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.
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 arriving Wednesday.” Bama is the one of the worst affected areas, and we will move from here to other parts of the state.”
Boko Haram destroyed around 80% of Bama’s residences, said Isa Gusau, a spokesperson 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.