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One year after… the carnage of Boko Haram stands tall in Borno, Yobe

The uprising was eventually countered by a combined team of security operatives who launched coordinated counter-insurgency attacks ending on July 30 2009 with the eventual…

The uprising was eventually countered by a combined team of security operatives who launched coordinated counter-insurgency attacks ending on July 30 2009 with the eventual destruction of their enclave, capture of their members and killing of their leader.

In the six days that the crisis lasted, over one thousand lives were lost amongst civilians, security men and members of the sect. Police stations were attacked, officers killed and the stations burnt. In Borno State, men of the security outfit, Operation Flush fell victims with burnt vehicles and slain officers. Also burnt and destroyed were public institutions.

In Maiduguri and Jere local government areas of Borno, 57 primary schools were destroyed. It was learnt that each classroom 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.

Other government institutions destroyed include the entire building and vehicles at the State Independent Electoral Commission (SIEC) located around the sect’s enclave; ten offices at the state headquarters of the National Directorate of Employment (NDE) along with three vehicles; and the Maiduguri prisons. The prisons was destroyed because the sect believed the convicts had been unjustly convicted through western laws while the NDE was torched because they believed it was offering employment in accordance with western ideologies.

In Yobe State, the insurgency began on 27th July, 2009 and members of the sect besieged and burnt the Divisional Police headquarters in Potiskum, the business nerve centre of the state. During the attack, a police officer, Usman Shehu and another civilian who was in the custody of the police at that time were killed. They also used sharp knives to inflict serious injuries on other seven police officers who were on duty at the police station and freed all suspects at the station before setting it ablaze. Other places affected include the office of the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) and the National Population Commission (NPC).

Two days after the incident, a joint task force of the Nigeria Army and the police force launched a counter attack and killed thirty three members of the Boko Haram sect at a hideout in Mamudo village and recovered arms, ammunition and dangerous weapons like bow and arrows, quivers, daggers, machetes, catapults and knives.

On the 16th of August 2009, the Borno State Governor, Ali Modu Sheriff inaugurated a 13-man Administrative Committee of Inquiry led by Ambassador Usman Gaji Galtimari to look into the cause of Boko Haram sectarian violence, assess damages, look into area of compensation and make recommendations to  the government. The Committee submitted its report with findings on 22nd October, 2009 and was converted into an Implementation Committee.

Almost eight months after its inauguration, in May 2010, the committee submitted a report to Governor Ali Modu Sheriff with some unpublicized recommendations. Instead of the 30, 40 or 50 per cent compensation being recommended by the committee, the state government said it was going to offer some level of assistance to the victims and agreed to offer unspecified assistance, saying out of the 48 recommendations made by the committee, it had accepted 30, approved 16 and would be considering the remaining 14.

In May 2010, the state government signed an order declaring the boko haram group “a dangerous religious sect to the state, saying it was illegal for anyone to parade themselves as members of the sect.

Ironically, little has changed about the devastated conditions of public institutions and victims since Sunday Trust’s report of February 12, 2010.

Over 300 suspected members of the sect who were arrested in batches during and after the crisis in the state and neighbouring states like Adamawa and Gombe are being arraigned in different High Courts. The prosecutors are yet to present any incriminating evidence against any of them and the courts, realizing the injustice in continuing to detain them thus denying them their Fundamental Rights as enshrined in Chapter IV of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, have began granting bail to those whose lawyers have been able to fulfill the bail requirements. A handful are now on bail, but are threatened psychologically. The ones who are about to be granted bail are being stalled by court authorities who are unable to produce some of the accused in courts, with the excuse of insufficient operational vehicles. A case of 77 suspected members of the sect was recently adjourned to a longer date simply because two of the suspects who had been transferred to other prisons could not be produced in court.

A few of the schools have been rehabilitated, but uncompleted and unoccupied. The temporary sheds used as classes that were provided by the state primary education board are still in use. The Maiduguri prison has also had some surface dressings, but still not fortified enough to accommodate inmates, who are presently being held at the Maximum Prisons. More notorious ones have been transferred to other prison facilities in the state and neighbouring states. The ruins of the destroyed vehicles at the prisons have been evacuated and some of the burnt zinc have been used to cover up some of the openings. As it is, a few prison staff have been drafted.

The Borno State Independent Electoral Commission, BOSIEC, is still operating from the temporary office along Polo Race Course. On Thursday when Sunday Trust visited the railway headquarters of the electoral body, it was deserted and there was no sign of any work as earlier promised by the state government.

The confusion about whose responsibility it is to renovate the NDE office still remains as nothing has happened yet, even though the Ambassador Galtimari-led committee of inquiry and implementation of findings suggested the reactivation of moribund skills acquisition center, as well as the creation of new ones in collaboration with the National Directorate of Employment (NDE) to provide employment for the teeming unemployed youths in the state who became easy tool for manipulation as a result of lack of gainful employment.

In Yobe State too, the story is not any different. The police stations are still in ruins though they were fenced few months ago. The Divisional Police Officer of the Potiskum Division operates from an obscure office while other ranks and file work under trees.

However, at a recent media briefing in Damaturu, Commissioner of Police Mamman Sule said the state government had awarded contract for the reconstruction of the burnt police station. On the other hand, there is no indication that the FRSC office will ever come alive.

Elsewhere in the town of Potiskum, little is heard about the families of the 33 Boko Haram members that were killed. Sunday Trust investigations reveal that many of them have fled the town while those remaining are living in agony because they don’t want to be identified with their late loved ones for fear of either being interrogated by security forces or face discrimination by the larger society.

Alhaji Buba Dumbulwa, an influential businessman with many shops at the Potiskum market was said to be the leader of the sect in Potiskum but lived with his three wives and children in Dumbulwa. Since the incident of last year, Alhaji Buba had disappeared into thin air and nothing is heard about his family. Other members have also disappeared with members of their family.

During a recent visit by our reporter, one of his wives who do not want to be named said she and her children are living in difficulties and called for assistance from government.

While school pupils still learn in the open and some workers seemingly displaced, human victims of the crisis also lament that no help has so far come their way. It has been difficult after my husband was killed. Taking care of the eight children he left behind has been tough in the aftermath of the violence. Based on statistics obtained from the Borno State chapter of the Nigerian Red Cross, over 3,600 displaced persons took refuge at the Maimalari Barracks Maiduguri during the crisis. Of course, not all lost their houses and families but many did, it was gathered, and are still helpless.

The Borno State Police Command, according to its Public Relations Officer, ASP Isa Azare lost 26 police officers, Divisional Police Stations at Railway, Lamisula, Jere and Damasak, and an outpost in Makera. Part of Gamboru Ngala Police Station was also destroyed. The Commandant of the Mobile Police Training College, Dalhatu Sa’adu also revealed 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. The destroyed stations are still un renovated.

In Bauchi State, the government in its welfare package gave N1.5 million each to the families of two affected soldiers, which was presented by Brigadier General Muraina Lola Raji as the Brigade Commander of the 33 Artillery Brigade Bauchi. Families of the deceased soldier, CorporalNwargwu Ikechukwu were also given N1 million while that of the wounded soldier, Corporal Essien Bassey, were given N500,000, in addition to food items.

What hope awaits the school pupils, workers, families of deceased security men and those who remain alive but injured? In Borno where more casualties were recorded, the implementation committee submitted its report in May 2010, almost one year after. The Ambassador Galtimari-led committee of inquiry and implementation said it scrutinized N341,986,914 worth of claims from 85 affected persons who appeared before it, and recommended the payment of N208,414,418 compensation. The committee also said it had disbursed the sum of N1,174,804 to five victims of the crisis who suffered serious injuries.

Last week, the Borno State government released the sum of N1.5million to six security men who lost their lives in the wake of the crisis. The beneficiaries comprised five soldiers and one mobile police officer who lost their lives in active duty in 2009.

Brigadier General Ibrahim Hassan Ndaliman, Commander of the 21 Armoured Brigade Maiduguri made the presentation of N250,000 cash to each beneficiary at the brigade headquarters in Maiduguri and said the gesture was a token from the state government pending when the appropriate entitlements would be prepared for them by the Nigerian Army. He said the gesture would serve as morale booster to other security operatives, because two of the soldiers lost their lives during the counter-insurgency of the Boko Haram crisis while the remaining three soldiers and the mobile police were part of those who lost their lives on duty with the Operation Flush security outfit, also in 2009.

He appealed to the beneficiaries to utilize the money judiciously in he training of the children of the deceased, insisting that qualitative education is the best legacy that they could bequeath to them in memory of their departed colleagues.

Hajiya Zuwaira, a benefiting widowed wife of Sergeant Mohammed Auta of 202 Battalion Bama Division told our correspondent after the ceremony that the humanitarian gesture by the state government would go a long way to assist in the educational pursuit of her three children who are in school. “I am engaged in buying and selling and have been using the profits to cater for my children. This money would serve as additional capital to boost my business,” she explained.

Another widow, Abigail, is the wife of late Sergeant Antikiriya of 33 Artillery Regiment Biu. She said it has been a nightmare catering for her eight children without any help. But she confessed that the N250,000, though a token, would go a long way in alleviating their sufferings, saying it would at least help to keep her children in school and provide for her a little capital to start some trading pending when their entitlements would be ready.

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