… As Roads Closures Lock Down Residents, Fuel Prices, Fares Rise
Guardian: FOR residents of Borno State, particularly Maiduguri, the state capital, and environs, life is beginning to take a new shape as a result of the state of emergency imposed on the state, as well as Adamawa and Yobe by President Goodluck Jonathan last month.
Apart from finding it difficult to communicate with the rest of the country following the shut down of communication networks by the security agencies, the haulage of cattle, sheep, goats, smoked fish and other basic food items from the state to other parts of the country, and vice versa, has been disrupted since the declaration of emergency rule on Tuesday, May 14, this year as a result of Boko Haram insurgency.
Due to the imposition of dusk to dawn curfew in Maiduguri metropolis and road closures, market prices have increase as much as 150
The closures of the Maiduguri-Bama and Maiduguri-Damboa roads by the Joint Task Force (JTF) and Military Special Operations Forces (MSOF) to prevent the fleeing Boko Haram terrorists from their Sambisa Games Reserve Forests (SGRF) base have also locked down many residents of Bama, Gwoza, Konduga, Chibok, Damaboa and as far as Biu, about 187 kilometres south of Maiduguri.
Borno State, according to the Commissioner of Trade, Investment and Tourism, Dr. Asabe Villita Bashir, supplied over 75 per cent of fresh water and smoked fish to central and southern parts of Nigeria before the emergency rule last month.
Already, residents of Maiduguri are hard hit, as they have been cut off from the rest of the country, as two of the six major roads into the metropolis remain inaccessible to motorists and other truck drivers from the Lake Chad Basin areas.
Dahiru Ibrahim, chairman of Bama road chapter of National Union of Roads Transport Workers (NURTW), yesterday said: “Residents, including our drivers and passengers, have also become incommunicado since the last month when the military ordered the shutdown of MTN, Globacom, Airtel and Etisalat mobile telephone services in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states to limit communication among Boko Haram insurgents, including their collaborators and financiers, and their ability to launch fresh attacks and killings at Alau Dam, Ansarudeen Secondary School, Maiduguri.
He said the closure of roads by the JTF under the emergency rule in Borno and Yobe states have also caused the non-supply of vegetables and other essential food items, such as fruits, milk and eggs to the Maiduguri Monday Market (MMM) and other markets in the town.
Vegetables and other essential food items are supplied from the outskirts of the metropolis, from Damboa, Lake Chad Basin areas, Jos and Baga, which was recently attacked by the Boko Haram insurgents on April 16, leading to the death of over 50 people and destruction of property.
The scarcity of vegetables, milk and eggs has led to soaring prices of the essentials as much as 100 per cent at the major markets in the town.
A market survey Friday at the Maiduguri Monday Market (MMM) also showed that the prices of tomatoes, onions and pepper have shot up by 100 per cent, with a plastic container of tomatoes that used to sell at N100 a few days ago now selling for N200.
A 50-kilogramme bag of onions now sells for N20, 000, as against N10, 000 a few days ago, while the price of a crate of eggs has shot up to N1, 500, as against the old price of N850.
The scarcity and sharp rise in prices have forced many housewives, who could not cope with the new price regime, to resort to cooking with dried vegetables of okra, spinach, garlic, meat and fish supplied from the local fishponds of farmers in Maiduguri.
A military source said the closure of roads leading into Maiduguri was to facilitate the manhunt of fleeing insurgents escaping from their camps, which are under surveillance and attack.
The source added: “The closure of the roads leading into the city of Maiduguri and the indefinite shutdown of the mobile networks were inevitable to prevent the fleeing, but wounded insurgents from escaping from their destroyed training camps and hideout bases in central and northern parts of Borno State.
“The locals, including residents of the metropolis, have to bear the inconveniences of travelling to relations and other destinations outside Maiduguri.
“We are getting them (insurgents) on an hourly basis, as about 20 terrorists were arrested last Sunday and more are being arrested at the various military posts at the closed roads.”
The Guardian also learn that over 2, 560 residents of the borders towns of Gamboru/Ngala, Damasak and Banki in Borno State, as well as Geidam and Yunusari in Yobe State have fled, alongside the terrorists to Differ and Bosso in Niger and Chad Republic, respectively.
Residents, farmers and transporters, including top government officials in Borno State, yesterday expressed mix feelings on the emergency rule, lamenting that they have been locked up and cut off from their residences, farmlands and the outside world, following the shutdown of four Global System of Mobile Communications (GSM) networks and the two major roads by JTF and MSOF.
The measures adopted by the soldiers, according to the affected residents, have made life more “difficult and frustrating,” as all the means of communications and commuting to family members and business associates within and outside the state are blocked or cut off completely for 38 days running.
Even farmers living in the Lake Chad Basin areas and communities along the two closed roads have been unable go to their farmlands to till and plant their crops this season, fearing arrest by the soldiers for defying the closures.
A farmer in Konduga, Ishaku Yuguda, who owns a 50-hectre farmland on the Maiduguri-Damaboa road, said: “I am afraid, and I cannot risk my life and those of other family members, along with other farm workers to go to my farmland and commence land preparations and planting.
“See this road, it has been closed by soldiers since last month. My fears and apprehension are that once you are sighted plying the foot paths and other desert tracks to a farmland or collecting firewood, you could be arrested by the soldiers for defying the roads closures.”
Asked whether the emergency rule has improved the security of life and property, he said: “It has not, oga, because the means of livelihoods of farmers and transporters are killed or blocked, as none of us can go to our farmlands to work on them this planting season.
“The stock of grains has run down. Some of us had to sell them to survive, as we are not expecting any harvest this year.
“Our future and means of livelihoods have been frustrated with the shutdown of communication by JTF and closure of two major roads in Borno State.”
He stated as much as the soldiers are hunting down the fleeing terrorists by disrupting their communications to attack, the security measures have already caused more hardships among farmers and transporters that make a living from the cultivation and haulage of goods and services within and outside the state.
“But since the emergency rule, transporters ply the illegal routes and desert tracks by doubling or tripling their taxi and bus fares.
“The Gwoza-Maiduguri fare that was pegged at N500 before the emergency rule has been increased to N2, 000 by drivers,” he lamented, while expressing fears of looming food shortages in the state.
In the neighbouring Yobe State, the story was not different. The state chairman of NURTW, Alhaji Husaini Mohammed, told The Guardian in Damaturu, the state capital, yesterday that residents and commuters were paying the price of emergency rule through their noses.
Such prices, he said, “cuts across members of the public, who have to travel 200 kilometres to make or receive calls from relations, friends or business associates at Dagauda, Tashan Gadu and Akko in Bauchi State.
“Some of us here in Damaturu and Potiskum have to fuel our vehicles to make calls at towns and villages in neighbouring states where there is no emergency rule, with each of us spending about N5, 000 on fueling alone, just to make calls and get in touch with loved one and business associates. It has been so for almost 38 days now.”
The emergency rule has not only cut off many residents, but primary and secondary activities that were carried out in the evenings have also been suspended indefinitely by the state authorities, even before the imposition of emergency rule.
The suspended activities include sports and games among pupils and students, evening classes and debates by school clubs and associations.
Reacting to emergency rule, the Executive Chairman of Borno State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB), Prof. Tijjani Abba Ali, said the suspension of evening school activities had become inevitable to protect the lives of pupils and students at the schools premises and roads.
He said: “We cannot guarantee the safety of our students under this emergency rule imposed by the federal government, so precautionary measures had to be taken.
“Once the students attend their morning and afternoon classes, no one is allowed to come to the school premises for any evening school activities or lessons.
“I want all parents and guardians to bear the inconveniences until the emergency rule is over and peace restored in Maiduguri metropolis and the state in general.”
He also assured that security measures would be taken along, with the emergency rule, by providing security guards in each of the primary and secondary schools in state.
For residents of the state, relative peace may be returning to the state, but they have to bear the inconveniences and comes with it, at least for now.