Michael Olugbode in Maiduguri
Borno State Governor, Babagana Zulum is pleading for food for the over 800,000 internally displaced persons in critical need across 11 towns in the troubled state, where rampaging Boko Haram terrorists have chased thousands of inhabitants out of their homes.
The governor made the appeal at the headquarters of the National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA in Abuja during a visit on Thursday.
Zulum, who presented a letter to the Director General, NEMA, Air Vice Marshal Muhammadu Alhaji Mohammed (rtd) said IDPs in Monguno, Bama, Damboa, Gwoza, Dikwa, Gamboru, Ngala, Damasak, Banki, Pulka and Gajiram currently need urgent access to food supplies despite sustained efforts by Borno State Government, which has been struggling with humanitarian challenges and provision of other basic needs across the state.
The governor did not fail to acknowledge interventions made by NEMA, the Northeast Development Commission and far reaching efforts by the Nigerian Customs Service following Presidential directive two years ago, that food seizures be used for humanitarian support in crises areas.
He noted that food interventions must be sustained because whereas majority of IDPs rely on agriculture as means of livelihood, substantial portions of them cannot access their farmlands due to the activities of insurgents.
The Commandant General of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps, Abdullahi Muhammadu, had earlier commended Zulum as one of the first governors to domesticate the use of armed NSCDC personnel as agro rangers, for protection of farming activities in parts of Borno State.
Even though the partnership gave birth to increase in farming activities by IDPs in farmlands in some outskirt towns, the recent acceleration of attacks by Boko Haram had reversed the fortunes of the farmers, forcing thousands of displaced farmers to rely on food aid.
In his response, the NEMA’s DG, said Zulum is every state’s “dream governor” because of his commitment, hard work and dedication.
He said: “If you go into Maiduguri, you will be shocked; you wouldn’t believe you are in Maiduguri. I have been to Maiduguri with a special assistant to Mr. President from a particular state; he looked at me and said, can you please borrow this Zulum of a man to us?
“I am sure every state will like to have this gentleman Professor as a governor. If there is one gentleman everybody envies, whether they are able to do what he does or not, it is Professor Zulum. And the simple fact is that we all know what is right. What is wrong is wrong and what is right can only be achieved with the fear of God.”
He assured the governor of the agency’s support to Borno State, particularly in the actualisation of Borno’s 25 year development plan unveiled recently.
The NEMA DG added: “Your Excellency, every staff of NEMA is willing at all time to give you 100% support in everything you need. You have been very hard. I assure you that the President, Commander In Chief of the Armed Forces has given us the mandate, he has given us the resources and has said it many times that we should do everything possible to support what you do, and key into the Borno State 25 year development plan.”
There are currently 33 formal IDP camps in Borno State, where close to a million people struggle for a meal a day. Majority of the camps are within Maiduguri, the state’s capital.
A number of international and local aide agencies are struggling with the feeding of the IDPs.
There are also scores of other unofficial IDP camps, also with thousands of people struggling for food. The IDPs can’t return home because their towns and villages are dominated by Boko Haram. The few that returned had to scamper back to the IDP camps. Even some educational and health infrastructure rebuilt in the troubled Borno communities had been destroyed by the terrorists.