Nothing has changed for the better since June last year when the first emergency rule in some parts of Borno was lifted. The people had witnessed a kind of restriction they have never seen before as curfew was imposed in most parts of the states from 6pm to 6am. We also witnessed a lot of Joint Task Force (JTF) activities as they exercised their powers to arrest and detain, not leaving out their other abuses rivalled by the Boko haram sect. But instead, Boko haram has grown in strength and number while Nigerians watched as the sect gradually spread its influence to effectively capture 23 out the 24 local government areas of Borno, a fact clearly attested to by Senator Ahmed Zanna Khalifa representing Borno central.
Boko haram lived, moved among the people and killed with impunity anyone who dared to stand in their way. First, it began with the killing of their own brothers, friends, family, Islamic clerics and most shockingly any of their parents who got bold enough to condemn their actions or report them to the security agencies. In time, they extended their hostilities to non-Muslims, indigenous or not and then the Igbos.
Contrary to what many people have been made to believe, the ideology that Boko Haram holds does not differentiate between Muslims or Christians, you are a potential target as long as you are not a sect member. Any educated fellow or government worker unfortunate enough to reside among them or close enough to be reached by these boys also became marked to be axed.
We have witnessed Boko Haram metamorphosed into something else.
The foot soldiers are mostly young men from the age of 15 to 25 usually armed with Ak47, their weapon of choice. Then they graduated to a more gruesome mode of killing people – slaughtering with a kitchen knife from their victim’s home, a treatment they mete out to any of their members they perceive as a hypocrite, mole or deflector.
Indeed, it is the most gruesome form of killing anyone can think of where the victim is tied down like an animal, and slaughtered until the head is cut off completely. I have seen the body of my neighbour with the head severed from the body. I have also seen the body of another man with the head cut off and placed on its back at Krenoa, a small farming town in Marte local government area of Borno state. The villagers said he was brought to the market by Boko Haram members in 5 Toyota Hilux car, and they were told why he was deserving of such an end – he extorted from the people under the guise of the sect. I learnt a teenager was instructed to do the slaughtering, a task he did smiling.
Believe me, not a single day passes without an incident of killings in Maiduguri or its environs. Gun shots are so normal that you know normalcy will return within 15 minutes, so far the victims are not members of the government security forces.
One does not have to pay a visit to the troubled areas of the state to know that people are dying, a visit to the graveyard tells the story.
Muslims bury their dead wrapped in white cotton material and without a coffin. A bullet-ridden corpse can be spotted immediately as the white can be mistaken for red, obviously soaked in blood that flows enough to even drip from the stretcher.
I recall some months ago, an acquaintance of mine had a younger brother who joined the police and was posted to one of those southern states. His police brother came home on a visit to his family but unknown to us all, Boko Haram members were lurking. They mistook my friend for his brother who was home to visit and shot him dead. I went for the burial but could not get into Gwange and like most who have come to pay their last respect to the dead, waited at the Gwange central cemetery for the corpse. Suffice to say that eleven (11) other corpses were brought to be buried in the space of time we waited for the remains of our friend to be brought – all covered in blood; the cemetery attendants said sometimes more than 20 corpses are brought in a single day.
In 2011, motorcycles were banned in Maiduguri because it provided a fast means of escape to the killers, especially in areas that are not motorable. Despite the hardship in transportation as a result of the ban, a lot of people welcome the idea even before tricycles were later introduced. In places like Bulabulin Ggarnam in Maiduguri however, motorcycles are still in use as the area is well known to be under the iron grip of the Boko Haram sect. Those who have fled the area said the sect members can be seen with their guns riding their motorcycle even when the JTF unit is but a little distance away. The soldiers confess to lack of adequate resources to launch the needed attack there.
With the insurgency came also car snatching and kidnapping. Kidnapping is very common in Maiduguri although the ones involving notable figures like Dr Ali Monguno, a nationalist and a former minister get more publicity.
In places like Bama, one can say there is no single Toyota Camry left. If at all there is, it must be an old one that cannot possibly go beyond 120 kilometres per hour. In fact, Boko Haram boys need not break into anyone’s house to claim a vehicle; they call the owner with instructions to fuel the car ahead of their arrival. Then they walk in, ask that he disengages any anti-theft security and hand them the car and its key. The owner is killed should the car stop on the way. A senior colleague, Late Ahmed Wali suffered this fate. It is believed that all the cars snatched in Maiduguri are either in northern Borno or in the Sambisa game reserve, about 45 kilometres from Maiduguri.
People die daily in my state, hence any solution towards ending this carnage must not have a colouration of politics but should be pursued with the intent to truly bring about peace to our land. I welcome the declaration of State Of Emergency in Borno and from the pulse of the people among whom I work, it is safe to say that many are happy with this declaration ‘’if’’ it will bring an end to this crisis. The state of emergency is long overdue.
Not to mince words, I have my reservations with the conduct of the JTF; I never pray that the Baga episode repeat itself in any form, and hence nurse fears of the fallouts of this military intervention but would we wait for the remaining 3 local government areas still functioning under Borno state government to fall into hands of Boko Haram? Or allow the entire state to be run down before we act?
Borno is our home; our lives should not be used as bet for political reasons. It is amiss for anyone to stay in Abuja or anywhere outside of Borno state and speak authoritatively as though they feel our pain, while our brothers and sisters die in droves. I will agree with anyone who speaks of caution or defined rules of engagement for the JTF but an utter condemnation of the declaration of emergency is not acceptable.
I personally have never been in support of the amnesty program for Boko Haram. As a matter of fact, the good people of Borno know what these marauding killers stand for and their great contempt and disregard for constituted authority. An amnesty will then be a win for them; an indication that they are above the sovereignty of Nigeria. This will spell doom for the locals.
All efforts made to talk to the sect when Bama was attacked proved abortive; they see no reason to dialogue when they are winning the war. When the heat is turned on them, one won’t be surprised to see them being the ones seeking peace instead. That they be hunted down from Lake Alau in the Sambisa to the Lake Chad in northern Borno are few of my prayers and more.
– Ahmadu Jirgi (Twitter – @jirgispeaks) writes from Maiduguri, Borno State
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