The governor of Nigeria’s northeast Borno state is making a symbolic relocation to a town recently occupied by Boko Haram extremists, declaring that “We cannot wait forever before we reclaim our destiny.”
The region is trying to recover after months, even years, of occupation as the extremists slowly lose control of some areas. But danger remains.
Boko Haram occupied the town of Bama in September 2014 before Nigerian troops recaptured it in March 2015.
The town is 70 kilometers (45 miles) southeast of Maiduguri, Borno’s capital, and the area remains vulnerable. In July, the U.N. suspended aid missions in the area after extremists attacked an aid convoy traveling from Bama.
Borno Governor Kashim Shettima said he was committed to rebuilding infrastructure in Bama that was decimated in repeated attacks.
“My office is here now,” he said after his 20-vehicle convoy arrived Wednesday. “Bama is the one of the worst-affected areas, and we will move from here to other parts of the state.”
He did not say how long he would use the town as a base.
Around 80 percent of Bama’s residences were destroyed by Boko Haram, said Isa Gusau, a spokesman for Shettima’s office
Dire conditions persist throughout Borno state, despite the military’s success in curtailing Boko Haram’s seven-year insurgency, which has killed some 20,000.
In June, Doctors Without Borders reported that nearly 200 refugees from areas held by the extremist group had died of starvation and dehydration in Bama. The aid group warned that “a catastrophic humanitarian emergency” was unfolding at a makeshift camp on a hospital compound housing more than 20,000 people.
Meanwhile, violence continues. In the latest incident, two soldiers were killed and four wounded in a gunfight with Boko Haram insurgents in northern Borno, army spokesman Col. Sani Kukasheka Usman said Friday.