By Akanimo Sampson (Northern Operations Bureau Chief)
The rampaging Boko Haram jihadists have sacked Marte Local Government Area in the bleeding Borno State of Northern Nigeria. Chairman of the local government council, Ali Shettima, says the area is totally deserted.
Shettima spoke out as armed youths on Thursday killed about nine soldiers during a reprisal attack on the armed security forces at Sunke village in Anka Local Government Area of Zamfara State, also in Northern Nigeria.
Eyewitness claimed that the armed youths in their dozens on motorcycles arrived the village and began shooting sporadically at the soldiers’ station in the village leading to the death of about nine of them.
The soldiers were allegedly taken unaware by the bloodletting armed youths who appeared to be out only for the soldiers as they left without attacking other people in the village. Some establishment sources in the area are seeing the attack as a reprisal on the earlier killings of some repentant bandits by the security forces.
While a source said, ‘’soldiers killed some of the repentant bandits and they vowed to avenge the attacks. The repentant bandits mobilised their men and raided the army formation in the village’’, the spokesperson of Operation Hadarin Daji in the state, Oni Orisan, an Army Captain, said he needed time to verify the incident.
The attack on the soldiers came barely two weeks after the state government raised alarm over possible attacks on seven local government areas by suspected Boko Haram fighters.
Residents of villages last Wednesday spotted dozens of armed men riding motorcycles on the road at Mayanchi junction along Gusau – Sokoto Highway. The villagers said the gunmen claimed that they were heading to Birnin Gwari in the neighbouring Kaduna State.
However, soldiers on counter insurgency operations in the volatile North-East have killed three Boko Haram terrorists and recovered several arms and ammunitions from them.
Deputy Director Army Public Relations for the 7 Division, Nigerian Army, Colonel Ado Isa in a statement said the terrorists were ambushed and killed after some villagers hinted about their presence along Banki Road Junction, Pulka in Gwoza general area in Borno State.
Isa said, ‘’following credible information from some patriotic Nigerians about terrorists movement along Banki Road Junction, Pulka in Gwoza general area, troops of Special Response Area (SRA) Pulka under the Nigerian Army Super Camp Gwoza, in collaboration with Civilian Joint Task Force conducted a successful night ambush on Thursday 3rd October 2019, which resulted in the neutralisation of 3 terrorists, recovery of 2 AK 47 Rifles and 2 motorcycles.’’
In the mean time, Shettima who decried the living condition of the people of the local government who he said were forced to live subhuman lives, pointed out that ‘’my people would have loved to be home now even with the risk of Boko Haram if the military clears us to go’’, said in Maiduguri, the Borno state capital that as a result of frequent attacks by Boko Haram insurgents, residents of the local government had all relocated from the area and moved into camps.
According to him, ‘’Marte local government is totally deserted, you cannot find anybody in Marte. Many of them are now displaced and in camps in Maiduguri. About 70,000 others are in Monguno, we have some at Gajiram and others in Gamboru. Many of the families are divided and the main challenge is bringing the divided families together.
‘’Because of the insurgency, many of these people who are farmers cannot till the ground and have been made to depend on stipends from others to survive, this is just enough to live and be well. Most of them (people from Marte) have not been captured under the enumeration system of the camps because they arrived at the camps in batches and most times singularly. There are a large number of them without support from government and all the aid agencies.
‘’Their complaints have been made to SEMA and the local government, which do assist but this is definitely not enough. The resources at the disposal of the local government and SEMA are not enough to take care of them. The challenges have been, how to feed them, how to bring them together and how to return them to their ancestral home.
‘’We can only return them subject to clearance from the Army the people want to go back despite the risk because they are fed up with the condition they are living right now.
But however as a chairman, I cannot risk the life of anybody unless I receive assurance from the military authority that the place is safe and that they will provide security upon return. After this is done, then we can move in and provide them with means of livelihood to allow them quickly settle down.
‘’I cannot say the place is safe now for the information I have now is so sketchy, I know we have Boko Haram there now, and these people are merciless and can even kill 50 people at a time without blinking an eyelid. We are appealing to the military to clear them. And it is after the place is cleared of Boko Haram and de-mined that we can move in.
‘’We as a government we now move to provide the needs of the people. As I am talking to you, the clinics are all bad, the boreholes are all broken down and need to be either resuscitated or perhaps rebuilt. We equally need to have a temporary school for the returnees. Our intention is to start the relocation with about 500 families for it will be difficult to return everyone at the same time. We start with a camp and once it is a success, we move into another village.
‘’We are presently looking at a central location, a formal ideal location to return them. We have already identified GSS, New Marte and we will use all the infrastructure there, although almost all the classrooms have been burnt down but we will use the premises to accommodate them, it should be able to accommodate 500 families.’’
Continuing, Shettima who has been running the affairs of the local
government council from the state capital said, ‘’I am moving around, I move
around where we have the people from the local government. I move from one camp
to the other to attend to their needs. We have 42 different locations where the
displaced persons are staying in Maiduguri alone. Many of these are community
camps. We have 13 camps in Monguno, with people of Marte and Monguno living
side by side.’’