By: Our Correspondent
BORNO, North-East, Nigeria – The Borno State Governor, Professor Babagana Zulum, said the choice of Damasak for the first retreat of his administration for Commissioners, Special Advisers and other Senior Government Officials was to bring them face to face with the realities on ground and also remind them that their appointments were not opportunities for luxury but for the serious task ahead.
He stated this in his opening remarks at the retreat currently holding in Damasak, headquarters of Mobbar Local Government Area in northern Borno, on Saturday, October 19, 2019.
According to him, by tradition, retreats are held in the most serene and oftentimes, luxurious environments, however added that holding retreats under serene atmosphere is reserved for those who live and operate under normal circumstances.
“Fellow members of the state executive council, I will like to remind us very strongly that our circumstances in Borno State are not normal. If we decide to hold our retreat in Maiduguri, Abuja or perhaps at Obudu Cattle Ranch in Cross Rivers State, we may not be totally true to ourselves and sensitive to the plights of our people.
“The wisdom of convening this retreat in Damasak, headquarters of Mobbar Local Government area in the most troubled northern part of Borno State, is to bring all of us, face to face with the realities of our challenges in Borno.
“Driving from Maiduguri to this place, we have passed major towns like Gubio and Kareto which have become near ghosts of what they used to be. We have seen villages that are without human occupation. We have seen on the road, soldiers at different points, clearly indicating that all is not normal with Borno.
“Damasak, where we are today, used to be one of Borno’s agro-economic centres. Damasak used to be a large scale producer and exporter of farm produce like tomatoes, pepper and other vegetables.
“Thousands of wealthy farmers and transporters, other fellow citizens have been killed, displaced to Niger Republic and forced to become beggars. We are here to remind ourselves that the oath of offices we differently took in May, June, August and September, 2019 is not for luxury.
“Borno has serious challenges and we have individually sworn with the Holy Qur’an and the Holy Bible to do whatever we can in trying to address the challenges facing Borno State,” the Governor said.
Zulum also tasked the commissioners, advisers and other participants to see Damasak as an example that tells the realities of the 27 Local Government Areas in the state. He also said time-lines were going to be created for the attainment of goals determined at the retreat.
“At this retreat, ladies and gentlemen, we shall not only come up with ideas that are achievable but insha’Allah, we shall be setting for ourselves time-lines within which we are to achieve every goal we aim.
“We are here to spend only few days in Damasak but there are thousands of our fellow brothers and sisters, fathers and mothers, who live here on permanent basis. We are here to feel their stay and to remind us of their needs for continued safety; their needs for shelter; their needs for medical care; their needs for water; their needs for schools; their needs for means of livelihoods.
“When we drove into this lodge, we saw hundreds of our young sons and daughters welcoming us happily. We saw wives, sisters, mothers and fathers joining them welcome us. Whereas they all wore happy faces, we know that majority of them are in distress. We should therefore regard Damasak as an example of the realities facing all of our 27 LGAs, particularly those in northern Borno,” he charged.
Speaking earlier, Secretary to the State Government, (SSG), Usman Shuwa, said the retreat for which he commended the Governor’s ingenious choice of location, was meant for top government officials to cross fertilize ideas towards better service delivery in line with the Governor’s vision and approach to governance.
Damasak as it were, hitherto has been a major agricultural community in the fringes of the Lake Chad less than 10 kilometres away from Diffa in Niger Republic, and was occupied and administered by Boko Haram from November, 2014 to 2016 before it was recovered by multinational forces. It also had come under repeated attacks including early this year. Thousands of citizens who live there mostly depend on food aid and skeletal businesses.