By A. A. GADZAMA OFR, mni –
It is necessary to observe that the insurgency in the North East was at its worst phase when the present Government took over the mantle of leadership in the country in 2015. Communities, public institutions, especially health and educational institutions were at that time wantonly destroyed by the insurgents. Suicide bombings with IEDs were also common place so also were, attacks on markets and places of worship. Consequently, there was mass displacement of communities in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe States. Indiscriminate attacks by the insurgents also resulted in displaced people from the affected States taking refuge in neighnouring countries such as, Cameroun, Chad and Niger. Large number of the insurgency impacted population from the affected States were also forced to take refuge in many States of the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory.
The magnitude of the Internally Displaced Persons could better be appreciated if there is reliable data on the people staying in IDP Camps. Unfortunately, there is no reliable data on the population of internally displaced persons like other aspects of the insurgency victims situation. The magnitude and gravity of the situation can better be appreciated by reports that there are twenty one (21) Camps in the FCT for example. The estimated population of IDPs in the FCT alone is in excess of two hundred thousand (200,000). The picture is not different from the number of displaced people taking refuge in neighboring countries especially Cameroun, Chad and Niger.
Other disruptive aspects of the insurgency situation was the dislocation of the security infrastructure in the affected states. Security posts and personnel were indiscriminately targeted by the insurgents forcing many to flee. Offices, barracks and security posts of various security, military and paramilitary forces were destroyed. Government offices and any symbol of authority were similarly destroyed. Most parts of the affected States were therefore without Government presence when the insurgency was at its peak. In effect, the sovereignty of the country was called into question by the insurgents then.
Bombings with IEDs and attacks on communities was so rampant and intense forcing millions of people to flee their communities between 2012 and 2015. Also, as a result, large swarth of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa were taken over by the insurgents. Hostages taking was also at its peak before the advent of the President Muhammadu Buhari Government. The level of devastation in Borno, Yobe and to some extent Adamawa States was unbelievable, forcing some commentators to conclude that the level of destruction was unprecedented in the history of the country.
The cumulative effect of the killings and destruction by the insurgents is the forced displacement of conservatively estimated three million people (3,000,000) by the insurgents in the affected States. Naturally, the displacement brought unimaginable misery and hardship on those affected. The condition in the camps they are forced to stay is by every standard inhuman. It is therefore not surprising that malnutrition, disease and condition of serious depravity is the lot of the affected people. It is pertinent to observe that, the plight of the IDP’s have surprisingly been under reported. Credit must however be given to few media houses and international organizations like Doctors without Border, and would Health Organization who have blown the whistle on the situation in the IDP camps. The inhuman condition of living is sadly not limited to the IDP camps. The condition of living in some liberated communities are similar to those in the IDP camps. These are aspects of the post insurgency concerns that should be looked into.
Today, communities previously under the occupation of the insurgents have been liberated. Many who were held hostage have also been freed. The Military and other security forces have also decimated the leadership and foot soldiers of the insurgents. However, much still needs to be done especially as regards disrupting the insurgent’s networks in countries like Cameroun, Chad, Mali and Niger. Multinational cooperation is therefore highly desirable. Also, available intelligence show many of the insurgents are on the run and could be in safe havens in some States in the country. Something should also be done on the infamous Sambisa Forest. Much therefore still needs to be done in the area of interdicting the fleeing insurgents to pre-empt their setting up new cells. Discreet searches must also be conducted in the geopolitical zone and beyond to fish out the insurgents who are embedded in some communities.
The other issue still outstanding in the counter terrorism war is, the release of those still being held by the insurgents. Those still in captivity are, the remaining Chibok girls and the fourteen Lassa women and girls abducted in June this year. There are also information to the effect that, many unknown persons are in the captivity of the insurgents in the Maiduguri-Dikwa axis, Sambisa forest, as well as, in hide outs between Madagali and Gwoza. The point being made is, the war against the insurgency will certainly not be complete without securing the release of these captives.
It must be emphasized at this juncture that, the military and security forces have undoubtedly done well in routing out the insurgents. They must not however relent and forget that this is the most critical phase of the counter insurgency war. The insurgents will definitely attempt regrouping to launch spectacular attacks on soft targets, military and security formations in addition to, staging ambushes and further hostage taking to show they still exist. The possibility of their resorting to gurilla attacks should also not be discounted. The fighting troops must therefore remain on the highest alert in the affected States and beyond.
The reconfiguration and redisturbition of military and police formations in the wake of the development are critical aspects in the upgrading the National security infrastructure. This measure is necessary because the insurgents took advantage of the absence of security formations in the areas where they held sway. The civil authority namely, the Nigeria Police, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence and Intelligence elements must also establish dominance in the affected States. Equally very important is, the need for well structured deradicalization of the youths in the affected States. The point is, many youths in communities in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa States have been massively indoctrinated with the ideology of the Boko Haram. The absence of a well thought out deradicalization is definitely a missing link in the ongoing counter terrorism war.
The other major issue that should preoccupy the Government and other stakeholders is, the post insurgency rehabilitation efforts. It is worthy of note that, the Government has initiated several measures to rebuild infrastructure, kick-start institutions and generate socio-economic activities in the insurgency impacted States. Some degree of success have been recorded in this regard. So much however still needs to be done. The rebuilding of destroyed public and private institutions and provision of safe places for the displaced people to stay are the most urgent. It is disturbing to note that, only the Presidential Committee on North East Initiative (PCNI) headed by the highly respected General T.Y Danjuma and his Deputy, Alhaji Tijjani Musa Tumsah seems to be making any impact in the rebuilding of the destroyed communities at the moment. Even at that, the Committee’s workings are dogged by several impediments. The most potent is, funding constraints. There is belief that the Committee could still do better if its funding challenges are looked into.
Lack of progress on the Bill on the creation of the North East Development Commission is another serious issue of concern in the Nations effort to rebuild the North East. Something definitely needs to be done to kick-start the take off of the Commission if the President’s goal of ending the insurgency and rebuilding the areas in the North East devastated by the insurgency is to be met. As noted earlier, any narrative without mentioning the plight of the internally displaced people of the North East in the IDP camps is incomplete.
Today, the IDP camps are ravaged by malnutrition, high infant mortality and unfortunately many sundry abuses. The displaced people in the IDP camps and some of the liberated communities are contending with the problem of lack of adequate care and deprivation. Those charge with the responsibility of catering for the internally displaced people should admit that all is not well. The plight is definitely another negative face of our national malaise. This predicament deserves prompt attention.
– Gadzama, former DG,SSS