The Borno State Governor, Kashim Shettima, on Tuesday said continuing attacks by Boko Haram insurgents in areas around Sambisa forest have stalled the proposed closure of camps and return of internally displaced persons, IDPs, to their liberated communities by the end of this month.
The governor had last year declared that the end of May 2017 has been fixed as deadline for the closure of all IDP camps around the state.
But with the attacks around the Sambisa forest, a fortress of the Boko Haram that was declared as captured by the military in December last year, the security agencies advised against moving the IDPs back home.
Mr. Shettima disclosed this in Bama town where he took delivery of 11 public structures that were rebuilt by the Victims Support Fund, VSF, after they were destroyed by Boko Haram insurgents two years ago.
The governor informed the people that moving into liberated communities has to be postponed due to the military activities around Sambisa forest.
“Our initial goal was for our people to return to their liberated communities before the next Ramadan fasting which comes at the end of May”, he said.
“But unfortunately, this is no longer feasible because the military are still carrying out operations in some areas around Sambisa as part of the mop up exercise. But we will continue to work with the military to review the situation.”
He said despite the setback, the priority of his government was to ensure the safety and security of the people.
“Our number one priority was to ensure the security and safety of our people; hence we will not allow any IDP to return to any community that we are not 100 percent sure that they have regained their safety.
“When IDPs return to communities they will still need to go to their farms, go to markets and travel for socio-economic purposes. Hence we will make sure the farms are and routes are safe before we allow them to return”.
“Even while we do the review, we will continue with our aggressive reconstruction work; we will not wait even though we are optimistic that the entire Borno state will be safe.”
The governor thanked the VSF for its intervention which involved the rebuilding of schools, hospital and other administrative buildings of Bama Local Government Area as well as the palace of the Shehu of Bama.
He said the Bama intervention was the second major reconstruction project embarked upon by VSF. He recalled that the VSF had in 2015 made a donation of building materials worth N250 million for the reconstruction of 22 public buildings in Dikwa Local Government of Borno State.
“We remain eternally grateful to the VSF and the implementation officials especially the executive secretary and the deputy chairman of the foundation …for their empathy and passion for Borno”, he said.
Earlier, the executive secretary of VSF, Sunday Ochoche, said the VSF had in January this year donated building materials worth N295 million for the reconstruction of the earmarked public buildings in the destroyed town.
The Borno State government, according to the Commissioner for Reconstruction, Rebuilding and Rehabilitation, Babagana Zulum, provided N73 million to complement the VSF donation which he said was to care for labour and logistics needed for the reconstruction.
The Deputy Chairman of VSF, Tijjani Tumsa, who presented the reconstructed buildings to the Borno State Governor, gave assurances that the relief agency would continue to assist Borno State in all its areas of need in the post conflict rebuilding efforts.
The VSF otherwise known as Nigeria Foundation for the Support of Victims of Terrorism was inaugurated in 2014 by the defunct regime of former President Goodluck Jonathan in response to the increasing need for relief to those in areas of conflict.
The foundation was powered by a N50 billion donation made by a cross section of wealthy Nigerians.