By Yusuf Alli, Managing Editor, Northern Operation
The affected local government areas include Konduga, Bama, Kala/Balge, Ngala, Monguno, Mafa, Dikwa, Gwoza, Damboa, Magumeri and Kukawa.
The rest are Mobbar, Abadam and Marte, Guzamala, Kaga and Nganzai.
Most parts of the 17 LGAs come under the deadly sect’s constant attacks, except their headquarters where many have relocated to.
Farming, the main occupation of the residents, has become extremely difficult to practice beyond one kilometre of the local government headquarters.
But the remaining seven local government areas, mostly in Southern Borno, enjoy relative peace brought about by the success of the anti-insurgency operations.
The military have identified three notorious corridors where Boko Haram and ISWAP elements operate from.
The dark spots are the Sambisa Forest, the Mandara Mountains, and Lake Chad fringes.
Consequent upon the severity of the insurgency, most of the senators, members of the House of Representatives and State legislators find it difficult to visit their constituents.
Some of the lawmakers have relocated their families from Maiduguri to either Abuja or other cities in the North.
President Muhammadu Buhari told the North-East governors at his recent meeting with them in Abuja on the security challenge in the geo-political zone that he would “take actions which will make a difference.”
The protest was originally scheduled for last Thursday in Abuja.
Investigation by our correspondent revealed that the Shehu of Borno, Governor Babagana Zulum and other Borno elders decided to cry out to President Buhari because of alleged ‘sliding’ of the war against Boko Haram.
Although the troops in the frontline have recorded appreciable success in other states in the North-East, only the security situation in Borno State (the main theatre) has become hydra-headed.
The war against insurgency has been ‘relatively won’ in Gombe, Bauchi and Taraba states.
The relapse of the counter-insurgency war in Borno has put the state on the edge, leading to shuttles being made to President Buhari.
According to findings, nine local government areas of the state, including Maiduguri and Jere, have had reprieve from Boko Haram because of the gains of the counter-insurgency operations.
The remaining seven local government areas in Southern Borno with peace and where people freely go to farms are Biu, Hawul, Kwaya Kusar, Shani, Bayo and parts of Askira/Uba and Chibok.
It was also gathered that four of the 17 local governments under guerilla attacks by Boko Haram insurgents have been practically deserted by the people, leaving only troops to be in charge.
The four local governments are Kukawa, Mobbar, Abadam and Marte, which now have military bases and outposts.
A reliable source, who spoke in confidence, said: “The insurgency situation in Borno State is critical, and this is why our leaders are crying out.
“The President knows we love him so much, but the relapse of the counter-insurgency war has reached an intolerable level.
“At least 17 out of 27 local government areas are unsafe because of intermittent attacks and killings by Boko Haram insurgents.
“In these 17 local governments, no one can go manage any farm beyond one kilometre outside the headquarters of each council.
“For our people whose mainstay is farming, you can evaluate our precarious situation. We are on the edge. Our people are starving, if not for food supply by the administration of Governor Babagana Zulum.
“Out of the three senatorial districts, it is only in the Borno South Senatorial District that there is relative peace in seven local governments.
“It is this frustrating condition that made Governor Babagana Zulum and the Shehu of Borno, Abubakar Ibn Umar Garba and other leaders to cry out.
“Our plea was not meant to ridicule the administration of President Buhari but to let him know that the gains made from counter-insurgency war are being eroded.
“Our son, Gen. Yusuf Buratai, is the Chief of Army Staff. We have no grudges against him and other service chiefs. He has tried in coordinating the war and we are proud of him.
“But the war is sliding. We cannot keep quiet. We need to rescue our people from Boko Haram bondage.
“Fatigue has set in for some officers and troops. Some of them are now fish and cattle merchants in Baga. It is a complicated business between troops and some agents of Boko Haram living in Baga.
“We were also shocked that the convoy of Governor Zulum was ambushed for commenting on the deteriorating security situation.
“We had planned to stage a massive protest in Abuja on Thursday but the intervention by the President made us to suspend it.”
Another highly-placed source said Borno elders and elite believe that the war against Boko Haram is winnable.
The source said: “This war can be won within a month or two. Chad demonstrated this by dealing with them in less than one week. We can do better than Chad.
“We have discovered that these insurgents operate from three corridors, namely Sambisa Forest, Mandara Mountains and Lake Chad fringes.
“These insurgents do not even have the numbers. That is why they have been conscripting teenagers. We need more troops to overwhelm them, the right weapons and aerial bombardments.
“Above all, we must sustain the tempo with which we started the war which decimated Boko Haram.”
The source said most lawmakers from the state have not been able to visit their constituents because of the security challenges in the state.
“As it is now, most members of the House of Representatives and State House of Assembly cannot visit their constituencies. They cannot execute any empowerment programme.
“The few lawmakers coming to their constituents are the Whip of the House of Representatives, Hon. M. T. Monguno; Sen. Kashim Shettima (a former governor of the state); Sen. Ali Ndume and Hon. Zainab Gimba (Bama/ Ngala/Kala/Balge Constituency).”
Notwithstanding the anxiety of Borno leaders, there was a ray of hope during the week when the President met with the North-East governors in Abuja.
One of those in attendance said: “The President told the governors that he would make a difference this time around with the actions he would take.
“He said there would be more arms and ammunition. He assured them repeatedly that he would protect lives and properties.
“He was not too forthcoming on the difference but we believe he is up to the task.”
No LG under insurgents’ control, says Army
However, the military has faulted claims that 17 local government areas in Borno State are unsafe.
“It is not a fair statement, it is not objective at all,” the Director of Army Public Relations, Col. Sagir Musa, said when contacted.
He added: “Although people are entitled to their opinion, there is no local government area in Borno State that is under the effective control of the insurgents.
“Nobody is saying that we don’t have remnants of Boko Haram insurgents but to say that they are in control of any local government is false, uncharitable and unfair to the patriotic troops in the warfront.
“The military is doing its best to win the war. It cannot be distracted by some people who have other agenda than ending the Boko Haram insurgency.
“Without waiting for some equipment from abroad, the Nigerian Army Engineer Corps, Theatre Command of Operation Lafiya Dole (OPLD), has started local production of Mines Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP)
“We know it is the government some of these people are trying to blackmail, but it is convenient for them to attack the military.
“They know the military is about to win the war. Some of these people now face the reality of accounting for what they did with Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs).”
He said the counter-insurgency war in Borno State has raised some issues which Nigerians should pay attention to.
Musa said: “The question Nigerians should ask is: Why is the security situation in Yobe, Bauchi, Adamawa and Gombe different from Borno State?
“These states are different from Borno because the basic conditions or facilities to assist in winning the war are absent.
“There is no semblance of governance or civil authority in Borno State. No cross-country roads, no inter-state roads, no intra-local government roads. Some terrains are not easily accessible by troops because there are no road networks.
“Even some roads constructed by DFFRI many years ago have become dilapidated and not repaired. It is only federal roads that are better.
“How many local government roads do they have? There is no road linking the state capital to some of these local governments and war fronts. From Binisheik, you cannot go to Gubio without making a 360 degree movement.
“If you are going to Kala/ Balge, you may miss your way and enter into Cameroon or Boko Haram enclave. With the situation now, you cannot go to Abadam and Malam Fatori.
“Nigerians need to understand the conditions under which troops are operating in Borno State.
Responding to a question on why only four local government areas are being occupied by troops, Musa said: “Is it the Service Chiefs that will go and bring people to occupy the areas?
“In some of these areas, there are no amenities, no market, no health facilities, no schools and no motor-parks which can encourage these people to return to their towns and villages.
“We cannot manufacture people.” (Nation)