Kashim Shettima: What you need to do before returning IDPs by Muhammad Zarma

Column, April 19, 2017, 12:36am

By Muhammad Zarma

By the end of May, Allah willing the covenant between the Borno state government and the IDPs in all the camps will take a new dimension, where it is expected that the IDPs will relocate back to their various villages, wards and units. Ideally this is a welcome news because no matter how long you stay outside your comfort zone you will never feel as comfortable as your abode.

The declaration by the governor of Borno, Kashim Shettima, that camps will be closed May 29, 2017 gave most of us mixed feelings about the future of these people especially given the fact that there are still some unscrupulous elements of these bandits and lunatics roaming freely in some of the liberated areas. They torment and feed on the villages to profess their demonic sermons and way of life, indeed looking at the larger picture one will only say that the war may have been won but the battle still rages on, the frontline as well the command structure and station of the insurgents may have been destroyed.

But a lot needs to be done and fast too. Observing the way and manner suicide bombers strike every now and then in Maiduguri, one will be tempted to think twice before venturing into an obvious uncertainty.

Certainly we must collectively praise the President, the ever gallant armed forces, the CJTF and indeed the government for liberating the North East, Nigeria, from the clutches of Boko Haram and their deadly tendencies, but greater praise goes to the almighty Allah for sparing Borno and its people from the hands of the people that are neither considerate nor compassionate, who are simply indescribable.

However, the greater attention of all of us should be focused on the restoring lifeline of these people and places that are plagued by these terrorists. But this raises the question as to what plans do the state have to accommodate, resettle and perhaps empower the people that are about to take a journey of uncertainty with their future in the palms of their hands.

To narrow my post into a more narrative statements, some questions beg to be answered and the consequences upon which this post rests on.

  1. What will be the immediate, moderate and futuristic development plan the Borno state government has in mind when these people return back to their villages? This is especially given that summer is about setting in, what measure of buffers has the state stocked to assist these people?

Well, may be the government has adequate arrangement in that respect with the state investing a substantial amount of funds on agriculture and it's implements, perhaps what's central here may not be the implements and the raw materials, but the value chain. Is there any safety nets involved In these areas? Has there been any training on the above subject to the thousands of youth in these areas that will imbibe the culture of food production, processing and preserving as a sustainable way of surviving. Lest I forget, most of the rural dwellers are subsistent farmers and thus may need a strong helping hand to actually get to make ends meet.

  1. Assuming they got it right ( here I mean the state government and the agricultural transformation team) how will the government match the people with adequate materials and equipments to farm? I may sound a bit naive but the issue is far from over as we were made to understand that these lunatics may have planted land mines in these locations as the lands have not been tilled for a very long time, and as such care must be taken to ensure that no harm comes to these vulnerable people

  2. The effort of the state in rebuilding most of the headquarters of the local government which before now were devastated is quite commendable, undoubtedly schools are built, clinics also erected as well as other services, but what about human capacity? How many teachers do the state intend to employ to serve in these schools? How many nurses and doctors may feel comfortable to work in that kind of environment? There is need to develop an all inclusive approach in mitigating some of these issues. Agreed also that the NGOs may help in the meantime, but what plans do the government have on reviving the almost dead medicare and teaching jobs?

  3. Most of the IDPs made it out from their areas with almost nothing, some may not have the luxury of being in a camp, as some are still trapped in the bushes, what intervention does the federal,state and the local government put in place to assist them to start up their businesses so that they can fend for themselves? I think the government must have a rethink about this case. In most cases the revival and resettlement is more like an immediate solution to first of all settle this people, but now the efforts must be doubled to seriously conduct a census of the returnees then a plan of action developed to curtail any eventuality.

  4. The consequences of these actions above may or may not provide the much needed solution to the IDPs question, but it will also seem wise to take another look at the status of these people and a clear and defined recovery roadmap articulated by all the stakeholders. If need be, appeal funds be raised to support them, at least to check the menace of some of the NGOs that feed fat on account of the IDPs and righteously spend the charity money given to them instead of them squandering the funds carelessly.

My opinion is by all means not disrespectful to the wonderful jobs and painstaking risks the NGOs often take to help the IDPs, but it will help if due diligence is made in utilizing the funds given to them to assist the IDPs

SO WHAT IS THE WAY FORWARD? 1. Education, not only the formal one but a reorientation of the mindset of the people must be done in a way that they will feel some sense of dignity. Furthermore, primary education as well as secondary education must be free and if possible compulsory and if it's possible induce the parents to allow their kids to go to school

  1. Extension (agriculture) officers that will facilitate the utilization of the agricultural process from farm to the market with all the value chain considered and effectively exploited

  2. Community policing and engagement in mobilizing people to be vigilant to the threats on BH as well as the engagement of the CJTF in the security of the liberated areas must be enhanced

  3. Microfinance banks or the mobile banking should be introduced in all the LGAs to support non-interest soft loans for small businesses as practiced in places like Kenya and Uganda where mobile and electronic banking in rural areas have been proven to work effectively, while more emphasis must be made on an all inclusive enterprise development body to train and spin off new ventures and businesses

  4. Develop a sustainable infrastructure that will carter for the needs of the remotest places in the most rural community, and leverage on the rural development profile of the federal ministry of agriculture as well as ministry of power, works and housing

  5. Engage the NGOs to work within the frame work of their mandate thus closely monitoring and evaluating such bodies under the charter of the UN while profiling the ones that are not with a view to ascertain their purpose of stay in the state, in essence the civil society organization should form part of the profiling exercise to come out with a modest plan on when they plan to leave the state.

Finally there is the need to carefully and clearly measure the situation on ground before the final settlement is made. While it is understandable for the state to propose the return back of the IDPs to their various wards it is equally important to wedge a very strategic approach in addressing these issues. However, we are convinced and truly so that the intent of both government and the NGOs is for our people to return back to their liberated lands, there is need for them to make the people feel a sense of belonging, as such they must be carried alongside such development, issues critical to the resettlement is to return back the old glory of our dear state

  1. Revive the traditional teaching method of training good teachers, the almajiris should be mandated to either join the reforms of introducing the tsangaya schools or have both their parents and teachers sanctioned. Our traditional clerics, district heads, lawans and village bulamas , must be integrated into the security profile of the state. Hopefully with this modest contribution we will return all our people back to their wards and villages with the conviction that life will be better for our people. God bless our dear state, and God bless our president, and our leaders. Indeed the time has come for Borno to rise again.