The desperate, defiant and daring bombardment of Damasak in Borno State, by the Islamic States of West African Province (ISWAP) has left the boisterous border community devastated and vulnerable to a major humanitarian crisis. Apart from destroying homes, police headquarters, and other institutional facilities in Damasak, ISWAP fighters violated international protocols by destroying the United Nations hub and the Norwegian Refugee Commission’s facilities. They carted away food items and drugs provided in the benevolence of the international community to support displaced persons in Damasak. As a measure to nullify the presence of aid agencies in the region, ISWAP fighters carted away operational vehicles, and set fire to food items, drugs and vehicles they could not make away with.
No doubt, ISWAP’s evil campaign in Damasak, about 190 kilometres from Maiduguri, points to the fact that the headquarters of Mobbar Local Government Area, is strategic for the terrorists’ survival, hence they are determined to overrun and control it. Last Wednesday’s attack by ISWAP on the community was the sixth in a space of two weeks, as the fighters defied the Nigeria Army, which has consistently and successfully repelled them each and every time ISWAP ventured into Damasak.
From all indications, the people of Damasak are facing the worst of times. The terrorists have killed at least 18 persons, wounded many and destroyed their homes. With the destruction of the United Nations hub, and the carting away of food and drug aids, it is apparent that the people, who had depended on humanitarian support, will be exposed to hunger and the lack of drugs and medicine. As a result, thousands have migrated to neighbouring Niger Republic in search of safety and succour. It is an irony that weeks after Governor Babagana Zulum facilitated the return of some refugees from the Sahel nation to Borno State the activities of terrorists are forcing more Nigerians to the poor country.
We commend Governor Zulum who promptly moved from his comfort zone in Maiduguri to commiserate with the people of Damasak and even passed the night there as a gesture that he would not abandon the traumatized people. We call on The Presidency to urgently send a delegation to Damasak on a fact-finding visit and to reassure the people that government has not abandoned them to their fate. Apart from the visit, we encourage the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development to urgently send food and drugs to Damasak to cushion the effects of the multiple attacks on the community. Also, it is imperative for government to mobilize resources for the construction of shelters, no matter how temporarily, for the people who have been displaced from their homes. Thousands of persons could lose faith in the system which encouraged them to return to the troubled town unless government takes quick steps to reassure them that their predicament is temporary.
The desperation with which ISWAP has attacked Damasak and several communities in Borno State shows that the terrorists are feeling the heat of recent military offensives in the North-East. We commend our gallant soldiers who have not surrendered the strategic town to ISWAP. We also encourage the military high command to provide reinforcement and the logistical support to the soldiers to enable them to protect the people and provide security for humanitarian agencies. It is high time security and humanitarian agencies closed ranks to overcome the discouragement that comes with ISWAP’s persistent attacks on the people. They must overcome mutual suspicions that led to a sour relationship between them in the past.
The military and humanitarian agencies must not yield to terrorists; they cannot give up on the campaign to secure all parts of the North-East, North-West and Nigeria at large from the control of bandits. Terrorists and bandits must be flushed out of Nigeria by all means in spite of their defiant posture.