By Lawan Bukar Maigana
“Home is wherever you leave everything you love, and never question that it will be there when you return.” – Leo Christopher
My two-week stay in Borno after being away for a year has exposed me to some of Governor Babagana Umara Zulum’s developmental projects across the Maiduguri Metropolitan Council. I have seen the ongoing reconstruction and construction of quality drainages and roads. The expansion of roads at Monday Market, Bulabulin Alinkotoko and Gwange Areas, among other places in the metropolis, is commendable and timely. It has been long overdue. There would be no traffic jams when the projects are completed, and people will have easy mobility within the metropolis.
The state capital has however been in total blackout for the past two years since the destruction of utility poles along Damaturu road by the Boko Haram murderers. It is on record that the governor has spent a lot of resources on restoring electricity in the town, but all efforts have been consistently sabotaged by the terrorists. Their defeat and displacement have however supported the restoration of light in parts of the metropolis.
My neighbour told me that they enjoy a minimum of 4-hour power supply daily. That is far better than being in a total blackout which the people endured for years.
“They mostly restore electricity after Magrib and interrupt it before midnight. That is how we manage it,” he said.
However, I have heard many people bitterly complaining about the high rate of unemployment that is becoming a threat to the fragile peace of the state. The state has limited opportunities for youth. It is said that criminal activities likely thrive in places where a larger population of youths are restive and jobless. Therefore, Governor Zulum should introspect and start focusing on job creation.
My interaction with some young people has made me realise that opportunities are limited in Maiduguri at the moment. One of them told me that even becoming a labourer is now not an easy task. According to him, the only sustainable and reliable job is tricycling.
The very day I got to Maiduguri, I saw campaign banners and posters everywhere courtesy of young people who were either hungry for power for the sake of it or living off godfathers. That is not bad, but it would have been better to invest their youthful energy and time in more productive ventures like learning a craft, acquiring a skill or doing business, each of which can stand the test of time.
The state government has invested a lot in infrastructural projects which are spread across the state. However, Borno needs a lot of investments in human capital if the state must recover from the many years of destruction caused by the Boko Haram sect.
In terms of business, the economy is struggling. Families have accused marketers, especially foodstuff sellers, of overpricing. They accused them of hiding under the exchange rate in the country to unjustly increase the price of goods and services in the state. They want the market authorities and state government to work together to ensure that marketers stick to the prices of goods without any corrupt changes.
This is another opportunity to recall that the immediate past governor of the state, Senator Kashim Shettima, put about seven production firms in different parts of the state, and they were meant to create jobs, eradicate poverty and generate revenue for the government.
The plants include Tomato Plant, Garri Plant, Water line Plant, Solar Panel Plant, Onion Dehydration Plant, Corn Chips Plant, Plastic Plant and others. Out of all the plants, only the plastic plant is functional, and it has created jobs for an appreciable number of youths in the state.
Aside from these plants, the state has other abandoned industrial establishments that can help generate revenues for the state as well as create job opportunities for youths. Why can’t we invest in those firms to overcome joblessness? Borno should learn from Kano, Kaduna, and other states that build firms to boost their revenue and provide jobs for their people. Borno state should not only build these factories but sustain them and take advantage of them, not abandon them.
It is high time Governor Zulum directed his attention towards the establishment and reformation of institutions that can accommodate jobless youths and give their lives meaning.
The fact that a lot of these firms are already in place, having been built by Senator Shettima, is a huge advantage for the present administration. Aside from the advantages of having those plants fully operational to the state, Governor Zulum should be more interested in sustaining the legacy of his boss and predecessor.
Lawan Bukar Maigana writes from Abuja and can be reached via email: Lawanbukarmaigana@gmail.com.