THIS is certainly not the best of times for most of the 19 states of the North. For about two years now, most of them have contended with unceasing violence, which has led to the death of thousands of persons and destruction of properties worth billions of Naira. Vanguard Politics took a tour of the affected states and our findings show that the region is gradually becoming inclement for business.
Dearth of professionals hits Gombe
THE spate of insecurity, characterised by ethnic conflicts in Jos, Plateau State and Boko Haram insurgency, is fast demolishing the remnants of economic and social infrastructure of the North with palpable fear that life would become tougher and harder in the region.
Like other northern states, Gombe, which used to be a safe haven of some sorts for the people of the north-eastern region, is now suffering a backlash of the violence with the relocation of over 1000 out of 1,687 Batch B, 2012 corps members from Gombe recently. No thanks to the growing state of insecurity in the North East geo-political zone.
Vanguard checks indicate that there is dearth of graduate teachers across secondary schools in the state. Hospitals and other public institutions also lack qualified hands. These are the areas where corps members, prior to now, were primarily deployed. But with their redeployment to other states of the federation, Gombe is left with insufficient personnel to drive the economy.
A confirmation of the situation came from the State Governor, Alhaji Ibrahim Hassan Dankwambo recently, during a courtesy call on him by the Director-General of the National Mathematical Centre, NMC, Abuja, Prof Sam Ale. The governor, who was particular about the study of Mathematics said: “No Gombe child has been given the opportunity to study Mathematics.
Because it is an opportunity; if it is not given to you, you cannot have it. So, there was no teacher who could teach Mathematics very well”. He further added that the case of Government Secondary School, Doma where over 4000 students of the school have not been given adequate attention in terms of proper teaching was worrisome.
Similarly, commercial activities have considerably slowed down. There is also a drastic fall in commercial transportation. For instance, commercial motor cycle riders popularly called Achaba are not getting the usual patronage from passengers, who they say prefer taxis. Those who spoke to Vanguard said passengers feel dangerously exposed while on bikes, and so, elect to wait for taxis.
But one interesting thing amid the development is that the number of tricycles on the roads in Gombe is increasing on daily basis thereby providing an appreciable alternative to commercial motor bikes. Enquires showed that there is influx of people from other neighbouring states such as Borno, Adamawa, Yobe and Taraba.
Reports say that Borno and Adamawa states had long banned commercial motor bike operations culminating into massive exodus of people whose means of livelihood is the Achaba business, to Gombe in search of greener pastures.
By its location, Gombe is strategically positioned in the centre of North-East zone thereby giving it both business and tourist advantages. Besides, the people, mixed in their religions, live peacefully with one another. But notably, at the peak of the serial bombings in Gombe, most residents especially the non-indigenes decided to take a flight out of the state to the chagrin of many but others from the states around it are making Gombe their safe haven.
In what ways has the development affected the state? Barrister Zubairu Mohammed Umar, the immediate past Commissioner for Justice and Attorney –General of the State, said: “I think that generally in the North, things are becoming bad, economically. We really thank God that Gombe is not experiencing the kind of drastic fall in economic activities as it is been experienced in other states, say Yobe, Borno, etc.
You know Gombe is the commercial nerve centre of the North-East. So, people still come to Gombe for their commercial activities. Although, things might have fallen a little bit but I don’t think it is as bad as we think. In any event, one would even say business activities have even picked up because people still need to do business even in the North-East and the only place they can come now comfortably, despite all the security challenges, to do business is Gombe.
So, Gombe is okay as far as business is concerned.” He was also very swift to add that Gombe was not witnessing mass exodus as such compared to its neigbours in the North-East. “When it comes to an exodus, I think Gombe stands a better place because less people are leaving Gombe than they are leaving some other parts of the North.
Raising the tension
Though, we may admit that some people still do leave but those who have really established here are not leaving. Still people are coming to Gombe. As for the Youth Corps members, I think it is the media that are just raising the tension and thinking that the whole North or the whole North-East is on fire.
Of course, no father would want his child to go to a place that he is not comfortable with their security, but the security situation on the ground in Gombe, honestly, is better. And I think, the government is up to the task with the security challenges and that’s why we are seeing a drastic fall in all the unfortunate things that are happening”. Indeed, the government appears determined to provide maximum security.
To actualize this, the Army hierarchy recently reshuffled in its formation based in the state. The 301 Artillery Regiment Unit was swapped with that of Onitsha, Anambra State. Since their arrival, analysts say the soldiers have been up and doing, complimenting the efforts of the Police and the State Security Services, SSS in policing the state. It is expected that with the latest development in the security checks, Gombe and indeed, the entire North-East may soon heave a sigh of relief from criminal activities and insurgency.
Borno: Violence lays economy prostrate FOLLOWING the activities of suspected terrorists in Maiduguri, the Borno State Capital, which is riddled with series of killings and bombings, the socio- economic fortune of the state, is in shambles. Although Governor Kashim Shettima and the security agencies, particularly men of the Joint Task Force (JTF) are having sleepless nights in order to end the violence, the efforts are yet to start yielding dividends.
Over 70 percent of investors have either fled the town or abandoned their businesses due to insecurity. For example, Igbo traders, who constituted the majority in trading and other businesses, were forced to leave the state, as their brothers and sisters were the most targets by the sect.
Already, Gomboru Market, Baga and Monday Markets, which attract foreigners from Chad, Niger and Cameroon Republic, have remained deserted as over 80 percent of stalls and shops are closed without any hope of reopening them, as most owners were either killed or they have fled the town.
Also, most telecommunication companies have relocated their North- East offices from Maiduguri to Adamawa, Bauchi, Gombe or Taraba. The situation has compounded the problem of youth restiveness following the sack of many youths by the relocating firms. Likewise, with the outright ban of commercial motorcycle (Okada) riders, the transportation system in the state has been made more difficult for less income earners, whose welfare is also worse off because commercial motorbike was a means of livelihood for about 20 percent of the state’s population.
The cattle market in Gomboru popularly called Kasuwan Shanu, which supplies most of the cattle to Southern parts of the country has remained a-no-go area, as series of attacks and killings remained the order of the Day in the market.
How insecurity affects business on the Plateau
PLATEAU State has been plagued by series of crises for over 10 years now leading to massive loss of lives, property and other investments. The perennial situation even led to the destruction of the famous Terminus Market, which used to generate millions to the state coffer. The situation has crippled some businesses; left traders stranded and forced many more into street trading.
For some years, the various administrations in the state condoned the street trading phenomenon attributing it to lack of market where traders could put their wares in shops but the Jonah Jang’s administration, in its first tenure, constructed market stalls at the Rukuba satellite market still in Jos, the State capital.
Though there have been few hitches in allocation of the stalls in the market, a problem which had long been solved but most traders refuse to go to the new market citing various reasons. While some traders say they do not have shops there, many said they were used to selling at the roadside at the old Terminus, Abuja markets as well as other major streets in the metropolis as many customers patronize them on their way to and fro their businesses. However, the situation has generated controversy as the State government recently put a Task Force in place to relocate the traders from their temporary sales point, a move which the roadside traders have severally rebuffed. On the effect of crises on businesses in the state, to say the State has been worst hit is an understatement as many business premises do not open on time and business men also close businesses early due to lack of patronage as residents are cautious on daily basis on what time to come out and what time to return to the safety of their homes.
Many investors especially the foreign ones whom the government has approached are skeptical about investing in the state. Some existing business owners have relocated to other states with a typical example being the closure of the MTN Call Centre in Jos, a situation many believe is an afterthought and an act aimed at portraying the state in bad light.
Mostly, many traders open for business as early as 8:30 am compared to when businesses were opened at 7am and shops are closed by 6pm. Banks which before now used to operate on Saturdays only open to customers by 8:30am. While some close by 2pm, others stop operation by 3pm. Residents are very cautious as you hardly see people far from their houses once the day gets dark.
Night life in Kogi:
LOKOJA – Insecurity in Kogi State has taken a huge toll on the socio – economic activities of the residents. The recent killing of 20 worshipers at the Deeper Life Bible Church and killing of two soldiers at the Okene secretariat by gunmen have further heightened tension in the town.
The development, which brought the deployment of army to the area coupled with the curfew imposed by the state government, is affecting how residents conduct their affairs in the state. Lokoja, which is the state capital also, has a fair share in the deal as Okada operators have been banned from 6pm everyday; a development that has made life tough for Okada riders and those who require their services for evening businesses.
Also, majority of drinking joints are adversely affected as patronage has dwindled. The fear of the unknown since the surge in insecurity in the state has caused fun seekers to desist from drinking at joints and night clubs. Suspicious of fellow residents, everyone sleeps with one eye closed.
At Present, business activities close early while resident have decided to avoid hot spots where they may be susceptible to attack by armed bandits. Churches have been advised to close before 12 noon for Sunday services; and attendance during church services has recorded a noticeable decline in the number of worshipers ever since.
However, the state government has continued to put in place measures to resolve the insecurity in the state in order to pursue their investors’ drive. The quick response of the State Governor, Capt. Idris Wada and the directive to security operatives to fish out the perpetrators of the acts seem to be aiding to address the ugly trends.
At many fora, the state governor and his deputy have assured of their commitment at ensuring that normalcy returns to the state while pursuing with vigour their drive towards attracting both local and international investors to Kogi.
Towards this, Governor Wada had embarked on numerous journeys to economic summits in Germany, Malaysia and other part of the country to seek for investors in the agricultural, mining and infrastructural sectors coupled with the ongoing beautification exercise in the state capital to make it attractive for investors. At present, the security personnel seem to be handling the situation adequately while the state government pursues their aims of attracting investors into the state.
Fear of the unknown reign in Jigawa
JIGAWA State has been very lucky because it has not witnessed the security crises bedeviling neigbouring states but ironically commercial activities in the state have a suffered setback in recent times. Though business activities in Jigawa State commence as from 9-10am daily and closes at 7 p.m in the markets because the traders stay longer hoping to make more sales, patronage has dwindled since neighboring states like Kano, Bauchi and Borno states started experiencing terror attacks.
The general outcry from the traders, who usual travel to Kano to buy consumable and textile materials, is that business is slow because of poor patronage. While those who buy food stuffs from the north eastern states are complaining that the incessant crises in those states have affected their business activities because they get less supply of food stuffs from those states, and most of them seldom travel because of insecurity in the neigbouring states.
In terms of government effort on maintaining security, the Jigawa State Government has adopted diverse methods apart from holding several meetings with relevant stakeholders on security. Joint patrol teams are also assigned to monitor all parts of the state.
On the other hand, the new central market, which is located in the outskirt of the state, has notable presence of both security operatives as well as market security men. Governor Dr. Sule Lamido is relying on the prevailing peace in Jigawa to woo investors.
Niger: Life no longer the same after Suleja attacks
Niger State was one of the first states to have baptism of bomb blasts in the country during which hundreds of people were killed. The first was in April last year in Suleja during a political campaign rally organized by Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) towards the general election during which there was a bomb blast leading to the killing of many people.
Nearly three days to the National Assembly elections last year, another bomb blast was recorded at the INEC office, Suleja during which some lives were lost and many others injured. The worst came on Christmas Day in the same Suleja town last year when innocent worshippers were bombed and several people killed at St. Theresa Catholic Church, Madalla, and Suleja.
This incident recorded the highest casualties and was the climax of it all which eventually sent strong and wrong signals to most Nigerians especially the non-indigenes. The deadline given by the Boko Haram leaders also last year to all non-indigenes residing in the northern part of the country is still very fresh in the memories of all Nigerians especially the non-indigenes. Till now, the facts have not been really established on why Suleja town is the main target in Niger state.
The only reason attributed to the dastardly acts is the proximity of Suleja town to Abuja, the new Federal Capital. Minna, the state capital, have not experienced any form of bomb blast but the state government had always been proactive on the issue in order to preempt any of such occurrences in the state capital.
Besides the state of emergency clamped on the state by the federal government, Niger state government has since restricted movement of motorcycle operators, also known as Okada in Minna the state capital from 6am to 7pm during which traders and residents rush to close shops and rush home to beat the deadline thereby escaping being arrested.
Subsequently, business activities come to an abrupt halt as from 5pm to 6pm daily. Most businesses that strive in the night only come to a close between 5pm to 6pm. People, especially the okada riders complain and are still complaining because of their affected businesses.
Their claim is that they rake in more money in the night especially between 6pm to 10pm daily but that since the restriction of their movements, their incomes have dwindled seriously. Generally, the three bomb blast in succession in Suleja town sent a wrong signal to people of Niger state especially the non-indigenes residents in Suleja and they are yet to be convinced that all is well and that it will be well in the future with them.
Almost every day, non-indigenes especially from the South-East resident in Suleja town most especially are now seen shifting base home ward for fear of a reoccurrence of what they have experienced in the past. While the head of the family remains in the state and operate skeletal business, their spouses and children have been transferred home to avoid any future eventuality and thereby having a negative effect on various businesses generally in the state especially in Suleja town.
Staking money on properties
Statistics have also shown that many houses of non-indigenes especially in Suleja town have been put on the market for any ‘reasonable prices’ but with less patronage as most people are withdrawing from staking their money on properties because of the uncertainties generally in the north. Rents of properties have also dropped considerably in Niger state especially in Suleja because of the mass exodus of residents to their various states.
The 2015 general elections no doubt is causing another stir as people especially non-indigenes are skeptical of what might become of Nigeria especially with the negative utterances of those perceived to be Nigerian leaders who are now drumming war songs of which is further driving fears into the minds of Nigerians especially the non indigenes.
Though the economy of the state is not totally grounded but it cannot be seen or described as booming especially when compared to what have been striving in the state before the various bomb blast and the Boko Haram insurgences in the North.
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