Governor Kashim Shettima of Borno state on Monday released the grim statistics of deaths and material losses suffered by the state due to the Boko Haram insurgency.
Mr. Shettima gave the data at the annual Murtala Mohammed memorial lecture held at the Shehu Yar’Adua Centre in Abuja.
The governor, who delivered a paper “Managing the Boko Haram Crisis in Borno State, Experiences and Lessons for a Multiparty, Multiethnic and Multireligious Nigeria”, said the insurgency has led to the deaths of almost 100,000 persons, based on estimates by community leaders in the state over the years.
“The Boko Haram insurgency has led to deaths of almost 100,000 persons going by the estimates of our community leaders over the years,” he said.
This casualty figure is the highest ever provided by any government official from a state where remote areas which witness attacks by the insurgents are difficult to reach.
“Two million, one hundred and fourteen thousand (2,114,000) persons have become internally displaced as at December of 2016, with five hundred and thirty seven thousand, eight hundred and fifteen (537,815) in separate camps; 158,201 are at official camps that consists of six centres with two transit camps at Muna and Customs House, both in Maiduguri.
“There are 379,614 IDP’S at 15 satellite camps comprising Ngala, Monguno, Bama, Banki, Pulka, Gwoza, Sabon Gari and other locations in the state. 73,404 persons were forced to become refugees in neighbouring countries with Niger having 11,402 and Cameroon having 62,002.
“We have an official record of 52,311 orphans who are separated and unaccompanied. We have 54,911 widows who have lost their husbands to the insurgency and about 9,012 have returned back to various communities of Ngala, Monguno, Damboa, Gwoza and Dikwa,” the governor said.
Mr. Shettima also said based on the post-insurgency Recovery and Peace Building Assessment, RPBA, report on the north-east which was jointly validated by the World Bank, the European Union, the Presidency and the six states of the north-east, Boko Haram has inflicted damages to the tune of $9 billion on the region.
He said “of this amount, the destruction in Borno State amounts to $6 billion and they are supported by grim statistics”.
Conspiracy theories hampered effort to tackle insurgents early
Mr. Shettima also gave accounts of how conspiracy theories hampered the fight against Boko Haram under the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan.
”For me, the most critical experience and lesson I have had and learnt within the last five years has been the power of conspiracy theories and how they can strongly undermine the fight against insecurity and the management of the humanitarian crisis,” he said.
The governor said Boko Haram insurgency grew from strength to strength because of an initial conspiracy theory that began after the 2011 general elections.
“Distinguished Ladies and gentlemen, after the Boko Haram carried out its first suicide attack on the headquarters of the Nigerian Police Force in June 2011 and a later attack on the UN building in August, both in Abuja, a conspiracy theory emerged immediately alleging that the Boko Haram was set up by Muslim-majority northern leaders to target Christians and make Nigeria ungovernable for His Excellency, President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan.
“Given the fact that both attacks took place in June and August, which were within three months after President Jonathan was sworn-in, this conspiracy hypothesis immediately assumed a life of its own,” he said.
He also said those who believed the theory did not care to recall that the first major attacks by Boko Haram in Borno and Bauchi states which took place in June 2009, had occurred under the late President Umaru Yar’Adua, a Northern Muslim from Katsina State.
“The proponents of this ridiculous conspiracy theory didn’t care to recall that a Northern Muslim from Kaduna State was actually the Director-General of President Jonathan’s 2011 elections campaign.
“Surprisingly, when it suited their narrow political agenda even pro-Jonathan northerners propagated that the insurgency reflected the collective will of the Northern opposition to undermine the federal government.
“What that meant in effect, was that the theory changed from all Northerners using Boko Haram to undermine Jonathan into a narrower theory that northerners in the opposition were using Boko Haram to destabilise Jonathan’s administration. The end result was an alibi for the state not to admit its failure to rout the Boko Haram at the earliest opportunity.
“It appeared the President himself initially believed the conspiracy theory. For instance, when he visited Borno State on Thursday, 13th of March, 2013, President Jonathan requested to meet differently with officials of the Borno State Chapters of the Christian Association of Nigeria and the Jama’atul Nasril Islam.
“The President neither invited nor stopped me from participating but I understood he wanted to meet each group without me. Both meetings were arranged for the President without me knowing the agenda.
“To his credit, I must acknowledge, President Jonathan was actually on a fact finding mission because the following day, during his courtesy call at the Government House in Maiduguri, he said that officials of the Christian Association in Borno State had told him that Boko Haram was not targeting only churches and Christians but rather, had attacked many Mosques and killed many Muslims.
“President Jonathan went further to say that from his findings, the Boko Haram had actually attacked more of majority Muslim communities in the state. The President’s revelation was an indication that he didn’t understand the crisis before March, 2013.
“Whether his initial lack of understanding of the situation caused his ineffective response to the crisis before 2013, is a matter for conjecture.
“But Borno people consigned to the receiving end of poor policy articulation and response, were simply victims of the resultant inaction or paralysis. And they paid with their lives and property, for which the Nigerian Constitution in its fundamental directive principles, compels the state to use its exclusive possession of the organised means of violence to guarantee,” he said.
Mr. Shettima also said he got upset over the Chibok schoolgirls’ abduction of April 14, 2014 and the conspiracy theory that followed it.
He said that the abduction gave him the impression that the correct lessons were not learnt at the presidency despite Mr. Jonathan’s personal findings in Borno.
He said instead of both the federal and state governments to combine strength towards rescue efforts, a conspiracy theory was immediately created that denied that an abduction of the poor schoolgirls was real.
The theory, he said, presumed that key politicians in the opposition APC cooked up the abduction story mainly to embarrass Mr. Jonathan and the PDP.
He said days later; when the Bring Back Our Girls campaigns began, the theory was changed from cooked abduction story to one saying it was designed and masterminded by the opposition led by his administration.
“Meanwhile, the failure by the state to perform its constitutional duty in rescuing the schoolgirls and bringing back the Sambisa forest into the Federal Republic of Nigeria, by whatever means necessary, were glossed over as an embarrassed nation sought refuge in yet another conspiracy to undermine a Christian and Southern President.
“As God would ordain it, President Goodluck Jonathan, in May, 2014, constituted an investigative panel to gather facts regarding the abduction. The panel had credible persons from all segments, including representatives of the majority Christian community in Chibok, serving and retired personnel of the armed forces, local and foreign-based women and civil rights activists, journalists and some persons believed to be very close to both President Jonathan and his wife.
“The panel met all stakeholders from heads of security establishments, leadership of the West African Examination Council in Borno State, and the panel was also in Chibok to meet agonizing parents and community members. After an exhaustive investigation, the panel submitted its report to President Jonathan.
“The Presidency didn’t disclose the content of the report and didn’t point any more accusing fingers at Borno State Government,” he said.
Mr. Shettima said despite these experiences, the conspiracy theorists are still at work under President Buhari.
He said months after the 2015 elections and the inauguration of Mr. Buhari, another conspiracy theory was “cooked up” following resumed attacks by militants in the Niger Delta.
“There were some northerners who began to create a conspiracy theory that the militants were regrouped and being funded by those who lost out in the 2015 elections, in order to destabilize President Buhari’s administration.
“There were those who even believed and supported the theory in the south and they went as far as posting through the online and social media, that it was the turn of the Niger Delta to exact revenge on how Boko Haram was used to destabilize President Jonathan’s administration.
“Again, the main issue, namely the inability of the state to guarantee production of oil and secure vital strategic investments in the Niger Delta, being the only variable outside the price of oil in the international markets within the ability of the Nigerian state to influence for good, was side-tracked.
“Interestingly, even though it is crystal clear that conspiracy theories do no one any good, they seem to be stubbornly attractive in Nigeria because even as we speak, there have been series of social media messages in recent weeks, alleging that Fulani’s were being deployed to churches to cause mayhem.
“The whole thing seems to be a sort of effort to link a Presidency led by a Fulani man with the activities of murderous criminals, some or most of whom may be Fulani’s by ethnicity,” he said.
Mr. Shettima therefore, called on Nigerians to always suppress their biases by working hard to get facts on all issues; otherwise, he said, “we will continue to fall victims of conspiracy theories”.
“We must recognise that for every conspiracy theory, there is group that stands to gain politically. As Nigerians, we should regularly free our minds and ask ourselves, who stands to gain on any conspiracy theory we come across.
“We must also not, anymore, allow figments of crazy imaginations as excuses for the state to fail to protect life and property.
“We must stop condoning our collective callous attitude that predispose us to blaming victims for their losses in lives and property, the protection of which is a main reason for the existence of every government in the first place,” he said.
Earlier in short messages, both acting President, Yemi Osinbajo and former President, Olusegun Obasanjo extolled the virtues of the late former Head of State, Murtala Mohammed.
Mr. Osinbajo said it is a thing of pride for Nigeria to have had a leader like the late Mr. Mohammed.
He also commended Governor Shettima for “providing true leadership in this humanitarian crisis” in his state.
Mr. Osinbajo also said it is the “political and religious elites who promote the conspiracy theories” that the governor spoke about.
The acting president said all Nigerians have the same need, which is “food, comfort and future for the children” which, he said, “have no tribe, culture or religion”.
Also, Mr. Obasanjo, who, chairs the Board of Trustees of the Murtala Mohammed Foundation, said the Foundation, led by the daughter of the late Head of State, Aisha Oyebode, is achieving the purpose for which it was established.
He said when the decision to set up the foundation was taken 16 years ago, “we did not know how it would grow, but we had faith and belief that it will grow and it has grown”.
The House of Representatives on Wednesday said it would investigate the accidental bombing of an Internally Displaced Persons camp in Borno by the Nigerian Air force.
This followed unanimous adoption of a motion of urgent public importance moved by Rep. Muhammed Zoro (APC-Jigawa) at the plenary in Abuja.
In the motion, Zoro said the legislature regretted the deaths and injuries sustained by the IDPs and humanitarian workers following the accidental air raid on an IDP Camp in Rann, Kale Balge Local Government area of Borno.
Zoro said that the lawmakers noted the preliminary explanation by the armed forces that the incident was not a deliberate hostile act on civilian population whose lives were their duty to protect.
He said that the investigation was to ascertain whether the air strike was in strict observance of the rules of engagement under the Air Law and International Humanitarian Law.
The lawmaker advised that the House should constitute a 10-member committee to visit the scene of the IDP camp and commiserate with bereaved families and the Government of Borno over the unfortunate incident.
Zoro said the committee should also ascertain the level of emergency assistance needed by the survivors and the level of health service being extended to the victims of the mishap.
In his contributions, Rep. Nnebe Anayo (Anambra-PDP), described the incident as “avoidable and irresponsible” that would not have happened if the NAF was diligent.
He said the Air Force had not done well and lives of innocent Nigerians had been lost in the incident.
Anayo said the incident must be deeply looked into to ascertain its details.
Rep. Orker-Jev Yisa (Benue-APC), however, said it was regrettable for a member of the legislature to have described the NAF as “irresponsible” as a result of this mistake.
He said the force had fought gallantly to dislodged terrorists from the North East of the country and the mishap occurred in an attempt to finally terminate insurgency in the area.
The lawmaker recalled that a similar mistake was recently made by the U.S. Air Force, considered as one of the best air forces in the world, when it mistakenly bombed a hospital mistaking it for an ISIS camp.
The House observed a minute silence in honour of those who lost their lives in the incident.
Several people are feared dead after a military plane mistakenly dropped a bomb inside the Rann IDP camp in Borno State.
The Rann IDP camp in Kala-balge Local Government Area caters for thousands of persons displaced by Boko Haram.
A source at the camp told PREMUM TIMES that at least hundred people were injured and needed to be evacuated to hospitals.
At least two people are feared dead from the incident and the injured included officials of the Doctors without Borders, MSF.
The military spokesperson, Rabe Abubakar, a brigadier general, confirmed the incident but explained that it was an error that the military deeply regretted.
He explained that soldiers got information of movement of Boko Haram members and deployed ground troops and air cover to tackle the terrorists.
It was the air support that mistakenly dropped the bomb, he said.
PREMIUM TIMES learnt that the state government has already ordered all hospitals in Maiduguri to be prepared to receive and promptly treat the injured.
Also, an International Red Cross, ICRC, helicopter has been deployed to the camp to evacuated the wounded to the various hospitals.
The Theatre Commander of Nigerian forces in Borno, Lucky Irabor, a major general, also confirmed the attack at a press conference.
“This morning today, we received reports about gathering of Boko Haram terrorists somewhere in Kala Balge Local Government area of Borno State. We got a coordinate and I directed that the air should go to address the problem.
“Unfortunately the strike was conducted but it turned out that the locals somewhere in Rann were affected.
“We are yet to get the details of the casualties. But we have some civilians that have been killed, others are wounded and we also have two of our soldiers that were also wounded. Among some that are wounded are local staffs of the Medicine Sans Frontiers as well as ICRC,” he said.
The Nigerian air force killed an unknown number of civilians by accident in an air strike on Tuesday against Islamist militant group Boko Haram in the northeast, a military official said.
Regional military commander General Lucky Irabor said the strike took place on Tuesday morning at Kala Balge local government in Borno state.
“Somehow, some civilians were killed. We are yet to ascertain the number of persons killed in the air strike,” Irabor told reporters in the northeastern city of Maiduguri.
“Many civilians including personnel of International Committee of the Red Cross and Medicins Sans Frontieres were wounded,” he said, adding that the air force had acted on information that Boko Haram militants were in the area.
ICRC and MSF could not immediately be contacted for a comment.
Boko Haram has stepped up attacks in the last few weeks as the end of the rainy season has enabled its fighters to move more easily in the bush. The northeast has been the focus of the jihadist group’s seven-year-old bid to create an Islamic caliphate.
(Reporting by Lanre Ola,; writing by Alexis Akwagyiram, Editing by Angus MacSwan)
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) on Thursday said women in the Lake Chad basin had been forced to prostitute to survive.
ICRC attributed it to an insurgency by Boko Haram fighters that had driven millions from their homes and left children to starve.
The violence has displaced over 2.4 million people across the swamp lands of Lake Chad, where the borders of Chad, Cameroon, Niger and Nigeria meet, and disrupted the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of others,’’ ICRC said.
According to the United Nations, up to a million people have been cut off from humanitarian aid by Boko Haram in spite of a regional military offensive against the Islamist militants.
“It’s extraordinary to see a woman and her family and they have nothing other than what they have been given.
“The children are clearly malnourished and it’s just hopeless,’’ Simon Brooks, head of ICRC’s delegation in Cameroon, said.
According to Brooks, as the head of their households, some mothers have been forced to prostitute so they could feed their family, since many no longer have husbands because of the conflict.
“When you don’t have the means to survive, you’ll go begging for it.
“It’s a loss of dignity when you’re having to resort to something like that just to keep your children alive – fraternising with people who have money,’’ he said.
The unfolding catastrophe in the Lake Chad basin was named the most neglected crisis of 2016 in a poll of aid agencies by the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
“Overshadowed by the wars in Syria and Iraq and the global refugee and migrant crisis, Lake Chad has barely made the headlines,’’ Brooks said during an interview in London.
Report says over 7 million people lack food but insecurity makes it hard for aid agencies to reach the most vulnerable.
“Half a million children are severely acutely malnourished and on the brink of death if they are not treated.
“This area has suffered from decades of chronic neglect … if it continues to be under-funded and under-reported, then millions of people will continue to suffer,’’ Brooks said. (Reuters/NAN)
Famine may have killed 2,000 people in parts of Nigeria cut off from aid by Boko Haram: analysts
Tue Dec 13, 2016
DAKAR (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – More than 2,000 people may have died of famine this year in parts of northeast Nigeria which cannot be reached by aid agencies due to an insurgency by Islamic militant group Boko Haram, hunger experts said on Tuesday.
The deaths occurred in the town of Bama in Nigeria’s Borno state, the jihadists’ former stronghold, a report by the U.S.-based Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) said.
While food aid is staving off famine for people uprooted by conflict who can be reached, the outlook is bleak for those in parts of the northeast cut off from help, according to FEWS NET.
“The risk of famine in inaccessible areas of Borno State will remain high over the coming year,” the report said.
“In a worst-case scenario, where conflict cuts off areas that are currently accessible and dependent on assistance, the likelihood of famine in these areas would be high,” it added.
Around 4.7 million people are in need of emergency food aid in Borno, Adamawa, and Yobe states – nearly two-thirds of them in Borno alone – according to FEWS NET.
Some 400,000 children are at risk from famine in the three states, 75,000 of whom could die from hunger within months, the U.N. children’s agency (UNICEF) said in September.
Yet the current humanitarian response is insufficient amid extreme levels of food insecurity, and only one million people have received food aid this year, FEWS NET said.
Almost four in five of the 1.4 million displaced Nigerians in Borno state are living in local communities, where tensions are rising in many families as food runs short.
Improving security has enabled aid agencies this year to reach some areas that were previously cut off, but many remain unreachable due to the ongoing violence and lack of security.
Boko Haram militants have killed about 15,000 people and displaced 2.4 million across Cameroon, Chad, Niger, and Nigeria during a seven-year campaign to create an Islamist caliphate.
Nigeria’s army has pushed the Islamist group back to its base in Sambisa forest in the past few months, but the militants still often stage raids and suicide bombings.
(Reporting By Kieran Guilbert, Editing by Katie Nguyen. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit news.trust.org)
“A projected 5.1 million people will face serious food shortages as the conflict and risk of unexploded improvised devices prevented farmers planting for the third year in a row, causing a major food crisis,” the U.N. Deputy Humanitarian Coordinator, Peter Lundberg, said in a statement Friday.
Mr. Lundberg’s alert followed a similar one issued by a sister agency, UNICEF, in September.
The agency said more than half of the children could die within 12 months unless urgent measures were taken by the concerned authorities.
But in a statement signed by his media aide, Garba Shehu, Mr. Buhari faulted the findings of the UN and also added some non-governmental organisations raising concerns about looming food crisis for the victims of the seven-year-long insurgency.
“We are concerned about the blatant attempts to whip up a non-existent fear of mass starvation by some aid agencies, a type of hype that does not provide a solution to the situation on the ground but more to do with calculations for operations financing locally and abroad,” the president said.
The president highlighted contradictions in some of the claims made by different humanitarian groups about the crisis.
“In a recent instance, one arm of the United Nations screamed that 100,000 people will die due to starvation next year. A different group says a million will die.”
“So while local and international humanitarian responders including the United Nations have done an immeasurable amount of effort filling in the gaps wherever they existed, it is not true as these reports have indicated that 100,000 or even a million people will die because the government is unable to provide care at the camps.
“This country has a responsible government under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari, which is doing a lot to bring relief to the displaced people,” the statement said.
While acknowledging a decline in socio-economic activities of the people of north-east, Mr. Buhari said his administration is making efforts to resolve the crisis and improve the living conditions there.
“There can be no doubt that the effect of the Boko Haram terrorism and their occupation of communities and destruction of houses, infrastructure and means of livelihood has been manifested in the decline of socio-economic activities throughout the North-East.
“Arising from this, farming, pastoralism, trade, exchange of goods and services and social interaction among the people have negatively been impacted leading to the displacement of more than two million people, mostly women and children. Consequently, there is death, there is hunger and there is poor nutrition.
“The Nigerian government which has been making the most efforts in the entire endeavour will continue to work closely with the local and international response groups to overcome this humanitarian crisis. At this time when the focus is gradually shifting to towards rehabilitation, reconstruction, resettlement, recovery and the dignified return of IDPs back home, we can do with all the support out there in the donor community,” the statement said.
But in the interim, the president warned that humanitarian agencies should desist from continuing to blow the situation out of proportion for financial gratification.
“We do not, however, see the reason for the theories and hyperbolic claims being made ostensibly to draw donor support by some of the aid agencies.
“The situation on the ground, as it exists, provides sufficient motivation to all well-meaning donors to come and do a decent part.
“The hype, especially that which suggests that the government is doing nothing is, therefore, uncharitable and unnecessary,” Mr. Buhari said.