Thousands of people who fled their homes because of Boko Haram attacks have been told to go back home. The problems are Boko Harams continuous attacks and sloppy reconstruction efforts.
According to an article in The Guardian UK published on Friday, July 27, 2018, thousands of displaced Nigerians are finding it hard to go back to their towns and villages once controlled by Boko Haram.
The Town of Bama
One of such places is Bama, a town in north-east Nigeria, the hotbed region for terrorism in the country. Bama had been occupied by Boko Haram for six months before they set it on fire.
"They torched the houses they had been staying in, the cars left on the street and belongings treasured by their owners, who had suddenly had to flee three years before. They even set fire to the beautiful neem tree that had cast a deep shade over Goni Ibrahim’s compound, protecting its 85 inhabitants from the brain-scrambling heat" reports The Guardian UK.
The Nigerian government has moved roughly 20,000 people back to Burma. The return home has been far from perfect for the town's inhabitants. Two weeks after the first set of returnees came back, Bama was bombed killing seven people.
Teachers are afraid to go back to teach because they believe Boko Haram would kill them. In a 2014 attack by Boko Haram, teachers were the first to die in the town. A few schools are opened but teachers are scared. The town also has no electricity or medical services.
Bama is also a PR project for the Nigerian government according to The Guardian UK. Homes that were bombed and shelled by Boko Haram have been hastily painted. Damaged gates have been hastily reconstructed but according to the article, the reconstruction efforts are surface deep.
"Driving down Bama’s main street, prettily plastered walls on both sides give the impression that the town really has been rebuilt. But on the other side of many of these neat new gates lie blackened ruins and twisted metal – the detritus of once-prosperous lives.
"And further back from the main road the buildings lie in ruins, just as Boko Haram left them" reads the article.
A resident of Bama also speaks on the situation on the ground. "It’s like this so that government people passing on the road will think they’ve done a lot of work,” Ibrahim tells The Guardian UK.
“We were told the work was finished, by the state ministry of reconstruction, rehabilitation and resettlement (RRR) commission, when we came, we saw it wasn’t true. It’s nothing like what it was before. I have lost hope. I don’t have faith in the government; I don’t trust them" he says.
The situation in Bama has even made the traditional ruler Shehu leave for fear of his life.
More Than Just Bama
If you think the situation in Bama is terrible, guess again. The Guardian states that "conditions are far better in Bama than elsewhere in Borno state.
"Almost 3,500 people have just been sent to Gudumbali, where almost all the houses were destroyed, with no shelter and no tools to begin farming. There has been no reconstruction, there are no services, and no food in Gudumbali, say sources familiar with the situation" states the article.
Despite the far from perfect conditions, the government is still relocating more people. On Thursday, August 2, 2018, 500 people will be moved to unreconstructed Marte. Still unconstructed, Marte is close to the Lake Chad which has many Boko Haram bases.
The terrorist outfit has continued sporadic attacks as people are being sent back to their homes.
The Guardian UK has reached out to the military and the (RRR) for comments but none are forthcoming.
The Head of Borno State’s Emergency Management Agency Hajiya Yabawa Kolo, however, did tell the media publication that sending people back to their towns is a strategy needed to stifle Boko Haram.
"If it’s just empty, Boko Haram will get a lot of breathing space. That’s why we’re encouraging them. At least it’s a step forward, not backwards" she says.
The article, however, counters this point and says the reason why the government is doing this political. During the 2015 elections, President Buhari ran under two promises- deal with corruption and Boko Haram.
The Buhari administration has pushed back Boko Haram but has yet to deliver the killer blow. As the clock ticks towards the decisive 2019 election, more displaced Nigerians are being sent back home.
"More than 100,000 civilians are expected to be displaced by Operation Last Hold, their latest effort to uproot militants from the Lake Chad area," writes The Guardian UK.
"More than 820,000 people are thought to be stuck in these “hard-to-reach” areas; those who make it out say many are starving.
"Aid agencies rarely criticise the government publicly, for fear of being thrown out of Nigeria, leaving an even more dire humanitarian situation; but in effect, analysts say, working only in the garrison towns amounts to supporting the government’s strategy" it further writes.
The time is ticking for displaced Nigerians who are reportedly starving.