Six women and nine children kidnapped in the North-East have escaped their captors, walking for six days through the bush to freedom, an official said Monday.
The 15 hostages were seized separately from the farming villages of Takulashi in Borno state’s Chibok district and Cofure in neighbouring Adamawa’s Hong district several months ago.
Chibok was the scene of the 2014 abduction of more than 200 schoolgirls by Boko Haram which earned the jihadist group global notoriety.
Three of the hostages along with their five children were seized during a raid on Takulashi in October last year, while the other three with their four children were abducted from Cofure in May, according to Zuwaira Gambo, Borno’s women affairs commissioner.
The hostages, including an eight-month pregnant woman from Cofure, “trekked for six days” from Buni Yadi forest in nearby Yobe state to Damboa town in Borno, a distance of around 90 kilometres (56 miles), Gambo said.
“They have displayed resilience, trekking in the bush for six days,” Gambo said while presenting the escaped hostages to Borno state governor Babagana Zulum and Christian leaders.
It was not clear who kidnapped the women and children, but Buni Yadi is a known enclave for the IS-linked Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), which split from Boko Haram in 2016 to become a dominant force in the region.
Zulum expressed delight receiving the hostages after they “fell prey to Boko Haram terrorists,” a name officials use for both groups.
“We thank God Almighty for rescuing and protecting you from the hands of terrorists,” Zulum said.
Boko Haram and rival ISWAP are notorious for kidnapping women.
They have been engaged in a 12-year old conflict that has killed more than 40,000 people and displaced around two million.
Governor Babagana Zulum of Borno State says security operatives have apprehended the shooter who reportedly killed the son of Pastor Bitrus Tumba when violence broke out between a demolition task force of the Borno Geographic Systems (BOGIS), and worshipers at a branch of EYN church in Maiduguri on August 5, 2021.
Zulum disclosed this on Tuesday night when he visited the cleric whose son was killed during the incident.
“So far, suspects have been quietly arrested and all those involved in that dastardly act are being detained and God willing, they will face justice, as soon as the Police complete their investigation and make appropriate recommendations.
“We shall do justice to the matter without fear or favour. We share your pains. No exercise of government is ever aimed to cause injury let alone the death of any citizen. Every person in Borno has equal rights and we have a duty to protect the rights of all persons, top of which is the security of lives.
“We are pained by what happened and we condole you and your family,” Zulum told those present.
At the pastor’s house, Governor Zulum said his visit is proof that his government has not forgotten the issue. He assured the family of the deceased that justice will come as soon as the police complete investigations.
While responding on his family’s behalf, Pastor Bitrus thanked the governor for the visit and said he considered Ezekiel’s death as an act of God which the family has accepted in good faith.
Pastor Bitrus added that everyone dies in a different way, and God has destined Ezekiel to die from a gunshot which no one could have stopped.
“Whatever we do, we cannot bring the dead back to life; as true Christians, we have accepted it in good faith. Your Excellency, we express our appreciation to you for the visit, I have followed all your efforts on the death of our son, and they show your concern and the fact that you did not forget us, we really appreciate you,” he said.
Before the visit, the governor had on the day of the incident sent Borno’s deputy governor, Umar Usman Kadafur, to meet the victims.
He also invited and met with Christian leaders, led by the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) chairman in the North-East state, Bishop Mohammed Naga, after which he directed the police to investigate the incident and report to him.
Governor Zulum was received on the visit by the victim’s family and some CAN officials led by Bishop Naga.
Governor Babagana Zulum of Borno State has reechoed calls for power to shift to the southern part of the country, backing the Southern Governors’ Forum’s resolution on the zoning of the presidential seat in 2023.
The southern governors had during a meeting in Lagos on Monday agreed that the region should produce Nigeria’s next president based on the principles of equity, and fairness, an assertion Zulum also corroborated.
“I have said it times without number that I, Professor Babagana Zulum, I am of the view that the presidency should go to the south in the year 2023 because the unity of our country is very important,” the governor said during an interview on Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily on Wednesday.
“Secondly, inclusivity is very important. Thirdly, I am in the APC. Six or seven years ago, APC had zoned the presidency to northern Nigeria based on the agreement that in the year 2023, the presidency should go to the south.”
The governor admitted that the southern leaders have the right to call for power shift to the region but faulted those insisting that the zone must produce the next Nigerian leader.
“But again, this is politics. We are supposed to meet and discuss this issue among ourselves, among the political class,” he explained, as he called for caution so as not to overheat the polity in the lead-up to the 2023 polls.
“This statement that people are making that the president must go to the south, I want them to remove the word ‘must.'”
He also refuted speculations that his stance on zoning was due to his political interests.
“And I have said it before, I am not interested in becoming the vice president of the country, neither the president of the nation but I want to say the right thing,” Zulum added, doubling down on his earlier stance.
Since the return of democracy in 1999, Nigeria has had an unwritten agreement for the rotation of power between the largely Muslim northern region and the Christian-dominated south.
Incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari who hails from the northern state of Katsina is expected to hand over to a president from the south in 2023 in line with the rotation principle.
The arrangement which is often referred to as “zoning,” however, continues to draw intense debates from political leaders in the country.
Although proponents of the zoning principle, maintain that the power-sharing deal has helped in boosting unity among regions in Africa’s most populous nation, critics believe the policy is outdated, undermines democracy, and panders to ethnoreligious sentiments.
“Zoning is a party issue, every party has the right to say where they want a position to come from but in APC, there is no issue of zoning,” a senator, Orji Kalu said late last year during a meeting with ex-Military President, General Ibrahim Babangida (rtd), and former Head of State, General Abdulsalami Abubakar (rtd), at their residences. “Anybody can contest for the presidency.”
The French international Non-Governmental Organization (iNGO), ACTED has said that it organized a shooting training for its staff in Borno state in order to get them prepared for safety emergencies they may encounter in the course of executing their duties.
In a statement on Sunday, the organization said the shooting practice put together for its staff became imperative because over the past year while providing critical humanitarian assistance to the people in the Northeast and other parts of Nigeria, staff of ACTED and its partners have found themselves in very dangerous situations where their safety and security were severely compromised.
“In May 2020, an ACTED contractor was abducted between MaiduguriMonguno road, and tragically killed while in service; in March 2021, ACTED staff faced imminent danger during an attack while providing humanitarian assistance in Dikwa; in April, the ACTED office and warehouse in Damasak were attacked by armed groups, and large stocks of humanitarian supplies meant for the people in need were destroyed,” the organization disclosed in its attempt to create context.
Speaking further about the shooting practice, the iNGO said “ACTED must exercise its duty of care for staff, and make every effort to ensure the safety and security of its staff.
“This includes regularly organizing training and simulation exercises, such as the one held on June 26, in order for them to be prepared to cope with unexpected security incidents”.
ACTED said it complies with relevant laws in Borno and in Nigerian in carrying out its humanitarian works in the northeast, adding that these simulation exercises are standard procedures for many NGOs globally.
The organization further held that and in no way, neither during those exercises nor during the delivery of assistance, does ACTED carry weapons, in line with international standards and its dedication to upholding principled humanitarian action.
This response from ACTED is in reaction to the decision of Babagana Zulum, Borno Governor, to suspend its operations in the state after it was found to be organizing a shooting training in the capital, Maiduguri.
Following the incident, an investigation was launched while the hotel where the training held was sealed.
In further pleading their case, ACTED stated that it remains committed to cooperating with the Nigerian authorities as well as ensuring “the highest levels of transparency towards the authorities and the people we serve.”
The iNGO also presented its compliments to the Governor of Borno, His Excellency Prof. Babagana Zulum, noting that his leadership and guidance to the humanitarian community and particularly to ACTED, in providing support for the successful implementation of humanitarian activities in the Northeast over the past years, are highly appreciated.
The group said it relies on the support of the Nigerian Government and all its departments at both Federal and State levels, to facilitate the humanitarian assistance they are providing to the Nigerian people in line with humanitarian principles and government priorities.
Governor Babagana Zulum of Borno State has accused the United Nations and other international non-governmental organizations (INGOs) of diverting and mismanaging funds donated for displaced people in the northeastern region of the country.
Zulum shared his thoughts at the Borno State Government House on Wednesday when the UN Humanitarian Coordinator Edward Kallon led ambassadors of donor countries to Borno.
The UN delegation paid a courtesy call on Governor Zulum after interacting with the internally displaced in temporary shelters within Maiduguri.
At the meeting, Zulum expressed his displeasure at the UN’s handling of funds donated for humanitarian assistance.
According to the governor, some UN officials may be feeding fat on the misfortune of the affected population, insisting that the Unilateral spending style of donations must be investigated.
“You may announce some heavy donations, but if this money is left unchecked, believe me sincerely 30 per cent of this funding will not go to the target population,” the governor stated.
UN data suggests that the Boko haram conflict has led to one of the largest humanitarian crisis in the world.
This year alone there are at least 8.7 million people in need of humanitarian assistance out of which no fewer than 4.4 million are expected to need food assistance in the current lean season.
The US ambassador, Mary Leonard, and her UK counterpart, Catriona Laing, met with major ‘stakeholders’ in the humanitarian services in Borno on the humanitarian and development priorities in northeast Nigeria.
This visit is a sequel to the UN’s request for donations to address the humanitarian crisis in North-East Nigeria, during the latest G7 meeting.
Prior to visiting Governor Zulum at the State House, the two top diplomats visited IDP camps, the military and some of the humanitarian offices. They were led by the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Nigeria, Edward Kallon.
The prolonged unrest within the northeast has affected the Lake Chad Region, including neighbouring countries of Cameroon, Niger and Chad for over 10 years.
“We are here to join you to resolve power problems in Borno state in particular Maiduguri metropolis and environs it is Mr president’s cardinal principles to deepen gas power consumption in our country In the domestic market and the easiest road to that is to deliver gas to power and ultimately to industries. The GMD says its mission in Borno is in line with the federal government’s declaration of the next ten years as the decade of gas which will translate to physical gas entering into domestic markets.
“We saw the opportunity and the challenge to support Borno state in the course of the challenge we have with our power supply; we are now partners in the value chain, we have talked to each other and we think it’s very possible to establish a dedicated power plant in Maiduguri which will serve current needs of power supply not only in Maiduguri but to other parts of the neighboring cities,” Mele stated.
The gas plant will be ready in a maximum of four months, he told Zulum.
Governor Zulum welcomes the partnership which he believes will ease the agony of the people of the state who have suffered untold hardship since the power crisis began three months ago.
“The ongoing insurgency has cut off the entire Borno from the national grid in the last three months. We put all our efforts and restored it back, we have seen the joy and jubilation the people of Borno demonstrated after the restoration. But unfortunately, after 48 hours, the same group of insurgents went back and destroyed the main tower again,” Zulum lamented.
The governor believes that the restoration of power can reduce the effects of the insurgency and the attendant poverty as millions of livelihoods have now been affected by the crisis.
Borno State Governor, Babagana Zulum, has called for a power shift to Southern Nigeria in the next administration.
Governor Zulum stated this on Thursday while delivering a lecture on security and economic growth at a book launch by former Director-General of NIMASA, Dakuku Peterside, with the title”Strategic Turnaround”.
He urged the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to heed his advice and keep to previous agreements made to shift power to the southern part of the country in the next administration.
The governor used the opportunity to blame poor handling of the Boko Haram insurgency in the early years and corruption of government officials for the insecurity in the country.
He added that the mistake Nigeria made that has led to the banditry in the country is ignoring poor countries around us.
He claimed that “if Nigeria had emulated some European countries and empowered their poorer neighbours the situation would have been mitigated”.
According to the governor, military interventions and even national restructuring cannot stop the crisis, he is calling for strategic leadership and social re-orientation to end the insecurity in the country.
Around midnight on Sunday, Governor Babagana Umara Zulum showed up at Mohammed Goni College of Islamic Legal Studies (MOGOCOLIS), in Maiduguri, where some Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) from Abadam Local Government Area of Borno were being camped.
Upon arrival, Zulum immediately sealed the entrance and supervised a headcount to identify actual IDPs, in order to put a stop to rampant cases of dubious residents pretending to be displaced.
These shady individuals spend their day time at IDP camps to share food meant for IDPs, and towards the night, they return to their homes to sleep, with some of them benefiting from other means through which the state distributes food to vulnerable non IDPs in communities.
Governor Zulum’s mission at the camp which ended at about past 1am, led to the discovery that out of 1,000 households in the records of humanitarian officials, 650 households were ghosts (non-existent).
About 450 households were found to be real IDPs after Zulum’s midnight headcount which was conducted by the governor alongside an official of the National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA, Air Commodore M. T. Abdullahi, and two commissioners (Agriculture, and Local Government and Emirate Affairs).
In the humanitarian system, a household normally consists of at least six persons who are either related through families or chosen to stay together for the purpose of receiving household aids.
Officials who were part of the midnight headcount said Governor Zulum was not aversed to approving support for any citizen who may be vulnerably in need of food since there is a committee doing that, however, the governor is vehemently opposed to some residents making dubious claims in other to take what is meant for IDPs while also benefiting from other existing welfare activities that target non IDPs.
Borno Governor, Professor Babagana Zulum has approved the appointment of retired Brigadier General Abdullahi Sabi Ishaq, as a Special Adviser on Security Affairs.
Zulum’s spokesman, Malam Isa Gusau made the announcement in a statement released on Thursday.
“General Ishaq, retired from the Nigerian Army on January 10, 2021, after 35 years of service, with his last position being the coordinator of the Nigeria Police component of Operation Lafiya Dole from December 2018 to January 2021, led the ongoing fight against Boko Haram,” the statement read.
Before then, he was the commander of 8 provost groups of the Army in Monguno from February 2016 to February 2018.
Retired Brigadier General Ishaq had at different times, served as Director of Standard and Evaluation at the Army headquarters in Abuja, Chief instructor of Nigeria Army’s School of Military police in Zaria; and in the special investigation Bureau in Apapa, Lagos; Army Corps of military police, Abuja; UN mission to Sierra Leone, UN mission to Liberia, company commander, Nigeria Defence Academy, Kaduna; 1 provost group of the Army in Kaduna.
He was also in the Army corps of military police in Apapa, Lagos; 2 provost company in Ibadan as a platoon commander, command day secondary school Bauchi as an instructor, and 23 armoured brigade transport company also in Bauchi.
Gusau added that General Ishaq was a recipient of military medals including a force service star, meritorious service star, and distinguished service star in recognition of his 30 years of unblemished service in the Nigerian Army, as well as medals from operation Lafiya Dole and the United Nations.
An indigene of Kwara State, Borno in Ilesha, Kwara State on January 13, 1965, General Ishaq had attended a wide range of security courses. He holds a master’s degree in law and enforcement of criminal justice from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria and a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology from the University of Jos. He attended Kwara State College of Technology, Baptist Grammar School in Okuta, Kwara State and Zonal Education School Board in Ilesha, also in Kwara.
Gusau said Prof Zulum believes that General Ishaq, who will soon be sworn-in as special adviser on security, will be coming with huge operational experience, a relationship with serving military and other armed forces involved in the fight against Boko Haram, and a good understanding of Borno’s communities, people and cultures.
“The Governor congratulates the retired general and looks forward to working closely with him in the shared and continued determination to bring an end to the insurgency,” it noted.
Governor Babagana Umara Zulum over the weekend was in the Gwoza Local Government Area of Borno State for humanitarian and developmental activities, which began on Friday, February 5.
After passing the night in the town, Zulum on Saturday shared N150million as soft loans and grants to small and medium-scale traders.
From the funds, N100m was allocated to small and medium entrepreneurs living within Gwoza town, while N50m was allocated to similar traders in Fulka, Izge, and Limankara towns, all in Gwoza LGA.
Depending on the sizes of their businesses, the jobs they create, and the capacity to pay back what was loaned, six traders received N1m each, 38 traders received N500,000 each, 250 others received N250,000 each, 404 others received N100,000 each and another 732 traders got N30,000 each.
The Governor explained that the loan/grant with a refundable period of four years is meant to resuscitate businesses and livelihoods destroyed by the Boko Haram insurgents in the communities of Gwoza.
Zulum announced that any beneficiary that is able to repay 50% of his or her loans within record time, will enjoy a waiver of the balance of 50%, while those who deliberately fail to repay within the dateline will be made to repay 100% of what they received as loans and grants.
Zulum shares food to 27,000 vulnerable residents
Meanwhile, 27,000 vulnerable residents of the Gwoza local government received a variety of food items during the Governor’s ongoing two-day humanitarian trip which started on Friday.
11,000 male residents received food during Saturday’s distribution, while 16,000 female residents are scheduled to receive similar food on Sunday.
Before embarking on his trip, Zulum had deployed dozens of trailers loaded with varieties of food items to Gwoza, for which he is directly supervising distribution.
health centre opens in Kawuri
Before reaching Gwoza on Friday, Governor Babagana Umara Zulum commissioned a 50-bed capacity healthcare centre in Kawuri town of Konduga local government area, in the central part of Borno state.
The facility is expected to increase access to public healthcare for villagers in Kawuri, one of the communities where internally displaced persons have been resettled in more than 500 newly built resettlement houses.
Zulum boosts Borno Express with 90 buses for 2,740 passengers
In a similar vein, Governor Zulum on Friday unveiled 90 units of mass transit buses to enhance the operations of Borno Express Corporation, a public transportation services company owned by the state government.
The buses include 40 units of 50 seaters and 50 units of 14 seaters, all of which have a combined capacity for two thousand seven hundred and forty passengers. 70 of the buses were on display while 20 were being branded.
Zulum unveiled the buses at the Ramat square ground in Maiduguri during a brief ceremony that was organized by the state’s ministry of transport which oversees the activities of Borno Express.
“In fulfilment of our electioneering campaign to provide affordable means of transportation, we are here to unveil new buses to ease difficulties faced by the public,” the governor said before tasking managers of Borno Express to inculcate a sustainable maintenance strategy that will ensure all vehicles remain functional.
After unveiling the buses, Governor Zulum dived into the area of commercial tricycles popularly called ‘Keke NAPEP’.
Zulum directed the state’s ministry of transport to liaise with the ministry of justice and all other relevant stakeholders to ensure sanity in the operations of Keke operators
The state commissioner of transport, Dr Abubakar Tijjani assured that all 90 buses will soon be deployed for public use.
The Governor of Borno State, Babagana Zulum has paid a visit to communities attacked by Boko Haram insurgents on Saturday evening, in Hawul local government area in the southern part of the state and he is promising them that better days are ahead.
The governor who inspected the destroyed property in Yimirshika, Azare, Sabon-Kasuwa and Shafa communities immediately ordered the reconstruction of properties, including a police station and market stalls.
He ordered the provision of six patrol vehicles and other security components to strengthen local security network in Shafa while surveillance vehicles are to be provided for hunters and vigilantes in Yimirshika.
Borno Governor, Babagana Umara Zulum, has felicitated with Christians in Borno and the rest of Nigeria, wishing everyone a peaceful, joyful, and blessed Christmas.
Governor Zulum, however, called on all Nigerians to take some moments today for deep reflections.
“While felicitating with fellow citizens and wishing everyone a peaceful, joyful and blessed Christmas festival, I will like to urge all of us, Nigerians, to take some moments today, to deeply reflect by wondering within us, how soldiers who are genuinely dedicated, how security armed forces like them, how our volunteers from the civilian JTF, local hunters and vigilantes, are currently marking their own Christmas in bushes, hunting Boko Haram and also being hunted by the insurgents, and also how families of these forces and volunteers are celebrating without their breadwinners.
At the same time, we should ask ourselves how thousands of yet to be resettled internally displaced persons and fellow Nigerians taking refuge in foreign countries are also celebrating today’s Christmas, lined up for food in camps and host communities. Reflecting on the conditions of fellow citizens will push every one of us with a conscience to rededicate ourselves to ceaselessly pray for peace, to support the fight through generating relevant information for security agents, and to supporting IDPs, returning refugees and any other victim of the unfortunate insurgency” Zulum was quoted by his spokesman, Malam Isa Gusau, in a message released Christmas morning from Maiduguri.
Gusau added that Zulum had like other festivals, ensured salaries of workers were paid well ahead of Christmas, while all kinds of welfare support were provided to numerous groups of persons in line with critical needs and traditions.
‘Why I believe in Carrot and Stick approach’
In his Christmas message, Governor Zulum called on security agents to remain committed to their patriotic duties and solemn pledge to safeguard the lives and property of citizens, promising them sustained encouragement.
“We will continue to accord far-reaching support to security forces, especially those who have shown their dedication and gallantry. We will commend and reward, and where there is the need to raise voices of concern, we will do so on behalf of our citizens whom we were sworn to protect. I believe in the carrot and stick approach, and this is based on my personal principles and my training in academics.
Critical thinking is the foundation of academics and in this, the philosophy is to look at the opposite sides of every case study. From the academic point of view, there is never one side to any case under study and this is why I commend, reward, and I also criticize.
I take every issue on its own merit and I do so with the best of intentions and without fear or favour, affection or ill will. May God grant us lasting peace in Borno and Nigeria”, Zulum said, as quoted in the Christmas message.