By Azeezat Adedigba
Women who live in refugee camps after surviving Boko Haram attacks have narrated how Nigerian and Cameroonian security officials maltreated them.
The women spoke on Thursday in Abuja at an event organised by Amnesty International (AI) to present its latest report on the situation in camps meant for internally displaced persons (IDPs).
In one of our previous edition we published details of the report which showed several women were raped and blackmailed by soldiers who offered food in return for sex after starving them.
Both the Nigerian government and the military have since rejected the report, saying no such things happen in IDP camps.
Few of the women spoken to by Amnesty International, who were willing to come on record, spoke to journalists on Thursday.
Kella Haruna, one of the victims, said it has been a terrible experience in IDP camps. She said both the military and Joint Task Force (JTF) violated the rights of the women.
Mrs Haruna, who spoke in Kanuri language, said many women were exploited sexually, and forced to trade sex for food.
“After liberating Banki, in fact the authorities were in Banki but we in the villages were left in the authority of Boko Haram,” she said. “We have nothing to do but to resolve to prayers which we continuously did until we were eventually rescued.”
“So when we were pushed to the Cameroonian territory, we were humiliated there too. Because we were stripped almost naked by the Cameroonian soldiers. We were later transferred to Banki. We were in Banki for four days; no food, no water, until we were eventually transferred to Bama camp.”
Mrs Haruna said she believed none of the atrocities she and other women later suffered would have happened if their husbands were present.
“It was at Bama that our husbands were blindfolded and then packed into a lorry and brought to Maiduguri, and we were told we would be taken to where our husbands are. And up till today, we have never seen nor heard from our husbands.
“The military then announced that ‘where are the women, we are going to take you to where your husbands are.’ So we just took whatever pieces that we have and then came out. When we came out, they just picked us and then dumped us in the same Bama, in the general hospital at Red Camp.
Recapture of Mubi Town
“In the Bama Camp, honestly there were no food, no water; and when you complain, they will beat you up and then our money have already been even taken by the soldiers so we were just left with nothing.”
It was that situation that the soldiers preyed upon to demand sex from many of the women, she narrated.
Another victim, Fatima Bukar, expressed sadness about the fate of her husband, sons and brothers who she said were detained by soldiers.
She said the families have not been provided with any official information on the detained male relatives.
“In fact, before separating us, they brought them out, washed them up and then they tied their eyes and then transported them to Maiduguri before in fact taking us to the Bama Camp,” she said.
She pleaded with President Muhammadu Buhari to intervene and end their sufferings.
The Nigerian military has in the past said arrested men were vetted to confirm if they were part of the Boko Haram or not.
Scores of those who were later found innocent have been released by the military. Hundreds more, who are yet to be tried for any offence, are however believed to still be in detention.
Government Must Act
Hamsatu Allamin, founder of Allamin foundation for peace in Borno State, who also spoke at the event, said it is painful that soldiers and members of the Civilian JTF, a government funded vigilante, are abusing the women sexually.
From the right Hamsatu Allamin, Founder of Allamin foundation for peace in Borno state, Sani Zoro, chairman, House of Rep committee on IDP’s Refugees and Initiatives on North East, Fatima Bukar, victim, Kulla Haruna, victim.
“Even if it’s just a soldier, or just a JTF that raped any of the women in the camps, he must be brought to book,” she said. “Even though these women are scared of what will happen to them for speaking out, but I believe all these women have the right to speak out if they are being raped.”
According to Mrs Allamin who also translated the Kanuri language spoken by the victims to English, about 1600 women have been molested and beaten in these IDP camps. She said about 437 husbands are missing.
“Some of these Nigerian military are worse than Boko Haram. We are not talking about hundreds of husbands, but thousands. The wind of change needs to blow across the nation. I believe the military should not be angry with this, but look for possible ways for solution.
“Lots of effort are going on by the human rights commission, military and law enforcement to protect and enhance the lives of people affected with insurgency,” she said.
The Director of Protection and Investigation at the National Human Rights Commission, confirmed the receipt of a complaint indicating that 437 men were arrested and have not been seen.
“I wrote to the Nigerian Army, forwarded the list to them and they responded saying none of the 437 names are on the list of those in all their facilities in Borno State.
“I even called our officers in Borno State to meet with the petitioners, but the army said they do not have the names in detention.”
For Saudatu Mahdi, a founding member of Bring Back Our Girls (BBOG), the scale of disaster Nigeria is dealing with in the North-east is beyond human imagination.
“Recently, we had a dialogue. But we cannot hold Boko Haram accountable at this particular point in time because the war is still going on; they are still in the bushes; and then the government has not initiated any move to declare formal ceasefire with Boko Haram,” Mrs Mahdi, whose BBOG has been demanding the release of girls kidnapped by the Boko Haram, said.
“When Dapchi girls were abducted,” she said, “we keep communicating with the non-violent ones who can reach out to the violent ones. Believe you me, one week ceasefire was declared so that Boko Harm will return Dapchi Girls; and they did.
“If we can declare one week ceasefire, why can’t we declare final ceasefire? So that the war will end and every other person can come out. What is stopping us for goodness sake?
Over 100 of the kidnapped Dapchi girls were released by the terror group. However, one of the kidnapped teenage students, Leah Sharibu, is still with the insurgents who refused to release her after she allegedly refused to rescind her Christian religion.
Mrs Mahdi said she believes this is the right time to seek for accountability for the atrocities committed by the few culpable soldiers and Civilian-JTF members.
In his remark, Auwal Rafsanjani, chairman, Advisory board, Amnesty International (AI) Nigeria, said AI is helping citizens to raise the consciousness and awareness of their rights.
“Amnesty International is not in competition with anybody; we are not politicians and we are not there to bring down the government. AI is there to ensure that rights of Nigerians are protected,” he said.
He said the protest by some groups against Amnesty International was organised by people who do not want to protect human rights in Nigeria.
“Based on the evidences we have, we had to bring in, physically, people who have been abused by this rights violation.
“Why will people say we are destabilising the country? We are only calling on the government to be responsible and proactive in promoting the rights of Nigerians,” he said.
Sani Zoro, the chairman of the House of Representatives committee on IDPs, Refugees and Initiatives on North-east, said all conflicts and wars have always been resolved through negotiation.
“Since we have not been able to take these guys down for over five years, we have no option than to embrace the pacifist option, the peaceful option,” he said at the event.
He complained about the communication deficiency among institutions that need to work together to resolve the insurgency.
“We’ve gotten up to 9 to 10 referrals saying there is gender based violence and lack of food in these camps and billions of naira are being appropriated for the survival of these people. We really need to be accountable.”
“Do you think the generalised violence we are witnessing in Kaduna State, the one consuming Zamfara State does not have a link to Boko Haram? On the map, Nigeria is competing with Syria in terms of displacement,” he said.
For a senator, Shehu Sani, the AI report should not be condemned by government.
“Women are becoming the target for atrocities and it is alarming. This report is not indicting, it is a copy of what we are in this country,” the senator representing Kaduna Central Senatorial District said.
He said it is sad that people in power may not even read the report at all as their focus has been shifted to election.,
“If a serving governor can say the rate of killings in Nigeria is being exaggerated, then there is a problem.
“As far as the North-east is concerned, there is no seriousness on the part of the government at all. If the captives were sons and daughters of a senator, minister or government official, they would have been released even if warrants spending all the money in Central Bank,” he said.
Kano supplementary elections: CISLAC berates deliberate sabotage, unchecked intimidations, inefficiency of police
The Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) condemned in totality the open display of lawlessness and rascality involving indiscriminately massive deployment of hoodlums in the conduct of supplementary gubernatorial elections with resultant sabotage of electoral process and loss of lives in Kano state.
In a statement signed by the Executive Director, CISLAC Auwal Ibrahim Musa (Rafsanjani) on Sunday said that while an election constitutes a formal citizenry decision-making process by which a population chooses a credible individual to hold public office, we find it disturbing that citizens’ choices and decisions were largely influenced and determined by high incidences of vote-buying facilitated by hoodlums and party agents, vote rigging and intimidations from various political parties in several Local Government Areas, including Gaya, Dala, Nasarawa and Karaye.
Rafsanjani said that we are not unaware of the arrogant and unchecked display of badges by the party agents and supervisors in many polling centres as an indication of their preferred political party—APC or PDP and outright prevention of photographic evidence which raise suspicious motives for rigging as extensively reported and narrated by independent observers.
The Executive Director said that ,they find it worrisome that without an iota of respect to the rule of law and democratic values, a larger population of hoodlums was unlawfully deployed to disrupt electoral process and deprive voters the right to exercise their electoral freedom through free, fair and credible process.
According to Rafsanjani, we are concerned that the deployment of violence and cruelty in electoral process as demonstrated in several polling centres without appropriate justice would without doubt widen the existing distrust by citizens in electoral body and security agents and amplify unwanted electoral apathy.
“We find the unprincipled decisions of relevant political parties to result in deployment of illegalities and destructive mechanisms in influencing voters’ decisions, instead of constructive proposal and realistic ideology, as despotic, undemocratic and unacceptable in our democratic system.
“We are seriously perturbed by the unwary decisions of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and security agents to continue with the election despite reported outcries and anticipated threat to peaceful electoral process as evident in some polling centres, constituting a total breach of Section 26 (1) of the Electoral Act which calls for immediate postponement of elections in such circumstance” he said.
Rafsanjani stated : We are surprised that even with the deployment of highly placed police personnel, the situation could not be managed and down-playing by the police of the obvious problems that arose is a source concern. The inability of the police to manage the situation leading to widespread violence and unchecked intimidation of voters is highly disappointing.
He was also surprised at a clear case of double standard reportedly maintained by both Kano REC and the State Returning Officer who had agreed and called for cancellation of the earlier result from Gama as thugs disrupted the collation process; and their present reluctant to cancel the latest results given despite widespread violence across all the 62 polling units.
Rafsanjani bemoaned a dishonest move by four presiding officers from Nasarawa Local Government Area of the state, who made away with the result of election to an undisclosed location. This hampers credibility and further justifies our call for discountenance of the supplementary elections
And therefore called on INEC to discountenance the supplementary elections and return to status quo prior to the 23rd March 2019. Anything of short will be setting a very dangerous precedent where the use of force to capture electoral gain will become the rule rather than the exception.
NGOs advocate stronger protections against overuse, misuse of nation’s water supplies
Two Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), WaterAid Nigeria and the Foundation for Partnership Initiatives in the Niger Delta (PIND) have called for stronger protections against overuse and misuse of water supply in the country.
Dr ChiChi Aniagolu-Okoye, Country Director, WaterAid Nigeria and Dr Dara Akala, Executive Director, PIND, made the call in a statement to commemorate this year’s World Water Day on March 22.
The statement issued on Friday was signed by Mrs Oluseyi Abdulmalik, the Communications and Media Manager, WaterAid Nigeria.
“As the world commemorates this year’s World Water Day under the umbrella theme set by UN-Water: “Leaving No-one Behind’’, WaterAid Nigeria and the Foundation for Partnership Initiatives in the Niger Delta (PIND) are calling for stronger protections against overuse and misuse of water supply.
“We are also calling for acceleration in the provision of sustainable WASH services for all, so as to reach everyone and ensure no one is left behind.
“Clean, accessible water for all is an essential part of the world we want to live in and should be normal for everyone, everywhere. Regrettably, the progress made since 2000 in delivering clean water to 1.5 billion people globally is now under threat,” the WaterAid Nigeria chief said.
He said that clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene are three things that should be a normal part of everyone’s daily lives but sadly, are not.
“WaterAid is determined to ensure everyone; everywhere has access to these essential human rights by 2030. Watch our SDG animation to find out why Goal 6 is key to ending extreme poverty and creating real change.
“This year’s World Water Day theme: “Leaving No-one Behind’’ could not have been more apt in recognising the reality that marginalised groups such as women, children, refugees, indigenous peoples, people with disabilities and the elderly are often overlooked.
“Sometimes, these marginalised groups face discrimination in their quest to access and manage the clean water they need to live daily.
“Even more sad is that most of the people affected live in hard-to-reach communities – riverine, uphill and interior areas that account for a significant percentage of the country’s total population,’’ Aniagolu-Okoye said.
He noted that poor access to clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene simply meant lost education, lost opportunities and hundreds of lost lives each year.
“We cannot let this happen as a country. We must act now and ensure that we protect our precious water supplies for the future, and that we reach everyone with these basic needs, leaving no one behind.
“We are more determined than ever to make clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene normal for everyone everywhere by 2030.”
On his part, the PIND executive director explained that the severity of water, sanitation and hygiene needs in Nigeria’s Niger Delta cuts across communities and institutions in urban, peri-urban and rural settings.
Akala said that these communities and institutions had largely dysfunctional and non-existent WASH facilities, and polluted water sources.
“This contributes very highly to WASH-related disease burden with consequent health, economic and education impacts.
“Unequal access to water fuelled by a growing demand on water resources and the impact of climate and population changes traps people in poverty and limits potential,” Akala said.
Our correspondent reports that the collaboration between PIND and WaterAid Nigeria in bringing together key stakeholders further re-enforces the need for actors in WASH and related sectors to work together to improve access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene services in Nigeria.
Bauchi Governor’s wife encourage women of reproductive age to access FP services
The Wife Bauchi state Governor Hajiya Hadiza Abubakar has encourage women of Productive age to access Family Planning (FP) Services in their Health Facilities.
It’s reported that Five additional health facilities have undergone a 72 hour makeover renovation in Katagum Local Government area of Bauchi State
which was carried out by Bauchi State Primary Health Care Development Agency (BSPHCDA) with support from The Challenge Initiative (TCI).
The Health Facilities renovated include the FP units of General Hospital Azare, Town Maternity, Makara Huta, Tàtari Ali and Bulkachuwa PHCs.
Mrs Abubakar made the called at the commissioning of 5 renovated health facilities in Azare on Wednesday, she called on women of reproductive age to access services provided by these FP clinics.
She said Family planning is arguably one of the most important public health advancements in the last century, and it is defined as a woman’s ability to decide if and when to have children.
Represented by the State Commissioner of Health, Dr Zuwaira Hassan, said the state government’s health agenda which include promoting Primary Health Care, maternal, child and reproductive health has trained health workers on long active reversible contraceptives.
Mrs Abubakar said the makeover is a good innovation towards promoting the uptake of family planning services.
Earlier, the Executive Chairman, State Primary Health Care Development Agency, Mr Adamu Gamawa said the makeover has provided quality and privacy to clients who come to seek FP services.
He said the facilities had their FP units renovated and provided with equipment and consumables, so also the maternity unit was equipped.
On her part the State project Coordinator TCI Mrs Rabi Ekele said the 72 hour makeover is not limited to the FP unit only, but covers the maternity section to provide qualitative services to women and encourage them to come back for child birth spacing after delivery.
Ekele added that TCI also provides technical support to the state to create demand for FP services by community members.
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- Kano supplementary elections: CISLAC berates deliberate sabotage, unchecked intimidations, inefficiency of police
- NGOs advocate stronger protections against overuse, misuse of nation’s water supplies
- Bauchi Governor’s wife encourage women of reproductive age to access FP services
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