BAGA IDP RESETTLEMENT PLANS, A NEED FOR CAUTION
Borno Governor, Babagana Umara Zulum on Tuesday, August 31 announced that he had inaugurated a high-powered committee for the resettlement of Internally Displaced Persons back to Baga.
Thousands of residents of the fishing town had fled their homes due to the consistent attacks by the Boko Haram Insurgents.
Boko Haram Insurgents overran security forces and took over the town in 2015. The military later reclaimed Baga, but the terrorists continued to launch pockets of attacks on civilians and military in the area.
Recall that on Wednesday, July 29, Boko Haram insurgents attacked the convoy of the Borno State Governor. The Nigeria military described the event as an unfortunate but isolated event, insisting that normalcy has been restored in the town and socio-economic activities have resumed.
Governor Zulum inaugurates a high-powered committee for the resettlement of IDPs back to Baga.
Governor Zulum visited Baga in August to assess the damages caused by Boko Haram insurgents on the town, and to equally discuss with the military command in charge of Baga general area on the possibilities of returning people to their homes.
The visit bore fruits as the military has approved the return of the residents back to their homes.
"Following my visit to Baga on August 5, 2020, on an inspection tour to have an interface with the military to see things for myself, a formal letter was sent to the Chief of Army Staff notifying him of the desire for the people to relocate to Baga. The letter received the blessing of the military. Hence we have taken up steps to relocate citizenry back to their ancestral homes," Governor Zulum said.
"In view of the foregoing, Borno State Government constituted a high-powered committee comprising top Government functionaries both from the federal and state government, the armed forces, CJTF, hunters, and traditional rulers." Zulum disclosed.
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Governor Babagana Umara Zulum also announced during the inauguration that the Chief Army Staff had replied a letter sent by the Borno State Government seeking military clearance for the return of IDPs.
A NEED FOR CAUTION
Governor Zulum says the Nigerian Army has okayed the move of the government of Borno to return Baga residents to their homes as early as September 26.
To achieve this, Governor Zulum set up a committee headed by the Attorney General and Commissioner of Justice, Barr. Kaka Shehu Lawan to work on the return of Baga residents who were forced out of their homes.
In a statement released by the Borno State Government, Governor Zulum tasked the committee members to work assiduously with a view to the actualization of the return of people back to Baga on September 26.
"You should work round the clock," the Governor told the newly inaugurated committee, adding that "the government would not hesitate to release all the necessary funds required for the implementation of these noble objectives."
However, observers worry that the resettlement of IDPs in Northern Nigeria at a time like these when the insurgents have not been totally eradicated could end up being a good move made at the wrong time.
Resettlement of IDPs deserted communities in Northern Nigeria must begin from the safest zones like Maiduguri metropolis where most residents, including the elites, have relocated to bigger cities like Abuja; Lagos - Kano etc., security experts David Otto said.
If some locations in Maiduguri are still considered unsafe, then it is suicidal to resettle Communities like Baga and Kukawa in Northern BORNO at this stage of unpreparedness, He added.
He opines that the state government needs more time to build trust in human security, social amenities, health facilities and reliable law enforcement.
Following armed forces' continuous aerial and land bombardment of the jihadists camp, the insurgents have been targetting vulnerable communities in border areas in search for food and supplies.
Eons Intelligence reported that on Sunday, August 30, Boko Haram insurgents attacked Kolofata, a Cameroon community located in the country's far north- the attack was the 7th in 10 days. The sect targetted food, mosquito nets and torches.
The terrorists also invaded Amtchali village at the outskirt of Mora town, not far from Nigeria. Up to 15 houses were looted for food and supplies.
There are concerns that the Boko Haram ISWAP factions would once again target Baga if there is inadequate security put in place just like the unfortunate cases witnessed during the resettlement of communities in Bama and Gudumbali LGAs.
"There is a danger of throwing money to a resettlement plan that is supposed to be voluntary and based on evidence of free movement and restoration of the social contract between communities and the state," David Otto said.
"More timing and preparation is required for Baga and any other Communities to be resettled. Donors for these projects must understand the risk involved in funding projects that will create more insecurity for already vulnerable IDPs."