Hon. Ibrahim Hassan, a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Borno State, believes that Governor Babagana Zulum needs the protection of the Federal Government for him to succeed in his bid to ensure that peace is restored to Borno State. In this interview, he speaks on the recent attack on the governor’s convoy and governance in the state, among other issues. Wale Elegbede reports
What is your view on the recent attack on the convoy of Borno State governor, Babagana Zulum?
I was badly disturbed when on July 29, the governor’s convoy was attacked by Boko Haram insurgents on Maiduguri-Damaturu highway. Five people, including three policemen, were reportedly killed during the incident. The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria stipulates that no person shall be subject to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment.
So, the attack on Zulum’s convoy is a breach of this aspect of the constitution. That is why I am calling on the Federal Government and even the United Nations to enhance security around the governor to ensure that such a thing does not reoccur. I also call for an investigation into the incident to ascertain the immediate and remote causes of the attack, and where sabotage is established, the people behind such dastardly act should be punished based on the law.
What are the leadership qualities you admire in Governor Zulum?
Several! I am among those who have watched Governor Zulum’s career path and leadership style. He is God-sent to the people of Borno State. He is not only diligent but has zero-tolerance for incompetence. He rewards diligence and commitment to duty. We have seen him physically inspect construction sites and assessing materials needed for work in the state just to ensure that the state gets the best in everything.
These things can only be done by someone with the interest of the people at heart. And when someone goes the extra mile, he recognizes such efforts and rewards that person accordingly. So, Zulum has not only brought Borno State to the limelight as a state that has set high standards for efficiency and productivity, but a state that so much desires peace and progress of its people, businesses and economy.
From reintegrating ex-combatants to preventing farmers-herders conflicts and rebuilding rural economies, Zulum has proven his mettle as a leader of courage and great wisdom. And I will tell you that Governor Zulum has overtime demonstrated efficiency and result-oriented qualities. Since his first appointment as Assistant Technical Officer in Borno State Civil Service in the state’s Ministry of Agriculture in 1989, Zulum’s competency and commitment to duty has never been in doubt.
How would you assess the state government in terms of infrastructure, especially in education and rural development?
Zulum has brought massive transformation to bear in Borno State through hard work, integrity, transparency, diligence, courage, commitment to duty and patriotism. The governor has executed several projects since he came into office, particularly the model schools that he built and some other projects inaugurated to mark his first anniversary and afterward. Borno State, which was obviously brought to its knees over insecurity, has rebounded within the first year of Zulum’s tenure in all spheres of socio-economic and infrastructural development.
For instance, the governor has not only instilled discipline in the hearts of civil servants through unscheduled visits, but has also positively impacted on many lives by the numerous capital projects his administration has undertaken in addition to people-centered policies and programmes, thereby bringing a huge positive difference to governance in Nigeria. Within one year he has undertaken 326 capital projects, initiated 49 policies and programmes which are capital intensive.
The administration is constructing 6,544 suburban and low-cost houses for the resettlement of internally displaced persons and refugees across the state. Surveillance vehicles have been distributed to security agencies and he has also carried out rehabilitation of schools as well as established new ones. The Zulum administration has equally embarked on construction of primary health care facilities, rehabilitation and construction of roads including the first fly-over in Maiduguri, the state capital. We have also seen other projects such as drilling of 213 boreholes, electrification and agricultural projects, including the restoration of irrigation farming for communities in Marte.
What impact do you think that the Boko Haram insurgency is having on the state’s economy?
As we speak now, insecurity in the state has repeatedly delayed the return of displaced persons to their respective communities and as a result has triggered new population movements in the region. And when community members are not within their business areas or farmlands, their economic base is weakened. So far, over two million individuals remain displaced, a number that has once again increased over the past year. Ongoing military operations around Lake Chad continue to force more people to leave their homes and drive others into secondary displacement, particularly due to the Nigerian military’s ongoing practice of clearing rural villages by pushing civilians into IDP camps in nearby towns. These have not only caused humanitarian crisis, but economic crisis too. International organisations estimate that around 800,000 people are still stuck in areas in Northern Borno that is beyond the reach of humanitarian assistance, with little information available about their profile and needs.
What other measures could be adopted to provide adequate security in the state, especially after the governor suggested deploying hunters and vigilante groups to augment efforts of the security forces?
Governor Zulum attributed the recent attack on his convoy between Monguno and Baga town to military sabotage. In a viral video with the commander in the area, he pointed accusing finger at the Army, alleging attempt to sabotage the visit with the attack. As the Chief Security Officer of the State, he has enough information to arrive at that conclusion.
The governor was convinced the exchange of fire was between the Nigeria Army and the Police Special Anti-Robbery Squad (FSARS) leading his convoy into Baga town. He said in the video that as far as he was concerned, what happened in Baga was a complete sabotage by the military because there is no Boko Haram in Baga. There are over 1,181 soldiers in Baga, 72 officers, 107 solders, 400 soldiers in Mile 4 and 1,900 soldiers in Monguno. So, I see no reason why only five members of Boko Haram will stop them from occupying Baga town. The troops have been in Mile 4 for over one year, so there is complete sabotage.
The problem is not with President Muhammadu Buhari but the command and control structure. There is a need to look into the command structure of the Army. We have over 80,000 IDPs in Monguno, they cannot continue to depend on nongovernmental organisations and others for food. We have created opportunities for them to go back to their communities and continue with their businesses and farming activities. The governor has also said he will allow people to go back to Kukawa and will also give time to the military. If they will not clear Baga, the state will mobilise hunters, Civilian JTF and vigilante groups to recapture Baga.
The economic cost of the Book Haram attack on Borno communities is immeasurable. What steps should be taken to put the state on the path of recovery and reconciliation?
Findings have shown that several challenges have complicated local-level stabilization efforts over the past two years. The security situation presents the most immediate challenge in Borno State. Recurring attacks by Boko Haram and ISWAP as well as ongoing military operations have delayed the return of displaced people, prolonged humanitarian crisis and made it difficult for aid organisations to reach to vulnerable communities. Community stabilization programmes rest on the assumption that communities are, in fact, to some degree stable, rather than experiencing temporary displacement or being at high risk of renewed displacement.
Lastly, stabilization efforts to date have been stymied by weaknesses in regional cooperation. Although Nigeria has been most severely affected by Boko Haram’s violence, the crisis spans the entire Lake Chad basin. Challenges such as the return of displaced populations, the reintegration of Boko Haram members and socio-economic recovery in rural areas require cross-border approaches.