(BACKPAGE) When shall there be light in Borno again?

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Uba Group

BY VICTOR IZEKOR

Borno State often referred to as the Home of Peace and Hospitality lost her peace when Boko Haram struck the state capital on February 18, 2006, though some said it was 2009.

I insist on 2006, because I am a victim. However, whether it is 2006 or 2009, the fact remains so far that these demons of destruction have so far defied solutions and are still on the prowl wreaking havocs.

They continue to metamorphose in varied formations with negative multiplier effects on the nation and in Borno State in particular, the epicenter of the insurgency on the receiving ends.

On a daily basis, Boko Haram continues to taunt and torment Borno State with endless problems making the hope at end of the tunnel a mirage.

Borno has experienced the torture of deaths, blood and sorrow from the insurgency and it is still in the doldrums.

At the beginning, the sect unleashed its terror on man inhumanity to man, killing and maiming. Then it gravitated to abduction and destruction of all kinds. Thereafter, it went on assault and destruction of educational institutions and killings of the pupils. Now, the attack has in addition gone to power sector, the economic nerve of the nation.

In Borno for example, the Boko Haram sect had once destroyed the entire Global System for Mobile Communications in Maiduguri and its environs during the administration of Governor Kashim Shettima.

As a result of the destruction, which lasted for several months the inhabitants of Maiduguri and environs had to travel most time to Benesheik, which is about 40 kilometers from Maiduguri and along Kano road or Damaturu, the Yobe State capital, to make telephone calls. In the process, some were killed, abducted or got missing.

Similarly, during the same governorship period of Shettima, the insurgents caused the destruction of electric poles and towers that led to power failure continuously for over eight months in the state capital and environs.

Within this period of destruction which led to economic down turn, the state government made frantic efforts to ensure the street lights were powered daily from 6pm to 6am to give the people some sense of safety and security. It is the view of the observers that the situation would have been terrible if these basic services were absent.

Sadly enough, the insurgents re-enacted their hostilities on the people with further severe attack on the power sector with the coming into power of Babagana Zulum through repeated destruction of electricity poles and towers.

This time, most parts of Borno Central and Borno North senatorial zones including Maiduguri, the state capital, have been in darkness for the past nine months.

The insurgents devastated the power sector in February 2021 along Maiduguri Kano road and further registered or inflicted more damages few days back destroying more towers at Garin Kuturu which is about two kilometers from Auno town, which is 15 kilometers to Maiduguri. The recent devastation came as both the federal and Borno State governments are making frantic efforts not only to restore the power, but making provision for gas plant as alternative source of power to the people.

As pointed out, the more the authorities are making efforts to restore power to the people, the more devastating moves by the insurgents to frustrate the same giving slim hope to the already depressed people.

Speaking on the orgy of destruction so far by Boko Haram in Borno in particular, and especially with regards the power supply, the president of Borno State Chapter of Chamber of Commerce Industries and Mines, Ahmed Ashemi, pointed out that with this barbaric action, Borno’s economy has further nosedived extremely downward, with petty business concerns packing up as most of them cannot afford the luxury or alternative source of power.

According to Ashemi “Even the big business sectors have a limit as they cannot be operating their generating sets at a loss.” Ashemi explained that though both the federal and Borno State governments are providing palliatives to the people, but the positive effects of such on the people are eroded by the overbearing cost of production with particular reference to absence of electricity.

The chamber president pointed out that in as much he is not opposed to the federal government’s initiative to provide gas plant to Maiduguri and environs, he would have preferred a dedicated special task force to constantly keep vigil on the sensitive areas of our power sectors to pre-empt any calculated destructive action from the enemies.

According to Ashemi, the insurgents would stop at nothing to frustrate any move to restore electricity to Borno since they have discovered the efficacy of this as a devastating weapon to weaken the people’s confidence in the government and the same time inflicting hardship on the people.

Besides, he asked ‘when shall this gas plant be ready in Borno’ considering the bureaucracy involved?

He made reference to the Mambilla hydropower project, a 3.05GW hydroelectric facility being developed on the Dongo River near Baruf, in Kakara Village of Taraba State. This project has been on the drawing board for decades.

The absence of electricity for three quarters of a year now in most parts of Borno has caused socio-economic hardships for both the government and the governed.

While most government establishments, including educational institutions, now operate with minimum hours of their generating sets, some operate at zero point as they could not afford the cost. Some of the petty businesses especially, the small printing press outfits have packed up.

Alhaji Sumaila Ashafa pointed out that he had to shut down his printing press for months as he could no longer afford the cost of production.

Even for some of the businesses that are still surviving, the cost of production becomes the consumers’ burden as this is transferred indirectly to them.

The state government on the other hand, has to bear the burden of powering generating sets or solar daily from 6pm to 6am in almost all the major and semi major streets in the state capital and environs for security reasons.

The hoteliers, restaurants now pass the burden of cost on the consumers. The cost of installation of solar system has moved up while the prices of charcoal and kerosene are becoming unbearable. A bag of charcoal that used to sell at N1, 200 now sells at N3, 000 and above while a four little of kerosene earlier sold between N750 and N1000 now goes for N2, 000 and above. The escalation of prices in all commodities is endless and becomes more burdensome and compounding in the absence of electricity.

Ironically, while some individuals or groups are disillusioned, bankrupt and falling by the wayside due to absence of electricity, other individuals or groups are smiling to their banks with boxes of naira. Sellers of generators, big or small, are raking in naira while the repairers of generating sets are counting cool money.

“The absence of electricity for three quarters of a year now in most parts of Borno has caused socio-economic hardships for both the government and the governed”

Wholesalers and retailers of generating sets along the Ahmadu Bello Way, the commercial nerve centre of Maiduguri, are counting naira in millions due to high patronage.

So are the repairers of the generators who are whelmed with unexpected customers.

Alhaji Musa Medugu, a repairer of generators along the ever busy Lagos Road could not hide his joy at the sudden turn of events. According to him “Before now, I used to make daily about three to five thousand naira, but now I make at least daily about ten thousand naira.”

In his words, “Oga, there was a day I made twenty five thousand naira gain. You know, apart from repairing spoilt generators, I service new ones.”

Similarly, are the laundries, big and small, which are getting more patronage now than before.

Alhaji Abdullahi Jato and Alhaji Makinta Abba who are washermen near a tertiary institution along Customs Road in Maiduguri, revealed that since the collapse of the grid system due to its destruction by Boko Haram, they make daily average of ten thousand naira as most students and teachers from the neighbouring schools patronize them. While the few lucky ones are laughing, the majority is in excruciating pains.

And so the unpleasant story goes on. As soon as it is night fall, most parts of Borno Central and Borno North senatorial zones go into darkness – no thanks to Boko Haram that appeared vowed that this commodity (electricity) discovered by Michael Faraday, would be illusive to us for a time.

The questions now are, when shall the people of Borno see light again? Will Boko Haram allow this? Time will tell.

Izekor, a journalist and public affairs analyst, writes from Maiduguri at victorizekor@gmail.com