The Borno State government and terror groups operating in the region appear to be locked in a fierce battle over the fate of the government’s ongoing plan to resettle Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) to their home communities, which they fled over the past decade due to the insurgency.
The Professor Babagana Zulum-led state government recently launched the programme to enable IDPs in Maiduguri and other locations across the state to move back to their native homes and rebuild their lives.
For, perhaps, the community’s economic importance and strategic location within the Lake Chad region, Zulum himself spearheaded the resettlement of over 500 IDPs to the age-old renowned farming and fishing community of Baga in Kukawa Local Government Area, less than a fortnight ago.
Amid sporadic attacks by the terror groups, which wield a strong influence in much of the Nigerian-side of the Chad Basin, the governor defied all threats against repopulating the area to launch the exercise.
A section of the public, especially the military in the Northeast terror war, described Zulum as rather foolhardy for ignoring security warnings that the coast was still not clear for him to embark on the project. Indeed, about 20 members of the governor’s convoy were killed during an ambush by insurgents on September 25 as they headed for Baga.
Perhaps as a way of protesting the resettlement agenda and to send a clear message that they remain in control of the region, terror groups descended on Zulum’s convoy twice in four days, on his way to and from the town.
The insurgent’s actions contained the implicit message that suspending the programme would be in the best interests of the IDPs lest they are resettled in “hell”.
However, as this battle of determination simmers between the state and non-state actors, the resettlement programme seems to continue apace.
According to his spokesman, Isa Gusau, Governor Zulum, last Monday, inaugurated two committees to complete the ongoing reconstruction works and facilitate the full restoration of civil authority comprising the presence of Policemen, Civilian Joint Task Force, Local Government officials, and Magistrate Courts in six towns located in Marte and Gwoza Local Government Areas.
The two committees, with members from security agencies, are to undertake resettlement at Marte in northern Borno as well as Ngoshe, Kirawa, Hambagda, Ashigashiya and Warabe in Gwoza LGA of southern Borno, but only after all safety measures and essential public services are put in place.
The committee on Marte is chaired by Borno’s Commissioner for Reconstruction, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (RRR), Engr. Mustapha Gubio, while Gwoza’s is chaired by the Commissioner for Housing and Energy, Engr. Yuguda Saleh Vungas. Members also include representatives of communities and humanitarian actors.
“The committees are to continue with rehabilitation and reconstruction work in Marte and Kirawa/Ngoshe, to undertake palliative repairs of Marte and Ngoshe/Kirawa roads in collaboration with the men of the Nigerian Army, to put in place all requirements that will ensure safety of lives and properties of returnees, to facilitate the establishment of civil authorities on the ground, to identify IDPs willing to return home, and to address any other matter that is incidental to the smooth return and safety of lives and properties of the returnees,” Zulum said at the government house, venue of the inauguration.
The governor explained that Borno’s resettlement drive was aimed at helping citizens pick up the pieces of their lives and move on, after many years of displacement. He assured that the government would help the returnees to engage in agricultural and other economic activities that would make them self-reliant and meaningful members of the state.
Zulum also decried the high level of poverty in Borno, particularly within the IDPs, which he said the insurgents took advantage of, to recruit a lot of able-bodied youths in the state.
He said during the inauguration that he was very mindful of the security situation in the state and, therefore, tasked the committees to carry out their duties without haste. “We should not be in haste. We should not force anyone to return. There is an increasing demand from the IDPs to return home, don’t force anyone,” the governor said.
Responding on behalf of both committees, Engr. Gubio assured they would all put in their best in discharging the assignment.