Tears for Borno State IDPs

RingTrue with Yemi Adebowale, yemi.adebowale@thisdaylive.com; 08054699539 (text only)

Ring true BY yemi adebowale  Phone 08054699539  Email: yemi.adebowale@thisdaylive.com

There are 33 formal camps for Internally Displaced Persons in Borno State, where close to a million people struggle for survival. Majority of the camps are within and around Maiduguri, the state’s capital. Others are in Konduga, Rann, Kala Balge, Jere, Kaga, Monguno, Damboa, Bama, Ngala, Mafa and Dikwa. The federal and Borno State governments, and a number of international/local aide agencies are struggling to provide food, shelter and medicine for these victims of Boko Haram terrorists. Here, scores die daily from hunger, disease, malnutrition and bullets of Boko Haram fighters, who still visit them in the camps.

There are also scores of unofficial IDP camps, with thousands of people struggling for existence. The IDPs can’t return home because their towns and villages are dominated by Boko Haram. This is the truth that must be told. The few that returned had to scamper back to the IDP camps. Even some educational and health infrastructure rebuilt in the troubled Borno communities have been destroyed by the terrorists. It is depressing to note that President Muhammadu Buhari and his legion of sycophants ignore these realities. For them, admitting this means admitting the truth that Boko Haram still controls territories. It also means admitting the truth that the federal government has failed to provide enough food, shelter and medicine for the IDPs; that many die daily in the camps from starvation and illness.

It seems Governor Babagana Zulum can no longer play along with these lies. That was why he recently went in search of food for the over 800,000 IDPs in critical need across 11 towns in the troubled state, where rampaging Boko Haram fighters have chased thousands of inhabitants out of their homes. Zulum, who was at the headquarters of the National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA, wants food for traumatised IDPs in Monguno, Bama, Damboa, Gwoza, Dikwa, Gamboru, Ngala, Damasak, Banki, Pulka and Gajiram.
Zulum wants food because majority of the IDPs rely on agriculture as means of livelihood but they cannot access their farmlands due to the activities of Boko Haram. The governor admits that there has been an acceleration of attacks by the terrorists, forcing thousands to rely on food aid.

I once published a comprehensive document detailing the number of IDPs in these formal camps in Borno State, the trauma in the sites and other terrifying statistics. The living conditions remain squalid. Daily, they dream of going home, but they can’t because their towns and villages are still dominated by Boko Haram. These facts and figures punch holes in the lies that the Buhari administration is making progress in the war against Boko Haram. It is depressing for a government to persistently make claims of degrading Boko Haram, yet, IDPs can’t return to their homes.

As for the Borno State Government, why rebuild education and health institutions in troubled communities when those destroying them are still very much around? This is food for thought.
I sincerely hope that the leading members of this government obstinately peddling falsehood about victory over Boko Haram will repent and focus on eliminating these terrorists, so that displaced persons can return to their homes. The attack of Womdeo village, in Askira-Uba Local Government on Tuesday by Boko Haram should serve as a wake-up call to these merchants of falsehood managing this country. Thousands of Womdeo villagers fled their homes following the attack in which the terrorists set hundreds of houses ablaze. Many villagers are now taking refuge in the bushes and hills without knowing the whereabouts of their loved ones. The terrorists spent hours in the village unhindered.

Last Wednesday, the terrorists spent hours at Geidam, one of the biggest towns in Yobe State, killing and maiming unrestrained. Several houses were set ablaze. Hundreds of residents had to flee.
I also need to remind the Buhari government that the Damaturu-Maiduguri road is still highway to death. Boko Haram controls this important path unchecked. This is a reminder that Boko Haram controls territories. Early this week, dozens of people were abducted in broad daylight on this highway, a United Nations’ aid worker inclusive. The military must practically take charge of this highway.

On the flip side, it is heart-warming that a number of Borno indigenes are now getting up to openly punch holes in lies by the federal government that Boko Haram had been defeated. One of such people is Prof. Khalifa Dikwa, the Dean of Borno Elders Forum. He was on national TV, raising the alarm that nobody is safe in Borno State except in the state’s capital, Maiduguri.

Dikwa remarked: “Even if they (Boko Haram) are not physically there, they are psychologically there, disturbing the people. From time to time, they ride their motorcycles, come and harass them to pay levies and so on. Outside Maiduguri, not even five kilometres, nobody is safe, and they can strike at any time.”
Another point I found thought-provoking in Dikwa’s remarks was the allegation that the Private Military Contractor (PMC) engaged by the Jonathan government, after decimating Boko Haram, advised the Nigerian military to man the country’s land borders meticulously, but the military did not heed the advice.
He said: “At that time, they (PMC) said, ‘okay, we have done our bit, the rest, it has to be political. Have dialogue at a position of strength and that you should allow the other paramilitary, particularly the police, to take over the terrain recaptured. You (military) move to the borders.’ Unfortunately, the military has continued to usurp the role of the police which is not supposed to be so.”

Dikwa adds: “If you put all the military inside Borno, it will contain it. It looks like there is no synergy between the security and defence agencies, as if it is rivalry, when they are actually working for this country and they signed to defend the people of this country and the territory. As a President, he (Buhari) should be able to stamp his feet to say to the military, do the work; I am giving you one, two months maximum. If you don’t finish up this thing, submit your resignation letter.”

My message today to President Buhari with this narration is very simple: Stop deluding yourself with fabricated success stories against Boko Haram. Nigerians are tired of these shenanigans. Our IDPs are desperate to return to their homes. They can’t do this if you don’t clear Boko Haram terrorists from the towns and villages they control. Buhari must practically defeat Boko Haram. Enough of this “technical” defeat of the terrorists. As for the military, please stop deluding Nigerians with imaginary bombing media stories that have produced no result.

Rampaging Bandits and the Infamy of a Country
Niger State has slipped into the inglorious club of bandit-infested states, with five local governments becoming killing fields – Shiroro, Munya, Rafi, Mariga and Mashegu. The situation in this state is now as bad as Zamfara, Katsina and Kaduna states. Rafi Local Government Area is one of the very bad zones. In fact, it is the epicenter of the attacks, with most of its towns and villages in ruins. Recently, bandits raided Yakila community in Rafi, and left behind huge blood and tears. The District Head of Yakila, Mohammed Abdulhamid and three of his daughters were abducted by the bandits. As at press time, they had not been freed. This is not the first time the bandits will visit the community. They have repeatedly attacked these people, slaying and injuring. Yakila is now a ghost town, with families counting their losses and shops/businesses destroyed. Governor Abubakar Sani Bello must go beyond showboating to protect people in Rafi and other affected communities in the state. He visited Rafi this week, but offered no succour. Bello spent time accusing community members of working as informant for the bandits. This is clearly not the way to help wipe the tears of a bereaved community.

Birnin Gwari area of Kaduna State is still bleeding. Bandits persistently kill and abduct innocent Nigerians here too. Last Sunday, they killed nine travellers, including infants, in Zankoro village along Birnin Gwari-Kaduna highway. On the same day, at Dan Kungi village, in the Birnin Gwari axis, 11 people were kidnapped by bandits. The Kaduna State Government confirmed that 40 persons were abducted by the bandits on this axis between December 20, 2020 and January 4, 2021. Relations of the victims are paying to secure their freedom while security agents look away. It has been sorrow and tears for the people of Birnin-Gwari Local Government Area of Kaduna State. By now, a quick response squad should have been deployed on this axis. Unfortunately, it has not happened.

In Toto Local Government Area of Nasarawa, bandits are also rampaging unrestrained. Last Tuesday, 20 people were abducted in Gadabuke area of Toto LGA. One of the preys, a former education secretary of Nasarawa Local Government Area, Malami Salihu, was killed by the bandits. Others were marched into a bush. As at press time, families of the abductees were still negotiating ransom with the bandits.

While all these abductions and killings are on, security agents hardly respond appropriately. They go about telling lies about imaginary onslaughts against the bandits. Nigeria is clearly in a big mess. In all the cases I have mentioned, the police failed to uncover even one. It is so depressing seeing security agents asking families of victims for updates on negotiation with bandits.

One of the recent lies by police, which I still find disappointing, was the case of the Chairman, Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN) Kaduna chapter, Apostle Emmanuel Bako, and his wife, abducted on December 26 last year, but regained freedom 48 hours later. The Kaduna State police Command came out to say they rescued the couple. Bako could not endure the lies and had to speak out, saying the police did not contribute anything to his freedom.

He declared: “A ransom of N4.5 million was paid for my wife and me. It was not the police that rescued us; even the kidnappers said the police would start lying that they rescued us. We were far gone before the police came, they just stopped at my house; they didn’t even go beyond the fence of my house. So how can the police say they rescued us? They couldn’t even trace us. Even soldiers couldn’t have located us, the terrain is too harsh. They can only locate us with the use of technology.”
Bako said the ransom was paid by concerned individuals: “These individuals were not even members of my church but people I had impacted their lives at one point or the other. The kidnappers initially demanded a ransom of N20 million. Then they brought it down to N15 million, then N10 million, and then N7 million. Eventually they put it at N4.5 million. It was paid in cash.”
This is the level the Nigerian Police has degenerated. The leadership has failed; so, things have fallen apart.

Ganduje’s Miserable New Year Gift to Workers

It’s official. Governor Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano State has stopped the payment of the N30,000 minimum wage signed into law by President Buhari in April 2019, and reverted to the old N18,000 minimum wage. This is the miserable New Year gift to Kano State civil servants from this unfeeling governor. He signed the agreement to implement the N30,000 minimum wage with the workers in December 2019, while arrears of April-November, 2019, were to be settled in installments. This, Ganduje must respect. Lawlessness has no place in a democracy. In fact, Kano civil servants were paid in November and December last year, based on the old N18,000 minimum wage. How can this governor be talking about N18,000 in an era of galloping inflation? This must not happen in an era in which the Naira is fast depreciating. Do I need to remind this governor that the cost of living is persistently on the rise?
Yes, revenue has been dwindling, but has Ganduje reduced his own expenditure, retinue of aides and convoy of vehicles? Has he reduced his unending trips to Abuja with entourage that cost millions of Naira per trip? Labour leaders must rise and stop this Ganduje garbage.