Nigeria: Why We Are Returning IDPs Home Despite Continued Security Challenges - Borno Governor

Women and children collect water in Mafa IDP camp, Borno state, north-east Nigeria.

Governor Zulum says IDPs need to return to their communities to farm and resume their businesses.

The Governor of Borno State, Babagana Zulum, says he is sending displaced persons back to their communities so that they can farm and help tackle rising food insecurity in the state.

Mr Zulum spoke on Thursday in an interview with BBC Hausa Service.

The governor said over 100,000 refugees from Damasak, who fled the farming community in Borno State to Niger Republic have returned home.

He said residents have to return home and farm.

"Thousands of women and children were displaced. While returning them, some were abducted by the insurgents. I am visiting the troubled communities to motivate others to return to their communities.

"We have returned IDPs to Baga, Dikwa and several other communities hitherto deserted due to Boko Haram attacks.

"No insecurity is worse than food insecurity. Without food to eat terrible things can happen. We have reached a situation that if people are not allowed to farm they can kill themselves and eat," Mr Zulum said.

"Borno is now experiencing food insecurity. We cannot wait for things to get perfect for people to go to farm, we need to be resilient against Boko Haram attacks. We cannot accept a situation where five or 10 gunmen can dislodge a town with over ten thousand dwellers."

Mr Zulum said people have to return to their communities to farm and resume their businesses.

"We're returning the displaced persons after comprehensive security reports that their communities are safe and we did that through careful analysis of the areas before returning them and we will continue to do that.

"The IDPs are returning to occupy existing houses. The federal government is building 10,000 housing units and the Borno State Government has built thousands of houses and is now empowering the returnees with building materials and some tokens to build mud houses for the meantime," Mr Zulum said.

Mr Zulum said he avoided using aircraft when visiting the troubled communities, to demonstrate that road travels are safe.

"Why should we be afraid to travel by road? We only have one life to live and only God can decide when to take your life. That gave me the motivation to visit the troubled areas," he said.

Conflict in the North-East

Nigeria's North-east region has been enmeshed in a bloody insurgency for over a decade, which has resulted in thousands of deaths and mass displacement of residents in Adamawa, Borno, and Yobe states.

Over 23,000 persons, mostly children, have been reported missing in eight years of the conflicts in the region, according to a report by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

Nigeria has the highest number of missing people registered, at about 23,000, the report said, adding that more than 20,000 missing persons were in the Northeast where Boko Haram has continued to unleash terror on defenceless residents since 2009.

President Muhammadu Buhari came into office in 2015, with a promise to tackle the northeast insecurity in six months. However, six years later, attacks on civilians have continued in the region.

In June last year, Boko Haram, in one its deadliest attacks, killed 81 people in Gubio, a Borno farming community. The UN humanitarian coordinator in Nigeria, Edward Kallon, while commenting on the killings, bemoaned the insecurity in the Northeast.

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