Yobe

“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.

“After[Boko Haram] do their own operation and go, the police will come for innocent people”

TAP spoke with Karu, a business woman and NGO worker in Damaturu, Yobe State, about her experiences over the past few years living under the state of emergency due to the ongoing violence by armed militias in the area. In this extensive conversation, she talks about the impact of the violence on the livelihood of ordinary Nigerians in the area, and her family’s experience with the armed group known as Boko Haram. She talks about the level of distrust between Nigerians in the area and the security forces charged with protecting them, and the lack of government assistance in the wake of the mass violence and loss of property.

This interview was conducted in English language. If you are interested in volunteering with TAP, do send the team an email at testimonialarchiveproject@gmail.com 

Thank you for agreeing to speak with us. What is life like in your area?

We have experienced a lot now, my dear. We are not comfortable, food to eat is not as regular. Sometimes it can be two meals a day, sometimes one.

How has the situation in your community affected you personally?

For myself, there’s nothing to say, it is very hard to put it. The normal business is not there, now there is nothing happening. Everything has stopped. Coming to Yobe is not easy, and business is not going as usual. Where you are supposed to sit down and sell, army has occupied that area. Where mechanic are sitting have been exchanged, everything has changed totally.

Has there been any assistance from government?

No assistance, my dear. Only these interviews and interviews, no form of assistance. One day we heard they had brought things that they were given rice, oil, and mattresses but we didn’t get anything.

How is the security in your neighborhood now?

Security? Even if you go to report the thing [security officers] will tell you is that they cannot fight death face to face and they will all run away.

Do you ever report incidences to the security forces?

Yes, sometimes we do, because like the one they did on 24th May between Borno and Yobe, they give warning that they were coming.

When they give you warning, what do you do?

We run to bushes because the place we are going if they see you in groups they will start their own so you have to join them.

Has state of emergency made life better?

Life? It is a little bit Ok, only Yadi Boni that we don’t know how they are.

Do people trust the security forces, JTF?

If I am the one to judge I will say no. If you come to them they will still challenge you, that Boko Haram is after their lives too, so why should you come to report. After they do their own operation (Boko Haram) and go, the police will come for innocent people in that area and they will start packing them, and putting them into the cell. Last week in Yadi Boni, Boko Haram they did their operations, and it was yesterday that [the police] came to pack innocent people and putting them into cells.

Why do you think these armed militias, Boko Haram, are attacking these communities?

I don’t know, in fact. You know some of this things you cannot know.

You know, some people are still joining Boko Haram. Why do you think that is?

It is usually under force. Like two of my brothers — same father. They were on their way for condolence visit on 6th January. They and my uncle were on their way to the burial of one of my relations and[Boko Haram] caught them. My father started crying and saying ‘Kill them and give me the bodies for burial’ they said ‘No!’ they cannot, and they took them away. Lucky enough the other one was found, but up to 5 months now we cannot know where he is since that day. Is he alive? Is he dead? We don’t know.

We have been hearing recently, three weeks ago that one man took his wife with three children. He said that he is running away, so they wouldn’t come and attack them in the town, but now no news about them. No news. They haven’t reached their destination. They are not at where they left and about the car, no news of the car, no owner. What can one say if one is to give information?

What do these militiamen do when you see them?

They can do everything they want. If they meet you, sometimes even food items they cannot leave. They will kill the person and pick their food. Sometimes they do not touch you, they will pick the food and leave if you are lucky. Sometimes if you are not lucky and you have men in the house, they will take them. That is why you can see now they are becoming more.

And this whole time government has done nothing? The situation is getting no better?

My dear, there is nothing the government will do. Is it today? is it yesterday? Now, I myself that I am telling you this if you come here, if you meet this people, they will see me better than the government, because now they can tell me their feelings.

Anybody who comes and says intervention, you’ll think they can go to that person, but in short while, they will say they are tired of this person, because and if the person is going to help, how many times is he going to help? So nothing has been done by the government. People have started feeling somehow about saying their problems or complaining about their problems, and everywhere this type of interview, these interventions are going nowhere.

“He insisted that death is everywhere and if it was his time to die he will die”

As this insurgency rages on, there have been alleged cases of extra-judicial killing by soldiers. In this interview,  a survivor talks to a TAP volunteer about how he lost his beloved father.
If you are interested in volunteering for TAP by helping with translations and/or interviews, or even contributing to TAP by sending in interviews of affected Nigerians in the northeastern part of the country, do send us an email at testimonialarchiveproject@gmail.com 
Salihu – Can you begin by telling us your name please
Mohammed – My name is Mohammed Sani
Salihu – From which state?
Mohammed – Yobe State
Salihu – Can you tell us how you have been  affected by the crises?
Mohammed – Yes, I can tell you. On Thursday around 4:30pm, I took some groceries to my parents house. But as I approached the area, I started hearing gun shots. As I tried hard to reach the house, a bullet nearly hit my motorcycle. Upon getting into the house, I gathered the women at home and we hid somewhere to wait for the shooting to end, but it went on for a while, up to around Maghrib prayer time (7pm).
So, early in the morning the next day, I told my dad that we should leave this area because many soldiers were being killed, but he refused, insisting that he won’t move, that death is everywhere and if it was  his time to die he will die. It wasn’t long after I left him (from what I was told) that soldiers came and brought them all out, interrogating them and asking them questions. My dad is poor and a motorcycle mechanic, and I also work in his garage, so I know everything he does. That is how they took them. The next day in the morning, my uncle and I went to where they were taken and we saw his body there, so we took him and buried him accordingly.
This is the brief story of what happened to us. He died and left many of us. We are 11 (his kids) and I’m the eldest. So that is why when I was approached about documenting our story I agreed to it. We need to say all that we know and answer all the questions we are asked concerning this, because only those that genuinely care about you would want to hear your story.
Salihu – just wanted to clarify one thing, are you certain its soldiers that killed your father or Boko Haram?
Victim – I’m quiet certain its soldiers and Mopol. Because there was a friend of mine who is about my age, he was also wounded with a bullet in his shoulder. He has since been treated and is recovering. Most of these things I heard from him — including my dad’s last words which he told them to pass to me. This is all I have to say regarding this.
Salihu – Thank you.

“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.

“It’s not what they take, it’s what they do to you that is the problem”

According to Halima, a businesswoman who has lived in her neighborhood in Yola for the past 35 years, robberies and armed violence during curfew hours are becoming more and more widespread. She believes that the displacement and armed violence is causing insecurity and societal distrust throughout the region, even in areas that are not seeing the worst of the violence.

You have young guys that have not been able to go to school, or they have been to school but they don’t have jobs. And because of that they use that opportunity to rob, disturbing people, crime… the problem is that everybody, all of us here, we don’t sleep with two eyes closed. We sleep with an eye open. And also, everyone in the community is concerned about this.

Just recently, some young boys came into my house in the middle of the night around three o’clock. They robbed us. True, they had not touched anybody, but they came in numbers, about 10 of them, and then after coming into the house they broke into the house, after they broke into the house they woke up everybody – in fact, smashing doors, smashing windows, and then they entered, they didn’t touch anybody. And if this kind of things when they happen, even the neighbors, when something happens like that they don’t feel comfortable because you share somebody house being smashed or crashed or people, in the middle of the night, they can’t be free. Nobody will come out and help you, no matter what you do. If you scream, it is useless. If you even call police they would not come. By the time they come, these people have gone. Also, even if I were the one, if something happened to my neighbor I won’t go out. I would be even afraid of calling police, because first of all, we don’t know if they are the ones who are robbing you.

In Adamawa, my state, we have curfew, but imagine if the curfew people are going around breaking into houses. With guns and machetes. Wherever they go, they have these strong torchlights that they use, you’ll think it’s NEPA. They don’t like to see their faces. And if you have on security lights, they will break the lights. Things like that. Everywhere, everywhere I can say in my state everyone is not sleeping peacefully. I have stayed in my neighborhood for 35 years, nothing happened like that. Except now. Now that I don’t even have a husband, I and my children and my partner are all living like this. And the irony of it is that there are rich, rich people with big, big mansions, they don’t go into those kinds of houses, because they know that maybe they have security. They go into poor people’s houses. It’s not what they take, it’s what they do to you that is the problem.

These kinds of things happen in all the three states that they say are emergency states. And sometimes you would see them in something like uniform. They put something on top of it that you don’t get. When you hear People say “don’t tell the police, is it the police that are coming up to come and rob people.” So you see, it’s not easy for somebody to even talk about this. But I’m talking not because I don’t want people to hear, but what I don’t want they have already done to me, so why can’t I come and talk?

And it’s not only Adamawa state; it’s in every one of these local governments and states. So there is a lot of problems that people are facing. Sometimes they think these people that break into your houses, are people that run away from other states. And when they are in your place they will just do that, because they don’t have anything else to do. If you say you’ll call you the police, they would say “don’t call the police because they’re the one’s doing this”. If you say let’s call the soldiers, people they would say, “don’t do this because they are conniving with them to do all this rubbish”.