BY IBRAHIM ABDULHAMID, NOVEMBER 29, 2022 | 05:20 PM
In the past four years, a lot of milestones have been recorded in the fight against terrorism in the North East. These milestones, which may have been taken for granted, constitute the ultimate evidence that the war has been won.
Between 2009 and 2019, ultimately, a lot of things have dramatically changed in Borno, in every sphere of life. The damage and destructions within this period were enormous that it is now inconceivable how the progresses are not appreciated, if even seen.
President Muhammadu Buhari, Governor Babagana Umara Zulum and the Nigerian Armed Forces have jointly worked to produce the results.
Resettlement of IDPs: Taking the bull by its horns
In 2015, there were at least 2 million internally displaced persons crammed into various official and unofficial IDP camps in Maiduguri and Jere, Borno’s metropolitan areas. Yet, many others, almost gatecrashed, into the residences of their relatives—resulting in unprecedented bloating of their expenditures.
The story was similar in the state capitals of Yobe and Adamawa, where the activities of the Boko Haram terrorists caused similar crises. There is hardly a part of the country that had not had a share of the influx of displaced people.
To receive them, schools were forced shut for many years, and government budget for infrastructure and every-day administration, among others, had to be re-channeled to managing such a humanitarian calamity of an unprecedented propensity.
The displaced were removed from their livelihoods, completely. Some of them plunged from being rich farmers, wealthy fishermen and well-established commercialists to being fed, sheltered and treated with peanuts doled out to them while waiting in long queues by governments and donor agencies!
Some of them transitioned into street begging, without any hope of returning to their former ways, of hard work and even dignified living. They took over streets, frontages of shopping malls, eateries and every other point of gathering to ambush passersby.
Families of ten or more, with grown-up kids, would be cramped into a tent less than the size of our standard rooms as their shelter.
Parents no longer have the luxury of private time, and some of them had to un-shell shame, to intimate right before their kids; others make-do with the privacy provided by lavatories at night. It is such an experience only better imagined.
The Borno State Government took the bull by the horn in 2020 to begin resettling them massively, following return of relative peace and security, thanks to the Armed Forces of Nigeria, who, between 2016 and 2019, launched massive clearance operations to take back most of the territories occupied by the terrorists.
Prof. Zulum, with consultations with the president, vowed to close down all camps sited within the state capital by December 2021. So far, all official camps in Maiduguri have been shut, and IDPs resettled in their hometowns.
Only recently, this seemed impossible.
Returning to a dignified living: restoring livelihoods, dignity
Another major milestone was the restoration of livelihoods, which the governor had given as a reason for closure of the camps. There has been massive efforts to reopen and revive markets across previously deserted communities such as Baga, Banki, Gomboru and Monguno, among others.
A lot of them are fast returning to their former, almost forgotten, days.
Similarly, agriculture has been restored at a massive scale, starting from 2020—with remarkable progress every year since then—averting fears of what used to be an imminent food scarcity crisis among analysts.
Despite pervasive flood, farmers across Borno and the rest of the North East have continued to report a very high yield this year.
This is despite some cases of terrorists and criminals attacking farmers in their farmlands, especially those located outskirts of Maiduguri, the state capital.
Livestock and fishing businesses, which have been moved to other places outside the state, are similarly returning to their former days.
Reopening of markets, roads
This goes with efforts being invested in reopening and refurbishing roads and other public utilities.
Between 2014 and 2015, the activities of Boko Haram has rendered many roads inaccessible—and elsewhere, officially declared closed by the government, for security reasons—causing economic activities to equally collapse. Maiduguri – Banki, Maiduguri – Monguno and Maiduguri – Gomboru – Dikwa, some of the most economically strategic roads in the North East region, feeding and leading to many international markets in the West African subcontinent, were, in effect, only opened within the last three years.
So far, over 70, 000 terrorists and people associated to them have defected to the Nigerian side, according to military accounts in the media.
This is an unprecedented feat in Nigeria’s collective effort to checkmate and uproot large-scale terrorism. There have been, in the course of the decade-or-so-long counterterrorism operation in the country, quite a lot of military operations, both kinetic and non-kinetic; but if credit will be given to any of them, it must be the joint Operations Desert Sanity and Lake Sanity launched January this year.
The operations took advantage of the ever-widening fissure between ISWAP and JAS factions of Boko Haram, which ultimately culminated in the death of the latter’s leader, Abubakar Shekau. This precipitated the internal rift that saw to the fall of successive commanders / leaders of both factions.
With sustained military pressures anchored by the two operations, members from both factions were left with no other option than to surrender and defect to the Nigerian side—breaking the backbone of terrorism in the region.
Comparative to the vulgarity of Boko Haram in their pronouncements, it has to today be accepted as a milestone, that the same people have been humbled by the realities of our military power to lay down arms and themselves over.
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06 July 2023