Category Archives: Nigeria

The brave women fighting Boko Haram in Nigeria

womanPeople gather at the scene of a suicide car bomb blast in Maiduguri, northeast Nigeria [Jossy Ola/AP]

Maiduguri, Nigeria – Boko Haram killed the two most important people in Komi Kaje’s life within two days.

In November 2015, Komi Akaji, her 46-year-old brother, was shot dead by Boko Haram fighters.

“There were seven students killed. When I got there, I saw he was shot twice in the head,” Kaje said.

The days of mourning followed according to tradition. Kaje was broken but Peter Adam, her 35-year-old boyfriend, provided some relief. On a Saturday afternoon, Adam observed mourning rites with Kaje’s family and shared lunch with her.

But Boko Haram attacked again, turning a visit of solace into sorrow.

“They shot him in his chest and head and he fell inside a ditch. The bullet touched his brain,” said Kaje, her eyes in tears.

Kaje has tried hard to forget the killings but military sirens, the sound of gunfire, and constant exposure to the areas where her loved ones were shot dead were enough to provoke new trauma.

If she moved to a new city, her parents thought, it might help her heal. Kaje relocated to Abuja, Nigeria’s capital, to spend some recovery time.

But Kaje realised the solution wasn’t to run, “because Boko Haram was everywhere”.

Maybe, Kaje thought, if she could play a role in defeating the fighters some healing would come. At the time, the armed group held many towns and villages captive as part of a so-called “Islamic caliphate”.

Boko Haram since 2009 has killed more than 27,000 people and forced another two million out of their homes.

Fighting Boko Haram

When Kaje introduced the idea of joining the fight against the rebellion to her friends and family, it was received with mockery and indifference. “How can a woman fight Boko Haram?” she was told.

However, other women aside from Kaje, such as 45-year-old Idris Fati, shared her ambition to flush the fighters out of Maiduguri.

Kaje and Fati joined the Civilian Joint Taskforce (C-JTF) – a civilian militia drawn from communities affected by Boko Haram – that partners with and supports the military in its operations.

C-JTF had been an all-male force but there were tasks best-suited for women.

For one, Boko Haram favoured using girls and women in the group’s operations, especially as suicide bombers attacking markets, hospitals, mosques, churches and other public places.

“Boko Haram were using many women and girls to fight the war. Women were needed to counter that strategy,” Kaje told Al Jazeera.

Between 2011-17, Boko Haram used female suicide bombers in at least 244 of its 338 attacks, according to the United States-based Combating Terrorism Center. In 2018, 38 out of 48 children used by Boko Haram as suicide assailants were girls.

Nigerian soldiers, for religious and cultural reasons, are restricted from searching women and girls in most cases – an opening exploited by Boko Haram to blow up its targets.

Since then the women, from dawn to twilight, search other females at security checkpoints leading to Maiduguri’s markets, hospitals, schools, and other public sites vulnerable to attacks.

Many suicide bombers have been exposed and arrested and their murderous assaults foiled.

In some cases, the military involves the women in intelligence-gathering on the armed group’s activities. This has helped reveal operations by the armed group, earning them the nickname “Gossipers of Boko Haram”.

When the military receives intelligence that Boko Haram will target a particular location, it deploys the women to detect and expose female suicide bombers who might mingle in the crowd.

In rare, but far more dangerous cases, the Gossipers are involved in military operations targeting notorious female Boko Haram members.

Death threats

But not everyone is happy with what the Nigerian women are doing.

“My neighbours are always insulting me. They say that one day Boko Haram will kill me. But whenever I am involved in saving people’s lives, the joy of it is above all insults,” said Fati.

Boko Haram sends warning messages through emissaries, threatening to kill those working security.

“Boko Haram has threatened me so many times,” Fati said. “They warn me to quit the job or risk being killed. They say our work hurts and exposes their operations. But I won’t stop because I am fighting not just for my life, but for the future of my children.”

During the peak of Boko Haram’s violence, the military was accused of arresting, jailing, and killing innocent citizens on suspicion of being collaborators.

Discerning who was involved with Boko Haram was difficult for the military because of a lack of information about the communities.

About 20,000 people, including boys as young as nine, were detained without due process, according to rights group Amnesty International. About 1,200 men were reportedly killed.

‘Many have died’

Some locals knew those linked to Boko Haram, but to speak out was to risk death as the fighters retaliated against the families of those who exposed them to the military.

Women helped break the barrier by taking vital information to the military about members of Boko Haram living in their communities.

“Many women have died doing this job,” said Umar Habiba, 38, who coordinates the gatekeepers in Monday Market in Maiduguri.

She said there are more than 100 women currently working in Nigeria’s northeastern Borno state – the hotbed of the rebellion. Others have resigned as a result of threats, marriage and pressure from society.

Danger is always present in their work as suicide bombers detonate explosives and kill themselves, along with those attempting to search them.

“If I die doing this work, I know my parents would be proud of me because I died for my state,” said Kaje, who earns $60 a month from the state government – a huge sum for a job she previously did voluntarily.

“Many women, unable to cope with the pressure, have resigned.”

Nigerian troops evacuate ‘entire town’ in security operation: UN

Nig photoA surge in attacks in December saw tens of thousands of civilians fleeing into Maiduguri [File:Afolabi Sotunde/Reuters]

Up to 10,000 civilians have been forcibly relocated because of a military operation against Boko Haram in northeast Nigeria, the United Nations said on Thursday, calling for better protection.

At least 2,000 people were initially said to have been moved the 40km from Jakana to the Borno state capital, Maiduguri, on Tuesday. But the UN said five times as many were forced to flee.

“The military ordered the immediate departure and forced the relocation of up to 10,000 civilians in the middle of the night, without prior warning,” it said in a statement.

“The entire town of Jakana was emptied, and people were forced to move to Maiduguri with very little time to collect personal belongings,” added UN Humanitarian Coordinator Edward Kallon. “Some people said they arrived in Maiduguri with nothing, not even with shoes on their feet.”

The northeast is the battleground in Nigeria’s decade-long fight against the armed group of the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) and Boko Haram.

A surge in attacks in December in which towns and military bases were overrun saw tens of thousands of civilians fleeing into Maiduguri and swelling the population of existing camps.

Humanitarian concerns

The armed groups have in the last few weeks been hit by intensive air and ground offensives from coalition forces involving Nigeria, Chad and Cameroon in the Lake Chad region, according to military sources and armed fighters.

But there are fresh concerns about the effects of the conflict on civilians after nearly 10 years of fighting, more than 27,000 deaths and 1.8 million made homeless.

Previous mass displacements of civilians have forced them into already overcrowded camps for the internally displaced in Maiduguri, putting pressure on the authorities.

“The United Nations is urging the government to urgently provide safety, shelter, food, water and medical care to the displaced civilians, in addition to information about when they will be allowed to return home,” said Kallon.

Jakana lies on a known crossing route for ISWAP fighters moving between their camps in the Benisheikh forest area of Borno and their hideouts in the Buni Yadi area of Yobe.

In January, ISWAP sent letters to Jakana and Mainok residents telling them to vacate their homes for an impending raid on the military.

 

 

 

 

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/04/nigerian-troops-evacuate-entire-town-security-operation-190411103958546.html

With Nigerian elections postponed, Catholic leaders stress peace

Catholic leaders photoCredit: Labrador Photo Video/Shutterstock

Lagos, Nigeria,(CNA/EWTN News) Catholic leaders have voiced disappointment at a last-minute delay in Nigerian elections, but called for Christians to remain peaceful and participate in the postponed vote next weekend.

Just before polls were set to open Feb. 16, election officials announced that the presidential and national assembly elections were being postponed until Feb. 23.

Mahmood Yakubu, chairman of the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC), said the decision was due to a delay in the delivery of ballots, and not a political move.

“Our decision was entirely taken by the commission. It has nothing to do with security, nothing to do with political influence, nothing to do with availability of resources,” said Yakubu, according to Africa News.

Catholic Action Nigeria said the delay places a burden on citizens, especially those who underwent difficult travels to vote. The group asked Yakubu to consider resignation if the delay continues.

“INEC had four whole years to plan for this election. No matter the excuses being bandied now, the postponement makes us doubt the readiness, sincerity and capacity of INEC to give Nigerians a free and fair and credible election they truly deserve, even in the coming week,” the statement read, according to NAIJ.

At the same time, Catholic Action encouraged Nigerians to vote in the rescheduled election. The group said residents cannot quit working for a better nation.

Electors should “vote in a government that will put Nigeria and Nigerians first and uphold the values and dignity of human life as espoused through the social teachings of the Catholic Church,” the group said in its statement.

Catholics in the country also offered prayers for the future of their nation.

Father Ben Alozie challenged parishioners at Saint Peter and Saint Paul Catholic Church in Lagos to entrust the upcoming election to God’s providence.
“As a church, we are first Nigerians before being members of our congregation; therefore, we need to take that which is of concern to our country to God in the same way we take our individual needs to God for a solution,” he said Feb. 17, according to NAIJ.

“Saturday’s elections will determine to a large extent the fate of our dear country in the next four years; so, no amount of supplication is enough to God in order for us to have a peaceful country after the polls.”

Africa Independent Television reported that Bishop Paulinus Ezeokafor of Awka asked Nigerians to take the rescheduling in good faith and not give up on INEC.

He disagreed with the call for Yakubu’s resignation, saying this would only lead to confusion at a time when the nation needs unity and a focus on a successful election.

The election in Nigeria comes as crashing oil prices leave the country facing economic uncertainty. The most populous nation in Africa, Nigeria for years has faced attacks and kidnappings by the Islamist militant group Boko Haram. Over the weekend, 11 people were killed in an attack by the group south of Maiduguri, the BBC reported.

 

 

 

 

https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/with-nigerian-elections-postponed-catholic-leaders-stress-peace-54372

UN: Boko Haram threat displaces 30,000 from Nigeria’s Rann town

boko haram photo

More than 30,000 people fled the Nigerian town of Rann over the weekend amid fears of renewed attacks by the Boko Haram armed group, according to the United Nations refugee agency.

UNHCR spokesman Babar Baloch told reporters in Geneva on Tuesday the town’s population “seems to be panicking and they are on the run as a pre-emptive measure to save their lives.”

Rann, near the border with Cameroon in northern Borno state, already saw an exodus of about 9,000 people earlier this month to Cameroon after a Boko Haram attack on January 14 killed 14 people.

Baloch said Cameroon sent back the 9,000 refugees and initially deployed troops that are part of a multinational taskforce to protect the town.

“It was a bit peaceful, but as far as we understand now, that multinational taskforce has left,” he said.

Refugees told aid workers that Boko Haram fighters had “promised to return to Rann”, he said, explaining the panic.

Baloch said UNHCR was reiterating its call to Cameroonian authorities “to keep the borders open, as we see thousands fleeing every day”.

Tough living conditions

Baloch said a recent upsurge in violence in northeastern Nigeria had driven more than 80,000 civilians to seek refuge in already crowded camps or in towns in Borno state, “where they are surviving in tough living conditions”.

Rann, he said, had already been housing about 80,000 displaced people.

“The escalation in the conflict has thwarted people’s intention of returning to their homes,” he said, adding some refugees who attempted to return home from Cameroon had been displaced multiple times inside Nigeria or forced to become refugees again in Cameroon.

“The hostilities have strained humanitarian operations there and forced aid workers to pull out from some locations,” he said.

Jens Laerke, spokesman for the UN humanitarian agency, told reporters that 260 aid workers were withdrawn from three locations in Borno state since early December.

 

 

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/01/boko-haram-threat-displaces-30000-nigeria-rann-town-190129112148918.html

Nigerian Wins Prestigious Award for Aiding Victims of Boko Haram

Last Updated: August 21, 2017 12:20 PM
Lisa Schlein
Voice of America

Rebecca-Dali-and-her-husband-Samuel-Dali-at-the-award-ceremony-today-e1503340422591
Rebecca-Dali-and-her-husband-Samuel-Dali-at-the-award-ceremony on August 19, 2017. (VOA)

GENEVA  (August 21, 2017)  Nigerian activist, Rebecca Dali has won the prestigious Sergio Vieira de Mello Foundation Award for her work in re-integrating women and orphans abducted by Boko Haram militants into their home communities.

The award was presented at a ceremony Monday commemorating World Humanitarian Day (August 19) at the U.N. European headquarters in Geneva.

It is given every two years in memory of Sergio Vieira de Mello, who was killed in a terrorist attack on August 19, 2003 in Baghdad, Iraq, along with 21 others. The prize aims to draw world attention to the courageous, often unnoticed, humanitarian work of an individual, group or organization in areas of conflict.

“Rebecca Dali is a very courageous woman in a corner in Africa, in northeastern Nigeria, who is doing work under very difficult circumstances,” said Anne Willem Bijleveld, the chairman of the board of the de Mello Foundation.

He told VOA that some of the women and girls who are liberated want to return to their communities, but their communities and families often do not want them back because they have been raped, have had children, and been subjected to sexual violence by Boko Haram.

“Rebecca Dali did a tremendous job in re-establishing dialogue and reconciliation to get these girls back into their communities, to get them back where they came from and that they can continue with their life again,” Bijleveld said.

Aiding widows, orphans for years
Dali was born on October 1, 1960, the same day Nigeria got its independence. She overcame extreme poverty in childhood and a rape at age six to earn a Ph.D in later years in ethics and philosophy.

She got married in 1979 to a man who, she said, “allowed me to do what I like to do.” She has six children. Her fourth, a son, was lost on August 21, 2011 in the aftermath of the Jos crisis, when clashes erupted between Muslim and Christian ethnic groups.

Dali formed her non-profit organization Center for Caring Empowerment and Peace Initiative in northern Nigeria in 1989 to aid widows and orphans caught in situations of violence, who often struggle to survive.

She has established three Livelihood Centers that teach women marketable skills, such as sewing, computers, and cosmetology. “When they graduate, we give them seed money so they can start their own business,” she said.

When the Boko Haram insurgency began in 2009, she turned her attention to the victims of this Islamist radical group. She told VOA tens of thousands of destitute widows and orphans were left behind when their men were killed.

“In our society, women are not dignified. Even if their husbands are killed, then the family usually will take away all the things that they own,” she said. “So, in the Boko Haram, they are double victimized. So, I train these widows in my Livelihood Centers.”

Dali’s husband, Reverend Samuel Dali, was president of the Church of the Brethren, which was attended by most of the 276 Chibok girls abducted by Boko Haram in April 2014.

8CAEB4ED-BC38-4A7C-B13B-70CAFA8E95A1_w650_r0_s
A still image taken from video shows a group of girls, released by Boko Haram jihadists after kidnapping them in 2014 in the north Nigerian town of Chibok, sitting in a hall as they are welcomed by officials in Abuja, Nigeria, May 7, 2017. (Reuters)

The government has taken charge of the Chibok girls who have been released, so Dali said her group is focusing on helping the many other women and children who were abducted by Boko Haram. She said those who managed to escape have been treated as pariahs by their communities.

“They are stigmatized. People rejected them. Their husbands rejected them. The society rejected them. Their parents sometimes reject them,” she said.

Dali said her organization has provided the victims with food and shelter and paid for children’s schooling. She added that the women and girls received trauma care and were encouraged to tell their distressing stories.

“Then, we go and lobby in the society among the local people, so that they will allow them to stay in the society,” she said.

The award carries a cash prize of about $5,000, which Bijleveld terms “a symbolic amount.” She may also win more support from the publicity.

Dali said she is heartened by the recognition she and her organization have received from the de Mello Foundation. “The award came to me as a miracle from God,” she said. “So, it will urge me to do more. It is really going to help me,” she said.

 

 

 

Pope Francis offers prayers after deadly Nigeria attack

CNA

pope_francis_1_at_the_liturgy_of_the_lords_passion_at_st_peters_basilica_on_april_3_2015_credit_losservatore_romano_cna
Pope Francis I at the Liturgy of the Lord’s Passion at St. Peter’s Bascilica, Rome April 3, 2015. (L’Osservatore Romano/ETWN)

Vatican City, Aug 7, 2017 / 07:26 am (CNA/EWTN News).- After a bloody attack at a Catholic Church in southern Nigeria left 11 dead and several more wounded, Pope Francis conveyed his sympathy to the victims and their families, assuring the community of his prayer.

In an Aug. 7 telegram addressed to Bishop Hilary Paul Odili Okeke of Nnewi, Pope Francis said he was “deeply saddened to learn of the loss of life and injury following the violent attack in Saint Philip’s Catholic Church, Ozubulu.”

The Pope extended his “heartfelt condolences to you and to all the faithful of the Diocese of Nnewi, in particular the families of the deceased and all those affected by this tragedy,” and offered blessings of “consolation and strength” upon the entire diocese.

The telegram, signed by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, came after gunmen stormed St Philip’s Catholic Church in the city of Ozubulu early Sunday morning, killing at least 11 people and wounding 18 more.

No one has yet claimed responsibility for the attack. According to BBC News, local terror group Boko Haram, which has burned hundreds of churches and killed thousands during it’s more than decade-long insurgency in the country’s north-eastern region, was not involved.

Rather, the attack is believed to have been the result of either a private feud or that it was linked to drug-trafficking.

Reports conflict as to whether there were one or two gunmen involved, however, police have begun a manhunt in the area in the hopes of finding those responsible.

The Challenges of Human Trafficking in Nigeria

By Jamie Vieson
Afjn.org

trafficking-nigeria-women-italy
Photo Credit: AFJN

One of the major problems in Nigeria is transnational human trafficking. Women, primarily from Benin City in Edo State are trafficked to Italy and other European countries for exploitation purposes. It is estimated that 60-80% of the sex workers in Italy are from Nigeria according to Global Sisters Report. Traffickers may use force, deception, coercion, or abduction. Some of the women are told that they will be doing domestic work, while the tales of profitable prostitution in Europe lure others stuck in poverty to traffickers. However, in both of these instances, the women are not aware of the inhumane conditions that the traffickers are willing to put them through for a profit. There are also cases where parents knowingly send their children abroad because they have heard of the fortunes available in Europe and hope for a better life for their kids. However, they are less likely to be fully aware of the true intentions of the traffickers, who they see in some cases as persons giving a rare opportunity to their children.

To win the fight against human trafficking we must understand why it is happening. Among the root causes of human trafficking in Nigeria, we mention poverty, lack of education, globalization, corruption and gender inequality. Globalization allows traffickers to set up complex routes and systems within and across borders. The presence of these complex channels creates a challenge because it is understood that prosecuting one trafficker may only minimally hinder the network of traffickers. Corruption prevents traffickers from being held accountable and can also prevent victims from seeking justice. In fact, when corruption is found within political institutions, the laws in place are not implemented to their full capacity, if at all. Also, corruption leads law enforcement to succumb to bribery or charge victims outrageous amounts of money in order to have access to justice. Furthermore, gender inequality in a society impacts all other factors. This leaves women less likely to be educated, more susceptible to poverty, and therefore, more vulnerable to human trafficking.

Traffickers convince victims that voodoo rituals prohibit them from escaping and if the victim attempts to turn in the traffickers, severe consequences will ensue. This is how traffickers manipulate one of African ancient religions as a means of holding their victims in bondage because they know of the great fear of many Nigerians.

In 2003, the United Nations’ Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime entered into force. Within this document, there is a protocol titled the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women Children, Especially Women and Children. This protocol is important because it focused on the prevention, investigation, and prosecution of human trafficking. This global crime against humanity is defined by the United Nations as the “recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs.”

Of the 193 member states to the UN today, 171 states have become party to this protocol. Nigeria is one of the countries that ratified this protocol, however the laws that were implemented in Nigeria to comply with this protocol are still not being enforced. The United States Department of State Trafficking in Persons report indicates that Nigeria’s tier ranking has dropped from Tier 2 to Tier 2 Watch list just this past year. This ranking means that Nigeria does not meet the US law’s minimum standards set forth in the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 and although they are making strides to come into compliance with these standards, Nigeria failed to “provide evidence of increasing efforts to combat severe forms of trafficking in persons from the previous year.”

Addressing the problem of human trafficking in Nigeria and elsewhere around the world will take a communal effort. Because we know and see it, we must do something about it. Silence is not an option. Another key part of prevention is education and awareness campaigns. Every community needs to learn about trafficking because those who are vulnerable are members of our communities. Once individuals are educated on the realities of human trafficking, they need to be empowered to speak out. This holistic approach means organizations and the government must be willing partners. One voice will not be capable of eliminating human trafficking; our combined voices will make the difference.

For more information click here to find our fact sheet at http://afjn.org/the-challenges-of-human-trafficking-in-nigeria/