Government activities have been paralysed in ten of the 27 local government areas of Borno State, no thanks to the Boko Haram insurgency.
Council chairmen, their councilors and other top officials have abandoned their duty posts in the affected areas and relocated to Maiduguri, the state capital, yesterday, two days after the Federal Government constituted the Kabiru Tanimu-led committee on dialogue and peaceful resolution of security challenges in the North.
Two of the committee members-Mallam Shehu Sani and Dr.Datti Ahmed-have declined to serve on the panel, but there were indications last night that Northern governors, political leaders and traditional rulers were mounting pressure on them to reconsider their position.
The security situation has jolted Governor Kashim Shettima to buy 200 brand new patrol Hilux vans to the Joint Task Force (JTF) to enable it flush the insurgents out of the 10 local government areas.
The ten grounded local governmet areas are: Marte, Magumeri, Mobbar, Gubio, Guzamala, Abadamin, Kukawa, Kaga, Nganzai and Monguno.
Worst hit in those areas are villages and districts where Boko Haram has established bases.
A top source said: “It has got to a point that we just have to cry out. Most stakeholders in the state have become worried that the 10 LGAs in the Northern part have been overrun by Boko Haram members, especially at the village and district levels.
“In some of these 10 local government area, workers have practically abandoned offices with political office holders, especially local government chairmen, taking refuge in Maiduguri , the state capital.
“Each time Governor Kashim Shettima had cause to inspect or inaugurate a few projects in these LGAs, the fleeing chairmen tried to sneak in under security cover to fulfil their constitutional obligation.
“We are appealing to President Goodluck Jonathan to rescue Northern Borno. We have no business being in Mali, if this northern part is not secured. If Boko Haram takes total control of the Northern part, they may later launch attacks on the Central and Southern parts.”
Continuing,the source said: “We are also suspecting a spill over of Mali crisis into northern part of Borno State to strengthen Boko Haram members. There are reports that Boko Haram members are calling the shots in these 10 local government areas.
“The sect members are said to now mount road blocks to fish out government workers for attacks, a situation that has made most government officials and civil servants to flee the entire local government areas in the northern part with the exception of Damasak.
“The sect members are also in control of Bama and some part of the Konduga Local Government Area, both in the central part of the state after chasing away government officials and civil servants with serial attacks and car snatches. Residents fear that the federal government is adamant in handling the situation
“In the Marte Local Government Area , for instance, the sect members are in full control of most villages, they patrol the areas, control streets and markets, while they organize public preachings in village markets like that of Krenuwa, the home base of top government officials, including the current Secretary to the State Government, Ambassador Baba Ahmed Jidda, who is a member of the just- established Committee on Dialogue and Peaceful Resolution of Security Challenges in the North.
“That is the true picture of things in the northern part. This northern part of Borno, which is the desert side of the state, has local government areas that share international land borders with Cameroon and Niger, leading into Chad (which is connected within a short distance from border areas of Cameroon), Central African Republic and Mali, where a militancy and rebel groups operated until France and the UN intervened.
“Ngala (in the far central) and Abadamin the far northern part of the state as well as Baga in Bama (in the central) share international borders with Cameroon , Niger and Chad (which is connected within a short distance from border areas of Cameroon ).
“Like the case in Mali , reports have indicated that some sect members now control laws in some markets in the northern part, especially in Marte LGA, regulating policies on sale of grains, with strict prohibitions on sale of cigarettes.
“The sect members have also chased out an agricultural transformation team set up by Governor Shettima out of Marte, making them abandon harvest of wheat in a 5,000 hectares of irrigation land, revived and funded by the state with nearly N500million going down the drain. Nearly 30,000 benefiting farmers have been forced out of the site.
“The farm was established through collaboration between the Borno Government and the Federal Government owned Chad Basin Development Authority which has over 60,000 hectares of unused irrigation farm in Marte.”
Responding to a question, the source said: “The challenge we have is that there is almost zero presence of the JTF in the northern part. This is why stakeholders are pleading with the Federal Government to intervene before things get out of hand.
“We know the JTF is trying, but it has to focus on Northern Borno. At present, the JTF members have kept away from some of the local government areas, leaving them in full control of the sect members.”
The source, however, gave kudos to the JTF for substantially securing the central and central parts of the state.
“The JTF has, however, remained in control of Maiduguri, Jere and most parts of the central part of the state, while the southern part has been relatively more stable, even though with intermittent attacks taking place in Damboa, Chibok, Biu and Gwoza local government areas.
“Most other parts of the south that include Hawul, Bayo, Kwaya Kusar, Askira/Uba and Shani have remained peaceful with rare cases recorded over time,” the source said.
Meanwhile, northern governors, political leaders and traditional rulers yesterday continued to mount pressure on the President of the Supreme Council of Sharia in Nigeria, Dr. Datti Ahmed, and a foremost Nigerian human rights activist and the President, Civil Rights Congress, Comrade Shehu Sani, to serve on the 26-man amnesty panel raised by President Goodluck Jonathan on Wednesday.
It was gathered that these governors have been begging the two leaders to collaborate with the government to restore peace to the North.
Sani, who spoke with our correspondent last night, confirmed the pressure, but he said the amnesty committee could not succeed since the insurgents had kicked against the idea.
He said: “People have been calling me, but it is not about pressure but results. I am passionate about peace and end to this violence, but all that I have said was that a wrong step had been taken from the beginning and it would achieve no result at the end.
“I cannot change my position because what makes matter worse is the availability of the insurgents to the idea of amnesty. Getting in touch with the insurgents is not the problem, but one must be sure that it must be for something that is done with genuine intention and not a scam.
“If the government wants this amnesty and dialogue committee to succeed, it should have sought advice on the way to go about it from step one. But for now, they have taken the wrong step and it would lead to the wrong answer.
“What I am saying is: if the insurgents have voiced out their opposition to amnesty, what will be the job of an amnesty committee.”
On her part, the only female member of the amnesty committee, Hajiya Naja’atu Mohammed, who sent a text to our correspondent from Saudi Arabia , said: “I saw your sms; I am right now in Jeddah, but Insa Allahu, I am accepting to serve on the committee. Thanks.”
Source: The Nation