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7 Months After Boko Haram:Maiduguri Still in Ruins

In the crisis which was first of its kind in the history of Borno State, nearly one thousand people were killed with casualties recorded amongst…

In the crisis which was first of its kind in the history of Borno State, nearly one thousand people were killed with casualties recorded amongst the Boko Haram followers, policemen and soldiers as well as hundreds of innocent residents. The sect members attacked many police stations and killed security men while losing their members in engagements while President Umaru Musa Yar’adua ordered the deployment of military troops to take over the engagement and after days of resistance from the sect, the military triumphed over them, killed many, destroyed their headquarters at Unguwar Doki around the railway terminal in Maiduguri and finally, arrested the leader of the sect, Yusuf, who was said to have hid in a cattle ranch in his in-law’s house, Alhaji Baa Fugu. Yusuf was allegedly killed in custody on Thursday 30th July, 2009 while his father in- law, Fugu suffered similar fate the following day after he was said to have submitted himself to police when he learnt that he was declared wanted.

An interesting aspect of the crisis was the destruction of government owned establishments by the sect leaders with specific interest in public schools. Though the sect spared some banks around Abbaganaram, Galadima amongst other areas the sect members controlled days into the crisis, the group sort of attacked public schools with war tones apparently since their ideology focuses mainly on western education and ideologies.

schools yet to be renovated

Fifty-seven primary schools were destroyed in Maiduguri and nearby Jere Local Government Area. One of schools, Lamisula junior secondary School had already been turned into a model one courtesy of a corporate social responsibility project by Zenith Bank which gulped over N70 million. Damgari Yerwa Primary School, Abbaganaram Primary School, Low cost Primary School and Goni Damgari Primary Schools were in the list of those destroyed. It was learnt that each class room was allotted a bomb, thrown inside for maximum destruction.   Two teachers were killed by stray bullets inside their homes. The Boko Haram sect believed that western schools were responsible for inculcating western values into pupils who grow up with western concepts of employment, trade, politics and general administration.

any hopes for government institutions?

Apart from schools, the State Independent Electoral Commission (SIEC) also located around the sect’s enclave was bombed. It was learnt that numerous bombs were thrown into the 40 offices in the building because the sect members believed that the commission was where leaders with allegiance to western based constitutions were being produced. Ten offices at the state National Directorate of Employment (NDE) headquarters were razed along with three vehicles while the new prison was also bombed. For the prisons, it was learnt, that the sect members believed the convicts were being punished with western constitutions while on the NDE they believed it is helping to offer employments in accordance with western ideologies.

On the 16th of August 2009, the Borno State Governor, Ali Modu Sheriff inaugurated a 13-man Administrative Committee of Inquiry to look into the cause of Boko Haram sectarian violence, assess damages, look into area of compensation and make recommendations to  the government. Ambassador Usman Gaji Galtimari was appointed chairman of the committee with members drawn from security operatives from the police, State Security Service, Air Force and the Nigerian Security and Civil Defense Corps. The Committee submitted its report to the Governor on 22nd October, 2009. The same committee was then converted into an Implementation Committee, to execute its own recommendations.

Ironically, almost seven months after the sectarian violence, despite the submission of report and the tasking of the committee to implement its own recommendations nothing has come out of it while activities of the committee seem shrouded in secrecy.

Disturbingly, public establishments attacked in the crisis, including schools remain in ruins with pupils learning under sheds with noises all over the place. Government and private bodies haven’t really done enough to change the situation.

Adamu Al-Amin, the acting principal of Lamisula Junior Secondary School said that after the crisis, the State Primary Education Board (SPEB) provided temporary sheds in all the schools destroyed to ensure the continuation of academic activities. “Some people came to assess the level of damage, promising to repair the burnt structures. But we have been under the temporary sheds since then. That building (pointing to a construction work at roofing stage) was started as one of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) project before the crisis and is now nearing completion. The others which were burnt in the crisis were already completed by Zenith Bank before it was razed during the crisis. The primary education board provided eight temporary sheds as classes, in which we are operating. The challenges are enormous because when you teach students in an open environment, where they can all see each other; where voices from other classroom sessions are interfering with your own; it presents a rowdy and unfavourable environment for learning. But this is what we are managing. We do not have any other thing to say because what we have at hand is what we are going to use. We are helpless, but at least we are managing and doing our best with the situation to see that the education of the students is not interrupted,” Al-Amin said.

The same fate appears to be the case for numerous other schools where pupils learn outside classrooms: in open ground. Nothing seems to be done about them.

But not only schools suffer this fate because in the case of the Borno State Independent Electoral Commission, BOSIEC, the entire staffs have been relocated to another temporary office along Polo Race Course. When Sunday Trust visited the railway headquarters of the electoral body, it was deserted, except for the security man who recounted how he narrowly escaped being roasted to death. He said he was taking cover in one of the offices but miraculously, he escaped over 200 heavily armed members of the sect who attacked and burnt down the office of the electoral body.

The commission also operates in a temporary place. Though Sheriff made mention of government’s intention to renovate the destroyed building, there were no signs of any such work yet.

the ghost of maiduguri prison

The prison remains a shadow of its former self while in the case of the destructions suffered by the National Directorate of Employment authorities, there seemed to be confusion on whether it was the responsibility of Borno or federal government to rehabilitate the offices. The NDE believes since it provides assistance to residents of the state, they expect aide from the state government.

“We submitted our written memo to the Boko Haram Committee of Inquiry, which was here to assess the level of damage. But as of this moment that I am talking to you, nothing has been done yet, both on the side of the state and federal governments. The burnt structures are still as they were. We are only patching up and managing upstairs. Technically, we have been advised that the upstairs should not be overloaded because you can feel the vibration (as heavy duty vehicle move across the road). The empty nature of the down floor, coupled with the weakness of the pillars, resulting from the impact of the explosions, are causing cracks on the walls. In December 2009, after their assessment, the committee again invited us for a hearing and we made our submissions as an agent of government with the responsibility of generating employment and empowering people. Our submission focused on the damages and how to curtail future occurrences but we are yet to get any communication from the committee,” Hassan Gunda, officer in-charge of finance and supply at the state NDE said.

It was learnt that bullet holes and explosions have resulted into cracks on walls and broken windows all of which are signs to remind the workers of the crisis, leaving them with negative psychological impacts.

While school pupils still learn in open grounds and some workers seemingly displaced, human victims of the crisis also lament that no help has so far come their ways in the aftermath of the violence.

Based on statistics provided by the Nigerian Red Cross, over 3,600 displaced persons took refuge at the Maimalari Barracks during the crisis. Of course, not all lost their houses and families but many did, it was gathered. The Borno State Police Command, according to its Public Relations Officer, ASP Isa Azare said they lost 26 police officers, adding that Divisional Police Stations were razed at Railway, Lamisula, Jere and Damasak, while in Makera, an outpost was burnt, including some parts of Gamboru Ngala Police Station. The Commandant of the Mobile Police Training College, Dalhatu Sa’adu disclosed that over ten houses were burnt by the Boko Haram members and that four policemen on training were killed in the attack, while properties destroyed were estimated at N19 million.

widows still lament

The next-of-kin of the deceased police officers recently received the total sum of N17million as compensation. But the destroyed stations in all the above locations are still lying in ruins like the other public buildings making some police men to operate without offices, cells, or accommodation as they now patch up in their destroyed homes. Others have become refugees and squatting with friends and relatives.

Maryam Adamu, an indigene of Adamawa State, lost her 54-year old husband, Sergeant Adamu Idi of the Lamisula police station in Maiduguri Metropolis. She said, “My husband was on morning duty when the sect members attacked them. I was told that other policemen on duty managed to escape by jumping over the fence, but my husband could not because of his weight, so he was slaughtered. My husband left behind seven children in addition to three sons of his juniors who passed away. We depended on him for everything. We lost everything in our lives because my late husband was everything to us. He always fed and clothed us. Presently we have a lot of problems in our family as he was the only one taking care of everything.” She cried.

Madam Grace Joshua in Abbaganaram, a wife to Corporal Joshua Garba attached to the GRA (Government Reserved Area) divisional police station who was ambushed and killed by the sect members on his way to the office said her late husband ran into the group while going to the office on the first day of the incident. The widow repeatedly wept, saying: “On that fateful day, my husband left home hale and hearty. We did not know that it would be the last time we would see him alive. Initially I did not suspect that anything bad happened to him, because when he was killed nobody informed us and though he did not return home on that day, all our attempts to reach him through his mobile phone proved abortive as the phone was switched off.  So we were not worried. We thought he was engaged on duty because we learnt that the crisis had deepened. But when we could not hear from him after two days, we were seriously disturbed and at that time we have already relocated to polo area which was not too far from the GRA. I only got to know that my husband was dead when his colleagues sighted me and quickly approached, saying Madam sorry. That was how I new that my husband was dead.”

She stated that her husband who joined the force 20 years ago, left behind four children and that presently she is being confronted with serious hurdle on how to take care of them especially in the area of education. According to her, except the police come to her rescue by facilitating speedy payment of their benefits their future may be in serious danger.  “No amount of grief or sorrow could bring back my husband, but my major concern now is how to take care of the orphans, in fact now I have nobody to assist me, except if the authorities have sympathy on us and release the benefits early,” Mrs Garba said.

At the moment, no one knows whether the Borno or federal government has any plan to hurriedly help survivors of policemen, help in fixing police stations destroyed or the public schools and other buildings while it is also not known if any help will come the way of those innocent people who lost their bread winners and shelters during the violence.

Many have been looking forward to assistance from the state government, given the fact that it is on record that some individuals and corporate organisations have risen to offer help after the crises. Senator Kaka Malam Yale, representing Borno Central and the National Assembly gave N500,000 to hospital officials to assist persons who sustained injuries and were undergoing treatment at the University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital (UMTH). While at the camp, Hon. Mustapha Baba Shehuri, a member of the Federal House of Representatives representing Maiduguri Metropolitan commiserated with the victims and donated food and other items, which were distributed to the IDPs. Reverend Father Stephen of the St. Patrick’s Catholic Church Maiduguri supplied water to the IDPs, while the military barrack assisted in providing drugs for the victims. Corporate organisations like Zenith Bank and United Bank for Africa (UBA) donated the sums of N5 million each. In the case of the latter, a cheque was given to Governor Sheriff in August 2009 days after the crisis by the Executive Director (North), Abdulkadir Bello, while Fidelity Bank gave food items worth thousands through its Regional Manager (North), Halilu Malabo.

who will explain what government is doing?

Perhaps, many await explanations on whether these donations have all been expended especially as some of them came after displaced camps were closed.

Mohammed Zannah Barma, the Administrative Secretary of the Nigerian Red Cross, Borno State chapter gave an indication that expenditures were still carried out after camps were closed. He cited that even after the camp was closed, elder statesman, Dr Shettima Ali Monguno commissioned the Red Cross to undertake a base line study to provide data on children who lost their parents or guardians during the crisis.

Sunday Trust learnt that the Red Cross conducted the assessment within Maiduguri Metropolitan and Jere Local Government Areas in the four districts of Bolori, Yerwa, and Shehuri North in the metropolis and Old Maiduguri District in Jere LGA between August 4th and 6th 2009 and recommendations made based on on-the-spot assessment, concentrated on surviving women and children only, especially orphans. The sum of N2 million was released  to the Red Cross by the elder statesman and was used to purchase 135 bags of 50kg rice, 131 bags of millet, and 280 pieces of Super Print wax, which were distributed among the 392 widows and 1,364 orphaned children in the assessed districts. Fifty-nine orphans, attending government senior secondary schools were also given scholarship for sponsorship to university level.

While help came from individuals nothing has so far come from government. Text messages and calls made to the Special Adviser to the Governor Sheriff on Information and Media, Shehu Liberty could not provide any answers. Equally, e-mail sent to the Director of Press, Government House, Usman Chiroma, was replied thus: “Thank you for your inquiry. Kindly endeavour to see the Secretary of the Panel at the Office of the Secretary to the State Government or the present Commissioner of Finance, Fanami Gubio who was a member, please.” When Sunday Trust visited the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Justice, Barrister Yakub Bukar Biu, who served in the Inquiry Committee as Secretary, he referred the reporter to the Chairman, Ambassador Galtimari, saying he did not have the administrative capacity to speak to the press, as a subordinate, without permission from his chairman.

When Sunday Trust traced the Boko Haram Implementation Committee members to their meeting place, the chairman sent a message that he would not talk to or release any information to the press, insisting that if any information was desired, it should be sought from the press department of the government house. Despite the encounter with the Boko Haram Implementation Committee, another enquiry was made by Sunday Trust to the Director of Press at the government house; still there was neither an explanation nor a reply.

While help is still being awaited from Borno, the Bauchi State government has since led the way with the launch of a welfare package for security men in the Boko Haram crisis that erupted a day before spreading to Maiduguri. Governor Isa Yuguda had approved the release of N1.5 million to the families of two soldiers affected. The Brigade Commander, 33 Artillery Brigade, Bauchi, Brigadier General Muraina Lola Raji, forwarded the money to the beneficiaries. Families of the deceased soldier, Corporal Nwargwu Ikechukwu were given N1 million while that of the wounded soldier, Corporal Essien Bassey, were given N500,000. Also presented to the two families were some food items: bags of rice, palm oil and ground nut oil. The commander commended the Bauchi State government for the gesture.

In Borno State, where more casualties were recorded, government is yet to launch a similar or different welfare package even though many still look forward to the Galtimari committee to implement its own recommendations, with the hope that some steps would be taken by the state government to clear the ruins in the aftermath of the Boko Haram crisis and bring some relief to school pupils, workers, the police force and other distressed families.

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