Assessing impact of voluntary surrender




In this report by SADIQ ABUBAKAR, the impact of voluntary surrender by Boko Haram fighters in Borno is examined.

Insurgency has consistently impacted on the socio economic and political activities of Borno state for over a decade with attendant killings of people apart from the wanton destruction of public and private property worth billions of naira.

It prompted several calls from all sections of the society from far and near for dialogue between the insurgents and government which led to non-kinetic approach to the war as part of the post insurgency rebuilding and peace making processes.

Inside report

Investigation revealed that recent Nigerian military reports indicated that over 50,000 repentant Boko Haram insurgents have so far voluntarily surrendered to security agents.

It could be recalled that Boko Haram activities dethroned socio-economic activities through increased crime and destruction of both lives and property.

Some of the abuses include murder, abduction, sexual violence, forced labor, forced conscription of children, looting and burning of public buildings (such as schools), personal property (such as farmland), and in some cases entire villages and agriculture being the major occupation of the citizens.

Testimonies

The chairmam, Zabarmari Rice Sellers Association, Alh Hassan Mohammed in a telephone conversation with blueprint said, “Now, we don’t have fear any longer about Boko Haram insurgents. We do meet with each other in the bush today unlike in the past without any fear or attack. They no longer kill or attack us. We do our farm businesses and leave for house peacefully unlike in the past.

“The insurgents who surrendered gave us more strength and power to go into farms even in far distances unlike in the past where we cannot go beyond a kilometre.

“Now, we can go as far as 10-20 kilometres or more to cultivate our farmlands, harvest our farms and transport our produces peacefully.”

He said there was sustained emphasis on agricultural activities such that Borno is a major cultivator of dry season farming products like rice, pepper, tomatoes, onions, wheat, guinea corn, millet, water melon and other vegetables. In addition to these crops, Borno produces enough food crops such as potatoes, cassava, maize, millet, sorghum and soya beans so that there is practically no need for food importation. Hitherto, agriculture account for over 60% of the state’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) acccording to BOSADP statistics in 2018. He however appealed to the state government to assist and support their members/farmers, especially, those that have willingly accepted to return to their ancestral homes to live a normal life with their major occupation as framing. This is even as they called on the government to provide them with farming implements, fertilizer, seedlings and seeds as well as water pumps and their kits for the dry season farming as well as Firgi Farming.

According to him, the level of food produced this year has multiplied unlike two years ago when nobody could dare to access farm far away from his or her farm one kilometre away from the resettlement area.

He also claimed that the Zabarmari Rice locally produced is one of the best and better in taste and quality than foreign ones, noting that, rice buyers and sellers prepare to patronise the local rice than the rice from India and Thailand.

Hassan said with government support on rice and wheat production, a bumper harvest should be expected next year as all the support and facilities provided would be channeled towards agricultural activities.

In the 1970s, 80s and 1990s, Borno was known to be a major agricultural producer in Nigeria. While Nigeria once provided 18% of the world demand of cocoa, second in the world in the 1960s, that figure has drastically reduced to 8%. Also the country which was known to produce 65% of tomatoes in West Africa has become the leading importer of tomato paste.

But on his part, the special adviser to Governor Zulum on Agriculture, Hon Ali Audu Damasak in an interview said, “Boko Haram activities resulted in the poor performance of agricultural sector by truncating farming activities with killings, burning and displacement of people.

He said,” Their attacks frustrated socio-economic development of people living in remote and rural areas, most especially in the northern Borno as they engage more in agriculture than any other trade in order to sustain themselves.

“The impact of voluntary surrendering of Boko Haram fighters on agricultural sector of Borno and its environs is enormous with lots of benefits as most farmers especially in the northern part of the state have gained a lot from the state government by way of support and assistance including water pumps, fertilizer, seedlings, seeds and cash among other.

“A lot of farmlands were cultivated and youths engaged as labourers while large or expanded farmlands were allocated to the rural farmers as there are no more terrorist attacks. Even a few Boko Haram fighters are in the bus; they no longer attack the farmers and interfere into the farming activities of the villagers.

“We have been to many communities and provided them with farming implements and facilities including farmlands, fertilizer, seedlings, seeds, water pumps machines, pesticides and even transport facilities. Although agriculture is not limited to crop production alone,” Audu said.

According to him, Northern Borno is also involved in animal husbandry and fishery even before the colonial era. “The manifestation of Boko Haram recently has been a great threat to the Borno business environment as farming and other business activities are concerned.

According to Dasamak, some of the crops produced in Mibbar, Kukawa, Magumeri, Gubio, Baga, Monguno, Nganzai and Guzamala areas are also perishable and need to be consumed on time.

There is no doubt the security challenges in the past one to two years had also led to poor cultivation of farmlands, harvest, transportation of farm produces, high transport cost, displacement of people, properties and high risk to lives from periodic attacks.

These crops get spoiled leading to wastages and some of these crops need to be marketed on time but due to curfew and several restriction of movement, they perished.

He noted that Niger, Chad and Cameroon that share borders with Nigeria are also affected. “Traders from those countries can no longer come to Maiduguri to buy or sell. The borders were closed some time ago and occupied by Boko Haram fighters, restricting movements, importation or exportation from those countries which also affected their economy. The Niger Republic economy is also affected as it shares border with Nigeria and both countries benefits from each other socio economically and politically.”

The PRO who doubles as the operations officer of Lake Chad Basin Fishery Association, Alh Labo Dahiru on behalf of the national chairman, Alhaji Garba Gamadi said that the voluntary surrendering of insurgents has tremendously resulted in increasing number of fishermen who have returned to fishery business. He commended the state government as well as the security agencies for their role and support.

He further called on the state government and other organisations to support them with fishing inputs and kits, among others, to boost their businesses while expressing gratitude for the recent state governor’s financial assistance to the members.

Labo however said that the voluntary surrendering of the fighters has impacted by way of having access to their business places and transporting their products peacefully without any attack unlike in the past two years while appreciating the support of security agents and government.

The PRO also appealed to the government to ensure complete elimination of the elements from the bush as he pointed out that there is still skeletal presence of BHTs in the bush but this time around they don’t attack or kill the farmers and fishermen, rather they do tell them to vacate or relocate from their escape routes.

It will be recalled that the Army has disclosed that the level Boko Haram insurgents have been voluntarily surrendering is in the increase in Borno and at the Theatre Command.

Theater Commander, Operation Hadin Kai, Major General Chris G. Musa had disclosed to newsmen in Maiduguri recently that more than 50,000 Boko Haram/ISWAP terrorists and their families have surrendered between September 2021 and April 2022.

He added that a total number of 470 Boko Haram insurgents, among them, more than 50 senior commanders and their families have surrendered to troops of Operation Hadin Kai in the southern part of the Borno.

Following the availability of security and accessibility to farmlands in the rural areas across the state, especially, the northern Borno axis, where farming activities have resumed in earnest, the state government has consistently been encouraging the returnee IDPs whose major occupation is farming to cultivation larger size of farmlands at even far distances or locations at the outskirts of their various communities for bumper harvest.

This led Professor Babagana Zulum to direct the release of five vehicles and a business grant to fish marketers.
The governor was in Monguno to supervise the distribution of N275m alongside bags of food items and textiles to over 90,000 IDPs and vulnerable members to boost their economic activities due to Boko Haram’s attacks.

Before the insurgency which disrupted business activities in most communities in Borno, dry fish was commercially supplied to other parts of Nigeria and to neighbouring countries.

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