Women and children suffer more as Boko Haram insurgents wreak havoc in the north eastern part of Nigeria
| By Anayo Ezugwu | May 5, 2014 @ 01:00 GMT
IN EVERY war situation, women and children are always the greatest victims. Like other war situations, the Boko Haram insurgency in the north eastern part of Nigeria has targeted at women and children since its outbreak in 2010. The most recent of such attacks was the abduction of 234 girls at a government girl’s secondary school, Chibok, in Borno State, on April 14. Such mindless abduction prompted concerned women in Borno State to rise up in protest on Wednesday, April 23, to demand that the insurgents should unconditionally release the students if they (insurgents) truly believe in God.
Hauwa Biu, the spokesperson of the women, said in Maiduguri that the abduction was a violation of the girls’ human rights and also a crime against humanity. “Women in Borno are calling on the insurgents to please release all the girls in their custody without harming them. We are ready to embark on another search in the forest with the parents of the abducted girls if we can have enough security backing. Our target is not to fight the abductors but we want to beg them to release the girls in the name of the God that we all worship,” she said.
Biu also appealed to the insurgents to lay down their arms and hold dialogue with the government. “We assure them of our motherly support toward rehabilitating them when the need arises.” After the abduction of the girls on April 15, many of their parents stormed the road for a fruitless journey to the Sambisa forest near the border with Cameroon where the girls are believed to have been taken to by their abductors.
According to Biu, security agents should make use of sophisticated weapons in detecting the location of the abductors. She condemned other violent campaigns by the insurgents especially in recent times. “Women in Borno also condemn violent attacks on schools which deny children their rights to learn in a safe environment, thereby jeopardising their future. We commend the efforts of Borno and federal governments as well as youths/ vigilantes in addressing the current insurgency in the country. However, bearing in mind the continuous attacks on schools, we appeal for the provision of adequate security to all schools so as to have a safe learning environment for our children.”
The recent abduction is not the first of such instance in which women and children have become the major victims in the Boko Haram insurgency. On April 14, at least 75 people were killed when terrorists detonated a bomb at a central bus garage in Nyanya in Abuja. Among the casualties were children and women.
But the greatest single tragic act against children was on February 25, 2014, when the sect attacked a Federal Government College at Buni Yadi, Yobe State. At least 50 students, aged between 11 and 16, were murdered at night. They were either shot or locked in their dormitory and set ablaze. The attack, the third in succession on schools in the north-east zone, sent shockwaves across the country, bringing sharply into focus the brutality of the terrorists and the increasing casualty of children in the war.
On July 6, 2013, the sect attacked another government school at Mamudo, also in Yobe State and killed over 40 pupils. In September 2013, the terrorists also attacked Gujiba College of Agriculture, slaying pupils and teachers in the male dormitory. The Baga massacre of over 200 men, women and children in April 2013 was a major tragedy of the Boko Haram insurgency. The carnage brought the casualty figures to more than 5, 000, and sign-posted the determination of the Islamic sect to prevent children from going to school.
Boko Haram literarily means western education is sinful. The murderers make no pretence about their objective to attack western education in all its forms. Their base line is driving fear into the hearts of parents and their schooling children. They seem to be succeeding in returning those in the affected areas to dark ages. Borno State has shut down all secondary schools in its domain while the federal government has also closed down all federal government colleges, otherwise known as unity schools, in the entire north east.
Since Boko Haram commenced its terrible campaign of intimidation of the Nigerian people in 2010, many of the victims of its violent attacks are children. Many of them have lost their parents and relatives. Moreover, some of the homeless children have become easy targets of human traffickers who lure them into modern slavery or sell them to ritualists. Others will become reabsorbed into the terrorist world as fighters or killers in order to be able to survive.
From the bloodbath of the 2011 Christmas day bombing of St. Theresa’s Catholic Church, Suleja, Niger State, where 37 worshippers, mostly children perished, there has been a steady increase in children’s casualty in the insurrection which began in 2009. Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack, GCPEA, a London-based non-governmental organisation, published a report in New York, on February 27, titled Education Under Attack, which shows the gravity of the situation.
The report listed Nigeria among 70 countries where, according to Diya Nijhowne, GCPEA, director, children are bombed, burned, shot, threatened and abducted because of their connection to education. Amnesty International reported that more than 50 schools were attacked and partially destroyed or burned down in the first seven months of 2013, most of them in Borno and Yobe States. The Borno State ministry of education confirmed that over 15,000 children stopped attending school between February and May 2013 because of the attacks.
Article 77 of the Geneva Convention says, “Children shall be the object of special respect and shall be protected against any form of indecent assault. The parties to (a) conflict shall provide them with the care and aid they require, whether because of their age or for any other reason.” Rather than protect children, Boko Haram has turned them into objects of attacks.
Joe Okei-Odumakin, president, Women Arise Initiative, in an interview with TheNiche Newspaper, said Boko Haram’s callous attacks on women and children were aimed at destroying the family fabric. Women and children are most vulnerable in the community; they are the ones who keep the homestead. It is also because of the hatred the attackers have for women and children, the lack of respect for women and the attitude of the attackers to children. In most cases, women and children are often unable to defend themselves and so when the communities are attacked they are often caught unawares,” she said.
Odumakin said it is obvious that the families and communities who have suffered losses can never remain the same again. “The families and communities are already devastated. Economic, social and political life of the communities have been destroyed, even if they are rehabilitated, which is never properly done by the government, the communal relationship of the families and communities are never regained.”
On his part, Ogu Nwadike, public affairs analyst, said the scar of Boko Haram would one day heal. “It is one national sore that is still festering. But like other sores, it will heal, God will heal the sore. The only difference is that because of the magnitude of the sore, it will definitely leave a scar. Like the Biafran war, up till today, some families have not recovered. So, families will be affected for a long time. Families will be traumatised, especially the ones whose wards were abducted for sex or whatever,” he said. According to Nwadike, “That is for sure. That is why all Nigerians, especially people of the north east must concertedly fight against Boko Haram insurgency. The survivors of the killings and maimings may never forgive their leaders for allowing so much wanton destruction to the lives and property of their progenitors. That has partly been responsible for the unabating violent crimes in the south east part of the country.”
With the way and manner the insurgency is going, it is yet to be seen if the federal government can win the war against Boko Haram in the north east. But for now, the facts remain that schools in the zone can no longer function appropriately nor guarantee the safety of school children, unless the federal government sends in more troops to protect them.