The Borno Elders Forum has expressed appreciation to the Federal Government of Nigeria for setting up a committee saddled with the responsibility of evaluating and reconstructing all communities in Borno and other parts of the Northeast liberated from Boko Haram.
This was disclosed in a statement issued by the forum said.
The elders said they were really impressed by the Federal government’s rare speedy response to rebuild the liberated territories before displaced residents would be asked to return.
“By heeding to our submission, which we have consistently advocated since last week, the Federal Government has proved be a listening one and this is highly commendable,” a statement signed by the Forum’s leader, Gaji Galtumari said.
“We understand that the chairman of the Presidential Initiatives for North -East (PINE) Prof. Soji Adeaja inaugurated the committee on Tuesday in Abuja with terms of reference that includes assessing status and conditions of liberated communities, with a view to determining the ones that are ready for occupation while it is also to determine, in conjunction with other relevant agencies, the immediate needs of the returnees and to recommend and implement modalities of how refugees can return to their communities after reconstruction works, among others,” Mr. Galtumari said. “The Federal Government has taken the right step that is expected of it.”
Mr. Galtimari’s forum was however not comfortable with the time frame given by the Federal Government, which wants the committee to carry out its assignment within ten days. The forum says the time frame is not realistic.
“We are a bit worried by the ultimatum of ten days which some sections of the Nigerian media reported as the time frame given to the committee to tour almost twenty local government areas affected in Borno State and access the communities so far liberated,” Mr. Galtimari said. “This is in addition to visiting other affected communities in Yobe and Adamawa States. We think that if a thorough job expected from the Federal Government is to be done, a time frame of ten days for assessment of the three States is not realistic and it is capable raising questions about the sincerity of the initiative itself.”
The Elders of Borno said it will take longer period to cleanse the liberated territories and make it safer for the return of the IDP even as they worried that undiscovered land mines might pose a graver threat to the communities.
“Like we submitted from onset, the first step is to ensure the safety of the liberated communities, to guarantee that mines possibly buried on routes and within hitherto occupied communities, are properly swept by security experts associated with effective and efficient management of Explosive Devices,” Mr. Galtimari said. “Then, evaluation of destructions can be carried out either simultaneously or after the places are cleared of mines (if any).
“For those of us conversant with happenings in Borno State, we can say with authority that massive destructions have been inflicted on our communities from headquarters of local government areas to villages. Only few days ago, we heard and read from many accounts that Bama town was completely burnt by insurgents. This is the case of many territories whether in northern, southern or central parts of Borno State.
“Residential Houses, farmlands, hospitals, schools, markets, water supply infrastructures, public buildings, palaces of traditional rulers that are identities and ancestral heritage of various communities have all been brought down. Hundreds of thousands of givers have been turned into beggars that depend on alms. Our people have been dehumanized for no fault of theirs other than a man-made mass murder and destructions.
“All of these require a good time for the committee to evaluate and also meet victims to hear some of their stories, create some data base from existing records that can be collected from both the National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA and the Borno State Emergency Management Agency and other official sources.
“We seriously call on the committee to make adequate consultation with security agencies to be able to ascertain the safety of any liberated community before citizens are allowed to return because from some previous experiences, some communities may appear safe could be under hidden threat. There is the need for absolute assurances. We have recorded too many deaths, we must avert whatever is avoidable.
“Our ultimate objective is to ensure that citizens of Borno and those other affected States, are not killed on account of I’ll informed decision made by them or on their behalf, to return to liberated communities that have not regained sustained freedom from insurgency. We are also concerned about the safety of routes to the communities.
“We wish the committee a huge success in its very critical assignment that is of immense significance to Borno State and its citizens. We pray that they are guided by their conscience and patriotism. We wish them well and pray that visit all communities safely.
We urge all Nigerians to be law abiding and shun all acts capable of inciting or promoting any form of violence before, during and after the rescheduled general elections”.