The Borno State governor, Kashim Shettima, on Monday led top government functionaries to Konduga, one of the liberated Boko Haram territories, to observe this year’s Eid-el-Kabir celebration with internally displaced persons.
Director General of the National Orientation Agency (NOA), Garba Abari, Senators Abubakar Kyari and Baba Kaka Garbai, and the Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Abdulkareem Lawal, accompanied the governor.
Konduga, about 35km from Maiduguri, the state capital, is the gateway to the dreaded Sambisa forest and one of the 27 local government areas that suffered the most attacks by Boko Haram insurgents.
Though the main township was never captured by the insurgents, Konduga was under repeated attacks by Boko Haram which wanted its control for unfettered access to Maiduguri.
The persistent attacks forced the villagers to flee into IDPs camps in Maiduguri where they remained for about two years.
According to a statement by Isa Gusau, spokesman of Governor Shettima, the delegation arrived Konduga at about 9am and was received by officials of the local government, and a large number of former IDPs who had returned home to Konduga two weeks ago.
“The Eid prayer was led by the Imam Eidaini of Konduga, Imam Goni Lawan, who later, symbolically slaughtered his ram in the presence of Mr. Shettima to pave way for other worshipers to slaughter theirs,” said Mr. Gusau.
He said it was the first time he could recall that the governor of a largely Muslim populated state like Borno observed Eid prayer outside the state capital.
He said the governor took time to explain his decision to alter tradition by praying outside the state capital.
“Konduga is not more important to us than Askira Uba where two emirs have returned; it is not more important to us than Gwoza, which is bigger and more populated; Konduga is also not more important to us than Monguno, Kukawa, Damboa, Ngala, Dikwa or any other part of the State where our citizens have returned.
“We chose Konduga because of proximity to Maiduguri; given the fact that some of those working with me need to go back and slaughter their rams mostly in Maiduguri and they also need time with their families; while we have other activities scheduled at the Government House in Maiduguri,” Mr. Shettima said.
“So, Konduga is a symbol, which represents all the communities where our people have returned. We are here in solidarity with them, to celebrate the Sallah with them, to strengthen the fact that they are no less important than those who were not affected by the insurgency, to reaffirm our commitment to resettlement of IDPS.
“We came to share this moment with them and to also reassure them that we wouldn’t have allowed them to return to Konduga if it was classified unsafe, this is why we are here with them.
We are determined to restore the dignity of our people, to reinstall civil authority, to rebuild their schools, hospitals, markets and homes so they can return to safe homes and I want to reiterate that we will not allow our citizens to return to unsafe communities”, the governor said.
The IDPs from Konduga local government areas were officially permitted to return to their homes Monday, last week.
The returnees have, however, since been complaining of hunger and lack of houses to settle their families in the largely destroyed town of Konduga, and because food and other relief items were not provided as they were asked to return home.
Mr. Shettima had then assured that food and other needs would be conveyed to the returnees the day following their departure from the camps in Maiduguri. But it seemed the arrangement had not been followed.
But with the governor shifting his Eid praying ground to Konduga, it was expected that the returnees would at least enjoy Sallah celebration.