Our Loss Is Not Quantifiable – Abdullahi Bego, special adviser on Press and Information, Yobe State
By TAJUDEEN SULEIMAN
Could you give us an idea of the losses suffered by the state as a result of the insurgency?
This senseless insurgency started in November 2011 here in Yobe State. It is very difficult to quantify our losses as a state. Lives have been lost, many suffered injuries and businesses ruined. Nothing can describe the sense of dispossession the people have had to contend with over these periods of time. Our loss is not quantifiable. But we in Yobe are believers, whether Christian or Muslim, and we continue to pray. Life is coming back gradually. There was a time the state was in total lockdown because of insecurity, but now things have eased and people can be found as late as 10 pm or more.
Give us an idea of losses in terms of the level of destruction.
Apart from lives that were lost, about 509 school classrooms have been destroyed over time. It took a lot of resources and time to rebuild the schools. There are times when insurgents destroyed a whole school built by government. A lot of public and private places were torched. Innocent lives have been lost. We saw attacks on schools, and students killed. But the people are determined to thrive over those who want to ruin their lives. The state government is partnering with the communities to ensure people are mobilised against the forces of evil who want our kids out of school.
What has the state government done to create jobs for youths in the state?
We have done quite a lot. The state government has provided jobs for 18,000 youths. A total of 4,860 of them are graduates who were given pensionable jobs. There are 7,000 diploma holders that are employed on a monthly allowance of N15,000. There are those who have been sent to skill acquisition centres to learn carpentry, generator repair and so on. We pay for their training and accommodation for about six months and we provide capital for them to start their own business. We also gave out about 140 buses as part of poverty alleviation measures. The state also gives scholarship to students and pay regularly.
Yobe is an agrarian state and we have continued to support our farmers. Our farmers are encouraged and supported in dry season farming. So far we have supported 17,000 Fadama farmers. We provide tractors and fertiliser to farmers’ cooperatives.
What are the other efforts the governor has made to end the insurgency and ensure the state is back on track?
One of the things Governor Ibrahim Gaidam has done is to reach out to the people. His outreach has helped in making the people realise that security is everybody’s business. He has made it clear that without the support and participation of every citizen of Yobe State, there is no way we can get rid of these criminals. His outreach has helped a lot. At the height of the insurgency, people started reaching out to the security agencies. There was the story of a parent who called the JTF to alert them about his son who was a member of the militant sect. The JTF promptly moved in and arrested the boy. That would show you how deeply committed our people are to partnering with security agents. People would call security agents once they see a member of the group in town, and that has significantly helped the state.
Issues like these are things that should engage the attention of the Northern Governors Forum. Are they offering any assistance to the state?
Honestly, I don’t know.
What is the state doing to ensure that youths do not abandon school?
The military is on ground in the state and they have a responsibility to ensure that all our schools are under their radar. The governor said the state has witnessed heavy movement of military equipment, but we haven’t seen much action on ground. He said that when he visited the hospital to see victims of the Gujba attack. To help the security agents achieve their task, we have continued to support them. For example, we provided them with over 200 Toyota Hillux and Jeeps. We provide fuelling for the vehicles and allowances to help them do their job.
The military is trying its best, but what the governor said was that they have to do more. We have to assure our people that they can be protected. Recently, the governor spoke with traditional rulers again about community participation in the war against insurgents. The governor is committed to community participation in security, and he has spent time and resources to get the same commitment from the people. That is why the state is relatively safer now than in the last two years.