By Governor Babagana Umara Zulum
Our dear people of Borno, at this important occasion of marking the beginning of the New Year, it is important to share information with you as part of our accountability to you. Regular clear communication provides an opportunity to let everyone know the direction of leadership so that citizens, partners and friends of Borno State would have a good understanding of what we have done, what we are doing and the direction we plan to take in the important responsibility of rebuilding our economy, rebuilding lives and livelihoods as a whole.
We must be very clear that there can be no livelihoods without lives. We continue to work tirelessly on issues of security so that we can guaranty physical security that would allow citizens to pursue their legitimate livelihoods in safety. In 2021, we took a number of steps to improve and strengthen security by supporting our forces including the vigilantes with tools, equipment and resources to discharge their duties well. The results of our proactive measures are beginning to show as we recorded fewer attacks and the security forces did marvelously well in protecting us. We are not yet where we would like to be but we are certainly making progress in the right direction. Consequently, I am committed to ensuring more support for our security forces and the indefatigable local vigilantes that are helping us.
Part of our strategy for strengthening resilience is the bold step that we took in closing down the internally displaced persons’ camps in Borno State as a whole. Although we have explained in details the reasons behind the action, for the sake of clarity, I will summarize as follows:
1. We closed the IDP camps to clean up the places and give our people dignity as well as purpose. Living in IDP camp is not what we are used to, or what we like as a people. Therefore, we believe that a safe life of dignity is a right for all the citizens of Borno, and indeed Nigeria.
2. The IDP camps were becoming a slum where all kinds of vices were happening including prostitution, drugs and thuggery in some cases. No responsible leadership will allow people to live an undignified life under its watch.
3. The idea of IDP camp was, and remains an interim measure to provide safety especially during the peak of the insurgency. Consequently, the camps were not meant to continue forever. The question of closure of the camp was not a matter of IF but when. Efficient managers would agree that there is no better time than now to get things done. As part of the closure, we continue to learn lessons, adapt our strategy and make necessary changes as we go along. The worst option would be to do nothing. We are not prepared to do nothing. Rather we are ready to do whatever it takes to restore the dignity of our people.
4. Keeping the camp open endlessly is not sustainable. This is because it becomes difficult to plan effectively for a dignified economic and social development of the people. The IDP camps would also eventually become too expensive to run with a possibility of causing far more harm than good. Take for example there are many potential difficulties one would expect if we chose the option of converting the camps to permanent structures for the people. If we succeed in building permanent structures, we need to ensure people have access to land, as many of our people are farmers.
We followed the best practices from around the world in the process of closing the camps. We will continue to listen to all well-meaning citizens, partners and friends who have ideas and suggestions to improve on the efforts that we are putting into this process. It is important to emphasise that the closure of the camps is not a political decision. It is a pragmatic action. Our administration puts the Borno people first in every decision. Our people remain the centrepiece of our strategy. We are aware that there would be some temporary inconvenience to people as they relocate. That is why we provide different palliative measures to strengthen their initial installation and stability in the new location. In our plans we have made for short, medium and long term measures to support our people returning their original places of origin where we can guaranty safety. We know that the return strategy would like have some issues we need to address or things we need to change. We will not abandon our people as we continue to work for the betterment of all.
Ahead of this New Year, I had on December 30, 2021, presented the budget of Borno State to the State House of Assembly. The budget is readily available for your information and I invite you to read it to understand what we plan to do in this 2022. We have put significant emphasis on education. You will notice this in percentage terms as Education takes the biggest part of the budget figures. Let me reassure you that other sectors are also strongly under focus and we plan to do more in agriculture, health, security and infrastructure. We will continue to modernize Borno State from the biggest towns to the smallest communities.
Talking about infrastructure development, in 2022, we will continue to open up our rural communities by working on selected roads, and making lives better in our local government areas. I am convinced that better life in rural communities will translate to improvement in security and well-being of our people. What is good for the state capital is good for the remotest community of Borno.
Let me take this opportunity to appreciate the overwhelming support that we have enjoyed from all the people of Borno State and, indeed the recognition from other well-meaning Nigerians all over. Unfortunately, I have read with dismay certain comments in which some people compare our efforts with what other leaders are doing in their respective states in Nigeria. I wish to make it clear that our determination to work tirelessly for the people of Borno State should not be seen as anything of a surprise. Borno State suffered the most from the insurgency with so much carnage and damage to lives and livelihoods. Our peculiar situation in Borno State basically means that if we are not focused, we would have a significant Gulf in development to catch up with. I therefore humbly appeal to all well-meaning Nigerians not to compare leadership without taking into consideration the different realities that we face in our respective States. I have no doubt at all that each state is working according to their respective plans and the urgency of their situation.
Finally, as we enter this New Year 2022, I pray the Almighty Allah to grant us the wisdom to lead well, to be even more accountable and give us lasting peace in Borno State. For the citizens, we solicit for your continued support and understanding. Every decision that I make is always in the best interest of the State of Borno. Some decisions will yield immediate results while others may take some time to mature. We can cite examples of the roads and other infrastructure that we have completed whereas the work on finding lasting solutions to our electricity challenge is still going on. You will recall that I commissioned the start of the Borno State independent power plant on Thursday 30th September, 2021 by 11.00am in the morning. I keep track of projects and I keep track of the timeline for delivery. The work is still going on and it is on schedule to be delivered according to the timeline we agreed. Improved electricity supplies will improve the economic activities of our dear state.
I take this opportunity to appreciate President Muhammadu Buhari, the Federal Government of Nigeria, international partners, the private sectors, our traditional leaders and friends of Borno State who have supported us strongly from the beginning. I thank very sincerely, the military, the police, our vigilantes and local hunters who have been making progress in the area of security. We must recognize the support of our entire team and the dedication with which they have been working. Thank you very much indeed. In 2022, I challenge you to do more for Borno State.
It is important to close this information session by assuring you that we will not be distracted by all kinds of speculations about the 2023 elections. There are those who work for elections and there are those who work for legacies. Our administration is committed to giving our best by keeping the promises we made for the current mandate. The serious business of working for the people of Borno State is enough occupation for us, as I believe that there is time and space for everything.
As you enjoy the holiday period, please be vigilant, be safe and keep all hygiene protocols to protect yourselves and your families.
Thank you and Happy New Year to you all.
Professor Babagana Umar Zulum
Governor of Borno State.
January 1, 2022.