Daily Trust (Abuja)

3 September 2014

Nigeria: Boko Haram Crisis - Seven Emirs Flee Palaces in Borno, Yobe

Maiduguri — Boko Haram attacks have forced five of the eight first-class traditional rulers in Borno State to flee their palaces, investigation by Daily Trust has shown.

Two other monarchs in Yobe State have also been displaced, following the takeover of their domains by the insurgency.

The Borno emirs affected include Shehu of Dikwa Muhammad Ibn Shehu Masta and Emir of Gwoza Muhammadu Ibn Mustapha Idrissa Timta, whose emirates have been overrun by Boko Haram, and Emir of Bama Kyari Ibn Ibrahim El-Kanemi, who fled when his town was attacked on Monday.

Other displaced senior monarchs in Borno are Emir of Askira Abubakar Ibn Muhammad Askirama and his counterpart Ali Ibn Isma'ila Mamza of Uba, who left their palaces following security reports that their towns might be targeted.

Many surrounding villages have been attacked by insurgents in the recent past.

Both Askira and Uba are not far from Gwoza, which Boko Haram took over on August 6 and later on sect leader Abubakar Shekau declared it as part of an "Islamic caliphate."

Dikwa has also been under the insurgents' rule since they overrun the town on August 28, forcing thousands of people to flee to the state capital Maiduguri.

Three days earlier, Boko Haram fighters took over Gamboru, a town on the Nigerian border with Cameroon, and which is also in Dikwa Emirate, after fierce fighting with troops.

The only first-class traditional rulers still living in their respective domains in Borno are Shehu of Borno Abubakar Garbai El-Kanemi, Emir of Shani Nasiru Muhammadu Mailafiya and the Emir of Biu.

'Riding palace cars'

Boko Haram insurgents have been advancing in the past weeks, capturing swathes of territory in Borno and Yobe states. There are fears now that they are fast closing in on Maiduguri, where thousands of people relocated to following the capture of their towns and villages.

"We are under siege. Our traditional rulers, the custodians of our heritage, are no longer safe, our people are dying every day and it seems the dastardly act is continuing unabated," Barrister Yusuf Modu Kabir, a legal practitioner, said.

"A situation whereby our traditional rulers are forcefully fleeing their domains and their subjects running helter skelter does not speak well in a country that rates itself as the giant of Africa," he added.

In the past five years, many traditional rulers have paid the supreme price for raising their voices against the protracted uprising and the atrocities being committed by Boko Haram.

On May 30, three emirs came under fire from suspected insurgents while they were travelling to Gombe, and in the process then-Emir of Gwoza Mustapha Idrissa Timta was killed.

Many village heads (Lawanai), ward heads (Bulamas) and district heads (Aja/Hakimai) have been killed, while others now no longer live within their domains for fear of Boko Haram.

The Borno Emirate Council had lost many of its kingmakers, district heads and ward heads in the insurgency that has been ravaging the state since 2010.

In a recent media interview, the Shehu of Borno said he lost 13 of his district heads.

Sources told Daily Trust that following the takeover of towns in Borno State, Boko Haram commanders are riding jeeps left behind by the Gwoza emir as their "official cars", and moving around the town and adjoining villages.

"A major filing station in Gwoza is where they are filling their tanks with fuel. They have also forced a major baker to remain in Gwoza and is producing bread for them," a source said.

He said the insurgents been issuing directives to the locals who remained behind in Gwoza and other overrun towns.

In Yobe State, the insurgents are also freely using the vehicles left behind by the fleeing Emir of Gujba and the Sarkin Bara in Gulani Local Government Area. They are the two monarchs confirmed to have fled their palaces in the wake of Boko Haram sweep. But Daily Trust learnt that many district heads have also left their domains to avoid the insurgents.

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