women

“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.

“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.

“Gender has always been a component of the way [Boko Haram] violence has happened, and it’s become more explicitly so”

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.

Elizabeth Pearson is a gender and extremism analyst who is studying towards a PhD at King’s College London on gender norms in Jihadi and counter-Jihadi radicalisation. and a member of the Nigerian Security Network. She co-wrote a report titled, “Women, Gender and the evolving tactics of Boko Haram,” Journal of Terrorism Research, Volume 5, Issue 1, February 2014. This report addresses an under-researched aspect of Boko Haram’s activities: gender-based violence (GBV) and its targeting of women. It argues that 2013 marked a significant evolution in Boko Haram’s tactics, with a series of kidnappings, in which one of the main features was the instrumental use of women. In this interview, Pearson puts the well-known abduction of over 200 girls in Chibok Local Government Area spurned the #BringBackOurGirls protests in Nigeria and elsewhere in context. She discusses the ways in which gender-based violence has featured in the ongoing insurgency on the part of both the military and the militants, the ways in which Muslim and Christian women have been treated durning the violence by the militant group, and the ways in which the government can help communities affected by the violence in the remote communities affected by the violence.

Thanks so much Liz for agreeing to speak with me. Now, following the really illuminating report that you did on gender based violence about these women and the ongoing insurgency in the north-eastern part of Nigeria, I have just a few questions, starting with this one.

Do you reckon that gender based violence is a mere by-product of Boko Haram’s larger strategy in the North East, or is it part and parcel of their strategy?

I would say it is part and parcel of its strategy. It’s really integral to what’s going on in terms of the ideology which is very strongly gendered partly because of the insistence and the desire for Sharia law, which has very codified and very distinct ideas about the roles that men and women should have. So, the ideology is part of why it is integral, but more recently, there has been a real directive from Shekau in terms of abductions of women. Since 2012, there’s been a specific directive about abducting women which has really sort of ratcheted this up. Gender has always been a component of the way violence has happened and it’s become more explicitly so since its leader Mohammed Shekau has ordered and threatened the abduction of women, which began in 2012, and has been happening for the past years more than now.

There is a lot that has been said about #BringBackOurGirls, but it is really just one instance of abduction and gender-based violence. That was something that really came through in your report and also even in response to the first question. I was just wondering if you could help put what happened in Chibok in context, how many girls have been previously kidnapped, what has been the fate of these girls that have experienced the violence, how have they fared?

Well, I think why [what happened in Chibok] has been so shocking and why it has made headlines and rightly so around the world is because of the numbers of girls taken. But yes, women living in the north-eastern part of Nigeria have known for some time that they are vulnerable to being kidnapped and abducted by Boko Haram. These abductions started in 2013. Now, up until Chibok, the numbers that were taken in any one case were much smaller, so anything from around a dozen to twenty women were taken at a time in attacks that really weren’t so widely reported but that people knew where happening. One of the hostage negotiators Steven Davis has been speaking about how many girls and women he thinks has been taken in total, and he guesses that perhaps as many again have been taken by Boko Haram. So that’s a lot of women and girls.

Women have been released in prisoner exchanges with the Nigerian government, so some of them have been unharmed and have spoken to the press. Not Chibok girls now, but other women that have been taken have been bartered successfully with the Nigerian government. This obviously makes taking girls a successful strategy for Boko Haram. There are other girls that have escaped. There are certain parts of northeast Nigeria, which has been more affected than the others. Gwoza is one region where quite a lot or perhaps dozens of young Christian women have been taken in raids to go with them, to look after them, to cook, to clean and forcing them to convert to Islam. If they are Christians, they are forcing them to marry, raping the women in some cases and beating them. There was quite a well reported case of a young girl who is nineteen years old; she is a Christian teenager who had escaped from one such group. She had been with them for a few months,and she described being beaten and forced to convert to Islam, so we know from women who have either been freed or who have escaped what kinds of circumstances that they are been held in.

Ok. Would you say that there has been a marked difference between the soldiers and the Boko Haram’s use of women in the ongoing conflict? Not to try to imply that you know soldiers and Boko Haram are the same, or try to put them in the same box. I was just wondering if how women are used in the conflict differs from both sides.

It’s difficult to equate what Boko Haram are doing with what the Nigerian government are doing. They are two; one is a violent really very brutal and insurgency, the other is trying to combat that insurgency but it’s unfortunate that women have been caught up in this conflict and treated in comparable ways by both sides and they have been used as a way of attacking the other side. So, Boko Haram have been abducting women and they haven’t stopped doing this even since Chibok. Ever since the world’s focus has been on Nigeria, they have kept going. Partly as way of saying even though the world’s eyes are upon us, we are going to keep going with this and unfortunately the Nigerian government know that the police have been arresting and detaining the wives and family members of Boko Haram including one of Shekau’s own wives and that began in November 2011. And this is something that Shekau appears to have taken very personally, because it is something that he repeatedly referred to in video messages throughout 2012 before kidnapping really started in 2013. So it seems that if it was a strategy to try and get Boko Haram to the negotiating table, to try to get them to admit defeat didn’t really work. None of those Boko Haram women have been charged with anything and some of them have been released and exchanged. So there’s a similarity there and that women are been used by both sides as a way like pawns in this conflict as a way of attacking, each attacking the other side.

Thanks for that. You go into some details as to how Boko Haram has targeted Christian women and girls and even in response to the previous question, you went into some details about how Christian women and girls have been affected in the report that you wrote. It talked about the police’s barracks assault in Bama in February 2013, and chronicling the violence against women up until now. Would you say that Muslim women are not targeted by Boko Haram? I mean, are they being spared you know just as curious as to how you see in your analysis, how you see if there’s been a difference between the way Muslim women have been affected and Christian women have been affected by the ongoing violence in the North East.

I think it’s fair to say that there has been for sometime, a marked gender based violence directed at Christian women because of their faith. So for some time, Christian women have been forced to convert, they have been targeted for not wearing Islamic clothing they have been abused and harassed because of their faith in a way that Muslim women have not experienced. But it’s not the case that Muslim women are not also targeted. Boko Haram is very definite that moderate Muslims who do not buy into their ideology are also fair targets. Now Boko Haram has been treating men and women differently in its raids. There have been a number of cases where they have, for example, attacked colleges and attacked colleges accommodation and they have killed the men with no mercy. They have been completely brutal. There was a case earlier this year at a college where men were locked into dormitories, the dormitories set on fire, and those men trying to escape through the windows had their throats slit and that was an instance in which women were abducted alongside. There have been cases of where Muslim women and Christian women have been separated out into two groups and where Christian women have been attacked and raped and Muslim women have been “spared”. So, there is a difference in a way the women are treated in the attacks, and Muslim women and Christian women are treated in attacks. Certainly that’s true, but I think anybody who disagrees with Boko Haram is not treated leniently. It would be wrong to characterize all of the violence happening as being carried out by Boko Haram insurgents has something to do with religion. There are also more complicated factors that come into this. There is evidence that ethnicity is the basis for attacks. There is also struggle over resources and some of the attacks are purely criminal it would seem, so not every Boko Haram insurgent is fighting for an ideology. So I think that important to flag up as well. Although Boko Haram have a religious ideology, have an Islamist ideology a lot of the violence is caused by other factors that are not to do with religion.

I thought it was really important to really bring those points out, and I am glad you answered the questions and so specifically as well because one of the more troubling things that happened, is the whispers about how a lot of these girls are Christians and the question of the religion you know coming out as a talking point. In your paper, you also made a point that gender-based violence encompasses violence aimed at boys as well. In what way would you say that Boko Haram has targeted boys?

Well, they don’t see women as combatants they are targeting them as they are using them as recruits coerced into violence sometimes, coerced into joining insurgency where perhaps they don’t want to, paid sometimes to carry out attacks and treated with a greater degree of ruthlessness. They are more likely to be killed during attacks where women are sometimes “spared”. It is not to say that Boko Haram does not kill women. It does but men specifically in raids are more likely to be killed. We have seen more instances of Boko Haram maltreating women in different ways, but letting them live.

Some of the fathers of the over 200 abducted girls from Chibok Local Government in Borno State have come to the #BringBackOurGirls sit-ins that have been arranged in solidarity with them. I have spoken to some of the family members, and I remember this one father talking about how a lot of the family of the girls left are no longer lucid. One would see a mother on the street asking strangers, “that have you seen my daughter?” We are still very much in the thick of it, but I wonder if it is too soon to think about what can be done to rehabilitate people who managed to escape Boko Haram’s captivity, and I don’t know if you can give some examples of working with other countries to bring about reintegration and counselling on this sort of scale.

Liz: I can’t begin to imagine what people in Chibok and so many other parts of Northern Nigeria are going through when they loose groups of young women to Boko Haram. It is unimaginable and they clearly need support and they need help and they need to get the girls back. People who are living with the threat of random attack in parts of Nigeria which are unable to be policed, so it seems the courage that it just takes to go about their everyday lives is phenomenal and it is fantastic you are talking to people and you are documenting peoples’ stories. Other countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, other countries in the world have been dealing with conflict, they have been dealing with unfortunately similar cases of the adoption of the rape, of the salient excess slavery of young women of young men in Mozambique, in Sierra Leone, in Rwanda, in Uganda and in Somalia. These kinds of activities are all known, they are all experienced, and in those countries, there have been efforts to try and help people recover from the awful things that they are put through.

I know that UNICEF is doing well with NGO’s in Somalia, there has been a really fantastic program by World Vision Children of War Rehabilitation Centre in Uganda helping young children who are abducted by Joseph Konye into the LRA Lord’s resistance army. There have been doing that work for some years, there is hope, there is hope that peoples’ lives can be turned around, and there are plenty of people out there who have experienced this. So it can possibly be too soon for Nigeria to begin to learn from this. I know that there have been calls from American lawmakers in Nigeria to set up funds to try and help people. People have been incredibly proactive in Nigeria, protest moves against the adoption led by women in Nigeria has been huge, and has had a knock on effect all over the world there is the willingness that it’s just a question of getting the resources to try and help people in terms of counselling.

I think that the Nigerian government is aware of the problem there was the whole world after the ending sexual violence in conflict, summit in London recently, knows what the damages that can been done. Nigeria has a national action plan on safeguarding women in conflict [the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325] and that action plan in Nigeria was launched in summer 2013 and that action plan talked about, it was aware of the threat to women kidnapped in the some of the Northern region. So there is awareness, there is a need and there is a question of providing the resources, the facilities for people to get help and hopefully that’s something that would be, you know better than I, I’m sure, what help is going on for people hopefully that will be something that is really been invested in the future because there is obviously a need.

“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.

“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.