Millions of children across the Boko Haram affected communities in Borno State and the entire North East of Nigeria are caught in an endless conflict; displaced, malnourished, living in camps for internally displaced persons or living in a region with a constant threat of attack. It is a difficult childhood.
A Child in A Crisis
Aging in A Crisis
For the elderly in Borno State, there is another crisis; being old, frail and struggling with terrorist attacks. It is the same for many communities around North East Nigeria. The elderly have been mainly overlooked and their peculiar situation unaddressed by organisations both local and international.
‘‘The increasing population of older people has drawn attention to the need to revise humanitarian policies to adequately serve this group’s basic living and health requirements. In 1999, the UNHCR announced the InternationalYear of Older Persons with the observation that “older refugees have been invisible for too long” says the report from the UN report ‘Older People in Conflict’.
Despite these declarations, not much has been done. The elderly caught across conflicts are suffering.
Every year during the Muslim holiday Eid, everyone dresses to celebrate this momentous event. In fashionable attire; cultural or western. And in Borno, it is no different. Fashion in Borno State is bold, beautiful and always bright. Every Eid, a time for celebration and decoration, the young and old dress to impress.
The Other Abducted Girls
An unquantifiable number of women have been abducted by Boko haram from their homes in villages around Borno State. A minimum of 40 women and young girls in each village from 2009. The women and girls are transported to terrorist camps and turned into sex slaves, maids, brides and other are used as suicide bombers. It was a brutal time.
But in recent times, we've seen intensified efforts from the Nigerian military and the youth vigilante group in rescuing women and girls. These women are brought to Maiduguri by the military, screened and kept in Safe homes created by the State government where they receive medical treatment, feeding, psychosocial support and for others, deradicalization. After a couples of weeks when they are deemed fit, a reunification commences where members of their families are located and they move in with them. Some are with their families in camps, others in host communities.
Boko haram attacks on villages around Borno State have resulted in villagers fleeing to various communities around Nigeria and other countries around West Africa. This has left villages empty; becoming ghost towns with ruined buildings and land mines.
A wall in Bama local government area where an unknown person had inscribed a writing on a wall
A wall at a clinic in Gwoza where Boko haram members taught their members and new recruit ways to avoid fighter jets from the Nigerian Military.
Resettlement of Internally displaced persons had started when the Nigerian military and the youth vigilantes liberated some areas around Borno State. Then it suddenly stopped. And continued again sporadically because of increasing terrorist attacks. Despite these issues with resettlement, there are a group of men who are working tirelessly to rescue people in affected communities; drivers. The drivers of the school buses designated for school children are doubling as rescuers and evacuators in dangerous terrorises. Some have been injured, escaped death traps but still drive when warranted, to save lives
Education in A Crisis
Boko haram which literally means 'Western Education is Forbidden', had not only attacked schools from the beginning of the insurgency but went as far as abduction of school girls. For security reasons, the Borno State Government closed schools in May, 2014. For two years, public schools remained closed. Then in November, 2016, schools reopened. And children returned after a long period of interrupted education.
The insurgency that started 2009 in Borno has spurred a shift in the mental and physical capacity of youth in Borno. This renaissance started when young men in Maiduguri decided enough is enough, there is need to fish out the enemy, stop the abuse on our community and to address the terrorist groups head on. The Civilian Joint Task Force was born. They aid the military, go on hunts for Bokoharam terrorists and set up guard in every area in the metropolis. Excited by such bravery, the Borno State Government chipped in making it the BOYES, Borno State Orientation and Youth Empowerment Scheme, to encourage more young men find purpose and create employment opportunities. The State Government provides training, vehicles and a structure for proper surveillance.
As military and vigilante groups fight Bokoharam and rescue villagers in affected communities across the North East of Nigeria, a host of problems arise. The most disturbing is the staggering number of malnourished children, severe acute malnutrition. [Images may be disturbing. Viewer discretion advised]
Thousands of men have died in the fight against Bokoharam. Men from the Nigerian military as well the vigilante groups that cropped up in Borno State to fight the insurgency and guard the community against terrorist attacks. Leaving behind wives and children. Widowed and struggling with grief, these women are in every community across Nigeria trying to heal.
A Safe Christmas
When Boko Haram attacks started in early 2009, many churches were targeted. There were attacks and killings in all regions across North East Nigeria. Both Muslims and Christians alike were killed. However, many Christians feared for their lives. Hence making Christmases in Maiduguri very tense. For many years, Christian communities in Borno State lived in fear of attacks during the festive season. Some years brought tension, other times came a safe quiet Christmas.
Christmas to the Christian communities around the world is a religious and cultural festival celebrated annually. And to the Christian community in Maiduguri, Borno State, it is a special day commemorate the birthday of Jesus Christ. Many families separated by terrorists of terrorist attacks have moved to find safety and solace in the State capital. And every year, despite tensions and expectations of continued attacks, many families especially young children, teenage boys and girls within the metropolis of Maiduguri brave the odds to celebrate the festive season. And many families always dress for the occasion. In colourful attire, it becomes a colourful Christmas.
After many years of a stall to the sporting activities in Maiduguri, Borno State to avoid attacks and injuries to crowds who gather to watch the famous Borno Football Club, El-Kanemi warriors, in 2016, there was a return to sports. And the Borno State has a little league team called El-Kanemi Babes. In 2016, a promotional game for the team as they proceed to the next level was played against the Baretta of Gombe. It was the game to watch and football fever continued in Borno State. There have been many games afterwards.
University of Maiduguri, established in 1975, is according to students 'one of the prestigious universities'. The university is a major higher institution in the North East for medicine, agriculture, dentistry, law and many other courses. Notable alumni are unquantifiable.
It is also popular for its infamous student nights. But when Boko haram commenced, there was a fear of the unknown and attacks on the school stalled student leisure activities although lectures continued. 'We didn't close the school even for one day', says the Vice Chancellor.
With intensified efforts from military and youth vigilantes on Boko haram, there's a gradual return to the old student nights. .
The Missing Men
This year, this month marks the tenth year of unending conflict that has ravaged not only the Borno State but spread to neighboring states and countries. Since the beginning of Boko Haram in 2009, many have been killed; men, women and children. Millions have been displaced. Abductions, killings and bombings. The most famous abduction was of the schoolgirls in Chibok, Borno and then in Dapchi, Yobe State. In this outrage was a missing story; the abduction of men and boys. Stories of women and girl are front and center.
Thousands of men and boys are currently missing, in Boko Haram captivity being involuntarily and forcibly recruited into the terrorist sect.. As efforts are being made to fight the insurgency, some men and boys trapped in captivity are being rescued, others are escaping.