Borno community: From Boko Haram stronghold to modern estate
April 11, 2015
Written by Duku Joel
For residents of Bulabulin-Ngarnam community, a settlement in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, it was joy to see a hitherto shanty settlement transformed into a modern estate complete with social amenities like water, electricity, boreholes, market and schools. Looking back into the recent past, the residents will also celebrate their new homes, considering that only recently, most of them were rendered homeless after the area was attacked and annexed by the dreaded Boko Haram sect, which killed many members of the community and sacked others.
The community began to fall into the hands of the insurgents in 2010 as they systematically dislodged the residents and turned the area into their coordinating headquarters. They took over the houses, built tunnels and punched holes on the walls and fences to connect the dozens of houses as a strategy to manoeuvre their operations. The sect also built an underground armoury in some of the houses for their explosives and rifles.
But like the great Berlin Wall, Bulabulin-Ngarnam met its waterloo in 2013 when the military and other security agencies successfully dislodged the insurgents from the area in an operation that lasted several days. The operation to flush out the insurgents from the community brought a lot of destruction in its wake as many of the houses were brought down.
Irked by the level of destruction and the plight of the residents that were rendered homeless during the operation, Gov. Kashim Shettima decided to ‘rebrand’ the community and bring succour to the people through the provision of 432 new homes. Named Yerwa Peace Estate, it consists of two-bedroom flats located off Baga Road within the Maiduguri metropolis.
Ironically, while the people were jubilating and praising Gov. Shettima during the inauguration of the estate for this people-oriented initiative, the governor himself described the occasion as a sad moment for him. He said it was a sad reminder of the injuries that Boko Haram had inflicted on the people of Borno State.
In a speech he delivered at the occasion, Shettima said: “I know that majority of us here will expect me to be happy both externally and internally as we are gathered here today for the commissioning of one of the many significant projects initiated and completed by this administration. I ought to be happy on a day like this, but if I have to tell you what is in the innermost part of my heart, I am not happy.
“I am not happy because we are simply here to count one of the many impacts of the Boko Haram insurgency inflicted on us by our own sons who simply wanted to violently impose their alien ideology on us. They have cruelly slaughtered their own brothers and sisters, shot and bombed thousands of people, destroyed our communities and turned thousands of people out of their ancestral homes to become homeless and converted otherwise wealthy rural dwelling importers and exporters, farmers, transporters, traders and many other kinds of business men to become absolutely poor overnight.
“They have turned thousands of givers into beggars. They have destroyed not just communities but also burnt down Mosques even when they claim to be fighting for Allah Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala. Their own kind of Jihad has no exception to women, children and the old, which runs contrary to prophetic traditions like we all have been thought about Islamic history.
“Only yesterday (weeks ago), the media reported that they even slaughtered the women they forcibly used as their companions; the women they shared their times with, the women they even said they had married. They have killed and stuffed dead bodies into wells, contaminating water when in Islam, digging wells is categorised as one of the topmost ways of earning everlasting rewards.
“They serially brought down hospitals, Islamic and western schools, killed and maimed Islamic scholars and teachers, brought down houses including, in some cases, setting an entire community ablaze, all in the name of our peaceful, loving, gracious and merciful God. This is the sad story of the Boko Haram insurgency that Borno began to witness since a four-day war of July, 2009.
“The Yerwa Peace Estate, we are about commissioning today is a product of destructions as a result of the insurgency. From 2010 or thereabout, Boko Haram Insurgents quietly began to dislodge residents of Bulabulin-Ngarnam, silently killing those who resisted them. They took over houses of innocent persons after chasing the owners.
“Over two years of the occupation, they turned the area to their silent headquarters in Maiduguri. They dug improvised tunnels that connected houses and created underground armoury, stockpiled with riffles and explosive devices. They dug holes on walls and fences of houses in the entire community, like a chain, such that after murderous attacks and they were being chased by security agencies, once they ran into any house, they could pass through the holes they punched on walls and fences to connect to over 20 or more houses to beat their trailers and in some cases, trap and kill their trailers. That was the wisdom of evil.
“In 2013, our gallant Joint Military Task Force with superior wisdom discovered Bulabulin-Ngarnam through diligent intelligence gathering. And with the brave support of other security agencies and our youth volunteers, made up of our own sons, Boko Haram insurgents were dislodged from Bulabulin-Ngarnam by the military. That glorious feat brought to an end Boko Haram’s communal existence in Maiduguri, which used to be their coordinating point.”
The governor noted that with the discovery at Bulabulin-Ngarnam, the military had to bring down the houses and clear the community of landmines, search for other armouries and discourage insurgents from working towards reoccupying the community.
He said his administration had thought it wise to resettle innocent persons whose houses were occupied or detroyed by Boko Haram. He said the state government had directed th committee set up for the allocation of the houses to also ensure that the entire Bulabulin-Ngarnam community was fumigated with the right chemicals to prevent outbreak of diseases, given the fact that the community was deserted for years.
“I have been reliably informed that the cleaning has been effected and we have guarantee that the community is free of mines,” he added.