The Bama rebirth – The Nation

In May, it would be exactly five years that Bama, a major commercial town in Borno State, came under its first major attack by the Boko Haram insurgents. Subsequent well-orchestrated invasions in February and June 2014 left the town prostrate that upon what seemed like a final onslaught in September 2014, Bama town, which is the capital of the Bama Local Government area of Borno State fell to the Boko Haram militants. It was not to enjoy a breather until March 2015 when the Nigerian Army announced that it had liberated it.

Bama, as well as Dikwa, Magdali, Gwoza were among the toughest battle zones of the terror war. But Bama, which is barely about 60 km from Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, may have suffered the most devastation.

There are gory tales of about 50 policemen killed in one attack and yet another of about 100 mainly elderly people who could not escape being rounded up in a school dormitory and shot. For more than two years when it was under the control of Boko Haram, settlements and markets were reportedly razed and communication equipment damaged.

Bama was almost entirely shutdown and the displacement of the people- indigenes and settlers -was almost total. Since then, the Internally Displaced Persons (IDP’s) arising from the Bama apocalypse had turned out to be another phase of the war proving even more ruinous than the gun duels.

Government was suddenly confronted with nearly one million IDP’s needing shelter, clothing, food, medication and other basic necessities of life. For instance, over a period of about five years, many died of malnutrition and epidemics of common diseases. The process of rebuilding Bama and replacing basic amenities in order to rehabilitate the internal refugees has expectedly, been daunting.

This is why we felicitate with an elated Borno State Governor, Kashim Shettima who recently announced a move to commence the rehabilitation and resettlement of displaced Bama people.

He had temporarily moved the seat of government to Bama, he announced gaily. Speaking to reporters, Shettima said, “The people of Bama will return in phases starting with ward and village heads; while the Shehu will be the last person to return. We did so in order for the Shehu to monitor the return of his subjects. We have distributed bio-data forms to capture all the returnees…”

The Commissioner for Reconstruction, Rehabilitation and Resettlement, Prof. Babagana Umara noted that about 11,630 houses have been renovated. Others are eight primary schools, eight bore holes, general hospital and 1800 shops and markets.

While we commend Governor Shettima for the immense zeal and commitment he brought to bear on this onerous project, we call for extreme caution and circumspection in this phase of the job. We aver that the process of orderly relocation of this large number is almost as tasking as building the structures.

Again, the devastating suicide bomb attacks on the capital city of Maduguri on Easter Sunday which killed 25 and injured about 800 must serve as a sad wake-up call for all involved to be a bit more wary. Apart from re-enacting as much stress-free movement as possible, security must be considered to be of priority importance.

Bama is only about 60 kilometres from Maiduguri, a distance equivalent to Lagos to Sagamu. If the insurgents could consistently hit the much garrisoned state capital, it stands to reason that Bama remains a target of attack.

While we urge that efforts must be doubled to return other IDPs in all parts of the country back to their natural homesteads, it must be noted that a lot more needs to be done to completely win the war against terror in the north east.

We urge the federal government as well as the military and intelligence hierarchy to intensify efforts to find the core financiers and masterminds of the insurgency and punish them. Intelligence and technology must be deployed to infiltrate the sect and neutralize them. A variant of the whistle-blower concept may also be introduced here.

Equally important is the need to revive the economy of the hinterland by getting the LGAs working once again. Thriving rural administrations will in turn quickly reduce the acute poverty prevalent in the northeast.

Government must also give more incentives to children to go to school as well as create youth programmes and sports activities to engage young people.

Properly managed, the rebirth of Bama would serve as a touchstone and a model for managing IDPs in other parts of the country. It must be noted that until all the displaced persons are returned to their respective homes, the war against Boko Haram has not quite ended.

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