MUSA M. BUBA writes on the gradual return of peace to Damaturu, the Yobe state capital, and its environs after years of insurgency.
Boko Haram attacks in Yobe
According to history, Yobe state was one of the most peaceful states in the Northern Nigeria until 2009 when the activities of the Boko Haram insurgency started to manifest and spread across the region. Specifically, Yobe witnessed its first attack on Friday November 4, 2011 with no fewer than 100 people killed on that fateful day.
On 1st December, 2014, Damaturu, the state capital was also overrun by the insurgents for eight hours, with the air force fighter jets being the only rescue remedy for the residents. Many houses, government structures and other assets were burnt down and a good number of people, both security and civilians killed. The resultant effect is that both the indigenes and non-indigenes alike, were forced to sell their landed property, especially houses and business places to relocate to other parts of the country.
Return of peace
And after years of stress and dislocation, peace is fast returning to the state. Things are improving and commercial activities have started picking up, especially those in the building materials sector.
This is courtesy of efforts of the security personnel and the local vigilantes group coupled with the support of the federal and state governments.
Residents speak on the present situation
A good number of people who had sold their houses and fled are gradually coming back to the state. Markets that were forcefully closed down by government due to fear of suicide bomb attacks have all been reopened and residents returning.
One of such returnees is Adamu Haruna, who lives in Damaturu for 23 years but left as result of the insurgency. “Yobe has become my second home, now that the place is peaceful, I have come back to start afresh, and by God’s grace I can raise fund in near future to erect another house since I have sold my only house.”
For Kachalla Lawan Gana, another resident, it is commendation for the government’s effort at rehabilitating the infrastructure.
“The government is doing its best. Yobe state government has reconstructed almost all the primary and secondary schools burnt down by the insurgents and new ones constructed.
“In fact, it went an extra mile by establishing Yobe state University Teaching Hospital and five secondary schools across the state, things have improved, our children can now go back to school and also have access to health facilities. That is why I am back”.
Also speaking, Mr. Peter Joseph, a dealer in building materials attests that the return of peace has significantly increased the volume of his business. “When the insurgency was at its peak, people hardly build houses talk less of buying the materials.
“Thank God, peace has returned, the demand is very high now, individuals and government are into reconstruction. In fact, plots of land are costly, those who sold theirs are now singing ‘had I know’ chorus.”
But for Kabiru Ali and Hajiya Amina Mai Kosai, improvement in their means of livelihood is their major concern. According to them, in the heat of the insurgency, they could hardly afford a three square meal per day for their families. However, today, life has changed for the better, and they can readily afford return and sponsor their wards back to school.
International donor agencies’ support
Blueprint investigations show that since the advent of the insurgency, international donor agencies such as World Food Programme WFP, Fadama III, UNICEF, IFAD, International council for Refugees, Red Cross, FAO, UNHCR, Medicin San Frontiers, Action Against Hunger, WHO among others, have assisted in no small measure, millions of the Internally Displaced Persons and also helped them in regaining their means of livelihood. They are regarded as live savers to the abandoned women and children who are always first victims of every war.
Due to regular attacks on banks during the insurgency, they were forced to either close down or operate between 10am-12noon. Some residents had to travel to other neighbouring states in order to make cash withdrawals. Now that things are looking up, almost all the banks operate for at least eight hours while branches that were closed have been reopened.
Similarly, commercial activities within and around Damaturu, are also a major of feature of a new lease of life. Our correspondent observes that markets regularly and freely operate without any inhibition.
The general consensus among inhabitants of the state is that if this feat could be achieved after a long period of tension and apprehension, the attack on soft targets would surely become a thing of the past.
They however plead that security agencies should be assisted in achieving a total peace, by rendering relevant information on people with shady acts. According to them, no meaningful development would be achieved without peace, “and this we must collectively pursue.”