•98 Chibok girls still in terrorists’ enclave
•20 out of 23 LGAs in Benue under siege
•Over 2m IDPs in despair
By Peter Duru, Makurdi & Marie-Therese Nanlong
Chapter II of the Nigerian constitution deals with the fundamental objectives and directive principles of state policy, section 14 (1) (b) therein states that “the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government”.
The duty of any government is to secure the people and attend to their welfare; every other thing is secondary.
Before one can think of governing a group of people, they must feel safe from threats of attacks and fear of being killed. When President Muhammadu Buhari was sworn in to office in 2015 to begin his first term and in 2019 following his re-election, he promised to defend the constitution and protect the people. His three-point agenda was to tackle insecurity, improve economy and curb corruption.
In fact during his campaign in 2014, President Buhari vowed not only to rescue the victims who were still being held in terrorists’ enclave but also to end insecurity in six months on assumption of office. On December 24 2015, President Buhari even told the British Broadcasting Service, BBC, that Nigeria has “technically won the war” against Islamist Boko Haram militants saying that the militant group could no longer mount “conventional attacks” against security forces or population centres but had been reduced to fighting with improvised explosives devices (IED) and remained a force only in its heartland of Borno state.
And on October 16 2019 after he was re-elected for second term, President Buhari declared that,”the Boko Haram terrorists have been substantially defeated and degraded to the extent that they are only daring soft targets.
But Nigerians know this is far from the truth.
The terrorists, comprising Boko Haram insurgents and members of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, ISIS have even become more daring. They not only kidnap residents and demand ransom for their release, they also attack military locations, police stations and could audaciously attack inter-city train, killing and abducting passengers.
The bandits have also sacked many residents from their communities, occupied their ancestral homes and in some places imposed compulsory levies before the natives could access their farms. Since February 2021, northern regions of Nigeria have suffered repeated attacks on schools and religious institutions. Of the more than 780 children who have been abducted for ransom, more than 61 children are still being held in captivity two years after they were abducted by gunmen. Many schools in the region were shut and remain closed due to rising insecurity. The insurgents have even gained more territories running a parallel government of their own while President Buhari remained helpless on what else to do.
In few days , precisely on May 29, President Buhari will hand over to his successor after about eight years as Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. And as he prepares to retire to the comfort of his home in Daura, Katsina state, the citizens remain as unsecured as he met them, if not worse, having failed to tame insecurity. The economy did not improve. And corruption is far from being curbed. He came, he saw and he leaves behind unfinished work.
Over 2 million Benue IDPs in despair
Benue State has been described by many as the major harbour of Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs in the country with over two million rural farmers displaced from their ancestral homes and taking refuge in close to 20 official and unofficial camps scattered all over the state.
At the early stages of the present administration there was a surge in armed herders’ attacks on various communities in the state. The state has since then been grappling with the IDPs situation but it got to a head after the 2018 New Year Day massacre in Logo and Guma LGAs when in what appeared like a coordinated attack, armed herdsmen militia sacked communities in the two LGAs, killing close to 80 persons including pregnant women and children.
The victims of that bloodbath which attracted wide condemnation were latter accorded mass burial by the state government in the outskirts of Makurdi town. Communities in Agatu LGA were also not spared; same for Makurdi, Buruku, Gwer West, Katsina-Ala, Ukum, Otukpo, Apa, Ogbadibo, Tarka, Okpokwu, Ado, Kwande as well as Oju, which have all been under persistent attacks by the armed herdsmen. The development left the state grappling with humanitarian emergencies with over two million persons fleeing their ancestral homes for fear of being killed by the rampaging marauders.
The fleeing locals were left with no other options than to seek refuge in available camps some of which they created and those that were designated as such by the State Emergency Management Agency, SEMA. As the attacks persisted, the camps continued to swell with women and children topping the lists of the displaced.
20 out of 23 LGAs in Benue under siege by armed herdsmen
Benue became a huge IDPs camp with the state government expending about N500million monthly to cater for the needs of the IDPs without any tangible support from the Federal Government, according to the Executive Secretary of Benue SEMA, Dr. Emmanuel Shior.
The Executive Secretary regretted that the state government was overwhelmed by the needs of the IDPs who had been abandoned by the Federal Government. In one of such occasions he said “with over two million IDPs we need about N500million to take care of the basic needs of the IDPs on a monthly basis. It is unfortunate that Benue State has been abandoned and the IDPs have been neglected by the Federal Government.
The situation we have on our hands is not only humanitarian, in most of the communities that the bandits attacked, farmlands, crops, schools, markets, churches and even bridges are destroyed so as to make it difficult for security agencies to access the attacked communities and those they are occupying.
“As we speak about 20 out of the 23 LGAs of the state are under the siege of armed herdsmen who kill our people, rape our women and chase them from their ancestral land making them IDPs in their own land.” While pointing our that the Federal Government failed to pay attention to the humanitarian situation in the state he said President Muhammadu Buhari administration was leaving behind an army of IDPs in the state without attending to their needs and cry, “but we hope that another president that will be willing to work with our next government will come, in order to stop the ongoing carnage.
Promised N10bn to resettle victims of attacks in Plateau remain unfulfilled
In Plateau State, the promise to end the recurring attacks in communities has not been fulfilled and so is the plan to ensure the take-off of the Livestock Transformation Programme, a pilot programme that was to aid the sedentary rearing of cattle to curb the incessant herders/farmers’ conflicts. Another unfulfilled promise is the N10bn grant which was to help in the resettlement of farmers who were attacked and displaced in various communities in the State.
Recall that in June 2018 shortly after coordinated attacks which claimed the lives of hundreds of people and several villages destroyed, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo visited Jos to commiserate with the people and on behalf of the federal government, promised that N10bn would be released for the rehabilitation of the farmers who were displaced from their ancestral homes. Among other things, the VP said, “I have given instruction that we don’t want to hear that these killings and maiming of lives continue, the heads of security who are here have taken that very seriously and intend to ensure that there is peace and security.
Talking about the N10 billion fund which the President has approved mainly for the rehabilitation of farmers in the state, that fund is to enable farmers who have lost their farmlands and means of livelihood to start a new life and go back to their farms. We will ensure that there is justice because those who have been killed cannot just be killed and we allow those who carried out the crime to go by, it is not acceptable, it is our duty to ensure that these individuals are prosecuted, we will make sure that those who have been arrested are duly prosecuted and others who are engaged in this heinous act are arrested.”
Appeals by the Elders of the All Progressives Congress, APC in the State led by Architect Pam Gyang to President Muhammadu Buhari to redeem the N10 billion pledge which was meant for the rebuilding of burnt structures and compensation for the victims of the 2018 attacks were ignored. Similar appeal made by some youths under the aegis of the Berom Youths Moulders Association to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo was fruitless.
98 Chibok girls still in terrorists’ enclave
Nine years after Boko Haram abducted 276 students from a girls’ school in Chibok, 98 of them are still being held by Boko Haram. One of the abducted Chibok girls who regained freedom returnees told Amnesty International: “The Nigerian government should not forget about the remaining 98 girls. They should be rescued. Every morning I wake up and recall the condition I left them in, I cry, I feel sorry for them. Nine years is too long to be in such a deplorable condition.
The government must fulfill its promise of rescuing all the girls.” One of the parents said, “our pain is endless because 14 of the girls came back with 24 children. We have with us grandchildren whose fathers are unknown to us. Our burden has now multiplied as we do not have the money to bear the additional burden of feeding, educating, and providing healthcare for our returnee children and grandchildren.
This is in addition to the societal rejection and stigma that we are all facing. We are just hopeless!” Victims’ parents are concerned that the girls who refused to be “married” by Boko Haram are suffering brutal treatment every day. Parents of Chibok girls who are still being held by Boko haram, lamented that the Nigerian authorities no longer communicate with them and have ultimately abandoned them.
Between December 2020 and March 2021, there have been at least five reported cases of abductions in northern Nigeria, including from schools, at Kankara, Kagara, Jangebe, Damishi Kaduna, Tegina and Yawuri while the threat of further attacks has led to the closure of over 600 schools in the north of the country. Since the Chibok school girls were abducted by Boko Haram, a plethora of schools have been targeted, with girls being abducted, raped, killed or forced into “marriages”.
Acting Director of Amnesty International Nigeria, Isa Sanusi said, “Parents of the 98 Chibok school girls who are still being held by Boko Haram — as well as other children abducted by gunmen — are living in anguish, knowing that their children are in the hands of ruthless individuals who subject their loved ones to chilling brutalities.
Rescuing the remaining Chibok girls is of paramount importance; the task of finding them should not become yet another failed project of the government.
It is absolutely crucial that the outgoing government of Nigeria does all in its power to bring these girls — as well as all other children being held by various armed groups — home to their families.
The missing Chibok school girls should be returned home to their families, and all those responsible for committing grave violations must face justice. Nigeria has an obligation to implement safeguards to protect all children, and the lack of accountability for these callous crimes is fueling impunity.
Leah Sharibu in captivity, five years after abduction
Leah Sharibu was one of the 110 female pupils of the Government Girls’ Science and Technical College, Dapchi, Yobe State, who were abducted on February 19, 2018, by Boko Haram terrorists.
While others were released by the terrorists following negotiations, Leah, then 14 years old, is still being held captive because she refused to renounce her Christian faith. Leah, now a mother, has spent five years in Boko Haram captivity.
Five years after, Buhari fails to rescue Leah Sharibu from Boko Haram. Expectedly, her parents, Nathan, and Rebecca Sharibu, have continued their call on the Federal Government, led by President Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), to fulfill its promise and secure their daughter’s freedom.
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