A member of Civilian JTF Bande Kaskas from Baga in Borno State tells how he escaped his hometown during a vicious raid by Boko Haram that killed hundreds. He is now in a displacement camp in Maiduguri, the state capital. He talks about living in fear for the past few years, what people are doing to get people into Chad, how he and his group fight Boko Haram, and gave his point of view of what happened on the day of the massacre. He also talked about what life is like in the camps and the need for education and healthcare. He also expressed his willingness to vote in Nigeria’s upcoming elections.
This interview was carried out and translated by a TAP volunteer. To volunteer with TAP, please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
What is your name?
What are you in the civilian JTF?
CIA for Baga, Kuka Local Government
Are you from Baga?
Yes. I am from Baga.
How did you get this camp?
It is the government that prepared it for us and we stay.
For the past two years, how has Baga been?
Life in Baga for these past two years has been very critical. If you hear the sound of gun, because they don’t miss bullet (target), you have to plan, the next day you will go for one burial or the other. They never attempted without achieving. Once it is 5pm or 5.30pm, everybody becomes anxious until about 8pm before people would be calmed.
What was the final thing that happened that made you left Baga for this place?
While in Baga, we kept hearing stories of gatherings here and there, that they will launch attack in Baga. We looked up to our leaders, we didn’t know the kind of information they were getting. They didn’t take necessary actions until it got to us. The first time it got to us, when the attempt was on them, we didn’t know how or what it was, we thought it was a test, because sometimes they test their weapons. So we thought it was a test-firing. We didn’t get to know that it wasn’t a mere test firing until it got out of hand. Before we could understand what was happening they were already done with Multi-national in Mile 4 and headed this way.
On entering here, our soldiers entered, bullets don’t penetrate must of our boys. Like what our some of boys were saying that got guns from our soldiers and were firing at the other people. It wasn’t true. It was confusion. They were seeing the Boko Haram are like our soldiers. If I kill a member of the Boko Haram, you that is coming behind me without a weapon would pick the weapon of the dead Boko Haram member fully dressed in camouflage. That makes think he is a soldier. That was why our boys were saying they got the guns from our soldiers. The entire Boko Haram members are fully kitted in the Army’s camouflage, clothing. Their bullets don’t touch us. Ours touch and kill them. When we kill them, we carry their guns and make use of them.
We held the Boko Haram people at the entrance of the town, our aged ones, our women, little children and those people who didn’t trust that bullets would not penetrate them all left the town. When it dawned on the Boko Haram people that we delayed them so that our people could leave the town, then they divided themselves and came after us hitting and killing those of us that the bullets couldn’t penetrate with their vehicles. It went this way until they overpowered us. Our leader is a true warrior, this is our testimony. He said he would not flee to anywhere. This is his land, his grave would have to be in his land, until Baga was overran and a flag was hoisted in Baga, that he left Baga.
If you talking about the time Baga was attacked, the people our leader left behind were not more than four. Baga fell completely into the hands of Boko Haram. They were on pursuit of him but God rescued him. Most especially most of the weapons they were distributing at Melanti, they were ticked. So it wasn’t true that some of our boys snatched guns from the soldiers.
At this incident, did you lose relation or friend?
I lost relations and friends.
In this camp, are you with your family?
No. This is because there is no one here that is not close to me following that I am man of the people and I am in the palace. There is my elder brother. We are together, and he gives us work in the palace that we do. So there is no one that came from Baga and sees us and won’t honour us. So I am responsible to my people, and for the fact that this my elder brother did his possible best. He is among those that Boko Haram is looking for alive whatever it takes. They must not kill them, that is my brother Ibrahim, three Imams and there tradition leaders. They must be captured red-handed even if costs the lives of the assailants. It was not possible for them. My brother left with about three to four thousand people, he went to a town called Tumbun Yashi. There he hired boats, one 150,000, another 200,000, another 70,000 and another 250,000, they were conveying people out to Chad. It was the last boat that he would board. He waited until the people were ferried so that they don’t get maltreated in his absence. His presence would make the people get decent treatment. Up till now he is in Chad.
Is there good health facility with personnel taking adequate care of you and you people?
We don’t have doctors from the outside because we have learned children. These are the people that care for us.
The government did not send her doctors?
The government brought only one doctor and a nurse. The rest of the personnel in the hospital are our children.
Do your people get good food to eat?
Yes, they get good food.
Do you think the government is doing her best to look after you?
Yes, I will say the government is doing her best. But you know us human being with our shortcomings, we don’t get satisfied as it were in our homes. Sometimes we get so upset, but when we look back at our reason for been in the camp, it consoles us.
Have anybody spoken about elections to you here, or have brought voters’ cards to you here?
Yes, they brought our voters’ cards, because voter’s cards are weapons to us too
Did your people get their voter’s cards too?
Yes, most of them were given, about 95% of them.
Do you have urgent need in this camp?
Our people are very congested. In a two-bedrooms flat you find about 30 people in there. That is inadequate accommodation.
How about school? Are you having any plans for your children going back to school?
Yes, we want them to go back to school. But they are not registered in the schools of this town.
Have you attempted to tell the government, whether State or Federal, that you need school that your children could attend?
Nobody gave us the avenue to express our concern, but these are things we need including hospital and Arabic school so that our little girls can attend, in the event that we get another challenge, they would be able to uphold what they have leant, mores that we know we are not staying here forever. The moment we are told to go back to our different towns, we are ready.
Are you going to vote?
Yes. Although it depends on what the government says. Voting is a right.
Has the government prepared where you would cast your votes?
What we have decided is, the way they distributed our voter’s cards so shall they bring ballot boxes for us to cast our votes.