Home Away (Part 1)
BORNO STATE in the northeastern part of Nigeria has been the hotbed of insurgency in the last six years. Boko Haram, a militia group that desires to impose its own brand of Islamist rule in the region, has killed thousands of civilians and security agents.
According to Amnesty International, not fewer than 17,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed since 2009, when the group first launched a campaign to establish caliphate in the Northeast. And at least 2,000 women and girls have been abducted since the start of 2014.
As casualty number increases especially in Borno towns and villages, residents seek refuge in camps established for the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Maiduguri, the state capital. The official report by the state government puts the figure of IDPs in Borno alone at 1.5 million, the highest in the region.
This report captures the experiences of the IDPs at the camps, and warns that the adversity faced by the displaced people of the region presents future danger even greater than the terror of Boko Haram insurgency.
Alone in the World
Gambo Abubakar, 19, sits alone at the foot of dongoyaro tree in front of the white tent, which serves UNICEF officials as operation office at Dalori camp in Maiduguri. Yet, there are about 19,000 Internally Displaced Persons resident in the camp according to the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA). That is a huge number for company; but not for Gambo, a mother of three children – two of them already dead.
Propping her covered head on left hand, she stares into the space ahead, her face expressionless. It is difficult to know whether she is watching clusters of little children playing with sand few meters away, or just enjoying the mock football match being played by the older children farther off?
There are 10, 000 of such children in Dalori camp as at the last count on Saturday August 15, many of them orphans. Yet the number increases everyday as more displaced persons find their ways to the camp.
When Gambo is not staring at empty space ahead, she is gazing at the ground below her feet. Next, she picks up a strand of sack bag from the floor and begins to fumble with it. Eventually, she succeeds in making a crested ring out of it. When she finishes, she tries to fit the ring onto her little finger, but it is an inch too small to go in, and the crest too big. She untangles the strand, and begins again.
Many times she sits alone like that, not wanting to interact with anybody, says Mrs. Hanatu Abdullahi, the head of Red Cross psycho-social team at Dalori camp. People’s presence around her is no interruption, but she gets incensed when someone is trying to get close, Mrs. Abdullahi adds.
This Saturday afternoon however, Gambo does not appear angry as she narrates her ordeal in the hand of Boko Haram insurgents – the killers of her twin babies, three siblings, parents and her husband of six years.
Black day in Bama
In December 2013, Boko Haram, the Islamic militants in the northeastern Nigeria, who propagate a radical ideology of Islam, sacked Bama, one of the 27 local government areas in Borno state and occupied the town, killing almost everyone in sight until a recent military campaign dislodged them. “They (Boko Haram sect) killed my mother and my little brother when they were trying to escape into the soldiers barrack during the attack,” she says calmly.
Mother and son got caught in the bomb thrown into the army barrack in Bama, a border town of about 40 kilometres outside Maiduguri. And when Gambo’s father and her two elder brothers went to bury the deceased, the dreaded fighters again sought them out and killed three of them at the burial place including relations who came to sympathise with the grieving family. They later came for her husband, Abdullahi Ibrahim and killed him too. “They even brought his dead body home to show me, saying they had just killed ‘a pagan,’” she says.
Gambo herself escaped death by a whisker because old women in the community told the insurgents that, since they were looking for someone who can teach their wives how to read Quran, they could use her service because she has acquired advanced Islamic training. That was how Gambo and her twin babies became captives of Boko Haram. That time, she was about 7-month pregnant.
Living with Boko Haram insurgents
“For more than forty days, I lived with Boko Haram insurgents teaching their wives how to read and recite Quran. They seized my babies from me so that I would not run away. I was told later the babies died. But I knew they were killed,” she pauses, and begins to sob quietly. The interpreter, a total stranger who is only listening to her story for the first time, joins her. For seconds, a spell of silence dominates the small room of the UNICEF tent where the interview session is going on. After a while, she continues her story – surprisingly in a steady voice.
Being pregnant, my condition puts the Boko Haram fighters in dilemma: they wanted me because of the assistance I rendered to their wives. According to their second-in-command in Bama, I am the most literate girl they had come across in Bama ‘who has Islamic knowledge in her blood’. But they do not want the baby in my belly because they said I was carrying ‘seed of a pagan’.
“They offered to marry me off to one of the Boko Haram leaders on the condition that I agree to either allow them abort my baby or I should carry the baby to term, and then they would kill the newborn afterwards.”
The final plan was to take Gambo to Sambisa Forest, the stronghold of the sect where she can join the households. But one of her former neighbours in Bama who was forcibly conscripted by the terror group warned her from following them to the forest – most youths from Bama have either been conscripted or killed by the insurgents, the rest have escaped far afield.
“Do everything you can not to follow us to Sambisa. If you follow us, you will suffer so much that you will prefer to die. Many of the girls already in Sambisa suffer a lot that they even want to die,” the young man told her.
Before slaughtering her family members, Boko Haram militia had earlier abducted her three sisters on their way to Islamiyyat. Till date, the whereabouts of the girls remain unknown. Thus, if she followed them to Sambisa perhaps she could see her sisters again and tell them about the fate that befell their parents and siblings, she thought. But that would come at a great loss of losing her unborn baby.
While she was thinking of escape route and her abductors were making plan on how to kill her expected baby, soldiers from Maiduguri attacked Bama and liberated many villagers. She escaped to Maiduguri on foot through the help of a man called Baba Ibrahim.
She eventually made it to Dalori camp where she gave birth to her son whom she named Abdul Kadir, which means servant of the powerful. Gambo believes only a powerful God could have saved life of his only son. It is hard to question her conviction
On the threshold of insanity
At 11-month old, Abdul Kadir does not look much well fed; neither does he look too sickly like some other infants at the camp. “His growth rate could have been better though, if the mother spends more time to breastfeed him,” says Mrs. Abdullahi. But Gambo spends more time roaming around the camp, leaving her son to the care of other women.
Attention deficit disorder is reported to be common to people who suffer posttraumatic stress such as victims of Boko Haram attack. That may be the reason why many times Gambo is found sitting alone staring into space and with no care for people around, or just roaming the camp. But no medical expert has closely examined and diagnosed her case properly, let alone prescribe treatment regime.
“Certainly, Gambo’s case is a psychiatric one but so are the case of many others here,” says the head of the psychosocial team. Being a camp with the highest number of IDPs, humanitarian challenge is overwhelming at Dalori. Even Mrs. Abdullahi admits to neglect of important health condition at the camp, except if such case is life threatening. “There are too many cases to attend to, but there are few personnel to do the job,” she says.
Other survivors from Bama
One of the lucky survivors who eventually escaped to Dalori camp is 11-year-old Awwaul Ali. A slim boy with happy face, he is one of the 10 000 children resident at the camp, many of whom have become orphans as a result of Boko Haram attack in Bama. Ali escaped to Maiduguri on foot in company of strangers, mostly children and widows.
Before his escape, he spent three month in captivity alongside other children where Boko Haram insurgents flogged them tirelessly everyday in order to “exorcise paganism” out of them. “They feed us with millet once a day,” he says. Within that period, some of the children became sick and frail, and then died. Ali too was losing stamina. But when the military regained Bama after sending the terrorists in disarray, his energy returned as he joined other children and women running to safety.
He finally fled to Maiduguri without his parents. “My mother’s friends told me that Boko Haram people killed my father while he too was trying to escape. I was also told that my mother fell sick in the bush where she was hiding with others, and died later,” he recounts. What he does not know is where his parents were buried if they were ever buried at all. Many victims of Boko Haram militia died like that without burial, some were hurriedly left behind to rot, says Mrs. Hafsat Mohammed, one of the women who escaped to Maiduguri through bush. Mrs Mohammed lost her husband, her brother and three of her brothers-in-law to the insurgents. She arrived at Dalori only with her two daughters.
As for Ali, a pleasant surprise was waiting for him at the camp. Two of his younger sisters whom he thought had died, survived the ordeal and had also made it to the camp, but one of them already is mentally ill. The three orphans now live with their mother’s friends at the camp.
When courage fails
Baba Abdullahi Garba, another survivor of Boko Haram attack, could be considered a bit luckier. A retired police officer, the sixty-year-old man is not known to harbor fear of any kind. Dark, broad and tall, his intimidating figure used to put the fear of the law in offenders. And he never failed to put his resourcefulness to use while in the police service. Little wonder, he rose to a two-star police officer before retirement in 2009 despite his limited education. After retirement, people in his community at Bama continued to respect him because of his boldness, and the decisiveness with which he handles issues. He was like a guardian angel in the local community. But when Boko Haram militia came calling on a Monday morning in September 2014, the ex-cop abandoned his household and ran for dear life, leaving behind his two wives, Mary and Grace and 12 children.
“We were at the mosque around 5 am when they came to Bama. We were hearing sound of guns from everywhere. Nobody needs to be told that they were Boko Haram terrorists. We all made for the door at the same time and struggled to get out,” he says.
“At that moment,” he continues, ‘it was not possible for me to think of going back home to get my family. I ran into the bush with other men. We trekked from Bama to Maiduguri. We slept in the bush for 12 days eating grass. For two days, we had no water to drink.”
The old man was jubilant when he finally arrived at Dalori camp, yet he grieved everyday for the family he left behind. “The thought of what could have happened to my family gave me nightmare everyday,” he recollects. News of daily killings and destruction coming from Bama made the matter worse for him. His agony did not last long. A couple of weeks after his arrival, he heard that the military had brought some people from Bama to Maiduguri, he went to the barrack to go and look for them. Luckily, his wives and children were among those rescued, but one of his daughters, Momi is still missing. The family believes the insurgents have kidnapped her. His wives later told him how the insurgents burnt his house and property. “Now, after 35 years of service, I am left with nothing,” he says with a sad smile.
Inside Dalori camp
Dalori camp is the largest in Maiduguri, hosting about 19, 000 displaced persons.
Populated largely by children, women and old men from Bama, the camp is a sight of “great human suffering and extreme trauma” says the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo who visited Dalori recently.
In the last six months, not fewer than 100 persons arrive Dalori daily. Regular increase of arrivals has stretched facilities at the camp to the limit. For instance, tent the size of a car garage now shelters 17 to 25 persons. Baba Abdullahi, the police retirees, lives in one of the tents with his two Christian wives and 11 children including his sister-in-law and her two daughters. That number is way above five-person-per-room standard recommended by United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR).
The camp coordinator, Idris Alooma is distressed about this shortage, but he is helpless to provide solution. The rate at which IDPs arrive surpasses the rate at which tents are built, he says.
As at the second week in August, more than 600 tents have been built by relief agencies such as Red Cross, Unicef, Médecins Sans
Frontières (MSF) and National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA). And the agencies have not stopped building more tents, but many residents of Dalori camp may have to sleep in the open and endure the element before the tents are completed. So whenever it rains, a multitude of Dalori dwellers who are yet to get room allocation huddle together under uncompleted buildings.
Even those inside the camp sometimes are not protected from the elements. Swift sand storm slams at their tents at night, soft rainwater wets the floor during rainfall, and the households inside are often left in the cold. The crowdedness of the camp and the unfair weather impose health challenge on the camp dwellers.
Clinical nurse specialist and camp coordinator for health, Noah Noah Bwala, has worked in the government hospital for 35 years. He was recently recalled from retirement to assist at Dalori camp. He works side-by-side two doctors, Doctor Audu Usman and Doctor Yakubu. He describes the condition at the clinic as ‘awful’.
“We receive many more patients during the raining season because of cold. When it rains here, people fall sick easily,” he says.
One clinic for all
In spite of the regular incident of health challenge, there is only one clinic in Dalori. The clinic is a drab brick of bungalow without windows. Patients huddle together in a corridor that serves as waiting room. There is a consulting room and two admissions rooms dedicated mostly for antenatal and postnatal patients and for other patients with critical health issue.
The building serves not only as clinic but also as a shelter for the IDPs that are yet to receive tent allocation. Inside this building, many lives have been saved and lost, mostly pregnant women and babies.
Long before 9 o’clock – the resumption time for health staff – patients are already on queue waiting for their turn to see the doctors who attend to more than 150 patients every day in addition to those on admission.
The number, according to Mr. Bwala, is even higher on weekends because IDPs residents within the host communities in Maiduguri also come for treatment at Dalori. This number is far above 5000 persons per clinic recommended for IDPs camps by UNHCR. Thus, it is not unusual to see the health staff themselves being distraught before the closing hour at 4pm. Some of the health workers themselves are victims of Boko Haram attack. One of them is Fatimat Yamani, 30, whose husband was killed during one of the bomb blasts that occurred in Maiduguri last year.
When the health personnel go home for the day, management of Dalori clinic is left for volunteers, most of whom are not professionals. Both the staff and the non-staff often do their best but patients still die in drove at the camp.
In the last six months, not less than 100 children have died in the clinic.
Meal time, happy time
Children of Dalori camp are not typically different from children from elsewhere, except that they could use a lot more care than they are getting presently. Yes, the children get free breakfast and dinner daily, which is basically rice, thanks to NEMA, but a pet parrot in other place could get a little more. And the food quality is a little low even for a parrot. But the children don’t seem to mind. Days of deprivation spent in Boko Haram’s den have taught them to be grateful for little provision.
So the happiest hour for them at the camp is the mealtime. Twice a day, they wait eagerly for their meager ration. And the meals sometimes come delayed especially when it rains, because the firewood for cooking would have been wet. Days such as this illustrate the vulnerability of children of Dalori, and the helplessness of their parents as they watch their children groan in hunger while waiting for food, yet they dare not complain or protest.
For many, government is already doing enough by providing them shelter and food. After all, government is a strange phenomenon in their villages. “Many of them have never experienced the existence of government in their community since they were born,” says the head of Department of Sociology and Anthropology at the University of Maiduguri, Dr. Ibrahim Muhammad who had conducted researches in different communities in Borno states.
So while the cooking lasts, some of the children circle around the kitchen like vultures waiting for the final falls of a prey. When meal is finally ready, and the kitchen attendants make announcement, a locust of children swam closer towards the kitchen to take their portion, which is always dished with a rusty shovel on wide trays. God helps anyone who lags behind at this critical moment for the food disappear from the trays in seconds. The children would then retreat with a steaming scoop in their small palms, which they hurriedly swallow.
This is followed by prolonged lick of fingers. They lick their fingers longer than the time they spend eating their portion. In the end, they rub their damp palms on dusty hairs, and then go back to play until the next meal is ready. In the struggle for food, many are not lucky to get a grab; those ones instead settle for the empty greasy tray and lick it dry. The oily crumbs are their own ration for that time.
The adult IDPs instead have their own ration served in buckets and they quietly go back to their tents to share it in morsels. The sight of old men and women sharing a mess of rice pottage in small portion is no less pitiable than that of their children. But the people seem to have accepted their fate.
The children of Dalori camp also look like they need a hard washing from head to toe. Some of them look like they just escaped from a muckheap. Though Maiduguri is a fly-infested city, the swarthy and blighted skin of most children attracts more flies. These flies form a close ally with the children, so that when they are sleeping, walking or eating, flies are never far away. The unhygienic culture of most of the townsfolk does not help matters. Children in Dalori camp regardless of their age are usually seen playing around with sand or any filth within reach.
Old habit dies hard
Relief agencies have provided basic facilities such as latrines, bathroom and water in the camp. Each day, a water tanker does several rounds to ensure all day long water supply. But water still runs dry in the tap because of the huge population it is meant to serve. Also, NGOs engage in awareness campaign to promote good hygiene and environmental sanitation in the camp, yet sanitation problem persists. Each morning, the minders of the camp wake up to see that someone has either defecated inside the public bathroom or on the open field instead of using the latrine. Living style of many families inside Dalori poses serious health challenges to the entire populace. Yet not many of the IDPs see these unhygienic practices as a huge contributory factor to the poor wellbeing in the camp.
A UNICEF officer resident in Maiduguri said it would take time for the IDPs to change their old ways. According to him, many of them lived in the village all their lives where people answer the call of nature inside the bush. “Even if you build them a modern toilet facility, these people would still prefer to do their defecation their own way. That is the reason we built latrines instead of toilets, but even the use of latrines is strange to them. But we must spend time to educate them,” he says. This explanation illustrates the backwardness of certain communities in Nigeria. It also shows the failure of government in the northern region, which many stakeholders often point at.
Western education is no haram
At a relic serving as a school building in Dalori, children aged between six and 14 years old gather in groups. Each of them carries a blue back bag with “UNICEF” inscription at the back. Given the way they carry the bags, it appears they feel proud to be in school.
While waiting for their teachers to resume work, twelve of the pupils cluster around a blackboard outside the classrooms, practicing alphabets taught them at the previous class. They sit on bare floor. Others inside the classroom can be heard chorusing nursery rhymes. The rest simply sit idle watching their mates as they have fun.
Few minutes to nine o ‘clock, a slender woman of average height, Sanda Yafati, passes by and disappears into the school building. She is the headmistress of the ad hoc elementary school, and one of the handful teachers that escaped deadly attack of Boko Haram sect from Bama. Yafati is a cheerful woman, full of energy, and very compassionate. A mother of six, she is no nonsense and knows how to handle children in difficult situation such as those in IDP camps. The word goes round that the headmistress is around, and the pupils start going into their classes. Other teachers come in too, and the business of the day begins in earnest. Her presence simply gets the school going.
“Many of these children are orphans, while majority of them have only lost their fathers” says Mrs Yafati. One of them is Hadiza Akura whose father was killed just as he was trying to find a hiding place. Villagers later brought home his corpse, head severed. His body was unrecognisable but for the dress he wore before he ran out of the house that morning,” the 8-year- old Hadiza narrates.
She says her two uncles were also not spared. The tragic story is the same for Mama Gana, 6, Abba Kalli, 8, and hundreds of other pupils in Dalori school.
Notwithstanding, the children seem to have accepted their fate and are moving on with their lives. According to the headmistress, about four thousand pupils have been registered in the schools already. Seeing their peers coming to school everyday, many more children are getting inspired to come. And with intensified awareness campaign by donor agencies such as UNICEF, more parents are eager to send their children to school. “School is very important. I want my children to go to school so that they can become responsible and to become important person in the society,” says Mrs. Jugudum Sulaiman whose two daughters are among the newly enrolled at the Dalori Primary School.
Mrs. Yafati is particularly excited at this trend knowing that many of the children, who had never been to any school in Bama before they came to Dalori, now show great interest in Western education. The school started five months ago with 30 pupils, now the population has grown to 3775. Yet, she is worried that many of these children may not be able to access quality education because of factors beyond her control, namely the scarcity of resources.
Worse still, some of the pupils cannot even speak coherently because of the trauma they went through. “You talk to them and they just continue to look at you.” This situation puts more pressure on Mrs. Yafati and her staff.
At present there are about 64 teachers and 50 volunteers, there are also some reading materials donated by relief organisations such as International Centre for Islamic Culture and Education, UNICEF, and others. Even Universal basic Education (UBE) recently provided 200 chairs and benches, but there are no adequate classrooms.
Available classrooms can only accommodate 200 pupils or thereabout. Also, majority of teachers don’t come to camp everyday because of the security situation in the town. Apart from the security issues, most volunteers come only when they can afford to come since they are not on any payroll. And there are no teaching staff that can handle cases of traumatised children. This situation makes the school project at Dalori an awkward undertaking, and a source of constant frustration for Mrs. Yafati.
Male IDPs at Dalorie are a brooding lot. Often time they wear long faces and speak in low tones as if they anticipate further Boko Haram attack. Behind their dark exterior is a sense of betrayal for their kinsmen who joined Boko Haram sect, and later became the villains that torment the townsfolk.
“Many of these kids who were killing and destroying everything are our sons. How does one explain that the boy you see everyday in the neighbourhood, and that you sometimes lend a helping hand, was the one that killed members of your family and led the group that set your house ablaze,” says Baba Abdullahi.
According to the retired police officer, Boko Haram sect operates with a method. They come into a community, forcefully conscript the youths, entice some with monetary reward and indoctrinate them to accept their teaching of Islam, eventually these youths become even more murderous than their tutors. “But If the military had engaged these criminals early enough, we would not be in this situation,” he reasons. This is a general sentiment among the victims of Boko Haram attack.
But a military officer at one of the many checkpoints in Maiduguri expressed a different opinion regarding the widespread influence of the sect. Before the terror group started targeting the civilians, they used to kill only security agents through the support of the local community, he says. “The tide only turned against them when the sect began indiscriminate killings.”
The submission of the soldier reinforces the popular narrative of how Boko Haram started in Borno state.
Ustaz Muhammed Yusuf –led Jama’atul Ahlus Suna Lid Da’awatis Jihad antagonised the social order sustained by the political leadership in the North. And so they attacked every agent of the state, mostly the police and the army. The security men hit them back including “their civilian collaborators”. Many innocent citizens get killed in the relentless reprisal. The citizens therefore had no option than to join force with the security agencies to drive the group out of Maiduguri. The sect in turn, turns the heat against the civilian populace. The military officer is of the view that, the activities of the sect would have been long contained if they had not enjoyed tacit support of the people.
Myth about Boko Haram sect
It is not true to say Boko Haram people are Moslems, says deputy director at Universal Basic Education in Borno, Ali Grema. “They are not,” he stresses. As someone who is a practicing Muslim and had experienced terror of Boko Haram, his words could not be taken lightly.
“They visit people in their homes and dispose them of their property under gun point. And several times, they kill their victim even after the person has surrendered his valuables.”
Continuing, he says: “When they visited my house, they broke my jaw, collected my savings and personal effects like phone and laptop. In the case of my friend, they simply ordered him on the phone to sell his car and told him to meet them somewhere with the proceeds. To refuse is suicidal. So my friend complied and took the proceeds to them at the appointed place. He was strongly warned not to look back while handing the money over, and that was what he did. My friend and I are few of the lucky ones. Not many lived to tell the story of Boko Haram visit to their homes.”
The experience of people like Grema shows that it is not only religious ideology that drives the terror of Boko Haram. “In fact some Boko Haram members cannot read Quran,” says Grema.
If tomorrow comes
Hopelessness is palpable in Dalori Camp. In spite of the intervention by relief agencies and the government contribution to mitigate misery, there is no concrete plan for rehabilitation. “That will happen when the issue of insurgency is overcome,” says the NEMA Zonal Coordinator, Muhammed Kanar. But while the government continues to find solution to the problem of insurgency in the Northeast, the time is ticking.
Certainly, IDPs know they will not live in the camp forever. They know that other interests will capture government’s attention; and that donors fatigue will later set in. What they do not know however is where they will go to after leaving the camp that will be safe. Of course there are those who would like to go back to Bama if the town is free of Boko Haram insurgency.
As it appears, a greater disaster looms if effective and sincere measures are not put in place to rehabilitate the victims of Boko Haram insurgency and redeem the future of the children
The people of Bama are predominantly farmers, and their land is in Bama, so their choices where to reside are limited. “We would like to go back to our farm. We want to go home,” says one of the IDPs, Malam Hamisu. But the people are also wary of going back home only to get killed by those from whom they ran away.
For someone like Baba Abdullahi, Bama is home. It matters a little that his only house in Bama is already razed down together with his belongings and that of his two wives. “I am too old to be a sojourner in another place. I have served in different parts of the country as a police officer; I do not want to go elsewhere again. I will like to live my last days in Bama. But we are too afraid to go back.”
Baba Abdullahi is not the only one longing to go home. Ali and his two sisters also want to go back home. They think they will be fine living with relatives or friends of their parents who have been playing roles of foster parents for them at the camp. But they wish they could continue with school in Bama without someone kidnapping them on the way to Islamiyyat.
The story is the same for Mrs. Mohammed. She wants to go back if the sect members are driven away from Bama. Before that happens, she wants to find a cleaner job in Maiduguri so that she can be able to provide for her two daughters. “The camp only provides food, but children need more than just food,” she says.
While most IDPs appear to prefer to go home, Bama is the last place Gambo wants to return. It is a place of hunting dark memories. She says she doesn’t want to see Bama again. Rather she wants to go to Malonfashi in Katsina, the native town of her father. There is a distant uncle there. She hopes she could find him and other relatives that her father left behind many years ago.
Most importantly, she wants to go to school and acquire Western education, a dream that was near impossible when her father was alive. For her late father, only Islamic education is good enough especially for female children. And none of her father’s 12 children could controvert that position. Now that the old man is no more, she desires to pursue her secret dream. But if that does not happen, she says she will do everything to send Abdul Kadir to school. For Gambo, only her son’s education is not negotiable. “I want him to live a good life,” she says, almost inaudibly, yet her voice was firm enough to leave no doubt about her resolve.
Voices from Gwoza: ‘How we escaped death,’ survivors of Boko Haram attack
EYN Polo IDP camp in Maiduguri provides shelters for over 4000 IDPs, mostly from Gwoza, Astroba and Chibok. Some of the displaced people share their experience in Boko Harm –controlled towns with AJIBOLA AMZAT
Tunama Dawara, Chairman of EYN IDPs camp
I am from Gwoza. On the 26th June 2014, Boko Haram insurgents came to our village by 2:30 pm. They were visiting churches and killing anybody they saw within the church building. The only people they spared were those who accepted to convert to Islam. They killed 14 people that day including my cousin, James. I was also a target, but thank God I escaped to Cameroon where I spent seven days before I later found my way to the IDPs camp in Maiduguri. But I heard from our people later that they burnt my house to ashes.
Don’t they kill Muslim also?
Yes they did, they only spared Muslims who agreed to practise their own version of Islam. Being an “ordinary Muslim” will not save you.
Since Christian population is higher in Gwoza why didn’t you defend yourself?
An armless man cannot fight an armed man. Helpless, ordinary citizens cannot fight insurgents that are armed to the teeth. Even soldiers ran away.
Mr. James Talake, a teacher and farmer
Asigasia town, Gwoza East Local Government
I was the first to run out of my community. When the Boko Haram insurgents came to my town, the target was our church. On 16th October 2013, they killed my pastor, burnt down his house and carted away his properties. I was an elder in that church, so I had to take the report to the securities who are based in Polka, another town in Gwoza. So I went to Polka on the 17th October and told them about what happened not know