- Three-quarters of Borno state's second-largest town wrecked
- Military ordered to contain security situation in two months
Boko Haram militants have destroyed infrastructure that may cost more than $1 billion to rebuild in the northeastern Nigerian state of Borno, the main theater of the government’s six-year fight against the Islamist insurgency, according to Governor Kashim Shettima.
“Hospitals, bridges, roads that they mined will require about 79 billion naira ($397 million)” to rebuild, Shettima, 49, said in an interview at his office in the state capital of Maiduguri. “If you are to quantify the homes, the figure may reach even three times the figure I quoted.”
The conflict has displaced 1.6 million people in Borno state, or 27 percent of the population, and about 121,000 live in camps in Maiduguri, according to the National Emergency Management Agency. With Boko Haram razing villages, schools, hospitals, clinics and businesses in 22 of 26 of Borno’s local government areas, residents have abandoned their homes and sought refuge in the relative safety of the state capital and the neighboring countries of Cameroon, Chad and Niger.
The need to rebuild infrastructure in Borno, the birthplace of the insurgent group, and other badly hit states in the northeast comes as Africa’s biggest oil producer faces a cash crunch due to a halving of oil prices in the past year. Boko Haram’s campaign to impose its version of Islamic law in Nigeria has left more than 13,000 dead.
The World Bank is considering a $2.1 billion loan to rebuild infrastructure in the northeast state after a meeting with Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari in Washington in July. Shettima said he is making efforts to ensure his state gets some of the funds and rebuilding schools will be a priority.
“The quantum of funds required for the rehabilitation, reconstruction and resettlement of our people is so enormous,” he said. “It increases by the day.”
More than three-quarters of homes and other buildings in Bama, Borno’s second-largest town, have been destroyed by insurgents, Shettima said. Many of Bama’s residents now live in Dalori 1, one of Maiduguri’s largest camps, with a population of nearly 19,000.
Businesses, such as mobile-phone companies, have also been hit with widespread vandalism of transmission towers in the region.
“I don’t think there is any site in Bama that is still working,” said Mustapha Ahmed, a Bharti Airtel Ltd. shop supervisor at the company’s main outlet in Maiduguri. “Bama is one of our backbones. With the improved security situation, I believe that, within a few months, all the sites will come up.”
With Buhari’s appointment of Tukur Buratai as the army’s chief of staff and Babagana Monguno as national security adviser, both hailing from Borno, the security situation will improve soon, said Shettima.
“They are both victims of the insurgency and they know the terrain very well,” he said. “It has started yielding results.”
Buhari has ordered the armed forces to put an end to the insurgency by mid-November and on Monday in Ghana he said the military is winning the conflict.
Buratai spent two weeks last month meeting with soldiers at the war front to boost their morale and listen to their concerns, said Colonel Tukur Gusau, a Maiduguri-based spokesman for the military. The army chief’s convoy was ambushed during the visit, with a soldier and 10 assailants killed in a firefight in the village of Faljari east of Maiduguri.
“Preparing the soldier’s mind to understand why he needs to go out and fight for his country, that’s also part of the new strategy,” Gusau said in an interview.
Civilians displaced by the fighting are “itching” to safely return home and rebuild their lives, said Shettima. In Dalori 1 alone, doctors have recorded more than 340 cases of malnutrition in children, said Noah Bwala, a United Nations Children’s Fund camp coordinator.
“Keeping them in camps is to some a most dehumanizing experience,” said Shettima.
A support fund set up by the federal government to care for victims that has drawn donations from Nigerian billionaires, such as Africa’s richest man Aliko Dangote, has been slow to disburse cash, Shettima said.
Only 24 billion naira of a total 54 billion naira promised has been received and about an eighth of that amount has been spent so far, Sunday Ochoche, executive director of the Abuja-based Victims Support Fund, said in an interview in Maiduguri. The state has relied on several non-governmental organizations to respond to the victims’ immediate needs, including counseling.
Many displaced people are struggling to come to terms with trauma, said Gambo AbdulAzeez, a counselor with the UN. One of AbdulAzeez’s patients, Aishatu Musa, a 28-year-old mother of four, left Bama in search of her children before being captured by Boko Haram and forced to marry a militant. She now carries his child.
Sitting on a mat in a Unicef tent, she retold her story in a monotone voice in her native Kanuri language.
“Efforts are also being made for proper counseling and support of victims of the insurgency,” said Shettima. “Especially those that were detained, harassed and tortured by the Boko Haram.”
For more, read this QuickTake: Boko Haram