UNDP Rekindles Boko Haram-Ravaged Communities’ Hope
Several months after Hong, one of the seven local governments in Adamawa State that was overran by armed insurgents was liberated, some of the communities are yet to return to full normal life. Olufemi Adeosun, in this report, writes on the efforts of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to bring succour to the people in those areas.
One of the challenges confronting rural communities across the nation is meeting their energy needs. Remote and detached from the national grid, they labour on a daily basis to meet their energy requirements by relying on traditional methods with all their attendant environmental and health implications.
This was the untold story of the peasantry life of the people of rural communities in Hong Local Government of Adamawa State, North-East, Nigeria made worse by the insurgents, who overran them, killed some of them, razed their houses, destroyed their farmlands, forced them to seek refuge at the various Internally Displaced Persons(IDPs) camps across the nation.
However, it was a bid to help the resettlement programme of government in these liberated communities that the United Nations Development Programme(UNDP) conceived the idea of solar systems to meet the sustainable energy needs of the rural dwellers in 12 communities of Fa’a Gaya, Gaya Silkami, Garaha Mijili, Dilwachira, Gashala Mamud, Mutuku, Shashau, Garaha Lari, Garaha Banga, Kubutafa, Pella and Kwakwa.
The N192million project being undertaken by the UN agency in partnership with the Energy Commission of Nigeria (ECN), involves installation of solar PV systems/equipment for water borehole pumping, installation of off-grid solar home systems with mobile phone-charging, construction and installation of solar PV in Primary Health Centres and installation of two solar streetlight at strategic locations in the benefitting communities.
Apart from this initiative, UNDP had recently signed an agreement with the Bank of Industry, under its solar energy partnership programme for the implementation of the second phase of the pilot project which entails provision of long-term financing for the installation of off-grid solar home systems in select rural communities.
Some of the villagers who spoke to journalists during assessment tour of the twelve communities expressed gratitude to the UN agency for the project, noting that the facilities provided for them had improved their living conditions since they returned home early this year.
For instance, at Banga, a village which borders Sambisa Forest, the village head, Mr. Rufai Jotktan, narrated the life changing experience of his people.
According to him, apart from the fact the solar lamps provided for them help to safe cost being expended on kerosene lanterns, villagers now have unprecedented access to clean and uninterrupted water supply.
Also in Garaha Larh, one of the benefitting communities, Headmaster of Larh Primary School(the only surviving school in the village), Mr. Thomas Hassan, said the facilities, especially solar lamps, had helped to increase literacy level in the village. He explained that could now read for longer hours.
He said: “I must first of all place on record our gratitude to UNDP for facilities provided for us. It does not only give us sense of living, it shows that some people somewhere still care about our plights. Some of the facilities have helped in no small ways to improve the lives of the people in the communities where this project is being executed.
“For us in Gahara Larh, it has been a lifechanging experience, particularly for our children who can now have access to lamps to read for longer hours, for our women who can now have access to maternal care through the provision of solar power refrigerator for the storage of vaccines in our health centres, and for the solar borehole water facility which now enable us to have access to sustainable clean water.
Also speaking, the spokesman of the local vigilante group, known as civilian JTF, Mr. Rajan Mathair, noted that the provision of the solar streetlights had improved security system in the community, stressing that his men could now engage in light surveillance with ease.
Mathair who maintained a stoic posture to repel any future Bomo Haram attacks, said they could now sight enemies from afar through the aid of the streetlights, unlike before when insurgent lurk in the dark to unleash carnage on the communities.
The Adamawa State, Commissioner for Water Resources, Mr. Julius Kadala described the solar project as timely, adding that the lives of the people had already transformed.
On whether it is achieving the target of impacting on the lives of the people, he said,”It is really achieving that aim. Hong is the worse hit out of the seven local governments that were affected by the nefarious activities of the armed insurgents.
“The effects are so pronounced in Hong because, personal houses were burnt, government buildings razed to the ground and farm produce destroyed in large numbers. You have seen it for yourselves because you have visited the villages to have first hand information on the level of carnage perpetrated against our people.”
He, however, maintained that much was still to be done to rehabilitate the people. For instance, he said that most of the houses burnt down were yet to be reconstructed.
On why some still stay away despite efforts to rehabilitate them, he said,”A number of people are returning back to their communities.
But some of them have no house to return to. Some of them have ......no schools that their children will go back to, and some have no relations anymore to return to.
“So there are a lot challenges preventing their ultimate return. For instance, some of them still need mental rehabilitation because they are yet to overcome the psychological trauma they went through during the reign of terror.
The commissioner, who hails from one of the communities, Kwakwa, nonetheless said the UNDP solar programme, was aiding the return of some of the villagers from the IDPs camps, explaining that the communities welcome returnees on a daily basis.
He said most of the victims in various IDPs in the state were from the state, arguing that most of them came from Cameroon and neighboring state, like Borno.
The Director, Energy linkages & Consultancy, ECN Engr. Okon Ekpenyong, detailed the involvement of the agency in the project. According to him, while UNDP provided the funds for the execution of the project, ECN, provided the needed technical expertise as the implementing agency.
He said, “In ECN, our focus is on energy sustainability and UNDP is also focusing on sustainable energy for us. We both decided that the best way to address the energy access of these ravaged communities is to come up with this project.
“Since we cannot reach all the communities, we decided to choose one local government where we know. Hong is one of the most affected local governments and those communities are the ones that are most affected.”
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