Doro town in Kukawa Local Government Area of Borno State suffered several attacks by insurgents and residents were forced to flee at different times. In 2018, the insurgents moved into the fishing community located very close to Lake Chad and held sway over the area.
Thus, other adjoining towns including Baga which hosts the largest fish market in the state and Cross Kauwa were also sacked by the insurgents before thousands of inhabitants sought refuge in some host communities such as Monguno and as far as Maiduguri.
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A former governor Maina Ma’aji Lawan said he visited his hometown of Baga in 2013 to attend the funeral of his brother who was killed by the insurgents and since then, he had not returned as a result of the insurgency until Sunday, August 8, 2021, when he accompanied Governor Babagana Umara Zulum to resettle returnees in Doro and Cross Kauwa.
Displaced Baga residents were earlier resettled by the state government in November 2020 and are gradually picking up the threads of fishing and crop farming which were interrupted long ago.
The insurgents were said to have radicalized some local youths and vandalized many houses when they seized control of Baga town.
Fishing and crop farming, which were the mainstay of the local economy, were abandoned and displaced Doro residents had to rely on aid supplies to make ends meet in host communities for over three years.
A returnee in his late 60s, Abubakar Ibrahim, who fled to Monguno in 2018 with his two wives and children, said the insurgency displaced the entire population of Doro from their homes, causing massive displacement and exposing displaced persons to countless challenges. He said resettling the people and allowing them to cultivate their farms and fish in Lake Chad which largely contributed to the total fish catch in the state will address the plights of the people.
Lake Chad, which is the largest fishing ground in the state, had been out of the reach of the people because of the heavy presence of insurgents on some islands along its edges. An estimated 50 truckloads of smoked fish are said to be produced weekly from the Doro axis of the lake, according to a member of the fishermen’s association.
Addressing the returnees, including women and children, during the visit Governor Zulum said the government will work together with security forces to provide protection and support them but ruled out the possibility of allowing interest groups to play a part in the development and reintegration efforts.
The governor, who appreciated President Muhammadu Buhari for creating the enabling environment for the safe return of displaced residents, said 500 families have so far been moved from the host community of Monguno back to their ancestral home and others will follow suit. He urged the families to cooperate with the security personnel and traditional authorities and report any suspicious activity or person to appropriate institutions.
“Do not allow the insurgents to return to your community; those who renounced insurgency will follow proper procedure before they are accepted and reintegrated. We do not want indiscipline here,” he said.
Zulum also warned the returnees to avoid deviant behaviours including illicit sex, drug abuse and gambling. He assured that schools, hospitals and other public buildings destroyed by the insurgents will be renovated. He also said troops will give fishing permits to residents after assessing the safety situation while crop farmers will be allowed to return to their farms, adding that residents ‘will need to exercise patience.’
Calm returns in Baga
Relative calm has returned to resettled Baga town, which is a stone throw from Doro due to enhanced security. Thus, after the resettlement exercise in Doro, state officials led by the governor also distributed food aid and other relief supplies to thousands of residents.
Governor Zulum met with school teachers and promised to sponsor those with the requisite qualifications to update their skills and knowledge. He said the government will give children opportunities for quality education and improve learning. He also conducted an aptitude test for the teachers as part of a skill test.
He said, “We want to promote intensive learning and skills development, especially for students in JSS 1; we must ensure students have digital literacy.”
The governor said teachers who do not have the capacity or teaching qualification will have the option of undergoing in-service training programmers to upgrade their professional knowledge.
Still in Baga town, the governor met with health officials serving at the primary healthcare centre and pledged to offer training opportunities to those willing to pursue further education, especially in medical courses.
Like teachers, the governor promised to build more houses for health workers in Doro, Kukawa, Baga and Cross Kauwa to enhance their efficiency.
Cross Kauwa too, a local community in Kukawa LGA, was sacked by the insurgents in 2018 and its inhabitants sought refuge in some host communities including Monguno. Most of the abandoned buildings have collapsed as many were destroyed by the insurgents in crossfire with troops.
A total of 500 households were resettled in the town. The returnees in Cross Kauwa were given relief supplies similar to their counterparts in Doro. Most of the families have been split by the crisis with female-headed households desperately in need of shelter, food, clothing and security.
A woman with her three kids said her family travelled the length of the state in search of safety before they eventually settled in Monguno town temporarily. She said she hopes there will be no further incursion by the insurgents, which will lead to another wave of displacement.
Monguno town, headquarters of Monguno LGA, which served as host community for people displaced by insurgency from Nganzai, Guzamala, Marte and Kukawa LGAs is densely populated and households increasingly rely on crop and livestock farming as well as fishing. Thousands of able-bodied people, including girls trek to their farms when troops ease restrictions between 7am and 5pm; farmers are not allowed to go to farms with cars, motorcycles and bicycles.
Ibrahim Garzali, a resident, said people whose farms are located in distant areas get tired after a long walk.
The governor in a meeting with army officers over security issues noted that there are thousands of jobless youths who could join armed groups because of their economic situation, adding that there are over 200,000 youth who do not have access to education as a result of displacement. He said people have to return to their localities and secure their livelihoods by starting businesses.
He called on security forces to show restraint in dealing with civilians, particularly returnees who could be difficult to control.
At Monguno, a total of 5,361 orphans were registered into basic schools, while children of deceased members of volunteer security outfits were offered scholarships. Two patrol vehicles were donated to hunters by the government.
In a related development, the governor paid an unscheduled visit to a secondary school in Monguno where the teachers complained of lack of classroom furniture and a fence. The school also requires more teachers.
The governor said more teachers will be employed for the school while displaced persons living around the school will be relocated to avoid encroachment.
A total of 80,000 vulnerable persons was profiled, including 45,000 women and 35,000 as beneficiaries of humanitarian aids.
Mairari village in Guzamala LGA, located a few kilometres from Monguno, used to be a major stronghold of the insurgents where troops faced resistance over the years, a source confirmed. But since the leadership crisis that rocked the insurgent fighters and led to the death of one of the leaders, Abubakar Shekau, ambushes carried out around the village as well as Baga town had stopped, the source said. Battle scars were visible as bullet holes were seen on most buildings in the village.
Mairari residents, who took refuge in neighbouring Monguno, have returned to their farms and expect bumper harvest. September 4 was fixed by the state to resettle the inhabitants.
The governor, who addressed the farmers, pledged to provide agricultural facilities for them. He also pledged to resettle displaced persons in other parts of the LGA which were deserted as a result of the insurgency.
Incidentally, Gudumbali, the headquarters of Guzamala LGA, has been deserted for long before it was seized by insurgents. All the adjoining villages under the LGA were said to have been uninhabited.
“Therefore, if towns under Guzamala are liberated and their people return home as the governor promised, that alone signifies the end of the insurgency. It is the only local government headquarters that is unoccupied,” a source said.
Gajiram, the headquarters of Nganzai LGA, has had its fair share of attacks by the insurgents in the past. Relative calm has, however, returned to the town and no attack has been carried out since March this year, Musa Kura Gajiram, a hunter, confirmed.
Like many other locations in northern Borno, which were worst hit by Boko Haram insurgents, Gajiram has thousands of vulnerable persons in need of humanitarian support.