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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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.