By Sunday Attah
On a good day, no one could have convinced me to travel to the Northeastern part of Nigeria again, after what I had seen in my last visit to the region in 2014.
The destruction of infrastructural facilities was so devastating that most of the big towns and communities in the region could not remember the last time they had electricity or pipe borne water, while communication was so frustrating that people prefer to hide their phones.
Reception on all networks had become extremely poor due to the downing of telecom masts and other equipment by the insurgents that only few places get infrequent services.
Roads became impassable as bridges were blown off by the terrorists while people fear to venture out of their houses for fear of terrorists’ attacks.
The humanitarian catastrophe was equally horrifying as people ran away from their homes to take shelter anywhere they consider safe enough to hide them for a day.
People were crammed in little spaces in IDP camps after abandoning their homes and means of livelihood while living on handouts with various degrees of psychological hurts.
The sight of hungry children who could not go to school nor have decent baths and change their clothes as they would wish was ubiquitous but pathetic.
Much as the horrifying images were ingrained in my memory, I was happy I took the challenge to participate in the ongoing tour put together by the Global Amnesty Watch to the Northeast region, as the trip has restored my hope in Nigeria and convinced me that with the right leadership, no amount of challenge is insurmountable.
People talk about Rwanda and how it was able to get back to its feet in few years after the unfortunate war that engulfed the country, and I had hoped to visit Kigali one day, to see the transformation that Paul Kagame was able to bring about to the hitherto war- torn country.
Little did I know that something similar and of significant proportion was also happening in Nigeria.
During my first trip to the Northeast which was sponsored by an international non governmental organization in 2014 and under very tight security, I had concluded that either Nigeria was about to wave certain parts of its territory away or it is doomed to accord it a special status as an irredeemable component because of the level of damage by the insurgents.
Based on the level of devastation then, I had predicted it would take 20 years minimum for the Northeast to get back to square one if it is to ever recover from the losses it suffered in the hands of Boko Haram.
This was the time when it was estimated that 1.2 million people cannot be reached by the humanitarian community despite all efforts and the region is said to account for nearly 60 per cent of the 13 million out-of-school children in Nigeria.
But I have been informed in the course of this visit that the current administration has taken the task of rebuilding the Northeast with unassailable seriousness and what I have seen on this trip has more than confirmed that.
The Presidential Committee on the North East Initiative – PCNI established by President Buhari to serve as the primary national strategy, coordination and advisory body for all humanitarian interventions, transformational and developmental efforts in the Northeast I was told has gone great length in delivering its remedial services to communities and helping many to get back on their feet.
This initiative by Mr. President has brought succour to the area and has put the smile back on the faces of many residents.
The setting up of the North-East Development Commission (NEDC) to assess, coordinate, harmonize and report on all intervention programs, and initiatives by the Federal Government has also contributed to the success story.
The current administration through an agency for example was reported to have set up an Education Endowment Fund worth N6 billion aimed at resuscitating the region’s devastated education sector and rebuild human capital as well as provide an avenue for the engagement of over 20,000 beneficiaries across the region annually.
The establishment of the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development by the President has also helped to reach the masses with various forms of humanitarian services.
But the military from all indications has been the most supportive of the efforts of the President.
Apart from combat engagements that have driven out the insurgents and secured the region for citizens, the military was the first to engage in humanitarian services by helping family members reunite and return to their homes.
The military was the first to issue out first aid medical services to the sick and even give out food from their supplies.
They also removed all the road blocks mounted by the insurgents that made the routes along Damaturu – Maiduguri and Maiduguri-Monguno axis impassable.
The military has also contributed in rebuilding some of the blown off foot bridges in communities making it easy for people to reconnect to their farms.
This is apart from the university, colleges and other supportive institutions built by the army. The university with its magnificent building and structure for instance has changed the Biu landscape and transformed it from a semi urban settlement to a beautiful city.
The constant repelling of attacks on communities by the military has frustrated the insurgents but made it conducive for normal life to return to the region.
The result of these interventions are today very glaring in the region as basic infrastructure are being rebuilt with water and power supply being restored to major towns and communities.
Schools are being rehabilitated and constructed with emphasis on quality education while medical care has also been enhanced with building and equipping of health facilities.
With what I have seen so far after my visit to only three out of the six states in the region, I’m beginning to believe that some of the negative reports being put in the press are deliberately done by some organisations to secure donor funding.
Otherwise I don’t see how all the developments taking place in the Northeast could escape being in the public domain like the negative reports we are daily being assailed with.
It is now glaring that within 5 years, President Buhari has done so much for our country and the President deserves to be appreciated even more.
Attah is a civil rights activist and change campaign writing from Potiskum.