Victims’ Tale: The ruins left of Lassa town 

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Victims’ Tale: The ruins left of Lassa town

Story by Pembi Steven

With the dawn of insurgency in northern Nigeria, many towns struggling to survive years of government abandonment went up in flames and haven’t rebounded almost a decade after.

One of them is Lassa, the town popular for being the place where Lassa fever was first discovered in 1969.

Lassa is important in the scheme of things in both Borno and  Adamawa states and this is highlighted by its location.

Going through Michika from Lassa to Askira Uba is 63km, Lassa to Michika through Kubi is 16km, Lassa to Uba is 39km, Lassa to Uvu junction is 25km, Lassa to Walafa 19km, Lassa to Tampul junction is 15km, Lassa to Sabon Gari is 10.5km, Lassa to Delli is 6km, Lassa to Ngurthlavu is 7km, Lassa to Dagu is 16km, Lassa to Mussa through Delli is 16km, Lassa to Pumbum is 19km, Lassa to Emi is 19km, Lassa to Kethundlah is 21km, Lassa to Yafa is 9km, Lassa to Maikadri is 7km, Lassa to Bagajau is 4km and Lassa to Giway Higgi is 2km.

Most of these towns in proximity to Lassa have fallen to Boko Haram’s violent incursions and, today, Lassa houses over 250,000 indigent and displaced persons who now rely on the interventions of charity organizations for their daily survival – and that is when the aid even gets to them.     Internally Displaced Persons (IDP’s) from Ngurthlavu, Yafa, Bagajau, Maikadri, Emi, Pumbum, Ngurhyagwal, Dagu, Whoyim, Nkrevah, Kelekasa, Wasada and Shawa have all converged on Lassa, they are on the run for their lives.

Vandi Joseph, an IDP, narrated that school activities in these locations have long been grounded to a halt and the pupils/students have been out of school for years.

“In 2014, when Boko Haram attacked these villages in turns, they set them ablaze and the people ran for their lives. Many parents ran with their children, leaving everything they have behind,” Vandi said.

“The children have not been to school since then, as the parents have no way of paying their tuition. Worse, there are no education-in-emergency interventions around here. And the government has not come up with a plan for the education of the children.

“This is a burden which will be borne in the future, as these children who were in primary and secondary schools have not been in school for almost 10 years,” he bemoaned.     Lassa has a Government Day Secondary School, Government Girls Secondary School and primary schools over-flowing with pupils and students.

The Federal Science and Technical College Lassa has been relocated to Michika as a result of Boko Haram activities and it is not even safe for students to go through the 16 kilometres road from Lassa to Michika.  “Delli has a primary school and GDSS in session. Mussa has a primary school in session. Sabon Gari has a primary school and GDSS in session, while Walafa has a primary school in session. But if we look at the number of displaced persons in Lassa, you get to wonder about the quality of education these children are getting.

“How many teachers are there? Are the teachers willing to come? What are the teachers teaching with? Is the government interested in how these children are learning and if the teachers are being paid? It does not look like it,” Vandi concluded.     According to latest releases from the media unit of charity organizations that work around the area, food security in north-eastern Nigeria is generally low or absent, no thanks to the number of farmers who have lost their lives when caught in their farms by Boko Haram or the number of farmlands set ablaze and are now in Boko Haram territory.

Kekerbhe Bitrus, a farmer, disclosed that she and her family dare not venture into their farms far off. She has now resolved to subsistence farming around Lassa, on a strip of land that is very much smaller, compared to what she once farmed on, back in her home town of Pumbum.

“Villages like Dagu, Emi,  Pumbum (my place), Whoyim and Ngurhyagwal are no longer accessible for farming as a result of Boko Haram activities,” she said.

“My farm is in one of the closest towns, Bagajau, but I have to be back by 2pm every day and pray that the farm is not set ablaze or the produce carted away by Boko Haram.

“Most people I know around Lassa have their farms in Yafa, Ngurthlavu, Maikadri, Delli, Kelekasa, Wasada, Shaw, etc., where skeletal farming activities are allowed. The only issue is that there are particular crops which you can plant; not just anything. If you can get a farm in Lassa, Sabon Gari and Walafa which is very difficult then you can be sure that you can go to the farm whenever you wish, as long as you do not go too early in the day or return too late at night.”

Monday is market day in Lassa. Time was when it used to be an affair that attracted people from far and wide. These days, the once-bustling commercial nerve centre is now a shadow of its former self.

“The market has been attacked severally by Boko Haram,” disclosed Asabe Hyellasakda, a businesswoman.

“Visitors and business people now stay away from the market. Who wants to be abducted or killed while searching for what their families will feed on? Several times the market has been attacked, burnt and valuables carted away.”

On June 9, 2022, Lassa was attacked by Boko Haram through Kelle, at around 9:00 pm, with three Hilux trucks mounted with anti-aircraft machine guns and a motorcycle.

A week or so before the attack, there was an attempt to attack Lassa through Ngurthlavu but it was thwarted.

Again, on June 23, 2022, Lassa was attacked by Boko Haram. The attack opened up a path between Delli and Kelle, with machine guns mounted on 4 trucks.

On July 31, 2022, Kelle was attacked at about 11:00 pm. No less than 6 houses and 2 shops were burgled and valuables were carted away.

This report is produced by Neptune Prime with support from the Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism (WSCIJ) under the Collaborative Media Engagement for Development Inclusivity and Accountability project (CMEDIA) funded by the MacArthur Foundation.        

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