Children of school age in Borno State are paying the price for the insurgency that has troubled the state for the past six years.
With the sacking of 20 local councils of the state, fleeing residents of the area now find temporary shelter in government owned schools in the capital city.
The result is thousands of idle children languishing at home with their future hanging in the balance.
The Boko Haram ideology in its formative stage preached against western education.
Schools in Maiduguri were targeted for attacks by the insurgents to drive home their point and the state government was forced to rebuild them and get students back to school.
Students from local government areas sacked by Boko Haram and areas considered vulnerable were enrolled in public schools in Maiduguri to pursue their dreams even in the midst of threat from the insurgents.
However, the students were forced to vacate their schools to make room for the Internally Displaced Persons overwhelming the capital city.
One year on, students of these schools are still holding on to the hope that their schools would be reopened. Some of them have embraced vocations to keep busy.
Private schools have become the only option for parents who can afford the usually higher fees.
It is, however, not business as usual for the proprietors as learning now takes place under strict security conditions where everyone is a suspect.
The state government is also worried about the social ills the idle school children are exposed to.
The Borno State Governor, Kashim Shettima, has made a passionate appeal for help.
Although primary schools are not housing the displaced, school session is on only in areas considered safe, like the Old GRA Primary School.
The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has signed an agreement with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) aimed at ameliorating the sufferings of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Nigeria.
Speaking at the agreement signing ceremony in Abuja on Tuesday, the Executive Secretary of the NHRC, Professor Bem Angwe, said the commission would protect the rights of IDPs by holding government agencies accountable for any violation.
He said the commission would partner with the UNHCR to protect the rights of all IDPs.
A representative of the UNHCR, Angele Dikongue-Atangana, said the partnership would ensure that the rights of the displaced persons were adequately protected.
After both parties signed a Memorandum of Understanding, the UNHCR presented motorcycles to the NHRC to enable its state coordinators monitor IDP camps in the north-east and north-central parts of Nigeria.
According to the UNHCR, the crisis in north-east Nigeria has displaced over 1.4 million people while 5.4 million people have been traumatised by the crisis.
There are 27 IDPs camps in the Federal Capital Territory (Abuja) alone, housing over 16,000 displaced persons and some others in the north-eastern part of the oil-rich nation.
The increasing number was triggered by the activities of the Boko Haram terrorist group in the north-east region.
The Nigerian government, through the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), has taken over the full responsibility for the provision of foodstuffs to the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camps in Maiduguri, Borno State.
The spokesman for the agency, Manzo Ezekiel, said the decision was made to improve the welfare of people displaced by insurgency, who are sheltered in 22 locations and those staying in host communities in the north eastern state.
This decision was taken after a meeting between a delegation of NEMA’s top officials assigned by the Director General Muhammad Sani Sidi, to assess the situation in the camps in Maiduguri.
At the meeting were the Deputy Governor of Borno State Umar Zanna Mustapha, the Chairman of the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA), Grema Terab and other stakeholders.
Before now, Borno State Government augmented the supply of foodstuffs by NEMA, but the state government made an appeal to the Federal Government through NEMA to take full responsibility for the feeding of the IDPs.
However, when the NEMA team with Borno State officials visited the camps to assess the situation, it was discovered that the problem was not due to shortage of food stuffs but the management.
It was therefore agreed that the responsibilities be shared between the Federal Government and the Borno State Government, with NEMA taking full responsibility for the provision of the foodstuffs to relive the state government of the burden.
However, the state government would now provide the cooking utensils, condiments, firewood, cooks and other facilities including the sanitation and also avail more camp sites for the swelling population of those desperately in need of temporary shelters and care.
More toilet facilities will also be provided by the state government for the IDPs.
The NEMA team was led by the Agency’s Director of Search and Rescue, Air Commodore Charles Otegbade and had the Director Relief and Rehabilitation, Mr Eugene Udemezue Ezeh, Director Disaster Risk Reduction Mr Alhassan Nuhu and other top officials present.
The Nigeria Customs has donated relief materials comprising of food and sanitary wares to the Internally Displaced persons in the Northeast.
The Deputy Comptroller of Customs in charge of Enforcement, Musa Tahir who delivered the items in Yola, Adamawa State said the gesture was part of the efforts by the Customs Service to alleviate the sufferings of Nigerians who have been affected by the insurgency.
Mr. Tahir was however optimistic that the security challenge in the country will soon be surmounted.
Besides catering for their immediate needs, some of the displaced persons have acquired skills at the camp but many of them want to return home.
The Head of Service of the Adamawa State government was on hand to receive the materials donated, he was full of appreciation and called for the support of all Nigerians to provide succour for these Nigerians.
While the number of persons in some IDP camps is said to have reduced, these Nigerians are calling on the new government to tackle the security challenges affecting the country.
The Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Oyibe Jibrin, has appealed for more funding for the force to enable it carry out its statutory functions effectively.
The naval boss made the appeal on Tuesday at the closing ceremony of activities marking the 59th Anniversary of the force in Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial city.
The annual ceremonial sunset attracted past and present Service Chiefs, as well as members of the diplomatic corps.
On a daily basis, the Nigerian Navy has continued to tackle oil theft in the nation’s oil-rich Niger delta region, a development the force said it needed more equipment to tackle.
In the fight against insurgents in the nation’s north-east, the Navy had also pledged its commitment to watching the nation’s waterways to ensure that insurgents would not enter the nation.
While on a visit to the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camp in the Federal Capital Territory, the Navy assured the IDPs of its resolve to win the fight against insurgents and make the country safe for all residents.
The visit was part of the events organised to mark the 59th Anniversary of the Nigerian Navy.
Addressing some of the IDPs at the Kuchingoro Camp in Abuja, Vice Admiral Jibrin advised residents of the camp to be security conscious and report unusual happenings in their environment to security agencies.
Borno State Governor, Kashim Shettima, has called on the residents of the state to close ranks and reposition the state to overcome the effects of years of insurgency.
Shettima made the call shortly after he was sworn-in as the Executive Governor of Borno State for a second term.
The State Chief Judge, Justice Kashim Zanna, administered the oath of office and allegiance on the Governor and his Deputy, Zanna Umar Mustapha.
Residents of Maiduguri, Borno State capital, overwhelmed by Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), defied the feeling of insecurity associated with public gatherings to witness the ceremony of this year’s Democracy Day.
Dignitaries from the neighbouring Niger Republic, led by the Prefect of Diffa and the Governor of Diffa, Yakuba Usmana Gawon, were also on ground to show solidarity with the state.
The ceremony was adequately secured by officers comprising of the Joint Security Task Force (JTF) and the civilian JTF.
Governor Shettima expressed confidence that the Muhammed Buhari led presidency would empathise with the current insurgency facing the state.
Shettima also expressed his intention to invest heavily on agriculture and education.
This is the first time in the history of Borno State that it would be of the same political affiliation with the central government.
Earlier on Friday, a twin explosion killed seven people and left dozens injured at Tashan Alade in Hawul Local Government of Borno State.
The Nigerian Navy has assured Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) living in the Federal Capital Territory of the Armed Forces resolve to win the fight against insurgents and make the country safe for all residents.
The assurance was made on Monday at one of the events organised to mark the 59th Anniversary of the Nigerian Navy.
Addressing some of the IDPs at the Kuchingoro Camp in Abuja, the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Usman Jibrin, advised residents of the camp to be security conscious and report unusual happenings in their environment to security agencies.
Officers and ratings of the Nigerian Navy, who visited the camp, also offered free community medical services to the Internally Displaced Persons.
The services rendered include: De-worming exercise, blood pressure checks, eye examination and issuance of free eye glasses and general medical check up.
Recently, the Borno State Government said more than $20 million would be needed to resettle those displaced as a result of attacks on communities in Nigeria’s north-east by the Boko Haram terrorists.
Over 600,000 persons have been made homeless in the region that has seen over five years of terrorism.
Troops of the Nigerian Armed Forces and those of neighbouring countries have in the last two months increased counter-terrorism operations in the region, reclaiming several communities that had been taken over by terrorists.
Efforts are on to clear Sambisa Forest in Borno State, a stronghold of the terrorists, with several camps already destroyed.
The Borno State Government says that more than $20million would be needed to resettle those displaced by the Boko Haram violence in their homelands.
The Borno State Governor, Kashim Shettima, told a delegation of the International Committee of the Red Cross, led by its President, Mr. Peter Maurer, in Maiduguri, that the state government needs the assistance of the federal government and international donor agencies to rehabilitate the internally displaced persons.
The Governor lamented that since the displacement of many residents from their communities by the Boko Haram militants, the state government had shouldered the responsibility of feeding the IDPs through the State Emergency Management Agency.
He admitted, however, that military troops had liberated most of the communities under the control of Boko Haram in the state.
He added that the government and the IDPs found it difficult to go back to their homes and go about their normal lives due to security reports that most of the roads and streets, leading to the affected communities and their farmlands, were not safe as Improvised Explosive Devices and land mines were planted by the fleeing terrorists.
The President of the ICRC, Mr Maurer said that they came to the state to personally see the IDPs and hear from them, particularly of their conditions.
He said this might inform the action of the organisation to considerably increase its humanitarian gestures as a result of the renewed attacks and killings by the sect.
The Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, (INEC), Professor Attahiru Jega, has insisted that the use of the card reader is very important during Nigeria’s general elections.
He said the device would read the card to verify whose details are on the chip of the card and explained that only cards produced by the INEC would be pass the verification.
“INEC have decided to do authentication bio-metrically by verifying finger print if it matches the details on the card.
“If a card reader fails, does not function, or stops functioning, INEC must provide another one between the period of accreditation which is between 8:00am and 1;00pm.
“If they cant replace the card reader, election would be suspended till the following day when a new card reader would be brought to the polling unit.”
Professor Jega said the commission had met with political parties on the use of card readers and was worried that political parties were not sensitising people to collect their cards
He opposed claims that the INEC was distributing voter cards in some region more than others. “There is no proof to the saying,” he said, emphasising that “those whose PVCs are yet to be produced will have extended date for collection”.
On device hacking, Professor Jega believes the card reader cannot be hacked because it has been tested and proven, noting that there are more gains than losses in the use of the electronic device.
Speaking as a guest on Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily on Friday, the chairman of the INEC also noted that collection of the voter card by proxy was prohibited because the commission was aware that politicians would take undue advantage of the process.
“We are confident that nobody can use another person’s card to vote,” he added.
He noted that loitering around after the exercise was not advisable, unless those voters wait peacefully for the ballot papers to be counted without being violent.
On Security, Professor Jega said the commission had received adequate assurance that security would be provided for the March 28 and April 11 elections. “We are getting over 700,000 ad-hoc staff and we cannot put the lives of 700,000 people at risk… We have received full assurances that security will be provided for the elections,” he explained.
Internally Displaced Persons
On the chances of the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) to take part in the election, he said arrangements were made to carter for IDPs (the ones in camps and outside), in fewer communities.
According to Professor Jega, arrangements have been made in Adamawa, Yobe and Borno to create centres were the IDPs can vote. He explained that “when the methodology for the IDPs was designed, it showed that there were fewer people in camps and more outside and so it was recommended that voting centres for IDPs should be outside the camps, while in Borno it was recommended that the voting centre should be inside the camps”.
He explained that those in the IDP camps were from different local governments, a situation that had it easier for the INEC to handle their participation.
“This makes it easier for us because my team have made an assessment to know those that have collected their PVCs. The polling unit will be set up in accordance to the local government that corresponds with the number of people in the camps,” he said .
Professor Jega also added that the card readers would be configured in accordance to the polling units and the number of persons that would vote there.
He further stated that the INEC had made arrangement for persons outside the camps to have access to the polling units inside the camp. “We are trying to create a level playing ground to enable IDPs outside the camp gain assess to the camp so as to cast their votes without anyone stopping them.”
Professor Jega stated that the methodology for IDPs voting was discussed at a stakeholders meeting in Abuja which had in attendance chairmen of political parties and the Residents Electoral Commissioners (REC). He said that they were mandated to relate the resolutions that were reached at the meeting in Abuja to stakeholders meeting in other states.
The chairman of the INEC stressed that the chances of conducting elections in areas with security challenges depended on effective collaborations and working relationship between the security agents and the INEC officials.
He assured Nigerians that the commission would work closely with security agencies to ensure free, credible and fair polls come March 28 and April 11.
The National Information Centre (NIC) said the Nigerian Army has reclaimed more territories from the insurgents in the ongoing counter terrorism in the north east.
Addressing a news conference in Abuja, the Director General of the National Information Centre, Mr Mike Omeri, said the Army is now in full control of these recovered territories in Borno and Adamawa states.
Over ten communities are said to have been recovered by the military including Mubi, Gamboru-Ngala, Hong, Monguno, Baga and Gombi.
Mr Omeri, however raised an alarm over what he described as ”continuous radicalization” and recruitment of Nigerian youths abroad into terrorist organisations.
In recent times, the military had said that it has recovered various territories that was taken by the Boko Haram terrorist group.
Maj General Olukolade, the spokesman for the military had said that truck loads of rice, beans and other logistics meant for the terrorists operating around Baga were also captured.
He also said that the air and land operations had continued, with aggressive advance towards other designated communities and locations meant to be cleared in the ongoing offensive against the Boko Haram members.
Borno state chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC) has called for the arrest and prosecution of the leadership of the Borno State chapter of Inter Party Advisory Council (IPAC), demanding for an Interim Government in Borno State.
The state chairman of the APC, Ali Bukar Dalori said in a statement issued on Thursday, that “the 23 parties were acting the script of a former Governor of the state who is desperate to takeover power at all cost, even if it means sending the state into extinction.
“We strongly believe that the call by the 23 parties for elections in Borno to be shifted till September, 2015 and for Interim Government be put in place by May 29, 2015, is in furtherance of a blind desire to implement an agenda of a PDP that is aligned to an Ex-Governor of Borno, who is hell bent on ensuring elections do not hold in Borno State by hook or crook, due to his fear of massive defeat for his anointed candidates, given the evident popularity of the APC in the state.
“However, we are also excited by their calls for postponement because in politics, calls for postponement of election is conceding defeat because only those who see defeat coming their way, try to avoid elections,” he noted in the statement.
The demand came after the Borno State chapter of Inter Party Advisory Council (IPAC) called on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to “postpone and extend” the forthcoming general elections to September 26, 2015 in the state, because of “seven unresolved issues and insecurity that would no doubt affect free, fair and credible elections in the state”.
The shift, according to IPAC would enable INEC resolve the problems related to distribution of Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs), personal insecurity of opposition party officials, smart card readers, vandalisation of party facilities, indecent activities of Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF), Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), as well as persistent activities of thugs in Maiduguri Metropolis.
Addressing a news conference at its Baga Road secretariat complex, Chairman of IPAC, Comrade Babagana K. Musa, expressed fear that because of the seven unresolved election issues in the state, the National Assembly has to pass a resolution for INEC to shift the polls in the state by six months.
“Let me be very clear on these unresolved issues in our dear state before all of you here today. As I have listed the critical and serious problems on conducting elections in Borno, things are not well at all.
“The environment, particularly the activities of political thugs and some members of CJTF in Maiduguri, are however not conducive for INEC to conduct elections on March 28, and April 11, 2015 without shifting it by six months.”, Musa said.
The shift, according to him would enable the listed problems to be amicably resolved by INEC and security agencies without resorting to massive “violence and intimidations” that may cause the loss of many lives and property in the state.
On the six-month extension of polls, Musa said; “The National Assembly will set in motion for a resolution to constitute a ‘Government of State Unity’ on May 29, 2015; and at the expiration of the incumbent administration, the good people of Borno will have a sense of belonging.
“We are also calling on the Chiefs of security agencies in the state; to ensure within the six-month election extension period, a safe and conducive environment for all political parties to thrive and fully participate in the elections, slated for September 26, 2015,” Musa said.