to vacate, unless he or she wants to do that of his or her own accord. This is why we are saying okay, thank you, we want to go now of our own accord.”
He added that, “The situation is becoming unbearable for us, especially when we consider the fact that because we were a thriving commercial community, majority of us were so much more comfortable, compared to our current unfortunate situation where we have been turned to beggars and our children, urchins. This is why we weighed the current level of insecurity and our deplorable situation and still resolved to go back home to rebuild our comfortable lives. We have never been indolent, and we will not allow ourselves to be condemned to indolence,” he concluded.
Another 50-year-old looking IDP, bragged about possessing a capital of over ten million Naira, but was now severely pained by his inability to undertake any commercial venture worth even ten thousand Naira.
“A Bama indigene is a commerciallyoriented person. He doesn’t know anything called indolence. Majority of us have been reminiscing over our commercial prosperity. We are nostalgic about it. If other commercial communities like Damasak can return in the midst of whatever insecurity, we also want to return to see what we can do to restore our commercial glory. The rice and other items of necessity I hitherto never regarded as any comfort have now become gold to me,” he lamented.
He queried: “Damasak returned even before the reconstruction of the town was completed. Why are we still tied down here under the pretext of the reconstruction of Bama not completed?”
There are growing allegations that the state government is trading Bama, because of its high economic status as a thriving trans-border commercial focal point, for huge funds from different sources under the pretext of reconstructing it ‘so well’ for rehabilitation and resettlement.
The state government, never ruffled by any such allegations, is continuing to do what it can to expedite the reconstruction of Bama, but it says it will not falter on its determination to do it “so well.”
Perhaps pricked by the trek-back-home protest, a reliable government source said a combined meeting of the state executive council and security agencies on Wednesday (September 27) resolved to expedite action for the return of the Bama IDPs back home as soon as possible.
Consequently, the state Commissioner for Reconstruction, Rehabilitation and Resettlement, Professor Babagana Umara, was directed to visit Bama on Thursday (September 28) to assess the reconstruction there to expedite the action.
The outgoing Executive Chairman of the State’s Emergency Management Agency, Engr. Ahmed Satomi, would not comment on the issue, saying that he was no more in the capacity to do so. A new SEMA helmsman has not been appointed.
But Daily Trust contacted Isa Gusau, Governor Kashim Shettima’s spokesman. “Whoever wants Governor Kashim Shettima to allow Bama IDPs to returned without proper planning, that person should show example by immediately moving himself, and his family to Bama for one month. Some politicians are using a group within the Bama IDPs for 2019 politics. There are IDPs from over 10 local government areas that are yet to return to their local government areas, why should protest about return only come from a group of people from Bama? Why not any other local government area? Yes, it is understandable for displaced persons to get frustrated with living outside their environment for three years, but if you monitor all the issues since last Sunday when the so-called protest was staged, you will notice that key supporters of former governor Ali Modu Sheriff are the front promoters of the protest in the social media and granting interviews.”
Gusau also said: “If you see anyone that is not in Sheriff ’s camp on this matter, you will notice that the person has open ambition to contest something in 2019. Where were they when the people of Bama were displaced and what efforts have they made so far in rebuilding of Bama? That protest was purely political. The whole aim was to mischievously paint the government in bad light. I say this with all sense of responsibility.”
Gusau also said that at some point, the governor was being accused of overpampering Bama because of the massive reconstruction he approved there and his constant visits including his once-relocation there to supervise take off of reconstruction, reinforcement of civil authority and environmental Sanitation of that town. “But then, it is his responsibility to do what he is doing and his action is based on the postinsurgency recovery and peace building assessment jointly carried out by the world Bank, the office of the Vice President, the EU and affected States and that report showed Bama as the worst destroyed by Boko Haram in the entire northeast. The Governor took a bold decito start what ordinarily required hundreds of billions of naira to start. He didn’t want the IDPs from Bama and the entire State to remain in camps. He wanted all camps closed since May 29, 2016. He publicly announced his plan to close camps and the international community and humanitarian actors saw his announcement has hasty. He had to withdraw the closure because of the realities on the ground. Every day, the Nigerian Army releases statement about troops neutralizing Boko Haram in some axis within Borno State including around Bama. What this means is that the military is still operating around Bama and other axis in the State. Should the Governor allow citizens to walk to Bama under that circumstance?”
Gusau also told Daily Trust that the state government is currently rebuilding 15 local government areas. “Kaga, Dikwa, Mafa have so far been completed. Some mischievous people even said the governor was opposed to Bama IDPs return in order to have an easy voting in IDP camps in 2019 but they forgot to acknowledge that it was the same governor who rebuilt communities and mobilized the return of IDPs to Konduga, Kaga, Dikwa, Askira Uba, Gwoza and a host of other areas. He has rebuilt the palace of the Shehu of Bama and over 20,000 homes in Bama but the work is massive, there is so much more to be done. The governor has been holding meetings with the Vice President on how to remodel Bama and deploy a specially trained anti terrorism group that will include those to secure farmers in their farmlands. There is a lot to be done. Like the governor has always said, his greatest wish is for his successor not to inherit Boko Haram and IDP camps,” the spokesman said.
DSP Victor Isuku confirmed the arrest of the twelve and their charge to court on phone.
“The fact that they are IDPs doesn’t mean that they are above the law. They are, first and foremost, Nigerians before they are IDPs. It is unfortunate that they have found themselves in that status, but they are Nigerians whatever their status, and no Nigerian is above the law,” Isuku stated.
“The police will not take it lightly with anyone breaking the law of the land, whether IDP or whoever,” he stressed.
He however said, “they should be patient. I understand today (Wednesday) there was a marathon meeting at the Government House to explore the possibility of expediting action on the return of these IDPs to their ancestral homes.”
Bama Initiative for Human Development, in a petition to Amnesty International, dated 27th September, 2017 and addressed to the Country Director, Amnesty International Nigeria, Maitama, Abuja, signed by Mohammed Shuwa and Abba Bukar Abba Masta on behalf of the arrested leaders complained of the arrest of their members and prayed the global organization to intervene in the matter to ensure justice and fairness to them.
The petition also narrated the cramped and unhygienic state of the camps which they have bore in the light of the cushioning it gave them from the insurgents and their unsuccessful attempts to get the arrested IDPs released.
Civil society organizations have been responding on the issue.
The Borno State Chairman of the Civil Society Organizations, Ambassador Ahmed Shehu, had issued a 48-hour ultimatum to the Police to release the arrested persons even before they were charged to court and remanded in custody, saying that two wrongs cannot make a right.
“You can’t arrest people that are already traumatized and suffered hardships over the year simply for protesting. I just got an information that the arrested protesters will be taken to prison; are we that lawless?” he queried.
Ambassador Shehu called on the relevant stakeholders to view the situation of the IDPs from the humanitarian perspectives, saying, “let the government focus on arresting those who violated human rights, not those willing to go back home.
He was, however, also angry with the trek-back-home IDPs.
“Actually, I condemn their decision to return home without security, I even asked them where they will get water and other basic needs,” he said.
Several responses hinge on the allegation that the poorly catered for IDPs are used by politicians as human shields or ATM machines for their enrichment as well as an easy way to guarantee their block votes in 2019.
Some people allege that keeping the IDPs for this long with no constant communication, visits, progress reports on their situation or response to their appeals creates the impression that they are kept in Maiduguri for political reasons.
Although the Bama IDPs may not have succeeded in what the authorizes view as their risky and foolhardy adventure, they have succeeded in making history as the first set of IDPs to spite ‘the goodies’ of camp life and resolve to trek back to their ‘still insecure’ home community in such a large number.
The fact that they are IDPs doesn’t mean that they are above the law. They are, first and foremost, Nigerians before they are IDPs. It is unfortunate that they have found themselves in that status, but they are Nigerians whatever their status, and no Nigerian is above the law
Governor Kashim Shettima of Borno State