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Boro: How cradle of Ijaw struggle became NYSC camp

Boro community, located at Kaiama in Kolokuma/Opokuma Local Government Area of Bayelsa State, is the hometown of the popular Ijaw and Niger Delta activist, the…

Boro community, located at Kaiama in Kolokuma/Opokuma Local Government Area of Bayelsa State, is the hometown of the popular Ijaw and Niger Delta activist, the late Major Isaac Jasper Adaka Boro.

 

The community, where the newly commissioned National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) orientation camp is located, is the cradle of Ijaw struggle. It was in the area that Major Boro and some armed militia men, mainly consisting of the Ijaw, declared the Niger Delta Republic on February 23, 1966.

But federal forces subdued the militia group during a battle that lasted for 12 days. Consequently, Major Boro and his men were jailed for treason. However, the regime of General Yakubu Gowon granted him amnesty on the eve of the Nigerian civil war in May 1967. He was then enlisted and commissioned as a major in the Nigerian army.

Despite the struggle, the area remained undeveloped inspite of the presence of abundant natural resources.

The alleged marginalisation of Ijaw people have continued to generate agitations over the years, calling on both the federal and state governments to look into the plight of the people of the area.

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Boro remained undeveloped until the government of former Governor Seriake Dickson constructed access road to the community, a development that paved way for the construction of the Presidential Amnesty Programme Training Centre by the federal government in the area, and construction of structures that have now been converted to an NYSC permanent orientation camp.

The people of Kaiama community were full of joy as Governor Douye Diri, in the company of the director-general of the NYSC, Brigadier-General Yusha’u Ahmed, commissioned the permanent orientation camp for the training of corps members, 26 years after the creation of Bayelsa State.

The orientation camp has adequate facilities, including hotels, lecture arena, sporting facilities, lighting and water facilities, among others. The Bayelsa State Government, under Senator Douye Diri, said it had invested a lot of resources to ensure that the facility is comfortable to train corps members.

Daily Trust on Sunday reports that since the creation of Bayelsa State on October 1, 1996, Government Secondary School, Kaiama has been used as a temporary orientation camp for corps members despite hitches and inconveniences, especially when the school was in session.

Although the idea of building a permanent orientation camp for the NYSC was conceived during the then administration of Governor Goodluck Jonathan, the construction work actually started under the administration of Dickson.

An official of the NYSC who spoke on condition of anonymity told our correspondent that the permanent orientation camp was the best thing that happened to the agency in the state. He revealed that the school, which served as a temporary camp, was always flooded whenever it rained. He expressed happiness that with the new camp, that situation would be a thing of the past.

A resident of Kaiama, Ineye Friday, told Daily Trust on Sunday that many Ijaw sons and daughters considered Boro as a centre of freedom, adding that the contributions of Isaac Boro to Ijaw struggle has been recognised.

How I was almost sacked as commissioner trying to project Boro for NYSC camp – Diri

Governor Douye Diri, who was the Commissioner for Youth and Sports when the Jonathan administration planned the establishment of the NYSC permanent orientation camp, said he almost lost his job for projecting Boro community for the project.

Speaking during the commissioning of the camp as part of activities to mark the third anniversary of his administration, Diri said he was happy to complete the facility as governor.

He said, “I am tied to this camp, for very obvious reasons. While I was a commissioner under the Alamieyeseigha/Goodluck Jonathan government, specifically when Alamieyeseigha handed over to him, the issue of a permanent orientation camp was discussed in our executive council meeting. With me from Kolokuma/Opokuma was Austin Fabor Ogiebor, the then commissioner for lands and housing. In that meeting, we were to take a decision on where to site an NYSC permanent orientation because Government Secondary School, Kaiama was used as a temporary camp and the school calendar was almost always distorted. The two options were Okordia and Zarama. Of course, commissioners from that axis ably defended the former teachers’ training college to be the permanent orientation camp. But I raised the motion that Boro should be made the permanent orientation camp. After that argument, the governor decided that he was going to visit both camps before the council would take a decision. He directed me to go ahead to Kaiama and show him Boro community, where this site would be located. I recall that Boro was a bushy area at that time.

“I promptly communicated the chairman of the local government at that time and told him to clear the road to Boro as I was going in advance of the governor, who would inspect the location. Sadly, I got to Kaiama and there was no road to Boro. And the governor was already on ground, so I did not have any option than to lead him inside the forest. As we kept going, the governor got angry and said, ‘Honourable commissioner, have you brought me to your local government to be killed?’ I said no and he said I should expect to be sacked when we got back to Yenagoa. He turned and went back to Yenagoa.

“I called General Diriyai and related the situation, telling him that I was about to be sacked. I explained that I was only protecting the fact that the camp was temporarily in my local government and I didn’t see any reason for it to be relocated. I said I would be glad to be sacked for that reason

“In that cabinet, my friend and brother, who was the attorney-general and commissioner for justice, Rt. Hon. Seriake Dickson, witnessed all the arguments. He told me not to worry, that things would change. And the moment he took over as governor, one of the projects he had in mind was the construction of the permanent orientation camp in Kaiama. I was glad that my vision had been fulfilled. After the construction of that site and a road to Boro, he gave way for the construction of the amnesty training centre. Unfortunately, we later heard that some unscrupulous youths went and looted the centre. The NYSC orientation camp built by Dickson was not spared. Everything was looted, including tiles.

“My vision had always been that this permanent camp must be put to use, so we started the renovation of the buildings. The NYSC also said that because of insecurity, if there was no fence, the camp would not be put to use. So we quickly mobilised and fenced the camp round and ensured that solar lights were installed.

“Today, we have moved the orientation camp permanently to where it is expected to be. Its economic benefits to our people and those coming to Bayelsa State cannot be overemphasized.”

Speaking during the commissioning of the permanent orientation camp recently, the director-general of the NYSC, Brigadier-General Yusha’u Ahmed, commended the Bayelsa State Government. He said the facility would not only enhance the smooth conduct of the orientation programme but would also serve as a morale booster to corps members and officials of the agency.

He said, “The state government under you has continued to make tremendous support to the NYSC. This has enhanced smooth conduct of our operations, including regular payment of monthly stipends to our corps members and transport fares to them upon completion of the national service.

“The completion of the orientation camp is a clear testimony of your passion for the Nigerian youth, who are being trained and mentored for leadership roles on the platform of this noble scheme. Indeed,  this facility will not only enhance the smooth conduct of orientation programmes, but also serve as a morale booster to corps members and officials of the camp.

“We shall continue to reciprocate through the deployment of corps members to contribute to the progress and development of the state and their host communities.

“In view of the continued rise in the population of graduates posted for national service, we have made a continued appeal to state governments to take proactive steps to upgrade all our orientation camps to accommodate at least 5,000 corps members.”

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