Hon. Abudlrahman Terab is the member representing Bama/Ngala/Kala-Balge Federal Constituency of Borno State in the House of Representatives. His constituency is in the theater of operations of the conflict between the Boko Haram sect and the Nigerian military. In this interview with Levinus Nwabughiogu, he narrates the horrible story of insurgents’ attacks on his Bama Community and beyond.
How has the Boko Haram insurgency affected your constitutency?
The experience is agonizing and one that is very sad. It was never envisaged before now. These things that our people used to see on the TV happening in some parts of the world are all of a sudden around us. But beyond that our current situation is one where schools no longer exist. Students cannot identify themselves as students. Teachers cannot identify themselves as teachers and cannot dare go to where school locations are. The existing structures have all been completely burnt down. And our economic activities have been brought down not just because there is sense of insecurity but because specifically, market and economic hubs have been targeted, burnt down, peoples’ assets have been specifically targeted and burnt down. So, clearly, it makes people that have invested a lot over a long period of time to be helpless. Now, food, all of a sudden is becoming luxury because in the last two years, farming activities have dropped down drastically to less than 20 percent, and knowing full well that the major preoccupation of the entire people of that area is farming. Over 90% of people last year could not even farm. Those who were able to get to the farms to cultivate were not allowed to harvest at the end of the day. So, we are in the most critical stage of the crises. The issues of hospitals and other services are luxury. In any case, I think now issues of crime are no longer reported because you can’t find a standing police station that’s ready to listen to complaints and take them up. Every murder is considered a Bolo Haram case. None is being investigated and none is receiving attention. So, just imagine how dire our situation is. It has come to its knees and that’s the reason why we are crying out that anything beyond this is anarchy on its own. People are losing, have lost and may never have confidence in government again. Of course, there is growing migration out of our areas to other areas, the neighboring ones and even far places.
How many casualties would you say that your constituency has recorded?
Within my constituency alone, we are already rolling into thousands, only within my constituency of 3 local governments, but of course, if we are talking about the neigbouring local governments and the whole of the state, between the beginning of the crisis and now, I think we are running into hundreds of thousands. That’s the fact of the matter. Of course, we know that everything that is being reported even in the media is not the actual figure and we do not have such proper measures that will take the proper account of casualties and those who die in the hospitals afterwards due to the same crisis. The fact of the matter is that millions of lives are being threatened now, first by hunger, second economy and third by the act of terror itself. You can see that the situation is in dire need of a drastic action.
To what extent has the state of emergency declared by the Federal Government helped?
Let me be frank with you. We cannot laugh about corruption, joke or celebrate it. This affects the pronouncement of the declaration of the state of emergency. What did we do afterwards? We just stopped at the declaration. We declared and we think that by magic, declaration will solve the problem. Declaration requires some basic ingredients, commitment. As a matter of fact, declaration of emergency in any situation means suspension of everything other thing and then tackling that particular thing. If you declare emergency in education, it means you are suspending every other thing to put all of your resources, manpower, energy and time on that issue so that it is tackled before you now reverse back to other things. We have to appreciate the meaning and context of declaration of state of emergency. We have declared state of emergency in security but we are still busy flying about, celebrating, looking at other things. So, it does not actually capture the essence of the declaration. We have not as a nation appreciated the extent of this crisis.
Are you saying that the military action so far has not paid off?
You see that’s where I have the dividing line. The military men on the ground are also ordinary Nigerians who are saddled with the responsibility of defending the nation at the grassroots level. These guys are performing more than wonderful because they have truly given their lives. You cannot take that away from them. And I want to know any Nigerian that is giving his life apart from the soldiers on the ground. These people are giving their lives with the least of equipment that they can afford to do the battle with. But what we are saying is that as a nation, we only want to believe that whatever is available to them is adequate without understanding what they are up against. So, it is very, very important. But my worry is not even the present onslaught but the tempo. They will go, hit hard and then we sit down and forget. Playing to the gallery This requires a concerted effort from the beginning to the end. It is not over until it is over or else we will still be playing to the gallery.
Recently, the Senate asked the Chief of Army Staff to relocate to the region. Do you think that move will help?
Beyond even the Chief of Army Staff relocating, it requires the president himself to show concern, to be there presently to see the people. Our soldiers are dying. So don’t think it is only Mallams that are being killed. No. It is every Nigerian from every part. If you go to Bama, you find soldiers from every part of this country: Lagos to Port Harcourt down to Aba. You find sons and daughters of every part of this country serving there. Please, we should not be so myopic to believe that other people’s lives are not as important as ours.