Traders and residents of Borno state are beginning a life after a horrendous moment in the hands of Boko Haram hoodlum. SADIQ ABUBAKAR reports
Effect of insurgency
Boko Haram crisis has no doubt devastated entirely the socio-economic and political activities of the north-eastern part of Nigeria, especially, Borno state, which is the epic centre of the insurgency and terrorism.
The insurgency has negatively impacted the livelihood and governance of the region. Apart from the loss of lives of both young and old, the wanton destruction of public utilities as well as private investments worth billions of naira, is a major feature of the dastardly act.
This ugly situation virtually brought the totality of life to a halt in the hitherto peaceful state, as all business concerns were shut down. The result therefore was mass exodus of residents, who of course were lucky to survive the madness, to neighbouring Chad, Niger, Cameroun republics, as well nearby states of Gombe, Bauchi, Plateau and even the far-flung Kaduna and Kano. Similarly, from the suburbs, residents moved to Maiduguri, at least to have some sense of security. The result therefore is that there was pressure on the very limited social amenities.
At that time, the combination of the military, paramilitary as well as local vigilantes was not effective to return life to normalcy until the coming of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration in 2015 when he took over the nation’s mantle of leadership.
The change approach under Buhari
With the coming of the APC-led government at the centre, Borno and indeed the entire north-east started to experience a gradual return of sanity, with a good number of the hoodlums being chased out and in some cases arrested. Markets and various businesses, including banking services, motor parks and schools are now opening daily. Although, there are pockets of suicide attacks on soft targets, these are however not sufficient to rubbish the relative peace enjoyed by the residents.
Another major feature of the current order is the mounting advocacy by both the community and religious leaders in and outside the state capital, sensitising the populace on being security conscious. This also does not preclude the activities of
international and local humanitarian organizations, including other development partners and community-based organizations, providing food items, shelter, healthcare facilities and drugs, relief materials and training to workers and supporting staff at the Internally Displaced Persons’ camps and host communities.
Bubbling commercial activities
At the Customs and Budum area markets, commercial activities are fast picking up. This followed the intervention of the Kashim Shettima-led government to reconstruct and rehabilitate all the market shops and stores as well as compensated some shop owners and traders, including neighbouring houses with modern shops and vehicles that were also burnt.
Traders, residents in joy
Some traders who spoke to our reporter commended the new order, expressing their appreciation to the federal and state governments and the nation’s military.
Recalling the ugly past, a Budum market shop owner, Alhaji Modu Aisami, said, “my life was not easy and very critical for me and my family before the return of peace. I hardly fed my family, my children could not go to school.
“Even the monthly Islamiyyah fee I could not afford for the children. This, couple with the insecurity, forced them to stay at home. Movement was restricted, there was curfew.
“But today, we thank God that peace has retuned gradually. We are alive, we were not killed like others not destined to see today. We thank God we are alive and working to earn a living unlike in the past when we were scared.”
Speaking in similar vein, Bukar Maina, a resident, also recalled his experience thus: “We were living in fear. No light, no work, no movement, no money, nothing to do day and night. The moment one heard any strange sound, he or she began to run for his or her life.”
“We rarely ate in peace. We rarely prayed in peace. Everybody was living in fear and wondering when and where will the next attack take place. If you moved out of town by road trekking, where would you go? No place to run to except outside the state. Even our relations outside the city were trooping into Maiduguri to squat with families and relations.
“But today, see how life has retuned. People are now living in peace and freely as well as moving about easily and freely. Security is back. People move about day and night today unlike in the past. We are happy and grateful to God and our leaders.”
Also sharing similar view, a petty ingredients seller, Hajja Yagana Masa, beside Budum market shops said, “today we open market early in the morning and even close at will late in the night like 9 or 10 pm unlike in the past when we came out 7 or 8 am and close 5 or 6 pm, after which it was only security men you would see on the streets patrolling.”
Echoing same, Alhaji Yahaya Ahmadu, a soft drinks shop operator, declared: “We have seen and heard peace returning to Borno. We even listen to radio and hear what people are saying outside about Borno and Maiduguri. It is true that generally, there is gradual return of peace and take-off of normal life after the crisis.
“It is true that life has changed and is picking up gradually in Maiduguri and other places. Today, someone can visit friends and relations within and outside Maiduguri unlike in the past when one dared not try that.
“Our families can now go to the market freely and anytime to buy what they want and return home. Unlike some three years ago, customers are now patronizing or visiting us and the market to buy our wares.”
Attesting to the rehabilitation effort of the state government, a resident, Malam Tijani Ahmed whose relation suffered some loss in the insurgency, said “the shops and market areas, including vehicles destroyed by the insurgents have been reconstructed and replaced with modern ones and reallocated to the original owners of the shops and vehicles without any hindrance or problem.
.”Our brothers in the neighbourhood that also lost their vehicles to the insurgents as a result of fire were also compensated by the state government. We are really grateful to God Almighty and Governor Kashim Shettima as well as President Buhari and the military for the return of peace and normal life after the crisis.”
For Malam Babagana Bakura, a canoe operator for 13 years, it is different stokes for different folks. The construction of bridges for easy transportation really delighted him. “They will ease transportation problems being encountered by people in the area. Bakura said he has been conveying people on canoe across the river in the past 13 years.
“My job is to cross commuters from one end of the river to the other. I charge N10 per person; every day, I ferry about a hundred people, including women and children across the river daily.
“In the wake of Boko Haram insurgency, most people preferred to use canoes to cross the river that tricycles or bus. The insurgents committed various forms of atrocities on the roads, which scared people from going to the streets. I saved the lives of many people, who enjoy my services.”
His service was commended by a house wife, Hajiya Aisha Ibrahim, who said, “I prefer to cross the river using canoe because it is cheaper to do so.I cannot afford the N50 transport fare charged by Keke NAPEP tricycle operators, and to me, going to town through canoe is safer.”