by Michael Olugbode in Maiduguri
Borno State Governor, Alhaji Kashim Shettima, has said it will be callous and irresponsible to hurriedly return internally displaced persons to their liberated communities to vote.
The governor, according to a statement sent by his spokesman, Isa Gusau said some of the villages and suburbs of the liberated towns are still infested with the insurgents and sending them back to the areas without total cleansing of all vestiges of insurgency is nothing more to wickedness and sacrificing them on
the altar of politics.
Gusau said his boss reacted to the question of why it will be proper for the IDPs to vote during the forthcoming elections, during weekend’s visit to Diffa province in Niger Republic to see about 200,000 refugees from the state who fled to the neighbouring country.
The governor, in the statement, explained that his government chose not to support the move to hurriedly dispatch the IDPs to their recently liberated homelands on the ground of safety and environmental health hazards, insisting that a lot of destroyed houses, hospitals, schools, farms and lots more need to be fixed before citizens are made to return.
The governor said: “I am absolutely in support of elections holding in local government areas after all, I was elected with popular mandate in 2011 with elections taking place across in all local governments of the state and having to win more than two-third of the 27 local government areas of Borno State.
“One who has won elections and has kept fate with his people and is doing his best to meet his obligations has no reason to fear elections. The voters are the same whether they vote in local government areas or anywhere else.
“However, I think it will be irresponsible on our part as a government to hurry our citizens back to liberated communities now mainly to go and vote because that will be very callous. We have pockets of insurgents in some villages, we have had attacks that are very recent on some routes, we all know that these liberated communities are still not fully safe and habitable.”
Shettima added: “The military has recaptured lost territories but we have one or two to go. Then, some insurgents fled to villages and they are still posing problems, how safe will our people be if we force them back today? How safe will it be to send people to Gamboru, Baga, Monguno, Malamfatori, Kala-Balge, Mafa and other places.
“What about the issue of landmines possibly planted there that everyone knows the military has been contending with?”
He lamented that: “All those politicians that stay in Abuja and cause all manner of confusion for Borno, if they are so certain that liberated communities are now safe, let them go and live in Gamboru like ordinary people. Why have they moved their entire families including their cats out of Maiduguri that is relatively safe not to talk of the local government areas?”
“Why do they want our citizens to go to liberated communities and put their lives at risk knowing fully well that there is so much to be done. Apart from the issue of safety, there are decomposed bodies, we need to do so much fumigation and environmental cleansing, we need to rebuild homes destroyed, markets, schools, hospitals, many have been destroyed, we need to fix things because our citizens are human beings and they deserve to be treated as such.”
He asked: “Why should we push our citizens to live where we can’t send our wives and children to live?”
Shettima said: “We are concerned about our people, we cannot allow them take unnecessary risks. We are confident all will be well eventually insha Allah but we need some careful planning. We want to set up a Task Force on Evaluation, Reconstruction, Rehabilitation and Re-integration of Victims of the insurgency and the task force will have representatives of all stakeholders.
“It will be a multi-faith and multi-ethnic based so that every segment of the affected population is covered be it citizens, associations, government or institutions from security to all others. We have a serious work before us, it is not child’s play that some people are advocating for mainly for their selfish and dehumanizing interests. We must learn to put politics aside where the existence of our citizens are involved.
“Power should not be our only concern at all points. There is more to life than desperation to access power.”