Peace is gradually returning to Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, after a long period of death and destruction. Save for reported incidents in a few places, people living in the urban centres have begun picking up the pieces of their lives and returning to their social ways.
For the first time since 2009 when it was put on hold due to the security situation in the state, the durbar (horse parade) was held during the last Sallah celebrations and recently to celebrate the return of the Shehu of Borno, Alhaji Abubakar Garba el-Kanemi, who was the 2013 National Amirul Hajj, to the state from Saudi Arabia, at his palace in Maiduguri.
The Shehu had suspended the durbar event in 2009 when the Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna lid Da’awati wal Jihad, popularly referred to as Boko Haram, began its terror campaign across the state and beyond. At its return, the fanfare had in attendance as the special guest of honour, the state governor, Kashim Shettima. It was the first time a durbar was held since the governor assumed office in May 2011.
The success of the event is seen as an indication that the days of violent attacks are winding up. The relative peace in the state is reportedly owing to the efforts of the Shettima-led administration to engage the citizens constructively, as well as the activities of youth volunteers, popularly called the “civilian JTF.”
The volunteers have been supporting the special military task force in hunting down fleeing Boko Haram insurgents in Maiduguri and other parts of the state. At the resumed durbar, especially one witnessed a few days ago, traditional rulers who mounted decorated horses paraded to the admiration of the Shehu and other dignitaries while the crowd cheered on.
In an interaction with journalists in his palace, Alhaji el-Kanemi commended the efforts of the military Joint Task Force (JTF) and the civilian JTF at sustaining the relative peace which, he said, had led to the return of business and social activities in the state. He described the events of the recent past as unfortunate. According to him, many people were killed just as properties were wantonly destroyed while the insurgency lasted. He expressed optimism that with the efforts of the JTF, vigilance groups and other citizens, Borno State was now returning to its good, old days.
“Although the state has suffered serious damage, we will continue to pray. We will not be deterred by activities of terrorists, as we have seen that only prayers can bring peace back to our state,” he said.
However, social events like wedding receptions, burial and naming ceremonies are still being held under the close watch of security operatives in some parts of the state.
Also, Saturday Tribune can report that children are now playing around just as young men are back on neighbourhood fields playing football and engaging in exercises in the morning and in the evening. The people are going about their businesses without let or hindrance.
Meanwhile, as the city centres are heaving a sigh of relief, the headaches of many residents in local governments like Konduga, Bama, Gwoza and Damboa in the central and southern Borno now are the persistent attacks on people on the highways. Also, the northern part of the state has continued to experience attacks, even as schools which have been renovated in the aftermath of previous Boko Haram attacks are recording zero attendance by students.
Barely a week after some suspected Boko Haram members attacked a security post along Bama-Banki-Firgi Road and went away with some patrol vehicles after setting the place ablaze, another group of terrorists reportedly blocked the convoy of a bridegroom in Michika Local Government Area of Adamawa State, killing the newly-wed and 29 others.
Although the police headquarters in Maiduguri has described the story as misleading and mischievous, an earlier report indicated that the groom, his friends, family members and associates from Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, were returning from the wedding ceremony held in Michika when they were ambushed with 30 of them killed.
The report said the Bama-Banki-Firgi federal highway, about 40 kilometres away from the Republic of Cameroon, 100 kilometres to Maiduguri and 26 kilometres to Gwoza Local Government Area of Borno State, was a mountainous area suspected to be an enclave of many camps of terrorists who fled the Sambisa forests during the offensive military raids after the declaration of state of emergency in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states on May 14. According to the report, the area would continue to experience such attacks unless serious attention was paid to it.
But the police, in a rejoinder signed by Police Public Relations Officer, DSP Gideon Jibrin, said the story was false and capable of tarnishing the image of the command and the entire security agencies in the state. According to the statement, the story was rather meant to create panic among the populace as normalcy was gradually returning to in the state.
However, motorists insisted that there were attacks which claimed many lives.
“I drove from Adamawa on Michika-Bama-Maiduguri Road with my passengers, but I have to thank God because when we reached Firgi area, we saw bodies of people who were either gunned down or slaughtered by the roadside. In fact, my passengers advised that we should make a U-turn and go back to Michika, but I told them that God was in control and we moved on,” a motorist told journalists in Maiduguri.
Meanwhile, many Nigerians, particularly indigenes of Borno State, are questioning the integrity of international human rights bodies. It was alleged that no human right organisation was working to protect the rights of civilians in Borno State. Many of such groups are even alleged to only show concern when alleged terrorists were killed.
“Soldiers and other security operatives would not want to speak about figures for the concern that human right organisations would ask questions. Members of Boko Haram and other groups have committed widespread, systematic attacks against the civilian population. It is good that, perhaps, for the first time, we are hearing that human rights organisations are condemning the attack on a wedding convoy and I hope they see reasons now to support the government in the fight against insurgents, particularly in Borno State,” one Umara Bukar said.