′Boko Haram has taken over a whole region′ | Africa | DW | 11.09.2014
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Africa

'Boko Haram has taken over a whole region'

One-hundred and fifty days ago almost 300 girls were abducted by Boko Haram in northern Nigeria. Too little has been done since then, local politician Peter Biye Gumtha, tells DW. And the situation is only getting worse.

DW: 150 days have passed since the girls in Chibok were abducted by Boko Haram. Since then people in Nigeria have not seen any results. Who is to blame: the military or the politicians?

Peter Biye Gumtha: The federal government keep on promising that they will bring back the girls alive and people are anxious to see the girls to be brought back to their homes safely. Unfortunately up to this moment there is no sign for that. But for anybody to blame either the federal government, military or any security agency - that is very difficult. If I ask any security agent: How do we get these girls? Can't we go and find those insurgents so that the girls will come out? They say: If you are going to find them there will be collateral damage, meaning they can kill the girls. According to information that we hear from reliable sources, the girls have been divided and brought to more than 10 different locations. So it is difficult for the federal government to rescue them.

There has been a negotiation process that has so far failed. Why is that?

Negotiations can be done if the abductors are visible. You cannot negotiate with faithless people. They know you, but you do not know them. So to me anybody who claims to be a negotiator is a fake.

Do you think the government is doing enough?

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They keep on telling us that they are trying their best to bring them alive. But, whether we like it or not, we have to blame the government.

You are a member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the governing party.

I am a member of PDP, but that does not mean that I can't accuse the government, if the government is not doing good. I have to say the truth: The government has to intensify their effort to free these girls from their abductors.

You not only represent the people of Chibok, but also of the towns of Gwoza and Damboa. There is an increasing number of reports that Boko Haram is moving forward there. Can you confirm that?

Yes. I just received reports that Boko Haram invaded several villages next to my constituency. In Gwoza there are no more people. Some have run away to Cameroon, some to Adamawa State. There it is also not safe, they are on the run. Adamawa people are running helter-skelter now. Chibok and Damboa are deserted. Nobody has lived in Damboa for two months now. Gwoza has been completely captured by the insurgents.

So basically the whole region is no longer in the hands of the government?

The whole region is no more in the hands of the government. No police, no soldier; in fact there are no government representatives that operate in that area. Boko Haram is encroaching. They are heading towards Mubi. According to sources, they [Boko Haram] have given notice that on 27th of September they will come to attack to Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State.

How can you do your job and represent people from an area where you have no influence, no control?

Definitely we are no longer representing people now. We don't know whether we are representatives of Boko Haram, because they have taken over our constituency. Whom are we going to represent?

So what is the solution?

Everybody needs to support the government and give the government trust.

But at the moment observers have the feeling that the insurgency and the Chibok abductions become a political issue, especially regarding the elections next year. All parties, all politicians tend to blame each other.

That's what is going to destroy the country. Any country that is facing these problems has to sit down together, forget about political differences and fight against these terrorists. If not, we will not achieve anything at all.

Peter Biye Gumtha is a member of the Nigerian House of Representatives in Abuja, representing Chibok, Gwoza and Damboa. Earlier this year, his house in Gwoza was attacked and burned down by Boko Haram. He has not returned to his constituency since.

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