Kaduna/ Maiduguri — - State, UNICEF begin psycho-social support for displaced persons - 'Igbo won't flee north'
IN a fashion that could only spell the absolute absence of fear and opposition, the Islamist terrorist group, Boko Haram, early Saturday invaded four Borno villages, including Jibwhiwhui, in over a dozen Toyota Hilux vans and motorcycles, killing 14 people and torching houses and shops.
Jibwhiwhui is a farming community 220 kilometres south of Maiduguri, the state capital. The insurgents, according to a survivor, Amos Mitakanri, operated from 10p.m on Friday till 5a.m on Saturday.
Mitakanri said on phone that he was "terrified at the sporadic gunshots," adding: "The gunmen chanted God is great in Arabic and commenced shooting people at sight. Villagers that attempted to flee were also shot.
"It was horrifying and scary to see some of our neighbours being killed in cold blood. I was very lucky to escape through the backyard into the bush while the insurgents killed and torched our houses for over six hours."
And as a way of reducing the impact of the crisis on the victims, the Borno State Government is partnering the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) to provide psycho-social support and protection for over 6,300 persons displaced by insurgency in the state, Commissioner for Women Affairs and Social Development, Inna Galadima, has disclosed.
The Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) were gathered from 12 local councils by the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) in the last six months. Speaking at a sensitization workshop for stakeholders in Maiduguri at the weekend, Galadima said that insurgency in the North-East region, particularly in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states, has escalated in recent times, affecting mainly women and children.
"The Boko Haram insurgency in this state has resulted in multiple problems, ranging from families' displacement, violence and abuses against young women and girls. There is a breakdown of basic amenities such as electricity and water supply," she said.
"More negative impact is experienced in the area of nutrition, where children lack basic nutrition, leading to deficiencies due to hike in prices of basic food items and limited sources of livelihoods, caused by the state of emergency."
Meanwhile, over 200 Gambouru youths have resisted Boko Haram's forceful conscription into the Islamist terrorist sect, fleeing afterwards to the Camerounian border town of Fotokol and three other villages for safety yesterday morning.
Their flight, according to an anonymous youth who spoke on telephone from Fotokol, was not only for their safety but also to evade forceful conscription to fight both the Nigerian and Camerounian soldiers in the border areas. The anonymous youth said: "I had no alternative than to join my colleagues by yesterday at dawn to flee for safety.
"These gunmen had been telling us to join them to fight our soldiers here and at the borders with Cameroun and Chad after promising us some money and rifles to do the work of God. But some of us decided to take our fate in our hands by fleeing to Cameroun.
"By noon yesterday, about 215 of us converged at Fotokol with broken limbs and bruises, while fleeing across the river and bushes. Once they sight you fleeing, they shoot you, as we have refused to join them."
However, the Igbo community in Kaduna State under the auspices of Ohanaeze Nd'Igbo has said the Igbo are not prepared to flee their businesses and property because of the escalating insurgencies by the Boko Haram insurgency.
The new President of Ohanaeze Nd'Igbo in Kaduna, Chief Austin Amaechi, also insisted that Igbo people resident in the north would join hands to fight terrorism to protect their over N40 billion investments in the region. He asked the Igbo leaders asking them to return home to be rest assured that the Boko Haram war would soon end.
Speaking at the inauguration of the new executive committee at the weekend, Amaechi noted: "Economically, we are at home in the north and politically, we want to participate. We will therefore ensure that we pursue peace with our host communities and among Igbo communities because once there is peace, our investments and other peoples' investments will be secure.
"If there is no peace, it is not only the investments of the Igbo that are threatened but those of all Nigerians. So, we would jointly ensure that Nigerians' investments are protected by Nigerians."
According to Mitakanri, in the village and communities attacked, there were no soldiers or other security personnel to protect the villagers despite the Federal Government's subsisting state of emergency.
An anonymous native, who said he lost three sons of his uncle in the incident, also told The Guardian that the gunmen stormed the village and killed seven persons before moving to nearby communities, where they slew seven others.
It was also learnt that last Wednesday, the insurgents attacked Miringa town in Biu council, destroyed the telecomm masts in the town and snatched a sports utility vehicle belonging to the Borno State chairman of the All Progressives Congress.
Though the state's Police Public Relations Officer, DSP Gideon Jibrin, could not be reached for comment on the development, an anonymous senior government official from Hawul council area also confirmed the incident yesterday in Maiduguri.
According to Galadima, the partnership between UNICEF and Borno State's Ministries of Women Affairs, Health, Education and Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs spurred the 'psycho-social and protection training' for volunteers currently at two locations and sensitization of stakeholders on displaced persons from their communities.
While thanking UNICEF for its prompt intervention, she added that the benefits derivable from the intervention included "helping those who are destabilized by conflict to recover, reducing vulnerability, awareness creation among children and families on the need for psychosocial support in reducing the chances of mental health problems."
To achieve these objectives, she noted, 55 volunteers would be trained to work in 27 identified affected communities and 12 selected councils of the state.
On how the displaced school children would be supported, Galadima said "each selected council area affected by the insurgency would be provided with three different sets of boxes - ranging from Early Child Development materials for recreation and schooling."
UNICEF representative, Dr. Alfred Mutiti, added that based on his experiences with displaced persons in Uganda, Sierra-Leone, Philippines and South Sudan, the displaced children at the Maiduguri NYSC orientation camp would be provided with cultural values to enable them play without hindrances and support themselves in the resettlement camp.
Noting that these resources would help the children under emergencies to bounce back, he enjoined those in the camps to speak messages of hope to enable them overcome the traumas of insurgency and killings.
Amaechi further explained that during the Nigerian Civil War, the property of the Igbo were secured by northerners and were later handed over to them after the war, including the money collected from rents, and that helped the Igbo to re-establish themselves after the war.
"Unlike in other parts of Nigeria where the investments of Igbo were declared abandoned properties, that never happened in the north," he said. "That gave us the confidence to continue investing in the north despite the security challenges, and I can assure you that the investments will continue because very soon the security challenges will end, by the grace of God."
He added: "Apart from the indigenes of any state, Igbo people constitute the major tribes in most of northern parts of the country. There is, therefore, the need to have a sound leader to ensure that the good relationship between the Igbo and their host communities is sustained. My mission is to enhance the understanding between the Igbo resident in Kaduna and their host communities."
The Ohanaeze chieftain also advised the people and all Igbo across the country, especially those in markets, to live healthy lifestyle in other to protect themselves from diseases, particularly the deadly Ebola virus.
According to the youth, the targets are youths between the ages 18 and 25, who are conversant with Gambouru residences and border areas. More so, "they were asking all of us that converged here in Cameroun to join them and fight the soldiers.
"It has happened not only in Gambouru but also most Borno towns and villages that had been attacked and residents displaced."
Military sources in Maiduguri said yesterday that the aerial surveillance in northern Borno was part of the military operations to reclaim the border town with Cameroun. The source, however, did not give details of the operations launched yesterday.