It is almost nine years since the Boko Haram terrorism begun to ravage the entire Borno state and its neighbouring border towns and villages leaving behind it thousands of deaths, hundreds wounded and permanently deformed, thousands of orphans and hundreds of widows. Not only this, hundreds of youths and teenagers were either conscripted or abducted, while public and private properties or structures worth billions of naira were either shattered or completely burnt down, leading to over three million residents of various communities displaced within and outside the state and about million turned refugees at various designated and unregistered camps within Bornor state.
This predicament actually calls for great concern, and sympathy from all and sundry, which is why individuals and organisations are rendering one kind of humanitarian support or assistance or the other towards alleviating the sufferings of the people.
The situation became worse when despite the efforts of the Nigerian military and other security agents to restore peace and rid the state as well as the north east of insurgents, food scarcity have become issue of great concern. Presently, children and adults are dying as a result of hunger and ill health caused by mal nutrition, in addition to attendant trauma or psychological ailment.
Interestingly, in addition to the support and assistance of the federal government, donor agencies as well as humanitarian organisations within and outside the country, the Borno Elders Forum has added its voice to the plea and cry of the people and government of Borno state, for support from endowed individuals and organisations, expressing its gratitude to individuals and organisations including financial institutions and NGOs for their gestures towards giving succour to the people of the state.
It would be recalled that since the Boko Haram insurgency in July 2009, both individuals and organisations have stood up to the numerous challenges faced by the embattled state and the Borno Elders have stood firm to advise the people and government where necessary, especially when the late Dr. Shettima Ali Monguno was kidnapped on May3 2013, and rescued on May 6, 2013.
Recently, the Chairman of the Borno Elders Forum, Ambassador Usman Gaji Galtimari, lamented that “Every aspect of our life has been grounded. We are just like beginning to build a new society. We will have to contend with the stark reality of repositioning every aspect of our existence”.
“We thank the Almighty Allah for the existence of our society despite the horrific activities of Boko Haram insurgents who virtually destroyed everything on their way”.
“They killed people, destroyed settlements, public institutions and kidnapped our children and youths and conscripted them into their evil activities”, he said.
He continued: “They carted away our daughters and other married young women. They prevented all human activities for survival including farming, fishing, animal husbandry and trading. Education being their main target of attack has been grounded ever since”.
“It is gratifying to note that today, the great stake of the Borno state government is the restoration of education of our children within and outside the country”.
It is, however, vividly evident that the insurgency has been long and harrowing for the people and they have taken the solace in the great determination, courage, patriotism, and bravery of the Borno leaders , military and other security operatives and above all, our vigilante youths who took the great patriotic paths of standing up to the challenge of other renegade colleagues to complement security operatives efforts.
He noted that the youths “that designated themselves as the Civilian JTF joined in the fight with our soldiers and gallantly succeeded in pushing out the Boko Haram insurgents from our settlements or residences”.
“However, today there are homes and people that are fast regaining their peace and harmony to the extent that Borno is today pursuing and discussing the return of the internally displaced persons IDPs to their ancestral homes”.
The state can be said to be now faced with the huge tasks of rehabilitation, reconstruction and resettlement. The Borno state government have taken the Bull by the horn by commencing the reconstruction in earnest in Kaga, Bama, Dikwa, Konduga, Mafa, Gamboru Ngala and other areas where both the federal government and administration of Governor Kashim Shettima, have taken steps to ensure that all the IDPs return to their host communities by the end of December 2016 and January 2017.
However, the pending reconstruction is overwhelming and enormous and it could take quite some time before normalcy will return to Borrno state, hence there is the need for governments, individuals and organisations to address the immediate and vital needs of the distressed and traumatised people before resettling them appropriately.
Governments, donor agencies as well as well- wishers have done a lot to restore peace to Borno state. But it is oblivious that the governments are overwhelmed by the current economic recession and related problems.
Because, the resources required to adequately address the situation can hardly be garnered by the governments, there is therefore the need for support and goodwill of all stakeholders. Obviously, the over three million displaced persons first needs to survive before returning them home.
Besides, there is the need for more food, water, heath care delivery services, accommodation and other basic human needs for the IDPs even as a temporary measure, before tackling the issue of resettling them.
There is however also the mind boggling issue of orphans, teenage widows and, other widows who are in thousands and those who could not even figure out where their ancestral homes are located which desperately require the massive support of particularly donor agencies, financial institutions, foundations, humanitarian organisations, philanthropists to enable the people effectively organise the displaced persons to restore their means of Iivelihood.
There is also the need for their capacity building, sense of protection, food security and their community enhancement in general, in form of poverty alleviation, where they should acquire certain basic skills as empowerment measures to sustain their livelihood as they return to their various locations.
These IDPs need to be brought very close to their local traditional and community leaderships before settling down back home. But in order to avoid a disconnect between the displaced persons and their local leaders initiatives are carried out by committees and groups which seem to have no understanding of the communities they are dealing with.
Also, there is need for greater participation and involvement of the people in the reconstruction, rehabilitation and resettlement processes while being assisted in rebuilding their destroyed homes. That is, the people should equally be supported in relocation and settlement processes where a clear cut ancestral homes or base cannot be determined.
However, most supports take the shape of propaganda and were never made known to the public or government of the state or its designated agencies like SEMA.
It is most unfortunate that people use the misfortunes of the IDPs or distressed persons to advertise their NGOs for their personal gains like the United Nations humanitarian and collaborating bodies spending millions of naira on accommodation in hotels and renting expensive offices or claim high allowances during their visits to Borno. But only a little support or assistance was, at the end of the day, extended to the large size of the IDPs at different locations or camps.
At times, only one or two IDPs camps are assisted or supported with small quantity of items but millions of naira are being spent on the staff or workers’ salaries, allowances, accommodation and transportation by road or flight.
In the process, they deliberately distort information on their activities thereby discrediting the efforts of genuine helpers and our government while our IDPs suffer in silent and pains.
Insecurity halts farming for three years
However, for now, things are becoming very difficult as people did not participate in farming activities since the past three years. Even this year, farming activity in most areas cannot take place due to insecurity, closure of roads and threats from insurgents.
The inability to cultivate farmlands has certainly led to food scarcity and to make things worse, of recent, the cost of food items are increasing on a daily basis, a development that has compounded the predicament of both the government and people who are presently responsible for feeding of the IDPs and community based displaced persons.
Cries of food shortage
Indeed, this year alone cries of food shortage from not only the IDPs camps but also the general public are palpable despite sustained government’s efforts and support through National Emergency Management Agency NEMA and State Emergency Management Agency SEMA.
This calls for genuine and continuous support and assistance from all Nigerians to hasten the process to rescue those in need, especially, the endowed individuals and organisations such as Aliko Dangote and Bill Gates and Melinda Foundations to complement the efforts of the federal and state governments in the areas of food items, clothing, education, health, financial support and poverty alleviation, among others.
But one of the areas the Borno state government has a role to play beyond reconstruction is to allay the fears of individuals and organisations over lack of transparency in the funds collected on behalf of the IDPs. There is therefore a burden on the Borno state government to continually assure donors that it can administer their donations transparently, and accountable in the interest of IDPs, orphans and widows.
Above all, those entrusted with the items and funds donated should be God fearing and honest in their dealings, in order forestall the mistakes of the past. Or better still, not to allow the mistakes of the past to repeat itself, hence they should take corrections humbly in management or leadership.