email: yemi.adebowale@thisdaylive.com; Tel: 07013940521 (text only)

Ring true 

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

Patriots must increase pressure on the federal government to do something urgently about the two aid workers still in the dungeons of Boko Haram – Grace Taku, and Alice Loksha – before it is too late. Signals from the cells of these bastards called Boko Haram concerning the ladies are not favourable. The aid agency they work for, family and friends, all fear they may be killed any moment from now, following the murder of Pastor Lawan Andimi on January 20. Government must move very fast to rescue them. Grace, with five others, working for Action Against Hunger, were abducted by Boko Haram on July 18, 2019, in Damasak, Borno State. The five others have been killed by the terrorists because the Nigerian government and its security agents failed to respond appropriately. This fate must not befall Grace. The only woman alive in the team abducted in Damasak, now runs the risk of being killed by the terrorists.

Alice, a nurse and a mother of two kids, was abducted by Boko Haram during an attack in an IDP camp in Rann on March 1, 2018. She is still with the terrorists. Alice’s mother, Sarah, died of trauma just two months after her abduction. She was working for the UNICEF, when she was abducted together with two other health workers, Saifura Hussaini Khorsa, 25, and Hauwa Mohammed Liman. That was precisely 23 months ago. Her colleagues, Saifura and Hauwa, have since been murdered by Boko Haram. Their crime? They went to serve humanity. It’s a shame that our security agents can’t even track their location after over 23 months, not to talk of rescuing them. The Nigerian state failed these patriots who were working on a project for traumatised residents of Borno State. These health workers were providing essential antenatal care to communities in Rann, whose population had more than doubled, after an influx of people fleeing violence. Alice must not join the list of aid workers murdered by Boko Haram.

In all, 12 aid workers were killed by Boko Haram/ISWAP in Nigeria in 2019 alone. “We are extremely worried that aid workers, who are mostly Nigerians working to deliver critical lifesaving humanitarian assistance to fellow compatriots, have increasingly become direct targets of attacks and abduction by non-state armed groups,” remarks the United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator in Nigeria, Edward Kallon.

The bloody attack at the IDP camp in Rann by ISWAP, 23 months ago, remains indelible in my memory. I often shed tears each time I remember it. Our security agents were overwhelmed. Dozens, including three UN aid workers, were killed. Those killed were Emmanuel Yawe Sonter and Ibrahim Lawan, who worked with the International Organisation for Migration. Dr. Izuogu Onyedikachi, who worked with the UN Children’s Fund, was also killed. A number of soldiers also lost their lives in that attack.

Back to the Alice and Grace debacle; this talk that the military have not stormed the hideouts of the terrorists to free captives because they don’t want to put their lives in danger is twaddle. That was what they were telling us until five of the aid workers abducted in Damasak were killed. It was so painful that these people were in the dungeons of the terrorists for months with little effort to secure their release until they were executed. That was what they told us until Pastor Andimi was killed.

The Nigerian government has not been able to rescue Grace, Alice and others abducted because our security agents lack the equipment and manpower for such. This is the truth. Government paid ransom for the captives saved in the past. In most cases, the terrorists turn down ransom as was with Pastor Andimi. The Boko Haram and ISWAP mess will persist if this government does not apply wisdom. The way forward is to seek assistance from friendly countries with military power. Our gallant soldiers lack the capabilities to end the war. My submission has not changed: We must hire the best brains from friendly technologically-advanced countries to assist our military to end this war. The ultimate aim is to decapitate Boko Haram. The strategy for getting result is largely through aerial power. Technology, quality equipment and quality manpower will be needed. It requires quality fighter jets and quality armoured attack helicopters. Our gallant military lacks the competence and equipment for these. So, our President must hire Israeli or Russian mercenaries to finish this war. This is the only way forward.

On the flip side, President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, is up from his slumber. Good Morning Ahmad Lawan. He has just realised that Nigeria’s security architecture must be urgently reviewed. After over seven months in office, he is just demanding for an urgent restructuring of the security architecture to make a way for intervention from other tiers of government. He says the Senate will soon summon the heads of the various security agencies in the country to work out a realistic arrangement that could adequately tackle the menace. He is talking about engaging the security agencies to find out why the security is deteriorating in many parts of the country. So, all along, Lawan has been unaware of these reasons. What a country!

As for our President Buhari, he finds the level of violent crimes in the North-west and in other parts of the country shocking, promising tougher measures against bandits that had made life difficult for Nigerians. He is taken aback by the insecurity in the country. The man that should be working and giving us results is “shocked.” Buhari has just realised that security agents must come hard on terrorists and that it is the responsibility of government to provide security. That is the level this country has degenerated into in the last five years. This is why Boko Haram, bandits and herders have been rampaging.

AbdulRazaq’s People-Oriented Government in Kwara 

For the first time in over 16 years, traumatised people of Kwara State are experiencing a people-oriented government; an administration, whose policies and programmes are influenced by the wishes of the people. This is exactly what Governor Abdulrahman AbdulRazaq has been doing since assumption of office on May 29, 2009. From his very first day in office, this governor signaled that he would not run an elitist government like his predecessors. Abdulrahman showed that he was averse to profligacy and fanfare, which was the bane of his precursors, when he insisted and executed a lean inauguration ceremony. On D-Day, there was no fanfare and no partying. Many used to seeing governors lavishing state resources on inauguration were shocked.

For Abdulrahman, the state’s lean resources must not be wasted on inauguration festivities. This man does not fly around in private jet. In fact, he has instituted a no-private jet policy in the state. When he travels, he does so with a lean entourage, including himself, with his moniker backpack, and a few aides. Don’t be surprised to see Abdulrahman at the airport queuing to enter a commercial aircraft. He has promised to serve the people with all his heart, working as a ‘Government House’ Governor. In the last eight months, this governor has been doing just this. Perhaps, the last time the people of the state experienced a people’s government was during the Cornelius Adebayo era.

Abdulrahman spends nights in Kwara State villages, touring tattered schools and hospitals, trying to solve the problems of his people. I still clearly remember when he summoned some permanent secretaries and directors to a meeting at a decrepit school in Patigi, many miles from Ilorin, to experience the agony of the students in this derelict public school and brainstorm on how to fix the decay. Many will also not forget that Kwara State 2019 budget review sessions in July were held at the Special Needs School at Apata Yakuba, miles away from the conference rooms in Ilorin. Abdulrahman said holding such budget review sessions in a setting as disadvantaged as the school was his way of redirecting the emphasis of the civil servants to the predicaments of the poor in the state.

No doubt, Abdulrazaq inherited a state with rundown structures. Shortage of public water supply, limited access to basic healthcare, dilapidated schools, decrepit hospitals and poorly motivated civil servants are examples of the rots he inherited. He has refused to be intimidated. This man has hit the ground running. A good example here is the moribund Kwara Radio and Television, which returned to air within weeks of his assumption of office. It was magical. There is already an improvement in the perennial water crisis in Ilorin metropolis. He has also pulled out Kwara from its earlier status as the least performing state in the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) ranking, out of the 36 states in Nigeria. Kwara can now access N7 billion from UBEC to fix the infrastructure deficits in the primary education sector, following the payment of its own counterpart fund.

Academic and non-academic workers of the state-owned higher institutions are happy because this governor was able to pay years of arrears owed them. Within few months, he secured re-accreditation for some courses in these tertiary institutions. He has evidently spent the last eight months putting in place basic infrastructure for the people which his predecessors failed to do. Abdulrazaq knows he has to keep the civil servants motivated to actualise his lofty programmes for the state. So, civil servants now enjoy full salaries as and when due.

This governor has a clear idea of what he wants to achieve in Kwara State. He says the focus of his administration is on human capital and infrastructural development “which would attract investments, combat poverty and take the state to the top of the table of revenue generation and competitiveness.” To this end, he has prioritised water, education, health, road and general infrastructure. He adds: “Agriculture is also a priority and we are also looking at ensuring that a lot is done in the area of agro-processing because of our comparative advantage. We want to completely change the story of this state and our plans revolve around just that, beginning from the budget review.”

Under the Kwara State Social Investment Programme, he plans to spend N1 billion to help traders and artisans with soft loans: “We are looking at roughly 1, 000 beneficiaries for soft loans. We cannot watch while our people are suffering. We have to do something in that regard.”

Abdulrazaq has also spent months battling the sales of public property by the officials of the last administration in the state to themselves at ridiculous prices. It was a mindless mismanagement of public resources. A number of steps have been taken to redress the excesses of these former government officials. The committee set up on the issue has turned in its report. It was a frightening one. It confirmed that the immediate past administration in the state sold 110 government properties, including the deputy governor’s residence. Yes, the incumbent deputy governor is staying in a rented apartment because of this mess. Abdulrazaq has promised to implement all the recommendations. For me, all those that have taken Kwara property must return them. This man surely needs all the support to recover these stolen public assets.

On the flip side, new godfathers that emerged after Bukola Saraki are working to clog Abdulrazaq. They want to determine who gets what in Kwara. He must remain undaunted. Forces of good must rise and protect this new Kwara governor as he matches on, building a new Kwara State that will positively impact on the lives of the masses.