The Presidential Committee on Northeast Initiative (PCNI) was, on Thursday, in the reclaimed town of Bama, Borno state, where internally displaced persons were returning after three years of displacement.
The PCNI team, led by its deputy chairman, Tijjani Tumsa, took a tour of the entire town after which it concluded that the ravaged town that is currently being rebuilt by a combined force of government and non-government actors, still needs more support to fully bounce back.
Mr. Tumsa, who led in the tour of the battered community, met with some of the 73 ward heads of Bama, who he assured of federal government’s support to palliate their sufferings.
The villagers had listed food, cash grants for business, agricultural implements and the repair of the badly damaged Bama-Maiduguri road, as some of their most pressing needs.
The PCNI team had earlier paid a courtesy call on the Emir of Bama, His Royal Highness, Kyari Ibn El-kanemi, in his temporary Maiduguri abode where the top monarch pleaded for more intervention to enable the state government complete the rebuilding of his domain so as to speed up the return of his subjects to their homes.
The royal father thanked President Muhammadu Buhari for the show of support to the troubled people of Borno, especially on the funding of the PCNI.
Mr. Tumsa, who represented the chairman of the PCNI, Theophilus Danjumma, told PREMIUM TIMES in an interview in Bama that he was impressed with the progress of work done in the town, especially the rebuilding of public infrastructure which the PCNI had been funding.
He noted that PCNI has apart from supporting the full renovation of the Bama General hospital which used to be an IDP camp, the committee has also provided modern hospital equipment worth about a billion (N1,000,000,000.) that would soon be fitted as soon as the renovation work is completed.
“We have been in Bama on several occasions in the past, but today’s visit has to do with seeing how the returnees are settling back in their communities. I am very impressed with the commitment of the people to resettle back in their communities after many years of being outside.
“It is even more encouraging to note that the Borno state government and the PCNI are in sync with the commitment to resettling the people. And this development signifies, amongst other things that there has been success in the reclaiming of areas hitherto held by Boko Haram.
“So while we commend the military in doing excellent jobs, we will support the people in returning back by providing them with livelihood materials and also longer term plans that would sustain them,” he said.
He said while longer term plans are being provided, the PCNI in conjunction with the Borno State government will provide food as an immediate and very important means of sustenance.
“But on longer term, we are also going to provide agricultural inputs so that they can have the means of proving food for themselves as well.
“We have the intention of calling on all the stakeholders, the state actors, including the international INGOs to the discussion table to fashion out a way that will sustain anybody that will return to Bama.
On the issue of Bama-Maiduguri road that has gone bad after years of being cratered by Boko Haram, the PCNI chieftain said, the committee will relate with the Borno state government to see how they could both see to the full rehabilitation of the road so that the residents of the Bama can have a very accessible road to their communities.
Mr Tumsa had earlier commiserated with the people over the recent suicide bomb attack on the that affected some lives during an early morning prayers.
“We have implored the people to also engage in community policing by being vigilant especially during the prayers times to avoid the recurrence of what took place last week,” he said.
“The people must understand that we are in difficult times and life will never be like they use to know it, until after some times. So they need to also be in charge of their own personal security in such a way that they will complement the efforts of the military and the police.
He said the PCNI will do all within its powers to ensure that civil authority is fully restored in Bama so that the people can confidently return and remain in their homes.
“In any resettlement scheme, particularly the one that has the characteristics of what has happened to us here, security is of paramount concern. Therefore the PCNI is committed to ensuring that there restoration of civil authority in Bama town.
“To this end the PCNI will see to the return of the police, civil defence, immigration and other related security outfits. And this we intend to do by providing the requisite instrument and infrastructure for them to function properly. We all know that the police will need somewhere to stay while they are here; they will need some kind of functional mobility to go about their patrol as well as their communication gadgets. The PCNI will not only see to this being provided, but also in a very permanent and sustainable manner.
“The PCNI is particularly concerned about the civil populace returning and their security is of paramount concern to us. That is why we have been engaging the people to secure their homes and places of worship and not to let go their guards because we are no longer living in normal times,” he said.
He said the PCNI will continue to partner with the Borno state government in making sure that the return of the IDPs is sustainable and in line with Mr Buhari’s plan for the Northeast, adding that Bama, as the first place for return, will be a template for other areas that the state government may want to spearhead.
Earlier the military command in Bama, which was the first port of call in the town, had briefed the team on the security situation calling on the government to fast track the deployment of more paramilitary to the community.
The acting commander 21 Brigade Bama, A.B Nura, said the suicide on the mosque came as a huge shock to the military, having pulled all resources and men to make sure such did not happen. He however said a second attack was not successful because the military had taken further measure to secure the town.
The commissioner for reconstruction, rehabilitation and resettlement, Babagana Zulum, whose ministry is the one in charge of all the rebuilding efforts said the Borno state government has done its best in ensuring that 75 percent of the ongoing rehabilitation work is completed.
“But we seriously need support to close the existing gap,” he said.
“And most importantly we are requesting for support to rehabilitate or reconstruct the (road) between Maiduguri and Bama which has been in bad shape. And there are a lot of other settlements apart from Bama town under Bama local government; villages like Gulumba, Kumshe, Darajamal, Ngurosoye etc, that also need additional support, so that we can equally support them to return to their villages.
The chairman of Borno State transition committee, Jato Muhammed, whose committee is in charge of the coordination of all movement or returnees to Bama said so far, over 3000 households have returned to Bama since the government gave the go ahead last month.
He said apart from the Borno State government, the PCNI is one of the major supporters that contributed to the rebuilding of Bama, ensuring that its people return safely and in dignity.