Month: April 2014

“What we will say is that may God bring an end to this all”

A volunteer for TAP in Maiduguri interviewed a young civil servant named Yahya on the security situation in his community. Like Hamid in the previous interview, he attests that the security situation in Maiduguri has calmed. but very unstable in the more rural communities outside the main city.

If you are interested in contributing to TAP by sending in interviews of affected Nigerians in the northeastern part of the country, do send us an email at testimonialarchiveproject@gmail.com 

What changes have you noticed as a result of Boko Haram activities in your area?

We have faced so many troubles since when this problems started. We have gone through so many changes in our lives, so much pain and suffering. What we will say is that may God bring an end to this all. Those who we have lost, may God forgive them, and those of us still alive, may God protect us along the way.

Through what has been happening, what are the challenges the government workers and all have been facing?

Of course, government workers have been experiencing so many challenges especially when everything was at its peak, a lot of them were killed. Police officers, Teachers and any individual involved with the government. But we thank God it is now calm, especially for us living in the town of Maiduguri, we are mostly safe except when we have work that takes us out of town.

So within the town, what kinds of problem are other people(non-government officials) in the city centre and other neigbouring towns facing?

In the town all the earlier challenges have subsided, the only thing is that people are scared as a result of the attacks around the town.  And those in the villages are in critical condition.

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“When God brings a plague…”

A volunteer for TAP spoke to Hamid, a man who lives in Maiduguri, about the impact of the militancy on the livelihood of those in town and villages. The violence in Maiduguri has subsided, he says, but challenges remain in towns and villages.

What changes have you noticed as a result of the militants’ activities in your area?

Bismillah Ar Rahman, Ar Rahim(In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful). We are facing challenges in the town [Maiduguri] no doubt, but with what we have seen before it has subsided unlike the way it was previously. What concerns us is that which is currently happening at the villages and the sad events around us.

In terms of feeding, commercial activities and ordinary day to day activities what has this incident caused?

Well, when God brings a plague, or problems like this, there are bound to be challenges no matter how little. We have faced serious problems in our commercial activities, with our families, it is affecting the education of our children. What we get before is not the way it is anymore. Our buying and selling activities have dropped, even the usual day-to-day hustle.

 How is the violence impact the livelihood of people in Borno State in both the towns and villages? how have they been coping?

It is a serious challenge. Because the people in towns and villages depend on themselves. The challenges are severe in the villages because now they cant stay in their homes or go to farm as usual and this leaves the towns without food. Those in the villages are usually farmers, we in the city are mostly into business. We buy their produce, we pay them and they survive. We pray to God to bring an end to all this, to protect us, and forgive those that have gone during this problem.

“Young people have no alternative but to come together to seek ways to be safe”

Yusuf, a youth activist in Maiduguri, speaks to TAP on the ways in which young people are working independently and in tandem with security forces to combat the insecurity in Borno State. He makes interesting observations on the difference in youth-security dynamic in Borno and Yobe States, and the ways in which women contribute to intelligence gathering. You can listen to the interview below. An edited transcript of our conversation follows.

Some of the major issues for young people is obviously safety, but I’m interested in exploring the ways in which young people have been resisting the armed groups.

Now, as young people are under pressure, I think the rest of them that are remaining [in Borno] have no alternative but to come together to seek ways to be safe. You can see young people under the Youth Vanguard willingly submitting their own energy and time to checking the influx of people and looking into the nooks and crannies of their neighborhoods to ensure there are no threats. This gives them the confidence to find people who are partaking in heinous activities that contribute to the insecurity will be exposed.

Are these civilian JTF or smaller, vigilante-like community watch groups?

They have allegiance to other youth in the community even though they are not part and parcel of the main youth volunteer group, but they can still use the opportunity to share information with the Youth Vanguard. They have now dared to give their time and expose anything that is a threat to their community.

How are they managing to share information? Are they using ICT or are they using other methods?

They are using other methods, not solely ICT. It happens at different levels, since they have different political wards. It has been decided that youth residing in a particular political ward should have their leadership structure. With that, the leader will have control over monitoring, checking vehicles and individuals passing on the streets, for the safety of people. They normally monitor 24/7 to make sure that within their own area, nothing wrong happens. If there is any suspicious behavior, you find them exposing things that were not even imagined by even the security forces.

Whats the relationship between these youth groups and the military? In places like Yobe, some interviews that we have people say that they don’t trust the military or police. What’s the level of trust?

The composition of Youth Vanguard is very much focused on Maiduguri, rather than in Yobe. They have civilian JTF very much focused in Borno, but in Yobe the synergy of communication [between youth and security forces] exists between those who have a relationship with the military. The military has ways and means of gathering intelligence from the young ones. But no, the physical presence of civilian JTF does not exist as much in Yobe.

That’s interesting. does the existence of a civilian JTF make intelligence gathering easier for security forces?

That’s for sure.

What’s the role of women in intelligence gathering?

In our environment, there are cultural and religious values that guide the behavior of people, so the role of women cannot be done openly, inasmuch as information that is important and factual is concerned. Women have the opportunity to share their information with people who they know can act on that information. You do not see them featuring so prominently. But there are women who are part of the civilian JTF. There was a religious injunction that women cannot be checked by men, so the cars in which women drive or with women in their purdah, it is the women who will check them. So it means they are cooperating on that level.

Thank you so much for speaking with me.

“I could count 3 dead bodies that I saw with my eyes”

An aerial attack on Kafa village in Yobe State killed Zara’s grandson and brother, while Aisha’s husband and 2 children are missing. Both women have been displaced from their homes and robbed of their livelihood. A volunteer for TAP Salihu spoke to the two women in Yobe State through an interpreter. Aisha and Zara speak Kanuri, but the interpreter and the interviewer spoke Hausa.

Salihu – Can you please tell us your name and your state, just the first name

Interpreter – Her name is Zara

Salihu – Zara is from which state.

Interpreter – Yobe state, close to Maiduguri.

Salihu – Let us start by asking if this insecurity, particularly this recent attack has affected you personally.

Interpreter – Yes, it has affected me directly. When the attacks started, I had just finished praying, with just a wrapper on me and no top or head scarf. I’m still like this at the moment. Hajiya Halima can attest to that. With old age and small kids, we ran to the next village for safety to spend the night, but even in that village all the women and children have ran away. We stayed in that village for the night under a tree and continued our journey in the morning. When we left our village, I could count 3 dead bodies that I saw with my eyes, when the helicopter started dropping bombs on our village, that was why we ran away.

Salihu – What is the name of your village and the name of the village you ran to?

Interpreter – The name of our village is Kafa and the next village is Bilabirin. We left all our belongings back in our village, our clothes, farm produce and everything. We didn’t leave with anything but the clothes we have on. Everything got burnt in the fire caused by the bombs.

Salihu – did any of your family member or relative lose his/her life?

Interpreter – yes! My grandson died and my younger brother.

Salihu – sometimes before an attack, there’s a warning. How do you feel when you receive this warning and was there a warning for this attack?

Interpreter – in this particular attack, we did not receive any warning. It just happened.

Salihu – was there any other attack in your village before this particular attack?

Interpreter – yes there was an attack before, the district head lost his son in that particular attack. And my daughter was also killed in that attack, along with her infant baby. That was the 1st attack on our village, Kafa.

Salihu – Now that you are in a safe area, are you feeling secured or you’re still in fear?

Interpreter – we feel very safe here and comfortable, only that we need assistance in this place. We are adding to our host’s burden of taking care of us and he too is not strong enough to cater for his family and us. He is struggling hard to take care of us, and its not easy on him. Apart from this we have no worry what so ever here.

Salihu – who are you staying with there?

Interpreter – he is my son, and is just a driver, struggling to make ends meet. As it is, we are looking for what to eat next for lunch, not to even talk of dinner or tomorrow.

Salihu – may Allah continue to protect you all

Interpreter – Amin.

Salihu – is there another person for us to interview?

Interpreter – yes, there’s another woman, her name is Aisha.

Salihu – is she also from the same village with Zara?

Interpreter – yes, she is.

Salihu – are they related?

Interpreter – Yes they are. They were all affected by this attack and she left her husband and her kids, not knowing what’s their situation at the moment.

Salihu – Is there anything else that Aisha wants to add that Zara did not say in her statements?

Interpreter – its basically the same sad story, my only problem or worry is that I don’t know the fate of my kids. Apart from this, its the same story.

Salihu – how many kids did she leave behind?

Interpreter – she left behind 2 kids, a boy and a girl. The boy is 25yrs old, and the girl is 17yrs old.

Salihu – we thank you for your time, and May Allah continue to keep you safe.

Interpreter – Amin. Thank you.