displacement

“We have a president that would go to a social event the day or the next day [after an attack] and be dancing”

Almost ten months after the abduction of over 200 girls in Chibok Local Government Area of Borno State, the campaign to pressure the government to rescue them persists. This interview features Bring Back Our Girls campaign Strategy Committee member Bukky Shonibare, and she talks to TAP about displacement, government’s role and what she hopes the next four years would bring in terms of improving the security situation in Nigeria’s northeast. She talks about her initiative Adopt a Camp,  what ordinary people in more peaceful areas of the northeast are doing to help residents from more troubled regions, and what is needed in the government agencies’ work with displacement communities.

Thank you so for agreeing to speak with me. Please introduce yourself.

My name is Bukky Shonibare. I’m a member of the strategic team of Bring Back Our Girls (BBOG) Campaign.

And a very visible member at that. What would you say has been your major motivation to carry on with your activism?

It’s my sense of empathy. It’s difficult to just continue as though everything is just OK when over 200 girls have been abducted I have a biological daughter, a six year old girl, and an adopted daughter that is a 16 year old girl and within the age range of these abducted girls. It’s difficult to not know where my adopted daughter is. Also, my compassion. I’m a deeply compassionate person. I can relate to the pain of the mothers of the missing girls.

What would you say has been BBOG’s key successes as a campaign?

When we started, we developed a strategic plan and phased it out. The first phase was creating the awareness of the issue. I would say we achieved a lot of success with that. The world got to know what was happening, everyone from celebrities to world leaders, and people took turns to identify with us, especially at the early stages of the campaign. I would say in terms of creating that awareness and letting people know that there are Nigerians who are not moving on because our girls have been abducted, there has been some success with that. We’ve done a lot since the campaign started. We’ve done a lot to engage relevant stakeholders and have done a lot of protests. We’ve shouted, we’ve cried, we’ve let the world know that we’re not moving on. The hashtag was trending for awhile. Some would regard that as success, but it only matters if our girls are back.

There’s a lot of different kidnappings even before the schoolgirls from Chibok, and more kidnappings even after that. Why home in on Chibok even as more and more issues have come up since?

Like you rightly mentioned, there have been abductions and unnecessary killings. We were expecting that government would do all things within its power to make sure that Nigerians live in a sane, secure environment. One very gruesome attack was Buni Yadi, and one would expect the govt to shut everything down and make sure there is government representation in Buni Yadi after it happened, but we didn’t see that. To this day, we don’t know what has been done for the parents of the Buni Yadi students. That jolted people, it made us think. Our government can overlook the abduction of the 25 girls [that happened in Maiduguri], and the sale of girls who had been abducted, many for 2,000 naira (About U.S.$12.00) in the northeast, and we were waiting and hoping that our government can do something, more than what citizens can do. When that did not happen, and the insurgents gained more power and increased their level of their attacks to the point that they took 276 of our girls, with 56 of them managing to escape. And if you hear the way some of these girls managed to escape, you’d wonder where they developed that kind of resilience. Some of the girls hung to the trees and waited for the trucks to move away, and jumped down when their trucks moved away. I met Kauna, she escaped by landing on her head. I met her around the 100 days of the abduction, and her neck was still aching her. Another girl Hauwa was telling me how she and her friend were her hiding under the car. These girls should be treated as girls, not soldiers. One should expect that a government does not want its citizens to go through that. It all just made us realise that if citizens do not take their rightful place, these people will take up to 1,000 one day, up to 2,000, God forbid.

What happened in Chibok shows everything that is happening to our country: corruption, insensitivity, impunity, everything that you can think of as it relates to our government and the abducted girls. But it does not mean that when other abductions happened we did not take action. When the Potiskum boys were killed, we mourned them. We wore black t-shirts, we held a candlelight vigil, we went to the Ministry of Education and protested there, and we insisted that we wanted all our schools to be secure. However, the issue of the abducted Chibok girls is our entry point into the conversations.

Thanks for explaining that. President Jonathan’s response has been heavily criticised, from at first saying the girls had been rescued, to then saying nothing when it was revealed that no such rescue effort to happened, to the intimidation of Bring Back Our Girls campaigners. What do you want to see from the President and from Buhari as well? What are you hoping that these people say or do to show they are taking into consideration people impacted by the violence?

It doesn’t matter who becomes President. Anyone can occupy that seat. I just think that whoever wins should not carry on with what Pres. Goodluck Jonathan is doing at this time. Even if GEJ comes back, he should not come back with his insensitivity. I’m expecting a sensitive government and Commander in Chief who knows what responsibility means. You have the mandate of the people. I voted for Goodluck Jonathan in the 2011 elections. People gave their votes, their mandate, their power to him. What it means, according to the constitution Section 14, sub-section 2 is this: the security and welfare of the people shall be the responsibility of the government. What I am expecting is a government that understands its primary responsibility. You lose people today, and we have a president that would go to a social event the day or the next day and be dancing. Can you see any other world leader doing that? Look at leaders of countries Nigerians sleep in embassies to run away to. It is wired in every human being to want a sane and secure environment. Is that too much for a government to give its people? If we put all our effort together and all the billions spent on our security apparatus, we should be able to secure lives and property. However, corruption and impunity are the order of the day. What I’m expecting in addition to education, health, and all other sector reforms, we want to be safe.

Considering Gujba and Buni Yadi, etc, do you think the average Nigerian cares? There have been lots of horrific incidences, but it took 12 people killed in France. Should this quest for empathy stretch to Nigerians as well?

Nigerians care. The empathy and the care that Nigerians have to each other would only be meaningful if we have a responsible government. I’ve had to go to the northeast recently, and the reality on ground is different. An average Nigerian there cares about about an average victim of insurgency. You can see a civil servant who can barely take care of his own 6 or 7 children taking in 30 or 40 or 50 IDPs. Are you going to say such Nigerians don’t care? There are people who opened their doors to fleeing residents of troubled zones and shielded them. So Nigerians care, however, theres a larger percentage of Nigerians who are cut off from the reality. We can put the responses in segments: those in the northeast who are close to what is happening in the northeast, so their empathy is higher. that’s one. There’s also the category of people in the north not necessarily from the region, like those in Abuja or other places that not as affected by the violence. We are also empathetic but not as empathetic as those in the area. There are also those who would say “Are you sure these girls have been abducted?” Somebody tweeted at me saying “Go and sleep, no girls had been abducted.” Even people that are close to us who see these things in the news but don’t believe that anything like this is happening in the south or the west who don’t believe that something is happening in the northeast. One of the BBOG campaigners Aisha Yesufu spent her Christmas in Auchi, Edo State, and she spent time sensitising people and she was asked, “where is this thing happening?” There has been people who only access local media and don’t know something like this is happening. However, our empathy only matters when our government is responsive.

In France, the total death toll was about 15, and their govt marched and joined others to join them in a unity march. Does our government do that? but If you come out to march, they’ll say you’re against the government and say you’re in an opposition party, then send thugs after you and beat you up, snatch our phones and some people get scared. Some would leave after they don’t see any result and others will stay.

In addition to your advocacy on BBOG, you are doing work with IDPs in camps. Can you talk about that.

On September 21st, we visited an Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp in Nasarawa and took relief materials. This opened up a new chapter for me. I realised that other Nigerians, other human beings, were going through this, so I started Adopt-a-Camp. Government should be at the forefront in alleviating IDPs’ plight. In Yola, there is only one government owned camp. In Yola, there are over 600,000 IDPs. They say they’re working on a second camp. Only about 6,500 of them are int he government owned camp. That’s about 1% of the total IDPs in Yola. Even the 6,500 people are not adequately catered for, and even complain of diversion of the relief materials meant for them. So we thought we had to complement governments’ efforts to provide clothing, basic necessities like shelter and food, healthcare, education since the children no longer go to school, and economic empowerment. in Christmas, we reached out to over 1000 IDPs. We don’t want to treat IDPs as victims. They should be able to advance from being IDPs to being responsible members of their host communities.

Permit me to say at this juncture that SEMA, NEMA and all these government agents are doing their best but it would be best if this ‘best” is being backed up with a coordinated, holistic humanitarian framework. I know that basics things like food and shelter are their primary needs at this point, but we need a framework that can even inform the work NGOs like ours are doing.

A lot of people want to help, but don’t know how. Can you show us some resources? How do I know here to provide my assistance?

We at Adopt-a-Camp does a lot of work, but also Modupe Odele is also doing a lot with children IDPs, and a lot of individuals are coming up to see how they can help. A lot of that help came up during Christmas. We are currently working with some other individuals and organisations, and putting ourselves together as an association to have a coordinated framework. In weeks to come, we would be having a conference of organisations coming together to help IDPs. That way, one can easily identify organisations working with IDPs. We don’t have that right now, but we can point people in the right direction.

Thank you so much for speaking with me.

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“May God meet them at the point of their need”

A young volunteer resident in Yola spoke with displaced persons granted shelter in a camp in Yola, Adamawa State. The displaced from this camp were mostly from communities on the border with Borno and Adamawa States, including Madagali, Michika and Mubi. These interviews took place in the Hausa language, and a translation of the interviews is below. 

What is your name?

Abubakar Manu.

Why are you here?

Well, we came to camp because in this camp, government is providing security for our lives, feeding us and taking care of our well being.

Another person speaks:

My name is Mallam Garba.

You came from where?

Gwoza.

Why are you here?

I am a refugee here in Yola. I am eating and drinking and wearing clothes. I am enjoying here.

What message do you have for the people that brought you here?

I am grateful to them. I am grateful to God.

Another person speaks:

What is your name?

My name is Haruna Jos from Lasa.

What brought you here?

We ran for our dear lives because of Boko Haram.

How long have you been here?

I have spent two weeks here.

Any ill-health?

Yes. I had an ill-health but I have recovered now.

Another person:

Your name?

Hamidu Ali.

From where?

From Gwoza.

What brought you here?

For refuge.

Another person:

 Your name?

Mamman.

From where?

Gwoza.

What brought you here?

Refuge.

Doing have any problem here?

No.

Do you eat well?

We eat well.

It is rumoured that school has been opened for you here. Is it true?

It is true.

Do they teach?

They teach everything, including Islamic schooling.

If you are given money to start business here would you accept?

Yes, I will accept.

If you are told to go back to Gwoza now will you?

No, I can’t go back now.

Another person:

Your name?

Cecelia Husseini.

From where?

From Gullak.

Why are you here?

We are here for refuge.

Do you get enough food here?

Yes.

Is it true that they have started teaching you?

Yes.

What class are you?

I am in JSS (Junior Secondary School) three.

What is your challenge here?

Nothing.

Another person:

What is your name?

Hannatu Marcus.

How many children do you have?

I have five children.

Which town are you from?

I am from Gaba West.

Where is your husband?

He is here. We are together.

How are you coping with five children here?

Here we are. But we have no food. That is the trouble. If it is six persons they would make it five persons. As it is now I haven’t gotten food.

Another person:

Your name?

My name is Maryama

How many children do you have?

I have five children.

From where did you come?

From Michika.

How is life in camp here?

We are grateful to the government and glory be to God. But the food should be enhanced for the children so that we can also get.

How about your husband?

He is doing fine. We are together here in the camp.

if you are given a trade so that you go back to Michika, would you go back?

I would go back.

Another person:

What is your name?

My name is Fatima Ibrahim.

From where?

From Gwoza

What brought you here?

I came here for refuge.

How is life here?

Glory be to God. We appreciate Him.

How many children do you have?

Two children.

is there any of them that ever got sick or something here?

Yes. This boy here was injected and he had problem with the leg.

 What call would you make to the government to help?

I don’t know what call to make. We appreciate God, we appreciate you, and we appreciate government for receiving us and making us feel at home. May God meet them at the point of their need.

Another voice: Bilkisu the young girl…because of the way they are handling in Adamawa, they want their children to satisfy by these community leaders who had three name-sakes… his Royal Highness the Emir’s wife, Aisha, the other one, myself here. So

Among these ones that delivered, is there any that lost her husband during the crisis?

Camp Director responds: No. What happened is that most of them that we met they tell us that their husbands are staying somewhere in Cameroun. They cannot crossover because of the insecurity situation. So talking. Some of them who are hoping to be with their husbands here, they are the ones insisting that we should select the children after… so far these are the figures I have.

“By this morning, we had 4,478 internally displaced people”

Mallam Haruna Amman Kure, the Executive Secretary of Adamawa State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) spoke to TAP about his work managing the displacement camp where over 4,000 Nigerians fleeing militia violence from Michika, Mubi, and Madagali Local Governments in Adamawa State, among other areas. He talked about how the displacement camp came to be, shared with us from his statistics how many people were in the camp as of 27th of September, and how local organizations have been working to support the displaced population. He also talked about the mental health needs of the displaced and what SEMA’s work in meeting these needs, as well as voter disenfranchisement in the run-up to the upcoming Adamawa State Elections.

Thank you for agreeing to speak to Testimonial Archive Project. Can I just have your name, your position and what you do?

My name is Mallam Haruna Amman Kure, Executive Secretary, Adamawa State Emergency Management Agency.

Thank you so much, and you manage that camp that’s in Yola?

Yes.

How did people get to this camp?

One is through hardship. After the insurgency attack, some of them in their villages stayed upwards of 5 to 9 days on a mountain-top, while others hid themselves in the ceilings of their various homes. Then they snuck away, and the nearest place they could get to is the [Adamawa] state capital of Yola.  Initially good Samaritans just brought them [into town] and left them under trees, and by then we had not established the camp. We noticed the movement of people in town and questioned them. Press were very alert, and they started alerting us to an influx of people they believed were dislodged from their various villages. Government quickly directed me to put these people together, and that was how in conjunction of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), we got some of their vehicle and drivers to go round the town with SEMA tag. Whenever they meet people in small numbers, they ask whether they are IDPs ternally displaced persons). If one says yes, then they moved them to a place where we first of all started because we started with 34 people IDPs, and by that time, we used the temporary school, a primary school within the state capital. That was the first day. By the second day, it was terrible: people were just coming in on trucks, and the population [of IDPs] started growing. We liaised with the directorate of NYSC here and secured the premises, so we moved to the NYSC orientation camp. So this is how, and this was how the camp started on the 24th of august this year (2014).

Since that day, the number has been growing. The government also directed immediately we commence the usual routing camp activity. That is bringing together all humanitarian actors to join us in the camp. We invited them and they were prompt in their response, all the security outfits were there, the medical team were there. You know this is a situation where somebody has spent some days without proper feeding, so when they came to the camp a lot of them were very weak, emaciated. The medical team immediately stepped in and the usually spend first 3 days on medication, fatigue, malaria and some of these ailments. Luckily enough, thank God, from that time up to this day with the proper medication and the prompt attention we received from both the federal and state government that is NEMA (National emergency management agency) and the state government. We have enough drugs to take care of the people. We run 24-hour clinical services and we have doctors that come in from Doctors Without Borders, UNICEF came in with drugs, the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) branch in Yola have also been performing very wonderfully.

 

How many people do you have registered as IDPs now?

Registration is ongoing, but by this morning, we had 4,478 IDPs. Out of this number, 2609 are male, 1305 are female, under 5 children are 559, pregnant women, 52, we have 6 successful deliveries [of babies]. We have never had any loss of life, and we have our brothers and sisters in the humanitarian services ranging from Refugee Commission, International Rescue Commission – name them. Apart from other security outfits, they are all here to work round the clock. NEMA setup this camp itself, and they supervise and make sure they are on the right footing.

It sounds like you have a lot of partners that have done a lot of work in other countries as well that are also helping you, but what about the local organizations? Are there any local CSOs in Adamawa and surrounding states that are helping you?

Most of these [organizations present] are local organizations, like the faith based organizations. All these faith based organizations in Adamawa state are there with us in the camp. We have about 8 committees and they are in all these eight committees. The American University of Nigeria (AUN) and Adamawa Peace Initiative have been supporting us in that also, because at present we are concentrating more on their educational side. As I told you, UNICEF supplied us with educational materials, and AUN, Adamawa Peace Initiative and other well meaning citizens of the state are supporting us in that aspect too because they’ve agreed to come and conduct classes. These children’s education has been disrupted and we don’t want it to continue much longer. We now have up to 6 classes and very soon we are going into waste-to-wealth education so that by the time they leave they must have gotten one trade or the other due. I want to believe that by next week after this Sallah, we will set off fully in that aspect.

And there are other social activities we do there. We have football pitches, and we play matches between the humanitarian workers there and the IPD teams.

Who wins?

(laughs) We played one match and we are playing this evening. Well, you see the thing is, these people are depressed. We need to have some psychosocial activities here to at least to make them start feeling at home. IDPs can be aggressive, and they get dejected. You cannot rule that out because the situation the IDP left. Some of them maid have terrible memories, like the women that are the widows, you find them, you have to go close to them, you have to counsel them. We call most of them by name because we want them to feel at home, and honestly that aspect is working well. The psychiatric doctors who come in with the NMA are treating patients there because they are discovering a lot of them that need counseling. So that is how we work.

You say the psychiatric hospitals are coming to the camp. Is there a program that is in place or is it you know, just go and do house call in the camp or is it like specific program you are doing in the camp?

It’s a program we are doing in the camp. We have one doctor that comes every Wednesday, another one comes on Saturday, so in between it we have to call them to come in. When they are leaving, since we’ve identify the patient and they tell us what they want us to do with this patient. They often want us to spend time with [the IDPs], and that is what led us to start playing football. We use to have one pitch but now we’ve expanded to a full field for them and later on we’ve identified and setup a volley ball pitch for them.

Initially the atmosphere in the camp was a little tense, but the fact that we stay with them, we play with them, we have naming ceremonies and we fund the naming ceremonies, we fund most of the activities, so we’ve now become almost a family with them. And we are just trying to do that to create a conducive environment. The aggressiveness they came with is now subsiding. With feeding, NEMA had to make sure we perfected it. Everybody has satisfied, including the IDPs themselves, because they are the ones predominantly partaking in the cooking rather. So with time, they know what they want to eat and the quality and we make it that the food we cook there we eat together with them.

You just mentioned aggressiveness. Were there fights in the camp at the beginning, were people aggressive any small thing they start fighting, is that how it was in the beginning before you start to put in those psychosocial activities to bring them closer at first? Were they antagonist to each other at first? What was it like?

No, there was no fighting, nothing physical. But you know if you talk to somebody you think what you are expecting him to do, he will do the opposite. You tell him that open defecation is not good and it may result to outbreak [of illness]. Before you realize, he will still do the same thing again. You tell them, ‘this is not the place to dispose your waste product’, that there are bins. Our sister NGOs provided waste disposal bins and introduced hand washing fittings all over to make sure they are everywhere, but their aggressiveness started interfering. And what we did was to add more of the pit toilet because some of them don’t feel comfortable using this conventional toilet. These additional pit toilets reduced open defecation drastically.

I was just going to ask you based on open defecation, were there any previous outbreak of cholera or anything? I know there are in Maiduguri.

No, our medical team from Ministry of Health came in aggressively so they were able to tackle that. Up until this time we had only two cases of measles on children, and they were immediately quarantined. About a week ago, they’d already been discharged. There is nothing again like that. And immediately we were able to contain this open defecation (OD) syndrome, all these things stopped.

How many toilets do you have in the camp?

It is an NYSC Orientation camp, so there is a lot, and they have many conventional baths. We were able to add about 15 additional toilets so you see that is what led them to imbibe this culture of using the toilet. And then we have sanitation on almost daily bases, and we make sure that we go with them. Our sister agencies the IRC and other outfits that are there, they took it upon themselves that this should be part of work done daily, including Sunday.

The civil defense, the Boys Brigade, the Girls Brigade, the JNI, peace Corp, so the other police and army are all here on a regular bases, they are just here to support us. In plain clothes and uniform, security are always there with us. That is how we are able to have this level, thank God the government visit us periodically to see what we are doing are there are areas where they need to also come in, they come in the state government. And the UNACA are always in support, they’ve been supporting us, so that is how we are moving.

 I know that there are elections coming up in Adamawa. Have the elections in Adamawa been approached by INEC to register? Can you suggest anything to forestall voter enfranchisement among IDPs?

We need to see INEC and discuss. Let me just file my statistics of those who are likely to vote in my camp. When we have this information, it would help advise me on what to do next. We have not done that for now, because we want to let these people settle down but by next week, what you’ve said now, I’ll follow up on.

“The first people came when their homes were struck [by militants], now people are coming on their own”

Mr. Abubakar Gombe of Red Cross in Gombe State helps to manage an IDP camp for people fleeing insurgency violence in Borno State. The camp is located in the Gombe-Biu by-pass area of Gombe in Gombe State. In this interview, he talks to TAP about his work with the IDPs. He describes IDPs’ typical behavior when they first come into camp, what kind of assistance the Red Cross and other international agencies are rendering, and the importance of the local community in Gombe State welcome of the IDPs. From this interview, we learn that there is still no institutionalized government program to help the IDPs fleeing insurgency violence and that post-traumatic counseling support is still needed for displaced populations in the region.

To assist with donations to this IDP camp in Gombe, do call Mr. Abubakar Gombe on his phone number 08032639263. Due to technical difficulty, we sincerely regret that we are unable to provide a Soundcloud recording of this interview.

How do you receive IDPs? Do they make their way to you or are they put together and driven down in government vehicles?

The IDPs come to us. Before the establishment of camps, they were just staying at motor parks when they run away from their homes [in Borno], because they don’t know anywhere in town. It was when so many of them were at the motor parks that it was reported to Red Cross. Red Cross then reported to Gombe State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA), who decided to give them a place which is now the camp.

When you meet people, what kind of state do you meet them in? Do they have a lot of belongings?

One finds them in a state of despair. The first thing you see is their desperation, most especially the children, because they don’t know where they are. They can’t even stay still and look at you. The women as well are often in shock.

So they don’t make eye contact?

No, only the men. When the women are talking to you, they’re heads are down and you can tell they’re distracted.

The children?

You would see that they’re tired. Very tired and hungry, when we met them in the week after coming in from the motor park. Now that we have established the camp. Those first people that came, it was when their homes were struck [by militants]. Now, people are coming on their own [before their homes are struck]. Now that the camp is here, these new people don’t have as many psychological issues.

Demographics-wise, do you have more men than women?

Mostly women, then children. Then the men. We’ve recorded like 2000 people. Some have left [the camp], so we now have 1,570.

Why do they leave?

Some are government workers who’ve used their salaries to get a place to rent in town.

What other international agencies are with you, and what kind of assistance do you render?

It is only the Red Cross in terms of NGOs around in the camps. United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) supplies some materials for the children and adults, like food aid. Then bulk of food comes from National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA). Then another food items from philanthropist. An-Noor Mosque in Abuja brings in food for us as well. We also get used clothes. NEMA and Gombe State Government are the ones coordinating the whole thing.

The Borno and Gombe State governments, what role do they play?

Gombe is hosting the IDPs, giving them shelter, medical care taken care of by the state government through SEMA. Then Borno State government the deputy governor and governor came and gave them a lot of money in cash which they shared among the families, then promised them that soon they would go back.

So mostly ad-hoc, then? Is there any institutionalized program from Borno State for the IDPs from their state?

Not to my knowledge, no.

What is the situation like, health-wise? We’ve had an interview with the Health Commissioner and she talked about cholera outbreak in a camp in Maiduguri. Are you having similar difficulty?

We have not had that. We’d heard of the cholera outbreak, though, and we’re working on the sanitation issue. NEMA has added more latrines for us. They are divided for use by men, women, and even children. There is also hygiene education and promotion through Red Cross. So no, no cholera outbreak, bu some women are giving birth.

How many?

7 in the past two months. One of them to twins.

How long has this camp been open?

The camp has been open for 3 months.

A lot of care is given to physical health. What about psychosocial health? Following the abduction of the girls from Chibok especially, there has been a lot of focus on sexual violence during this insurgency. We’ve heard of young women reporting on experiences of sexual violence. And it’s even said that some girls have even given birth as a result of the rapes. What effort is ongoing to address women and girls’ specific need and even trauma-related issues?

We in the Red Cross give psychosocial support, but there is no center opened, and no one assigned to that specific role. We are mingling with them socially to find out their welfare. We are mingling with the men as well to find out if there is any problem. We encourage them to not hide anything so we can provide any support needed.

So there is no set program as yet, but it is being done informally.

No program, but I can tell you that if there are we can provide such assistance. People have been confiding in us, even those taking ARV drugs tell us. So we know if they are we can find out.

In addition to the question specific to women, as a general matter, is trauma also addressed informally?

Yes.

These people have also lost their sources of livelihood. What is being done in terms of re-training, trying to get them back on their feet? Or is it too early to think about this?

It’s not too early, because it would help to get things like this done on time. It would help so much. Other international NGOs are trying their best in that regards, but not in the camp.

Which ones?

We collaborate with Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) and also Gombe State Ministry of Agriculture. Some local governments have given the IDPs seedlings. Even Gombe SEMA has rented some housing for the IDPs in town.

And community members welcoming? Is their movement restricted?

Yes, very welcoming, that’s why many of them even decided to move into town. Especially the religious bodies, churches and mosques. Child Protection Services too have even come recently with relief items for the children. Some of these people also have relatives in town as well.

State and Federal Government are they working hand-in-hand? Is there any duplication of effort?

Yes, I think so. They have many meetings on strategy and have demonstrated working relations. Especially so with NEMA and SEMA.

That’s all I have. Anything else you want to make note of that I haven’t asked you?

Only that the government has been promising them that they would go back in two weeks. They raised their hopes, but it’s not feasible. Some tried to go back home, but they couldn’t even enter their towns. It’s best not to raise anyone’s hopes.

“For the 57 girls that escaped, they have all been rehabilitated and we have provided them psychological support”

This post is part of a series of interviews with subject matter experts on the northeast of Nigeria and the ongoing militant violence. TAP hopes these interviews will contribute to an issue-driven conversation on what relevant actors in the region can do to help stop the violence and improve well-being of Nigerians living in violence-prone areas.

Among the challenges in information sharing on the situation ongoing in northeast Nigeria is getting a sense of what the state government is doing to alleviate suffering of the population under its aegis, and what support is needed on the well-being of Nigerians living in the area. The Borno Commissioner of Health Min. Salma Anas-Kolo talked to TAP 10 days ago about her work in service delivery in Borno State, sharing insight into the challenges of internal displacement, the state of public health, and the ways in which state and federal governments are working together in healthcare. She talks about the overcrowding at the displacement camps and the cholera outbreak in the camps as a result. She also addresses the state’s provision of mental health services to 57 girls from Chibok Local Government Area of Borno State who managed to escape their abductors, and the challenges the state is facing in terms of human resources and support.

Can you give us some idea of what is going on and how exactly the ongoing insurgency in Borno State is affecting service delivery?

In Borno, [the health ministry] operates services at the three levels of healthcare. The basic one which is the primary healthcare. with the coming of this administration that is the one we focus on because it is the one closest to the people. We strengthened the health system in order to provide quality service to the people across the local governments and that has been effective. Twenty-two general hospitals in the twenty-two local government areas, and then three tertiary hospitals including the University Teaching Hospital established by the Federal Government. All are working effectively especially the primary health facility. But unfortunately, especially in the last two months and because of the severe insurgency attacks, a lot of population has shifted especially in the northern Borno and some parts of Southern Borno. This has also affected health workers. They have also relocated due to the insurgency while some have lost their lives. Of course this has its negative effect of the health service delivery in the state.

Does this mean that there is a lot of displacement going on?

Yes, our major challenge now is the internally displaced persons. In three local governments in southern Borno, we are experiencing internally displaced persons with 80% as children and women. This [challenge] is not only limited to Borno; Gombe State too has internally displaced persons. Within Maiduguri township itself there are a lot of internally displaced persons coming from the other local governments. We have over three thousand persons. Currently we are experiencing cholera outbreak. We were able to contain it last week but unfortunately it resurfaced again two days ago, so we are mobilizing our teams because we recorded over one thousand cases of cholera within one week.

With all of this going on, how are your linkages with NEMA? Is that going on? What kind of support are you getting from other State agencies?

We have been receiving support from the Federal Ministry of Health and National Primary Health Development Agency. So these are the two government and health agencies that have been providing support. And also some of our development partners, particularly the UN agencies. But we are still waiting for the desired support from NEMA. I am glad to mention that in Gombe state the state emergency agency has been supportive, especially with the internally displaced persons that have relocated to Gombe. But we looking forward for support from NEMA at the moment.

These IDP who are still in the northeast part of Nigeria, how safe are they?

Well, one cannot talk about safety because there are gaps in the security, but efforts are ongoing to ensure safety of the IDPs. They are located in the NYSC camp. They are provided with some level of security. Those who are in Biu that I visited recently also have some level of security. The local government provided a civilian security outfit.

Has there been in any attack of the camps?

There has not been any attack.

Any attempt of radicalization in the camp?

No, because we are really making a lot of effort, tried to resettle them. We have tried to provide enough relief materials: food, clothing and even some level of education, like for the ones in Maiduguri.

Considering the large size of Borno and the villages scattered far and wide, how do you respond to emergencies? Is there a structure in place?

What we did in Borno was to set up emergency response teams. We even set up a full department in the Ministry of health. So when there are emergencies, we send the team nearest to the area, send a lot of medicine and other materials to enable the nearest hospitals to cope, also ambulances. Within the Maiduguri township, whenever there is emergency, we have that emergency response that has been very effective. We have strengthen the general hospital in Biu and the one in Bama to be able to cope with the emergency response.

But one of the major challenges like I have said is the human resources. We do not have enough medical staff, especially medical doctors. Two years ago we had 35 but with the coming of this administration we are able to do massive recruitment for medical doctors. The same thing for the nurses. We recruited about three hundred nurses and a lot of them deployed to the rural communities. With [the abduction of the girls] in Chibok, if you would recall, we started providing rehabilitation services and we started training a lot of health workers for psychological support and counseling. We have trained almost forty health workers. Because of the insurgency a lot of them were displaced and we are now left with only four counselors. So this is the implication. We have been suffering a lot of setbacks.

I want to get a little clarification. Can you tell us where the responsibility of the state begins, where it ends and where that of the federal government begins. A lot of people do not understand this, particularly from the health angle.

From the health angle, you cannot be putting blame on one another. It is a collective responsibility. In the health sector we have been working harmoniously, jointly between the local government, the state and the federal government. So it has been a joint responsibility.

If I can give you example: despite the insecurity, we have been able to control polio transmission. This year alone we have not had a single case of polio. And that is the indication of the strength of the services, the effectiveness of collaboration between the State, the local government and the federal government. So in the health sector, we cannot say we cannot blame anyone.

Of course the federal government has a bigger role to play in terms of the leadership and also the effective coordination of whatever support is coming. If that is weak we wouldn’t be able to harness the support that is coming from the federal government and the local government. For us in the health sector I would say we do appreciate the support of the federal ministry of health, especially through the minister of health and also the support of national primary healthcare development agency.

Sexual violence has really come to the fore especially with the kidnapping of the girls, I wonder what your view is in terms of the state to deal with sexual violence both psychological and physical means.

Sexual violence has always existed in the northern part of the country, especially in Borno, and has led to the abduction of the girls. Even before the massive abduction of the girls, it has been ongoing in the population of Borno State, especially in Northern Borno. We have been making efforts and we have been mobilizing support through our partners especially UNFPA to support us. We have been implementing activities in the area of awareness creation in order to discourage sexual and gender based violence. We have a programme through the Ministry of Women of Affairs that have been implementing activities. But you know. it has to take a long time because it has to do with the attitude and then the educational level. You may recall that the illiteracy level in the north especially among women is not impressive. These are some of the contributory factors. But we are still not relenting. The state government at the moment is committed to ensure gender equality and also to promote the education of the girl child.

Are there any specific programs that you are implementing for victims of sexual violence? In Nigeria, we are not always good about mental health, and I’m sure there issues of trauma for people who have experienced violence on an almost daily basis. Who are you partnering with on this?

We are committed to ensuring that we address the issue. We set up a rehabilitation committee, and I chair that committee. It is supposed to rehabilitate and provide psychosocial support and post-traumatic treatment. So far, we have been doing that. For the 57 girls that have escaped, they have all been rehabilitated and we have provided them psychological support and trauma management. And that’s to all of them, including their parents. We have identified experts and trained people, especially health workers and other volunteers. We have also collaborated with the psychiatric hospital when there is need for further treatment. But part of the gaps that we have is the dearth of mental health services, and this is where we’re seeking support from our partners to support the state, not only at the highest level, but primary health, too. We have UNFPA to support us, too, on GBV. And we’re getting some support there. This is quite new to us as well.

Does this question of human resources apply in this case as well?

Yes, because we are training health workers and volunteers, but the major challenge like I have said earlier is that we are losing a lot of human resources because of the insurgency violence. So as we train people, a lot of them are also leaving. Our hope is to keep it going, and that we are able to retain the health workers and the skills to provide the required services.

What support to do you need? Is there any support that you need on ground that you are not currently getting, aside from the human resource issue?

Management of the IDP camps, for example. There are better ways of managing the camps. To date, we don’t have that expertise on ground, also on how to better resettle families. We don’t have to wait until the end [of the insurgency]. Of course, human resources are inadequate to cope and provide emergency response services. We have been mobilizing the International Red Cross Society to support us, but more support is needed.

You know when there is overcrowding, there is likely to be outbreak of diseases. As I said earlier we now have a cholera outbreak. We are doing our best at the state level, but we need additional support for drugs and medical supplies.

Women are the most affected. If you visit the camps, you’ll see that it’s mostly women, a few young men and mostly elderly men. So there is need for support with reproductive health kits and dignity kits for women. I saw 3 pregnant women. So there are enormous gaps.

Also as you said, there is need for more psychosocial support and counseling. And it is not a one-time event, it needs to continue. For all populations affected, we need to scale up massively to bring more to the people.

The health system needs strengthening. We are doing our best but we need to do more to strengthen all the health systems, including health system services, to be able to cope with the increasing demand.

Girls that do get pregnant, the children that they’re pregnant with, are they taken to half-way houses, their homes, what happens to them?

What happens is that we give them psychosocial support and we screen them. These screenings are across board: HIV, malaria, hepatitis, pregnancy, etc. When they are pregnant, we inform them and their parents, and we inform them enough to make their own decisions on what needs to be done. We have trained a lot of health workers on abortion care as part of comprehensive reproductive healthcare services, so based on their decisions we are able to assist them.

Can you give us a statistic on the number of girls that have been pregnant as a result of sexual violence lately? Do you have those numbers?

The only one we have recently is the one that we met and found her to be pregnant. That is the only one that I can say of the 57 that we worked with that escaped.

The IDP camps, I’m sure, need support, and people would want to know how to best support. If you live outside of the north or Abuja, who would you direct your relief materials?

Each IDP camps have a committee and chair, and they all have emergency response teams for health-related issues. In Maiduguri, they have a committee set up by the Governor and headed by the Commissioner of Women’s Affairs. So we can share with you contacts of these people when you want to provide support for the camps. The state governor also provides – and here is another area we need support – a food program. Borno State is agrarian, and with the insurgency there has been no farming activity taking place. We have also been providing relief in terms of clothing, mobilized a lot of second-handed clothes, and this is an ongoing activity also. We have done such relief drives to Biu and Maiduguri.

“I have more than twenty refugees seeking refuge in my house as a result of this insurgency”

TAP interviewed Yusufu, a young civil servant from Damaturu, about his experience living under the State of Emergency in Yobe State. In this interview, he talks about his experienced with displacement as a result of the mass killings in the rural areas, and explains why he thinks the security forces are lacking the capacity to fight the insurgents. He also talks about lack of assistance from government, and why he thinks the insurgents are targeting the villages they attack.

This TAP interview was conducted by a volunteer. If you are interested in volunteering with TAP, do get in touch with us via email testimonialarchiveproject@gmail.com 

What can you say about the spate of violence that is happening in the Northern States?

Well, with regards to the insurgency, I can give you some answers.

With regards to what we are witnessing these days, what can you say are the causes of the recurrent Insurgency?

You mean the cause of the insurgency that led to the killing of innocent lives and destruction of properties? Well, I cannot actually ascertain or narrate the cause of the menace.

How can you describe the condition of the people that have been affected by the insurgency?

Peoples’ lives have been seriously and negatively affected. In fact, as I speak to you now, I have more than twenty refugees seeking refuge in my house as a result of this insurgency. I swear to you, I have more than 20 refugees in my house. Our villagers can no longer go to their farms and above all, people’s means of livelihood have been severed.

So far, have you receive any form of assistance or relief from the authorities concerned?

Our people are yet to receive any form of assistance from the authorities concerned. Our people are still in Damaturu at Anguwan Gunje for more than four months now to be precise in anticipation of relief or assistance from the concerned authorities, and so far, they are yet to receive any of such assistance. I must admit here that few days ago, some people came and collected our names and our contact details inclusive of our phone numbers and left. We have written to the authorities several times but to no avail.

Is the heavy presence of the Police and the military personnel helping you in any way?

To be frank, they are helping us. But as you know, the magnitude of the insurgency as at now is beyond their capacity.

Are the insurgents giving you prior notice before carrying out their attacks?

Yes, most at times, especially in the villages, they do give notice prior to their attacks and if they strike, they will burn houses, valuables, kill and displace the villagers. But within the State Capital, due to the heavy presence of security personnel, I can say that we are safe for now.

The State of Emergency that was enforced, is it yielding any positive outcome?

Sincerely speaking, it is not yielding any positive result. In fact, it is of no use to us. The emergency rule took effect about a year ago, but up to today, the insurgency is still escalating. If you live in Damaturu for instance and you decide to move down to places like Yandudori up to Dambao, you will discover that more than twenty villages and towns have been deserted with thousands of villagers forced to flee their homes.

You said the security operatives are doing their best. Are you satisfied with their stay so far? Do you have peace of mind with their presence?

Yes, they are working hard, to God be the Glory, and they are doing their best. I think one major problem with our security operatives is that they are not properly commanded. That is why we are not winning the war on insurgency.

It looks like you are staying in the city, but do you think that the insurgents are selective in carrying out their notorious attacks on nearby villages?

Well, I cannot categorically say yes to this question, but I know that most at times, whenever they seek for assistance from the villagers, if they resist and turn down their offer, they will attack them and burn their houses and kill as many people as they can.

There are insinuations from some quarters that people especially the youth are still joining the sect despite all the atrocities they have committed. What do you think are the reasons behind this move?

I think who ever join the sect is destined to do so. But I think there is no reasonable human being that will join such a sect. I repeat, no reasonable and responsible human being will join these misguided people.

Is the Boko Haram sect assisting people in any way?

There is nothing good that has ever come out from them. These are people that kill innocent people and rob them of their means of livelihood.

“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.

“They burnt down our house, our village is still burning”

Ali speaks to a civil society worker in Maiduguri about his life since militants razed every home in his village, including his. This testimony was provided in Hausa. The English translation is below.

I have not had any help from the government since my house got burnt. I don’t have anything and I need help any how it will come. They burnt down our house, our village is still burning, at the moment I am now no where (homeless), it was someone that is taking pity and accommodated me in a nearby bush with my seven children.

“What happens to a person, happens to God”

The following transcript is of an interview with Hussaina, a community service worker who has lived in Maiduguri for decades. She  spoke to TAP about the violence she has seen in her neighborhood in Maiduguri, and the losses her community faced during a spate of violence on February 18th. She personally has not lost any of her family in the fighting as at the time of this recording. 

Initially, Borno State is a state where Muslims and Christians have been leaving together very cordially and in peace. And during this insurgency, a few years ago, and now on Feb 18th, the violence has affected even the development of the state. People are displaced.

There was a woman that lost 6 of her children on February 19th. Burn her house, burn her children to ashes, no recognition. And up to today as I’m speaking to you, I have never heard whether government has assisted her or rebuild her house or given her any compensation.

Another one too in Umurari, a driver with seven children. His house was demolished. He found a place and just made a small shed with his children, believe that during his retirement he would go back to his village in Dambua local government. In the last two months, his house in the village was burnt, two people were killed in that house. No compensation.

Government has not come to their aid to see what is happening or even to take their statistics. The only assistance that government is doing, to me I have observed there is bias. Some local government, government has visited. Others government has not visited. To me I believe that what happens to a person happens to God. It shouldn’t have this segregation. As long as government intends to help.

We have widows that have been crying seriously for help. Especially now that school has opened. School fees is a problem. And nobody is willing to take responsibility of another person because of the situation we are in the states. And security men, too, have lost their lives. If something is happening, if you ask them to go, they will not go., they will kill them, they will drive their families from the house. They would not have any benefits to support the family.

So this thing is becoming so problematic in the state. Nobody can go out and say “this is what is happening. And this thing has really affected the society. You cannot move freely in the town. People will come to us and say “people have written us letters that they will be coming”.

People are even saying “maybe government is involved”. If not, why is this thing continuing for the past 6 years and no solution to it?” People are walking helter-skelter, OK. “Who are the shadows? Who are the people sponsoring it?” Up ’til today, we have never found out. You will find out that they have paraded this person as Boko Haram, and the person arrested will say I was sent by this person”. And up till today, nobody has ever brought out that person publicly as introducing these people. Up til today, these soldiers wo’nt tell us “these are the sponsors.” We have never seen anyone say “these are the people sponsoring this violence”. No stop to it.

It’s very alarming.