After fresh Boko Haram attacks, displaced residents return home

Within a short period helped by prompt military intervention, residents attacked by Boko Haram in some communities of Gubio and Magumeri local government areas of Borno State, are returning.

 

After sack of thousands by Boko Haram insurgents in some communities in Borno State, life is gradually returning as many residents have returned to their abodes to continue their normal activities.

Worst hit areas a few weeks ago were Gubio and Magumeri, headquarters of Gubio and Magumeri local government areas as thousands of residents fled their homes as well-armed insurgents raided the communities.

Many of the villagers were trapped during the attack which resulted in a spat between the Army and the Borno State Government who blamed the military for withdrawing from their “strategic” positions, allowing Boko Haram to gain easy access.

However, the Theater Commander, Operation Lafiya Dole, Major-General Olusegun Adeniyi, in a recent guided media tour to Magumeri, Gubio and Benisheik, headquarters of Magumeri, Gubio and Kaga local government areas of the state, denied that the military abandoned the areas.

He described as “misleading’’ reports of any military withdrawal from the affected areas and exposed the communities to Boko Haram attacks recently.

In Gubio, the insurgents burnt many government property and looted many homes, carting away valuables and “freely” moved to Magumeri, taking over the town to. At Magumeri, the insurgents set alight the local government secretariat and other government facilities.

However, activities have picked up in the invaded areas with enhanced security presence. A resident of Gubio, Modu Alhaji Fanami, said residents are trying their best by giving accurate information to the military about suspicious persons and movements. He said: “We are ready to do more to support the troops because we don’t want to go back to IDP camps in Maiduguri. We have nowhere to go. All we want is to see the troops around us.”

It was gathered that farming activities have resumed around Gubio, indicating return to normalcy. A resident, Gana Modu, who had fled to Maiduguri, returned to continue his business.  “I returned having escaped Boko Haram onslaught,” he noted.

A member of National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) in Magumeri, Adamu Kormi, complained that Damasak and Monguno are far from Magumeri and required more security presence.

He lamented that many of his relations, friends and associates had lost everything they laboured for such as their business capital and property.

A health worker, Ya’gana Fantanmi, who returned to Maiduguri after conducting polio immunization at Magumeri painted a positive picture about life in the area. She debunked the rumour that there are no people in Magumeri. “Residents have begun trickling back home after the insurgents left. Many residents are back home now,” she noted.

Fantanmi stressed that normalcy had started returning in Magumeri and that health workers would even go back there to continue vaccinating children against polio, disclosing that they had already vaccinated over 300 children on Friday.

Also, a commercial vehicle driver, Mohammed Hassan, told Daily Trust on Sunday at Baga Road motor park Maiduguri, that more passengers are now going to Magumeri and Gubio.

A security source told the Daily Trust on Sunday that Boko Haram now no longer holds any community hostage. “They only move out and attack communities for supplies especially drugs, provisions and other essential commodities they lack. That is why in almost all their recent attacks, hospitals and markets were hit,” he said.

He said the terrorists no longer take absolute control of communities, adding that as soon as they raid important places and loot, they simply retreat to islands and forested areas where they would hardly be seen by fighter jets and could not be reached by troops.

Another source said, “When you look at recent events critically, the ISWAP fighters rarely attack the civilian population apart from villages that showed some resistance.

“And sadly, the terrorists are now winning some communities by their actions,” he said.

According to him, “with the departure of the military, they stepped into some communities pretending to be providing security for them even though they impose some taxes.”

Some community leaders spoken to explained how the Boko Haram fighters are now operating.

One of the leaders who spoke in confidence said, “Let me give you some examples. Soon after the withdrawal of troops at Bulakuri and Kawuri along Bama road in an effort to implement the Super Camp template, the terrorists on the other hand destroyed the road at Mairamri to deny the troops easy movement.

“And when the troops at Banki junction were withdrawn and relocated to the big camp at Bama, dozens of terrorists on motorbikes stormed the junction in celebration mode.”

He said ISWAP fighters have now turned Ambura a new training ground “with dozens of youths in the camp being trained on how to handle guns and fight.”

Another community leader said, “It was Goni Maina who is the Qayid of ISWAP (leader of one of the cells) who led Friday prayers at Ngilewa village and during his sermon, he called for intensive prayers against the Multi National Joint Task Force (MNJTF).

“He is the same man that led an attack on Monguno,” adding that “another commander had mounted another cell at Kaniram forest in Magumeri Local Government Area.”

Speaking on recent developments, a security, Major Salihu Bakari (rtd), said: “The military can fashion out an offensive approach to the conflicts by way of taking the fight right to the terrorist camps which are well known to the military, by using multiple approaches and since individual commands don’t have the capacity to conduct offensive operations to the terrorist camps, due to the state of equipment and logistics.”

According to him, “Often times, the terrorists don’t know their routes. They stop in communities to ask for directions and if there are troops within the areas, and once they discover that there are troops, they change their direction, which means, they don’t want confrontation.

“However, the various communities have not been integrated into the scheme of things by the military, for them to know it is their fight and very little psychological operations have been built in to the entire campaign.

“In fighting insurgency, the people’s support is the key to winning the fight. However, we are yet to truly win the hearts and minds of the people whom we struggle to liberate,” he said.

Another community leader who relates closely with authorities said even during their last visit to Gubio on August 19, the ISWAP fighters had no business with the locals.

He said the ISWAP fighters were always after government institutions, security agencies and their civilian helps like the hunters, vigilantes and civilian JTF.

According to him, “between December 2018 and August 2019, Gubio has had four attacks, and within August, there were two attacks, on 10 and on 21 and the routes taken by the terrorists is the same. “Usually they come in from Tumbun Gini, Mari, Shewaaram, Madayi, Garere and Ladu Dumbawa.

“During one of the attacks on getting close to Gubio, they sent 10 vehicles to Magumeri while five went into Gubio. They were asking for all the CJTF, hunters and vigilantes to come forward.

“They got three, one refused to follow them so he was killed. His name is Bana Bamson. They left with two of his colleagues Bana Aliyi and Muktari.

“While in Gubio, they burnt the court building, the house of the headmaster of Gubio Primary School, Mallam Mastaphe. They also burnt the Islamiyya/Education office; the Action Against Hunger office and hospital and the Ibrahim Abba Islamic primary school.

“The terrorists looted stores and drugs and thereafter left the town,” he said.

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