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LASTMA OFFICIAL: Attack on our personnel by 7up workers will show it’s no longer business as usual

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LASTMA OFFICIAL:  Attack on our personnel by 7up workers will show it’s no longer business as usual

Officers of the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA) are fast becoming endangered species in the “Centre of Excellence”. This is because of the spate of attacks on the traffic managers in the last few weeks which increasingly have become worrisome. LASTMA officers have been at the receiving end of various forms of maltreatments from some unruly and violent motorists, and other traffic violators.

 

Some of these motorists who before now only vent their anger on the traffic officers by throwing various abusive words at them seem to have graduated to outright physical attacks.

 

On Wednesday, one of those ugly incidents played out yet again at the popular junction of a multinational bottling company, Seven Up. Incidentally, it was the workers of the Lebanese company that did the damage as they allegedly almost sent four LASTMA officials to their early grave.

 

Three of the officials are still licking their wounds from the attack which occurred about 2.3pm on the fateful day. The attacked officers are Kassim Abayomi, Anozie Peter, Demeji Tonade and the operational head, Alausa, Ikeja, who led the team to the spot of the incident, Oduntan Abiodun.

 

It was gathered that the workers were bent on killing the Lagos State transport officials but for the timely intervention of the Rapid Response Squad (RRS) and the taskforce personnel. Abiodun said: “My officers saw hell; it was a day we all will never forget in a hurry. The workers smashed empty bottles on our heads, twisted the neck of one of us even as they vowed to kill us for what they termed as disturbance within their vicinity. We are lucky to be telling the story today. The way and manner of the attack, nobody expected us to survive it; it was just the grace of God that we are alive till this moment.

 

“We rushed to the area after we hard on traffic radio that Seven Up trucks had blocked the road leading to the Expressway and that motorists were complaining. I called the officer on ground and he confirmed it to me. Immediately we drove down to the place and had to clear the road for the free flow of traffic and asked the drivers to leave the place because it is the main road for all motorists using the Thruway to Ikeja, linking the motorway to Alausa and it just two carriage way. They had blocked one and the second was choked for vehicular movement.

 

“So, I called their security officers out to plead with them not to allow their trucks to pack there again as that is causing problem for other road users. After that we left the scene but to our surprise they returned to the spot 10 minutes after. That was when we attempted to arrest them. I had to instruct one of my men to enter one of the trucks. They were two trucks packed there. Instantly they rushed to remove the key   to one of the trucks and prevented my officers’ entry.

 

“At that point they were boasting and challenging us to a fight. Seeing their reaction, I had to call for our towing vehicle and immediately one of the security personnel rushed to the factory to call out their workers. Suddenly we saw them trooping out and some of them opened the same trucks we had apprehended and emptied bottles started flying around from every direction. With the tense situation we had to call for reinforcement from both the RRS and the Taskforce.

 

Even with that they still believed it wasn’t possible to move the trucks out from the scene. “It was at that point that hell was let loose. Before we knew what was happening, the workers had started beating us blue and black.

 

One of my officers’ mouth was ripped open and he became unconscious afterwards. We thought he had passed on. So, the RRS and Taskforce officials helped to rush the three badly wounded officers to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of LASUTH for treatment.”

 

Abayomi told Saturday Telegraph that drivers and workers of Seven Up Company had always engaged them physically with different weapons whenever they tried to enforce traffic laws. He noted that it was an  eye-sore seeing some of these drivers parking illegally on one side of the road thereby causing serious traffic obstructions to other motorists along toll gate area of the state. Meanwhile, 13 of the seven up workers, who were overpowered, have been arraigned by the operatives of the Lagos State Task Force for unruly behaviour and assault on officers of the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority.

 

Chairman of the Task Force, CSP Olayinka Egbeyemi, confirmed in a press statement signed by Adebayo Taofiq, Head, Public Affairs Unit, that the enforcement team of the agency arrested the 13 workers after they assaulted LASTMA officers and injured three of them. Egbeyemi disclosed further that investigations revealed that the officers were attacked while trying to tow a truck belonging to the company, which was causing serious traffic gridlock.

 

He said: “The prosecution of these 13 arrested workers became imperative to serve as a deterrent to others who might want to attack law enforcement officers in the course of enforcement of Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu’s Executive Order on traffic offenders across the State.

 

It was disheartening that officers employed to safeguard members of the public were  always being attacked by same people whose interest were being protected.” Meanwhile, Magistrate Olajuwon Amos of the Lagos State Mobile Court, who presided over the case adjourned the commencement of trial to August 8, after the workers pleaded not guilty.

 

They were all charged for assault and conduct likely to cause breach of peace under Part 3, item 26 of the Lagos State Traffic Sector Law and reminded at the Badagry Prison. The recent attack has once again brought to the front burner the risks and hazards that traffic managers are exposed to while on duty. In defence of these unarmed traffic controllers in Lagos and in view of the tragic occurrences that have befallen the agency in time past, many concerned Nigerians have called for more protective measures to be put in place for these officers against any form of physical attack or assault.

 

It will be recalled that last year, LASTMA suffered terrible losses of its officers to violent breaches of criminally-minded attackers. Many of them died in the course of maintaining traffic laws. Official statistics for instance, in 2018, showed that 18 LASTMA officers were carelessly killed and 24 others permanently rendered incapacitated and hence, disabled. Lately, the narrative is yet to change. LASTMA Public Relations Officer, Hassan Mamud, while reacting to the incident said: “Attack on our personnel by Seven Up workers will show it’s no longer business as usual. It is our belief that the law of the land will take its course.”

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Features

Ex-Boko Haram fighters face their hardest battle: Reintegration

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Ex-Boko Haram fighters face their hardest battle: Reintegration

After living with armed group, runaways, including wives and children, struggle for social acceptance in Nigeria.

A ring with a big red glass stone sits on Mohammed Adamu’s middle finger. It is all that is left of the small jewellery business that he tried to set up.

“It reminds me that I need to push much harder to be able to get out of here,” he said.

Adamu, 30, is a former Boko Haram fighter who now lives in a refugee camp.

He claims he was captured by the group and joined in 2014, along with his wife and four children.

“In the beginning, I liked their ideology, everything happening in God’s name,” he said. “But soon, I realised that it was all about killing people. They just murdered without reason. So, I decided to run away.”

They lived with Boko Haram, but one year into their “captivity”, fighters killed his family members, he said.

In 2017, he managed to flee.

But reintegrating back into society has been near impossible.

After leaving, ex-fighters must complete a government-led rehabilitation programme, which lasts up to one year.

At the end, they receive N45,000 (about $125), a sum aimed at helping them kickstart their new life.

When Adamu arrived back in Gwoza, a northeastern town near Cameroon of almost 400,000 people – mostly Muslims, local elders had already decided not to accept back anyone who had lived with Boko Haram.

In an instant, Adamu was an outcast.

He moved into a refugee shelter in Maiduguri, the capital of the northeastern state of Borno, living alongside displaced people, many of whom had lost loved ones to Boko Haram attacks.

Former fighters were not welcome guests.

“If I had known that I would be so rejected here, I would have stayed in the bush,” he said.

He used the last of his savings to buy jewellery to trade in the suburbs, but this brought little income.

Now, Adamu sees no way out of the refugee camp.

Boko Haram has been active since 2009. Over the past 10 years, the armed group has killed thousands of people, taken hundreds of young women captive to be fighters’ “wives”, kidnapped hundreds of schoolgirls, and forcibly recruited huge numbers of boys and men to join the battlefield.

Speaking to Al Jazeera in Bakassi refugee camp in Maiduguri, Audu Ali said he has been trying to get on his feet for three years, but the stigma weighs heavily.

He claims that he was forced to join Boko Haram after fighters attacked his town in 2014, and that he never killed anyone.

But his neighbours don’t trust him.

Ali lived with Boko Haram for one year, together with his wife and five children, in a town called Naona.

At first, he found the ideology appealing – all the talk about fighting in the name of God.

“But after realising the cruel side of their preaching, I started to doubt the ideology because of the massive killings.”

The longer he stayed, the less he could bear it.

“They kept telling us that the Nigerian army would kill us immediately if they caught us. So, even those of us who thought about running away, stayed hiding in the bush,” he said.

One day, he decided he couldn’t face it any longer – even if that meant risking death and losing his family, who he left behind. He had feared his wife or children may tell someone else about his desire to leave, increasing the likelihood of them all being killed.

When he reached a military post in Gwoza, not far from where he had been living with the armed group, Ali discovered that he would not be killed by Nigerian troops – that the Boko Haram fighters had spun him a tale.

But he soon realised that society would not accept him back either. He often spends his time with former fighters, who, like Adamu, claimed were the only people who understood him.

Today, at 35 and having not heard from his family in three years, Ali has lost hope. His dream of running a convenience store is a distant dream.

According to a government official, who requested anonymity, the state-led rehabilitation programme, launched in 2016, is a successful project.

She explained that earlier this year, the programme started to work closely with local communities, adding that more than 1,000 former Boko Haram fighters have been rehabilitated so far.

But outside the corridors of power, the picture is different.

“Boko Haram killed my husband and father, we cannot simply forgive and forget,” said 20-year-old Laraba Mohammed, who cannot imagine living side by side with former fighters.

After her family members were killed, she joined the Civilian JTF, a militia formed in Maiduguri that fights Boko Haram.

To prepare the ex-fighters for verbal assaults, one of the key lessons of the rehabilitation programme is to keep quiet. Peace education, the government calls it.

“People always talk bad behind my back. I do my best to ignore them,” said Ali.

Adamu said being ostracised was “humiliating”.

“It is painful,” he said.

Dr Anthony Ali Mshelia, Head of the Department of Mental Health at the Federal Neuropsychiatric Hospital in Maiduguri, treats former fighters and warned that their post-Boko Haram experiences could lead to substance abuse and depression.

“And wherever they go, people will be sceptical if they were really only there in captivity,” he said.

Anyone associated with the group is most often rejected by the community, he said.

The most common problem among his patients is drug abuse, especially tramadol – a narcotic-like pain reliever.

Ex-fighters, IDPs and the unemployed are among the groups who use the drug.

The drug is also allegedly popular within Boko Haram. For some, tramadol numbs a sense of fear, fuelling risk-taking on the battlefield.

Adamu said he was part of Boko Haram’s drug business; his main task was to get drugs to supply his fellow fighters.

Stigma sticks to family members

In addition to former fighters, some ex-wives of Boko Haram members say they are outcast from society and that finding a new husband can be difficult.

Zarah Bunu (not her real name) lives in Bakassi camp in Maiduguri, and spends her time with other women in her predicament.

Originally from Marte, she was already married when she suddenly discovered that her husband had joined the group. They moved into a Boko Haram village – she stayed for a year.

“I tried to run away four times. When they caught me the third time, they brought me to my husband. My husband threatened he would order to kill me immediately, should I even try to escape again. But four days after my son was born, we ran again,” the 20-year-old said.

That time, with her only child in her arms, she got away successfully.

That was two years ago. Since then, she has always been labelled “a wife of Boko Haram,” she said.

She gets particularly upset when people call the children of fighters, including hers, “Boko Haram bastards”.

Because of the heavy stigma, some decide to leave Borno State.

They create fake identities and start over, said Umar Lawal Yusuf, a researcher at the University of Maiduguri.

Adamu has considered this exit plan, but was not yet ready to leave the area that raised him, where he has roots.

He points to a small gold ring that he wears next to the big red one.

“My father gave it to me,” he said. “He wanted me to remember our traditions here in the northeast.”

Continue Reading

Features

Ex-Boko Haram fighters face their hardest battle: Reintegration

Published

on

By

Ex-Boko Haram fighters face their hardest battle: Reintegration

After living with armed group, runaways, including wives and children, struggle for social acceptance in Nigeria.

A ring with a big red glass stone sits on Mohammed Adamu’s middle finger. It is all that is left of the small jewellery business that he tried to set up.

“It reminds me that I need to push much harder to be able to get out of here,” he said.

Adamu, 30, is a former Boko Haram fighter who now lives in a refugee camp.

He claims he was captured by the group and joined in 2014, along with his wife and four children.

“In the beginning, I liked their ideology, everything happening in God’s name,” he said. “But soon, I realised that it was all about killing people. They just murdered without reason. So, I decided to run away.”

They lived with Boko Haram, but one year into their “captivity”, fighters killed his family members, he said.

In 2017, he managed to flee.

But reintegrating back into society has been near impossible.

After leaving, ex-fighters must complete a government-led rehabilitation programme, which lasts up to one year.

At the end, they receive N45,000 (about $125), a sum aimed at helping them kickstart their new life.

When Adamu arrived back in Gwoza, a northeastern town near Cameroon of almost 400,000 people – mostly Muslims, local elders had already decided not to accept back anyone who had lived with Boko Haram.

In an instant, Adamu was an outcast.

He moved into a refugee shelter in Maiduguri, the capital of the northeastern state of Borno, living alongside displaced people, many of whom had lost loved ones to Boko Haram attacks.

Former fighters were not welcome guests.

“If I had known that I would be so rejected here, I would have stayed in the bush,” he said.

He used the last of his savings to buy jewellery to trade in the suburbs, but this brought little income.

Now, Adamu sees no way out of the refugee camp.

Boko Haram has been active since 2009. Over the past 10 years, the armed group has killed thousands of people, taken hundreds of young women captive to be fighters’ “wives”, kidnapped hundreds of schoolgirls, and forcibly recruited huge numbers of boys and men to join the battlefield.

Speaking to Al Jazeera in Bakassi refugee camp in Maiduguri, Audu Ali said he has been trying to get on his feet for three years, but the stigma weighs heavily.

He claims that he was forced to join Boko Haram after fighters attacked his town in 2014, and that he never killed anyone.

But his neighbours don’t trust him.

Ali lived with Boko Haram for one year, together with his wife and five children, in a town called Naona.

At first, he found the ideology appealing – all the talk about fighting in the name of God.

“But after realising the cruel side of their preaching, I started to doubt the ideology because of the massive killings.”

The longer he stayed, the less he could bear it.

“They kept telling us that the Nigerian army would kill us immediately if they caught us. So, even those of us who thought about running away, stayed hiding in the bush,” he said.

One day, he decided he couldn’t face it any longer – even if that meant risking death and losing his family, who he left behind. He had feared his wife or children may tell someone else about his desire to leave, increasing the likelihood of them all being killed.

When he reached a military post in Gwoza, not far from where he had been living with the armed group, Ali discovered that he would not be killed by Nigerian troops – that the Boko Haram fighters had spun him a tale.

But he soon realised that society would not accept him back either. He often spends his time with former fighters, who, like Adamu, claimed were the only people who understood him.

Today, at 35 and having not heard from his family in three years, Ali has lost hope. His dream of running a convenience store is a distant dream.

According to a government official, who requested anonymity, the state-led rehabilitation programme, launched in 2016, is a successful project.

She explained that earlier this year, the programme started to work closely with local communities, adding that more than 1,000 former Boko Haram fighters have been rehabilitated so far.

But outside the corridors of power, the picture is different.

“Boko Haram killed my husband and father, we cannot simply forgive and forget,” said 20-year-old Laraba Mohammed, who cannot imagine living side by side with former fighters.

After her family members were killed, she joined the Civilian JTF, a militia formed in Maiduguri that fights Boko Haram.

To prepare the ex-fighters for verbal assaults, one of the key lessons of the rehabilitation programme is to keep quiet. Peace education, the government calls it.

“People always talk bad behind my back. I do my best to ignore them,” said Ali.

Adamu said being ostracised was “humiliating”.

“It is painful,” he said.

Dr Anthony Ali Mshelia, Head of the Department of Mental Health at the Federal Neuropsychiatric Hospital in Maiduguri, treats former fighters and warned that their post-Boko Haram experiences could lead to substance abuse and depression.

“And wherever they go, people will be sceptical if they were really only there in captivity,” he said.

Anyone associated with the group is most often rejected by the community, he said.

The most common problem among his patients is drug abuse, especially tramadol – a narcotic-like pain reliever.

Ex-fighters, IDPs and the unemployed are among the groups who use the drug.

The drug is also allegedly popular within Boko Haram. For some, tramadol numbs a sense of fear, fuelling risk-taking on the battlefield.

Adamu said he was part of Boko Haram’s drug business; his main task was to get drugs to supply his fellow fighters.

Stigma sticks to family members

In addition to former fighters, some ex-wives of Boko Haram members say they are outcast from society and that finding a new husband can be difficult.

Zarah Bunu (not her real name) lives in Bakassi camp in Maiduguri, and spends her time with other women in her predicament.

Originally from Marte, she was already married when she suddenly discovered that her husband had joined the group. They moved into a Boko Haram village – she stayed for a year.

“I tried to run away four times. When they caught me the third time, they brought me to my husband. My husband threatened he would order to kill me immediately, should I even try to escape again. But four days after my son was born, we ran again,” the 20-year-old said.

That time, with her only child in her arms, she got away successfully.

That was two years ago. Since then, she has always been labelled “a wife of Boko Haram,” she said.

She gets particularly upset when people call the children of fighters, including hers, “Boko Haram bastards”.

Because of the heavy stigma, some decide to leave Borno State.

They create fake identities and start over, said Umar Lawal Yusuf, a researcher at the University of Maiduguri.

Adamu has considered this exit plan, but was not yet ready to leave the area that raised him, where he has roots.

He points to a small gold ring that he wears next to the big red one.

“My father gave it to me,” he said. “He wanted me to remember our traditions here in the northeast.”

Continue Reading

Features

Ex-Boko Haram fighters face their hardest battle: Reintegration

Published

on

By

Ex-Boko Haram fighters face their hardest battle: Reintegration

After living with armed group, runaways, including wives and children, struggle for social acceptance in Nigeria.

A ring with a big red glass stone sits on Mohammed Adamu’s middle finger. It is all that is left of the small jewellery business that he tried to set up.

“It reminds me that I need to push much harder to be able to get out of here,” he said.

Adamu, 30, is a former Boko Haram fighter who now lives in a refugee camp.

He claims he was captured by the group and joined in 2014, along with his wife and four children.

“In the beginning, I liked their ideology, everything happening in God’s name,” he said. “But soon, I realised that it was all about killing people. They just murdered without reason. So, I decided to run away.”

They lived with Boko Haram, but one year into their “captivity”, fighters killed his family members, he said.

In 2017, he managed to flee.

But reintegrating back into society has been near impossible.

After leaving, ex-fighters must complete a government-led rehabilitation programme, which lasts up to one year.

At the end, they receive N45,000 (about $125), a sum aimed at helping them kickstart their new life.

When Adamu arrived back in Gwoza, a northeastern town near Cameroon of almost 400,000 people – mostly Muslims, local elders had already decided not to accept back anyone who had lived with Boko Haram.

In an instant, Adamu was an outcast.

He moved into a refugee shelter in Maiduguri, the capital of the northeastern state of Borno, living alongside displaced people, many of whom had lost loved ones to Boko Haram attacks.

Former fighters were not welcome guests.

“If I had known that I would be so rejected here, I would have stayed in the bush,” he said.

He used the last of his savings to buy jewellery to trade in the suburbs, but this brought little income.

Now, Adamu sees no way out of the refugee camp.

Boko Haram has been active since 2009. Over the past 10 years, the armed group has killed thousands of people, taken hundreds of young women captive to be fighters’ “wives”, kidnapped hundreds of schoolgirls, and forcibly recruited huge numbers of boys and men to join the battlefield.

Speaking to Al Jazeera in Bakassi refugee camp in Maiduguri, Audu Ali said he has been trying to get on his feet for three years, but the stigma weighs heavily.

He claims that he was forced to join Boko Haram after fighters attacked his town in 2014, and that he never killed anyone.

But his neighbours don’t trust him.

Ali lived with Boko Haram for one year, together with his wife and five children, in a town called Naona.

At first, he found the ideology appealing – all the talk about fighting in the name of God.

“But after realising the cruel side of their preaching, I started to doubt the ideology because of the massive killings.”

The longer he stayed, the less he could bear it.

“They kept telling us that the Nigerian army would kill us immediately if they caught us. So, even those of us who thought about running away, stayed hiding in the bush,” he said.

One day, he decided he couldn’t face it any longer – even if that meant risking death and losing his family, who he left behind. He had feared his wife or children may tell someone else about his desire to leave, increasing the likelihood of them all being killed.

When he reached a military post in Gwoza, not far from where he had been living with the armed group, Ali discovered that he would not be killed by Nigerian troops – that the Boko Haram fighters had spun him a tale.

But he soon realised that society would not accept him back either. He often spends his time with former fighters, who, like Adamu, claimed were the only people who understood him.

Today, at 35 and having not heard from his family in three years, Ali has lost hope. His dream of running a convenience store is a distant dream.

According to a government official, who requested anonymity, the state-led rehabilitation programme, launched in 2016, is a successful project.

She explained that earlier this year, the programme started to work closely with local communities, adding that more than 1,000 former Boko Haram fighters have been rehabilitated so far.

But outside the corridors of power, the picture is different.

“Boko Haram killed my husband and father, we cannot simply forgive and forget,” said 20-year-old Laraba Mohammed, who cannot imagine living side by side with former fighters.

After her family members were killed, she joined the Civilian JTF, a militia formed in Maiduguri that fights Boko Haram.

To prepare the ex-fighters for verbal assaults, one of the key lessons of the rehabilitation programme is to keep quiet. Peace education, the government calls it.

“People always talk bad behind my back. I do my best to ignore them,” said Ali.

Adamu said being ostracised was “humiliating”.

“It is painful,” he said.

Dr Anthony Ali Mshelia, Head of the Department of Mental Health at the Federal Neuropsychiatric Hospital in Maiduguri, treats former fighters and warned that their post-Boko Haram experiences could lead to substance abuse and depression.

“And wherever they go, people will be sceptical if they were really only there in captivity,” he said.

Anyone associated with the group is most often rejected by the community, he said.

The most common problem among his patients is drug abuse, especially tramadol – a narcotic-like pain reliever.

Ex-fighters, IDPs and the unemployed are among the groups who use the drug.

The drug is also allegedly popular within Boko Haram. For some, tramadol numbs a sense of fear, fuelling risk-taking on the battlefield.

Adamu said he was part of Boko Haram’s drug business; his main task was to get drugs to supply his fellow fighters.

Stigma sticks to family members

In addition to former fighters, some ex-wives of Boko Haram members say they are outcast from society and that finding a new husband can be difficult.

Zarah Bunu (not her real name) lives in Bakassi camp in Maiduguri, and spends her time with other women in her predicament.

Originally from Marte, she was already married when she suddenly discovered that her husband had joined the group. They moved into a Boko Haram village – she stayed for a year.

“I tried to run away four times. When they caught me the third time, they brought me to my husband. My husband threatened he would order to kill me immediately, should I even try to escape again. But four days after my son was born, we ran again,” the 20-year-old said.

That time, with her only child in her arms, she got away successfully.

That was two years ago. Since then, she has always been labelled “a wife of Boko Haram,” she said.

She gets particularly upset when people call the children of fighters, including hers, “Boko Haram bastards”.

Because of the heavy stigma, some decide to leave Borno State.

They create fake identities and start over, said Umar Lawal Yusuf, a researcher at the University of Maiduguri.

Adamu has considered this exit plan, but was not yet ready to leave the area that raised him, where he has roots.

He points to a small gold ring that he wears next to the big red one.

“My father gave it to me,” he said. “He wanted me to remember our traditions here in the northeast.”

Continue Reading

Features

Ex-Boko Haram fighters face their hardest battle: Reintegration

Published

on

By

Ex-Boko Haram fighters face their hardest battle: Reintegration

After living with armed group, runaways, including wives and children, struggle for social acceptance in Nigeria.

A ring with a big red glass stone sits on Mohammed Adamu’s middle finger. It is all that is left of the small jewellery business that he tried to set up.

“It reminds me that I need to push much harder to be able to get out of here,” he said.

Adamu, 30, is a former Boko Haram fighter who now lives in a refugee camp.

He claims he was captured by the group and joined in 2014, along with his wife and four children.

“In the beginning, I liked their ideology, everything happening in God’s name,” he said. “But soon, I realised that it was all about killing people. They just murdered without reason. So, I decided to run away.”

They lived with Boko Haram, but one year into their “captivity”, fighters killed his family members, he said.

In 2017, he managed to flee.

But reintegrating back into society has been near impossible.

After leaving, ex-fighters must complete a government-led rehabilitation programme, which lasts up to one year.

At the end, they receive N45,000 (about $125), a sum aimed at helping them kickstart their new life.

When Adamu arrived back in Gwoza, a northeastern town near Cameroon of almost 400,000 people – mostly Muslims, local elders had already decided not to accept back anyone who had lived with Boko Haram.

In an instant, Adamu was an outcast.

He moved into a refugee shelter in Maiduguri, the capital of the northeastern state of Borno, living alongside displaced people, many of whom had lost loved ones to Boko Haram attacks.

Former fighters were not welcome guests.

“If I had known that I would be so rejected here, I would have stayed in the bush,” he said.

He used the last of his savings to buy jewellery to trade in the suburbs, but this brought little income.

Now, Adamu sees no way out of the refugee camp.

Boko Haram has been active since 2009. Over the past 10 years, the armed group has killed thousands of people, taken hundreds of young women captive to be fighters’ “wives”, kidnapped hundreds of schoolgirls, and forcibly recruited huge numbers of boys and men to join the battlefield.

Speaking to Al Jazeera in Bakassi refugee camp in Maiduguri, Audu Ali said he has been trying to get on his feet for three years, but the stigma weighs heavily.

He claims that he was forced to join Boko Haram after fighters attacked his town in 2014, and that he never killed anyone.

But his neighbours don’t trust him.

Ali lived with Boko Haram for one year, together with his wife and five children, in a town called Naona.

At first, he found the ideology appealing – all the talk about fighting in the name of God.

“But after realising the cruel side of their preaching, I started to doubt the ideology because of the massive killings.”

The longer he stayed, the less he could bear it.

“They kept telling us that the Nigerian army would kill us immediately if they caught us. So, even those of us who thought about running away, stayed hiding in the bush,” he said.

One day, he decided he couldn’t face it any longer – even if that meant risking death and losing his family, who he left behind. He had feared his wife or children may tell someone else about his desire to leave, increasing the likelihood of them all being killed.

When he reached a military post in Gwoza, not far from where he had been living with the armed group, Ali discovered that he would not be killed by Nigerian troops – that the Boko Haram fighters had spun him a tale.

But he soon realised that society would not accept him back either. He often spends his time with former fighters, who, like Adamu, claimed were the only people who understood him.

Today, at 35 and having not heard from his family in three years, Ali has lost hope. His dream of running a convenience store is a distant dream.

According to a government official, who requested anonymity, the state-led rehabilitation programme, launched in 2016, is a successful project.

She explained that earlier this year, the programme started to work closely with local communities, adding that more than 1,000 former Boko Haram fighters have been rehabilitated so far.

But outside the corridors of power, the picture is different.

“Boko Haram killed my husband and father, we cannot simply forgive and forget,” said 20-year-old Laraba Mohammed, who cannot imagine living side by side with former fighters.

After her family members were killed, she joined the Civilian JTF, a militia formed in Maiduguri that fights Boko Haram.

To prepare the ex-fighters for verbal assaults, one of the key lessons of the rehabilitation programme is to keep quiet. Peace education, the government calls it.

“People always talk bad behind my back. I do my best to ignore them,” said Ali.

Adamu said being ostracised was “humiliating”.

“It is painful,” he said.

Dr Anthony Ali Mshelia, Head of the Department of Mental Health at the Federal Neuropsychiatric Hospital in Maiduguri, treats former fighters and warned that their post-Boko Haram experiences could lead to substance abuse and depression.

“And wherever they go, people will be sceptical if they were really only there in captivity,” he said.

Anyone associated with the group is most often rejected by the community, he said.

The most common problem among his patients is drug abuse, especially tramadol – a narcotic-like pain reliever.

Ex-fighters, IDPs and the unemployed are among the groups who use the drug.

The drug is also allegedly popular within Boko Haram. For some, tramadol numbs a sense of fear, fuelling risk-taking on the battlefield.

Adamu said he was part of Boko Haram’s drug business; his main task was to get drugs to supply his fellow fighters.

Stigma sticks to family members

In addition to former fighters, some ex-wives of Boko Haram members say they are outcast from society and that finding a new husband can be difficult.

Zarah Bunu (not her real name) lives in Bakassi camp in Maiduguri, and spends her time with other women in her predicament.

Originally from Marte, she was already married when she suddenly discovered that her husband had joined the group. They moved into a Boko Haram village – she stayed for a year.

“I tried to run away four times. When they caught me the third time, they brought me to my husband. My husband threatened he would order to kill me immediately, should I even try to escape again. But four days after my son was born, we ran again,” the 20-year-old said.

That time, with her only child in her arms, she got away successfully.

That was two years ago. Since then, she has always been labelled “a wife of Boko Haram,” she said.

She gets particularly upset when people call the children of fighters, including hers, “Boko Haram bastards”.

Because of the heavy stigma, some decide to leave Borno State.

They create fake identities and start over, said Umar Lawal Yusuf, a researcher at the University of Maiduguri.

Adamu has considered this exit plan, but was not yet ready to leave the area that raised him, where he has roots.

He points to a small gold ring that he wears next to the big red one.

“My father gave it to me,” he said. “He wanted me to remember our traditions here in the northeast.”

Continue Reading

Features

Ex-Boko Haram fighters face their hardest battle: Reintegration

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on

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Ex-Boko Haram fighters face their hardest battle: Reintegration

After living with armed group, runaways, including wives and children, struggle for social acceptance in Nigeria.

A ring with a big red glass stone sits on Mohammed Adamu’s middle finger. It is all that is left of the small jewellery business that he tried to set up.

“It reminds me that I need to push much harder to be able to get out of here,” he said.

Adamu, 30, is a former Boko Haram fighter who now lives in a refugee camp.

He claims he was captured by the group and joined in 2014, along with his wife and four children.

“In the beginning, I liked their ideology, everything happening in God’s name,” he said. “But soon, I realised that it was all about killing people. They just murdered without reason. So, I decided to run away.”

They lived with Boko Haram, but one year into their “captivity”, fighters killed his family members, he said.

In 2017, he managed to flee.

But reintegrating back into society has been near impossible.

After leaving, ex-fighters must complete a government-led rehabilitation programme, which lasts up to one year.

At the end, they receive N45,000 (about $125), a sum aimed at helping them kickstart their new life.

When Adamu arrived back in Gwoza, a northeastern town near Cameroon of almost 400,000 people – mostly Muslims, local elders had already decided not to accept back anyone who had lived with Boko Haram.

In an instant, Adamu was an outcast.

He moved into a refugee shelter in Maiduguri, the capital of the northeastern state of Borno, living alongside displaced people, many of whom had lost loved ones to Boko Haram attacks.

Former fighters were not welcome guests.

“If I had known that I would be so rejected here, I would have stayed in the bush,” he said.

He used the last of his savings to buy jewellery to trade in the suburbs, but this brought little income.

Now, Adamu sees no way out of the refugee camp.

Boko Haram has been active since 2009. Over the past 10 years, the armed group has killed thousands of people, taken hundreds of young women captive to be fighters’ “wives”, kidnapped hundreds of schoolgirls, and forcibly recruited huge numbers of boys and men to join the battlefield.

Speaking to Al Jazeera in Bakassi refugee camp in Maiduguri, Audu Ali said he has been trying to get on his feet for three years, but the stigma weighs heavily.

He claims that he was forced to join Boko Haram after fighters attacked his town in 2014, and that he never killed anyone.

But his neighbours don’t trust him.

Ali lived with Boko Haram for one year, together with his wife and five children, in a town called Naona.

At first, he found the ideology appealing – all the talk about fighting in the name of God.

“But after realising the cruel side of their preaching, I started to doubt the ideology because of the massive killings.”

The longer he stayed, the less he could bear it.

“They kept telling us that the Nigerian army would kill us immediately if they caught us. So, even those of us who thought about running away, stayed hiding in the bush,” he said.

One day, he decided he couldn’t face it any longer – even if that meant risking death and losing his family, who he left behind. He had feared his wife or children may tell someone else about his desire to leave, increasing the likelihood of them all being killed.

When he reached a military post in Gwoza, not far from where he had been living with the armed group, Ali discovered that he would not be killed by Nigerian troops – that the Boko Haram fighters had spun him a tale.

But he soon realised that society would not accept him back either. He often spends his time with former fighters, who, like Adamu, claimed were the only people who understood him.

Today, at 35 and having not heard from his family in three years, Ali has lost hope. His dream of running a convenience store is a distant dream.

According to a government official, who requested anonymity, the state-led rehabilitation programme, launched in 2016, is a successful project.

She explained that earlier this year, the programme started to work closely with local communities, adding that more than 1,000 former Boko Haram fighters have been rehabilitated so far.

But outside the corridors of power, the picture is different.

“Boko Haram killed my husband and father, we cannot simply forgive and forget,” said 20-year-old Laraba Mohammed, who cannot imagine living side by side with former fighters.

After her family members were killed, she joined the Civilian JTF, a militia formed in Maiduguri that fights Boko Haram.

To prepare the ex-fighters for verbal assaults, one of the key lessons of the rehabilitation programme is to keep quiet. Peace education, the government calls it.

“People always talk bad behind my back. I do my best to ignore them,” said Ali.

Adamu said being ostracised was “humiliating”.

“It is painful,” he said.

Dr Anthony Ali Mshelia, Head of the Department of Mental Health at the Federal Neuropsychiatric Hospital in Maiduguri, treats former fighters and warned that their post-Boko Haram experiences could lead to substance abuse and depression.

“And wherever they go, people will be sceptical if they were really only there in captivity,” he said.

Anyone associated with the group is most often rejected by the community, he said.

The most common problem among his patients is drug abuse, especially tramadol – a narcotic-like pain reliever.

Ex-fighters, IDPs and the unemployed are among the groups who use the drug.

The drug is also allegedly popular within Boko Haram. For some, tramadol numbs a sense of fear, fuelling risk-taking on the battlefield.

Adamu said he was part of Boko Haram’s drug business; his main task was to get drugs to supply his fellow fighters.

Stigma sticks to family members

In addition to former fighters, some ex-wives of Boko Haram members say they are outcast from society and that finding a new husband can be difficult.

Zarah Bunu (not her real name) lives in Bakassi camp in Maiduguri, and spends her time with other women in her predicament.

Originally from Marte, she was already married when she suddenly discovered that her husband had joined the group. They moved into a Boko Haram village – she stayed for a year.

“I tried to run away four times. When they caught me the third time, they brought me to my husband. My husband threatened he would order to kill me immediately, should I even try to escape again. But four days after my son was born, we ran again,” the 20-year-old said.

That time, with her only child in her arms, she got away successfully.

That was two years ago. Since then, she has always been labelled “a wife of Boko Haram,” she said.

She gets particularly upset when people call the children of fighters, including hers, “Boko Haram bastards”.

Because of the heavy stigma, some decide to leave Borno State.

They create fake identities and start over, said Umar Lawal Yusuf, a researcher at the University of Maiduguri.

Adamu has considered this exit plan, but was not yet ready to leave the area that raised him, where he has roots.

He points to a small gold ring that he wears next to the big red one.

“My father gave it to me,” he said. “He wanted me to remember our traditions here in the northeast.”

Continue Reading

Features

Ex-Boko Haram fighters face their hardest battle: Reintegration

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on

By

Ex-Boko Haram fighters face their hardest battle: Reintegration

After living with armed group, runaways, including wives and children, struggle for social acceptance in Nigeria.

A ring with a big red glass stone sits on Mohammed Adamu’s middle finger. It is all that is left of the small jewellery business that he tried to set up.

“It reminds me that I need to push much harder to be able to get out of here,” he said.

Adamu, 30, is a former Boko Haram fighter who now lives in a refugee camp.

He claims he was captured by the group and joined in 2014, along with his wife and four children.

“In the beginning, I liked their ideology, everything happening in God’s name,” he said. “But soon, I realised that it was all about killing people. They just murdered without reason. So, I decided to run away.”

They lived with Boko Haram, but one year into their “captivity”, fighters killed his family members, he said.

In 2017, he managed to flee.

But reintegrating back into society has been near impossible.

After leaving, ex-fighters must complete a government-led rehabilitation programme, which lasts up to one year.

At the end, they receive N45,000 (about $125), a sum aimed at helping them kickstart their new life.

When Adamu arrived back in Gwoza, a northeastern town near Cameroon of almost 400,000 people – mostly Muslims, local elders had already decided not to accept back anyone who had lived with Boko Haram.

In an instant, Adamu was an outcast.

He moved into a refugee shelter in Maiduguri, the capital of the northeastern state of Borno, living alongside displaced people, many of whom had lost loved ones to Boko Haram attacks.

Former fighters were not welcome guests.

“If I had known that I would be so rejected here, I would have stayed in the bush,” he said.

He used the last of his savings to buy jewellery to trade in the suburbs, but this brought little income.

Now, Adamu sees no way out of the refugee camp.

Boko Haram has been active since 2009. Over the past 10 years, the armed group has killed thousands of people, taken hundreds of young women captive to be fighters’ “wives”, kidnapped hundreds of schoolgirls, and forcibly recruited huge numbers of boys and men to join the battlefield.

Speaking to Al Jazeera in Bakassi refugee camp in Maiduguri, Audu Ali said he has been trying to get on his feet for three years, but the stigma weighs heavily.

He claims that he was forced to join Boko Haram after fighters attacked his town in 2014, and that he never killed anyone.

But his neighbours don’t trust him.

Ali lived with Boko Haram for one year, together with his wife and five children, in a town called Naona.

At first, he found the ideology appealing – all the talk about fighting in the name of God.

“But after realising the cruel side of their preaching, I started to doubt the ideology because of the massive killings.”

The longer he stayed, the less he could bear it.

“They kept telling us that the Nigerian army would kill us immediately if they caught us. So, even those of us who thought about running away, stayed hiding in the bush,” he said.

One day, he decided he couldn’t face it any longer – even if that meant risking death and losing his family, who he left behind. He had feared his wife or children may tell someone else about his desire to leave, increasing the likelihood of them all being killed.

When he reached a military post in Gwoza, not far from where he had been living with the armed group, Ali discovered that he would not be killed by Nigerian troops – that the Boko Haram fighters had spun him a tale.

But he soon realised that society would not accept him back either. He often spends his time with former fighters, who, like Adamu, claimed were the only people who understood him.

Today, at 35 and having not heard from his family in three years, Ali has lost hope. His dream of running a convenience store is a distant dream.

According to a government official, who requested anonymity, the state-led rehabilitation programme, launched in 2016, is a successful project.

She explained that earlier this year, the programme started to work closely with local communities, adding that more than 1,000 former Boko Haram fighters have been rehabilitated so far.

But outside the corridors of power, the picture is different.

“Boko Haram killed my husband and father, we cannot simply forgive and forget,” said 20-year-old Laraba Mohammed, who cannot imagine living side by side with former fighters.

After her family members were killed, she joined the Civilian JTF, a militia formed in Maiduguri that fights Boko Haram.

To prepare the ex-fighters for verbal assaults, one of the key lessons of the rehabilitation programme is to keep quiet. Peace education, the government calls it.

“People always talk bad behind my back. I do my best to ignore them,” said Ali.

Adamu said being ostracised was “humiliating”.

“It is painful,” he said.

Dr Anthony Ali Mshelia, Head of the Department of Mental Health at the Federal Neuropsychiatric Hospital in Maiduguri, treats former fighters and warned that their post-Boko Haram experiences could lead to substance abuse and depression.

“And wherever they go, people will be sceptical if they were really only there in captivity,” he said.

Anyone associated with the group is most often rejected by the community, he said.

The most common problem among his patients is drug abuse, especially tramadol – a narcotic-like pain reliever.

Ex-fighters, IDPs and the unemployed are among the groups who use the drug.

The drug is also allegedly popular within Boko Haram. For some, tramadol numbs a sense of fear, fuelling risk-taking on the battlefield.

Adamu said he was part of Boko Haram’s drug business; his main task was to get drugs to supply his fellow fighters.

Stigma sticks to family members

In addition to former fighters, some ex-wives of Boko Haram members say they are outcast from society and that finding a new husband can be difficult.

Zarah Bunu (not her real name) lives in Bakassi camp in Maiduguri, and spends her time with other women in her predicament.

Originally from Marte, she was already married when she suddenly discovered that her husband had joined the group. They moved into a Boko Haram village – she stayed for a year.

“I tried to run away four times. When they caught me the third time, they brought me to my husband. My husband threatened he would order to kill me immediately, should I even try to escape again. But four days after my son was born, we ran again,” the 20-year-old said.

That time, with her only child in her arms, she got away successfully.

That was two years ago. Since then, she has always been labelled “a wife of Boko Haram,” she said.

She gets particularly upset when people call the children of fighters, including hers, “Boko Haram bastards”.

Because of the heavy stigma, some decide to leave Borno State.

They create fake identities and start over, said Umar Lawal Yusuf, a researcher at the University of Maiduguri.

Adamu has considered this exit plan, but was not yet ready to leave the area that raised him, where he has roots.

He points to a small gold ring that he wears next to the big red one.

“My father gave it to me,” he said. “He wanted me to remember our traditions here in the northeast.”

Continue Reading

Features

Ex-Boko Haram fighters face their hardest battle: Reintegration

Published

on

By

Ex-Boko Haram fighters face their hardest battle: Reintegration

After living with armed group, runaways, including wives and children, struggle for social acceptance in Nigeria.

A ring with a big red glass stone sits on Mohammed Adamu’s middle finger. It is all that is left of the small jewellery business that he tried to set up.

“It reminds me that I need to push much harder to be able to get out of here,” he said.

Adamu, 30, is a former Boko Haram fighter who now lives in a refugee camp.

He claims he was captured by the group and joined in 2014, along with his wife and four children.

“In the beginning, I liked their ideology, everything happening in God’s name,” he said. “But soon, I realised that it was all about killing people. They just murdered without reason. So, I decided to run away.”

They lived with Boko Haram, but one year into their “captivity”, fighters killed his family members, he said.

In 2017, he managed to flee.

But reintegrating back into society has been near impossible.

After leaving, ex-fighters must complete a government-led rehabilitation programme, which lasts up to one year.

At the end, they receive N45,000 (about $125), a sum aimed at helping them kickstart their new life.

When Adamu arrived back in Gwoza, a northeastern town near Cameroon of almost 400,000 people – mostly Muslims, local elders had already decided not to accept back anyone who had lived with Boko Haram.

In an instant, Adamu was an outcast.

He moved into a refugee shelter in Maiduguri, the capital of the northeastern state of Borno, living alongside displaced people, many of whom had lost loved ones to Boko Haram attacks.

Former fighters were not welcome guests.

“If I had known that I would be so rejected here, I would have stayed in the bush,” he said.

He used the last of his savings to buy jewellery to trade in the suburbs, but this brought little income.

Now, Adamu sees no way out of the refugee camp.

Boko Haram has been active since 2009. Over the past 10 years, the armed group has killed thousands of people, taken hundreds of young women captive to be fighters’ “wives”, kidnapped hundreds of schoolgirls, and forcibly recruited huge numbers of boys and men to join the battlefield.

Speaking to Al Jazeera in Bakassi refugee camp in Maiduguri, Audu Ali said he has been trying to get on his feet for three years, but the stigma weighs heavily.

He claims that he was forced to join Boko Haram after fighters attacked his town in 2014, and that he never killed anyone.

But his neighbours don’t trust him.

Ali lived with Boko Haram for one year, together with his wife and five children, in a town called Naona.

At first, he found the ideology appealing – all the talk about fighting in the name of God.

“But after realising the cruel side of their preaching, I started to doubt the ideology because of the massive killings.”

The longer he stayed, the less he could bear it.

“They kept telling us that the Nigerian army would kill us immediately if they caught us. So, even those of us who thought about running away, stayed hiding in the bush,” he said.

One day, he decided he couldn’t face it any longer – even if that meant risking death and losing his family, who he left behind. He had feared his wife or children may tell someone else about his desire to leave, increasing the likelihood of them all being killed.

When he reached a military post in Gwoza, not far from where he had been living with the armed group, Ali discovered that he would not be killed by Nigerian troops – that the Boko Haram fighters had spun him a tale.

But he soon realised that society would not accept him back either. He often spends his time with former fighters, who, like Adamu, claimed were the only people who understood him.

Today, at 35 and having not heard from his family in three years, Ali has lost hope. His dream of running a convenience store is a distant dream.

According to a government official, who requested anonymity, the state-led rehabilitation programme, launched in 2016, is a successful project.

She explained that earlier this year, the programme started to work closely with local communities, adding that more than 1,000 former Boko Haram fighters have been rehabilitated so far.

But outside the corridors of power, the picture is different.

“Boko Haram killed my husband and father, we cannot simply forgive and forget,” said 20-year-old Laraba Mohammed, who cannot imagine living side by side with former fighters.

After her family members were killed, she joined the Civilian JTF, a militia formed in Maiduguri that fights Boko Haram.

To prepare the ex-fighters for verbal assaults, one of the key lessons of the rehabilitation programme is to keep quiet. Peace education, the government calls it.

“People always talk bad behind my back. I do my best to ignore them,” said Ali.

Adamu said being ostracised was “humiliating”.

“It is painful,” he said.

Dr Anthony Ali Mshelia, Head of the Department of Mental Health at the Federal Neuropsychiatric Hospital in Maiduguri, treats former fighters and warned that their post-Boko Haram experiences could lead to substance abuse and depression.

“And wherever they go, people will be sceptical if they were really only there in captivity,” he said.

Anyone associated with the group is most often rejected by the community, he said.

The most common problem among his patients is drug abuse, especially tramadol – a narcotic-like pain reliever.

Ex-fighters, IDPs and the unemployed are among the groups who use the drug.

The drug is also allegedly popular within Boko Haram. For some, tramadol numbs a sense of fear, fuelling risk-taking on the battlefield.

Adamu said he was part of Boko Haram’s drug business; his main task was to get drugs to supply his fellow fighters.

Stigma sticks to family members

In addition to former fighters, some ex-wives of Boko Haram members say they are outcast from society and that finding a new husband can be difficult.

Zarah Bunu (not her real name) lives in Bakassi camp in Maiduguri, and spends her time with other women in her predicament.

Originally from Marte, she was already married when she suddenly discovered that her husband had joined the group. They moved into a Boko Haram village – she stayed for a year.

“I tried to run away four times. When they caught me the third time, they brought me to my husband. My husband threatened he would order to kill me immediately, should I even try to escape again. But four days after my son was born, we ran again,” the 20-year-old said.

That time, with her only child in her arms, she got away successfully.

That was two years ago. Since then, she has always been labelled “a wife of Boko Haram,” she said.

She gets particularly upset when people call the children of fighters, including hers, “Boko Haram bastards”.

Because of the heavy stigma, some decide to leave Borno State.

They create fake identities and start over, said Umar Lawal Yusuf, a researcher at the University of Maiduguri.

Adamu has considered this exit plan, but was not yet ready to leave the area that raised him, where he has roots.

He points to a small gold ring that he wears next to the big red one.

“My father gave it to me,” he said. “He wanted me to remember our traditions here in the northeast.”

Continue Reading

Features

Ex-Boko Haram fighters face their hardest battle: Reintegration

Published

on

By

Ex-Boko Haram fighters face their hardest battle: Reintegration

After living with armed group, runaways, including wives and children, struggle for social acceptance in Nigeria.

A ring with a big red glass stone sits on Mohammed Adamu’s middle finger. It is all that is left of the small jewellery business that he tried to set up.

“It reminds me that I need to push much harder to be able to get out of here,” he said.

Adamu, 30, is a former Boko Haram fighter who now lives in a refugee camp.

He claims he was captured by the group and joined in 2014, along with his wife and four children.

“In the beginning, I liked their ideology, everything happening in God’s name,” he said. “But soon, I realised that it was all about killing people. They just murdered without reason. So, I decided to run away.”

They lived with Boko Haram, but one year into their “captivity”, fighters killed his family members, he said.

In 2017, he managed to flee.

But reintegrating back into society has been near impossible.

After leaving, ex-fighters must complete a government-led rehabilitation programme, which lasts up to one year.

At the end, they receive N45,000 (about $125), a sum aimed at helping them kickstart their new life.

When Adamu arrived back in Gwoza, a northeastern town near Cameroon of almost 400,000 people – mostly Muslims, local elders had already decided not to accept back anyone who had lived with Boko Haram.

In an instant, Adamu was an outcast.

He moved into a refugee shelter in Maiduguri, the capital of the northeastern state of Borno, living alongside displaced people, many of whom had lost loved ones to Boko Haram attacks.

Former fighters were not welcome guests.

“If I had known that I would be so rejected here, I would have stayed in the bush,” he said.

He used the last of his savings to buy jewellery to trade in the suburbs, but this brought little income.

Now, Adamu sees no way out of the refugee camp.

Boko Haram has been active since 2009. Over the past 10 years, the armed group has killed thousands of people, taken hundreds of young women captive to be fighters’ “wives”, kidnapped hundreds of schoolgirls, and forcibly recruited huge numbers of boys and men to join the battlefield.

Speaking to Al Jazeera in Bakassi refugee camp in Maiduguri, Audu Ali said he has been trying to get on his feet for three years, but the stigma weighs heavily.

He claims that he was forced to join Boko Haram after fighters attacked his town in 2014, and that he never killed anyone.

But his neighbours don’t trust him.

Ali lived with Boko Haram for one year, together with his wife and five children, in a town called Naona.

At first, he found the ideology appealing – all the talk about fighting in the name of God.

“But after realising the cruel side of their preaching, I started to doubt the ideology because of the massive killings.”

The longer he stayed, the less he could bear it.

“They kept telling us that the Nigerian army would kill us immediately if they caught us. So, even those of us who thought about running away, stayed hiding in the bush,” he said.

One day, he decided he couldn’t face it any longer – even if that meant risking death and losing his family, who he left behind. He had feared his wife or children may tell someone else about his desire to leave, increasing the likelihood of them all being killed.

When he reached a military post in Gwoza, not far from where he had been living with the armed group, Ali discovered that he would not be killed by Nigerian troops – that the Boko Haram fighters had spun him a tale.

But he soon realised that society would not accept him back either. He often spends his time with former fighters, who, like Adamu, claimed were the only people who understood him.

Today, at 35 and having not heard from his family in three years, Ali has lost hope. His dream of running a convenience store is a distant dream.

According to a government official, who requested anonymity, the state-led rehabilitation programme, launched in 2016, is a successful project.

She explained that earlier this year, the programme started to work closely with local communities, adding that more than 1,000 former Boko Haram fighters have been rehabilitated so far.

But outside the corridors of power, the picture is different.

“Boko Haram killed my husband and father, we cannot simply forgive and forget,” said 20-year-old Laraba Mohammed, who cannot imagine living side by side with former fighters.

After her family members were killed, she joined the Civilian JTF, a militia formed in Maiduguri that fights Boko Haram.

To prepare the ex-fighters for verbal assaults, one of the key lessons of the rehabilitation programme is to keep quiet. Peace education, the government calls it.

“People always talk bad behind my back. I do my best to ignore them,” said Ali.

Adamu said being ostracised was “humiliating”.

“It is painful,” he said.

Dr Anthony Ali Mshelia, Head of the Department of Mental Health at the Federal Neuropsychiatric Hospital in Maiduguri, treats former fighters and warned that their post-Boko Haram experiences could lead to substance abuse and depression.

“And wherever they go, people will be sceptical if they were really only there in captivity,” he said.

Anyone associated with the group is most often rejected by the community, he said.

The most common problem among his patients is drug abuse, especially tramadol – a narcotic-like pain reliever.

Ex-fighters, IDPs and the unemployed are among the groups who use the drug.

The drug is also allegedly popular within Boko Haram. For some, tramadol numbs a sense of fear, fuelling risk-taking on the battlefield.

Adamu said he was part of Boko Haram’s drug business; his main task was to get drugs to supply his fellow fighters.

Stigma sticks to family members

In addition to former fighters, some ex-wives of Boko Haram members say they are outcast from society and that finding a new husband can be difficult.

Zarah Bunu (not her real name) lives in Bakassi camp in Maiduguri, and spends her time with other women in her predicament.

Originally from Marte, she was already married when she suddenly discovered that her husband had joined the group. They moved into a Boko Haram village – she stayed for a year.

“I tried to run away four times. When they caught me the third time, they brought me to my husband. My husband threatened he would order to kill me immediately, should I even try to escape again. But four days after my son was born, we ran again,” the 20-year-old said.

That time, with her only child in her arms, she got away successfully.

That was two years ago. Since then, she has always been labelled “a wife of Boko Haram,” she said.

She gets particularly upset when people call the children of fighters, including hers, “Boko Haram bastards”.

Because of the heavy stigma, some decide to leave Borno State.

They create fake identities and start over, said Umar Lawal Yusuf, a researcher at the University of Maiduguri.

Adamu has considered this exit plan, but was not yet ready to leave the area that raised him, where he has roots.

He points to a small gold ring that he wears next to the big red one.

“My father gave it to me,” he said. “He wanted me to remember our traditions here in the northeast.”

Continue Reading

Features

Ex-Boko Haram fighters face their hardest battle: Reintegration

Published

on

By

Ex-Boko Haram fighters face their hardest battle: Reintegration

After living with armed group, runaways, including wives and children, struggle for social acceptance in Nigeria.

A ring with a big red glass stone sits on Mohammed Adamu’s middle finger. It is all that is left of the small jewellery business that he tried to set up.

“It reminds me that I need to push much harder to be able to get out of here,” he said.

Adamu, 30, is a former Boko Haram fighter who now lives in a refugee camp.

He claims he was captured by the group and joined in 2014, along with his wife and four children.

“In the beginning, I liked their ideology, everything happening in God’s name,” he said. “But soon, I realised that it was all about killing people. They just murdered without reason. So, I decided to run away.”

They lived with Boko Haram, but one year into their “captivity”, fighters killed his family members, he said.

In 2017, he managed to flee.

But reintegrating back into society has been near impossible.

After leaving, ex-fighters must complete a government-led rehabilitation programme, which lasts up to one year.

At the end, they receive N45,000 (about $125), a sum aimed at helping them kickstart their new life.

When Adamu arrived back in Gwoza, a northeastern town near Cameroon of almost 400,000 people – mostly Muslims, local elders had already decided not to accept back anyone who had lived with Boko Haram.

In an instant, Adamu was an outcast.

He moved into a refugee shelter in Maiduguri, the capital of the northeastern state of Borno, living alongside displaced people, many of whom had lost loved ones to Boko Haram attacks.

Former fighters were not welcome guests.

“If I had known that I would be so rejected here, I would have stayed in the bush,” he said.

He used the last of his savings to buy jewellery to trade in the suburbs, but this brought little income.

Now, Adamu sees no way out of the refugee camp.

Boko Haram has been active since 2009. Over the past 10 years, the armed group has killed thousands of people, taken hundreds of young women captive to be fighters’ “wives”, kidnapped hundreds of schoolgirls, and forcibly recruited huge numbers of boys and men to join the battlefield.

Speaking to Al Jazeera in Bakassi refugee camp in Maiduguri, Audu Ali said he has been trying to get on his feet for three years, but the stigma weighs heavily.

He claims that he was forced to join Boko Haram after fighters attacked his town in 2014, and that he never killed anyone.

But his neighbours don’t trust him.

Ali lived with Boko Haram for one year, together with his wife and five children, in a town called Naona.

At first, he found the ideology appealing – all the talk about fighting in the name of God.

“But after realising the cruel side of their preaching, I started to doubt the ideology because of the massive killings.”

The longer he stayed, the less he could bear it.

“They kept telling us that the Nigerian army would kill us immediately if they caught us. So, even those of us who thought about running away, stayed hiding in the bush,” he said.

One day, he decided he couldn’t face it any longer – even if that meant risking death and losing his family, who he left behind. He had feared his wife or children may tell someone else about his desire to leave, increasing the likelihood of them all being killed.

When he reached a military post in Gwoza, not far from where he had been living with the armed group, Ali discovered that he would not be killed by Nigerian troops – that the Boko Haram fighters had spun him a tale.

But he soon realised that society would not accept him back either. He often spends his time with former fighters, who, like Adamu, claimed were the only people who understood him.

Today, at 35 and having not heard from his family in three years, Ali has lost hope. His dream of running a convenience store is a distant dream.

According to a government official, who requested anonymity, the state-led rehabilitation programme, launched in 2016, is a successful project.

She explained that earlier this year, the programme started to work closely with local communities, adding that more than 1,000 former Boko Haram fighters have been rehabilitated so far.

But outside the corridors of power, the picture is different.

“Boko Haram killed my husband and father, we cannot simply forgive and forget,” said 20-year-old Laraba Mohammed, who cannot imagine living side by side with former fighters.

After her family members were killed, she joined the Civilian JTF, a militia formed in Maiduguri that fights Boko Haram.

To prepare the ex-fighters for verbal assaults, one of the key lessons of the rehabilitation programme is to keep quiet. Peace education, the government calls it.

“People always talk bad behind my back. I do my best to ignore them,” said Ali.

Adamu said being ostracised was “humiliating”.

“It is painful,” he said.

Dr Anthony Ali Mshelia, Head of the Department of Mental Health at the Federal Neuropsychiatric Hospital in Maiduguri, treats former fighters and warned that their post-Boko Haram experiences could lead to substance abuse and depression.

“And wherever they go, people will be sceptical if they were really only there in captivity,” he said.

Anyone associated with the group is most often rejected by the community, he said.

The most common problem among his patients is drug abuse, especially tramadol – a narcotic-like pain reliever.

Ex-fighters, IDPs and the unemployed are among the groups who use the drug.

The drug is also allegedly popular within Boko Haram. For some, tramadol numbs a sense of fear, fuelling risk-taking on the battlefield.

Adamu said he was part of Boko Haram’s drug business; his main task was to get drugs to supply his fellow fighters.

Stigma sticks to family members

In addition to former fighters, some ex-wives of Boko Haram members say they are outcast from society and that finding a new husband can be difficult.

Zarah Bunu (not her real name) lives in Bakassi camp in Maiduguri, and spends her time with other women in her predicament.

Originally from Marte, she was already married when she suddenly discovered that her husband had joined the group. They moved into a Boko Haram village – she stayed for a year.

“I tried to run away four times. When they caught me the third time, they brought me to my husband. My husband threatened he would order to kill me immediately, should I even try to escape again. But four days after my son was born, we ran again,” the 20-year-old said.

That time, with her only child in her arms, she got away successfully.

That was two years ago. Since then, she has always been labelled “a wife of Boko Haram,” she said.

She gets particularly upset when people call the children of fighters, including hers, “Boko Haram bastards”.

Because of the heavy stigma, some decide to leave Borno State.

They create fake identities and start over, said Umar Lawal Yusuf, a researcher at the University of Maiduguri.

Adamu has considered this exit plan, but was not yet ready to leave the area that raised him, where he has roots.

He points to a small gold ring that he wears next to the big red one.

“My father gave it to me,” he said. “He wanted me to remember our traditions here in the northeast.”

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Ex-Boko Haram fighters face their hardest battle: Reintegration

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Ex-Boko Haram fighters face their hardest battle: Reintegration

After living with armed group, runaways, including wives and children, struggle for social acceptance in Nigeria.

A ring with a big red glass stone sits on Mohammed Adamu’s middle finger. It is all that is left of the small jewellery business that he tried to set up.

“It reminds me that I need to push much harder to be able to get out of here,” he said.

Adamu, 30, is a former Boko Haram fighter who now lives in a refugee camp.

He claims he was captured by the group and joined in 2014, along with his wife and four children.

“In the beginning, I liked their ideology, everything happening in God’s name,” he said. “But soon, I realised that it was all about killing people. They just murdered without reason. So, I decided to run away.”

They lived with Boko Haram, but one year into their “captivity”, fighters killed his family members, he said.

In 2017, he managed to flee.

But reintegrating back into society has been near impossible.

After leaving, ex-fighters must complete a government-led rehabilitation programme, which lasts up to one year.

At the end, they receive N45,000 (about $125), a sum aimed at helping them kickstart their new life.

When Adamu arrived back in Gwoza, a northeastern town near Cameroon of almost 400,000 people – mostly Muslims, local elders had already decided not to accept back anyone who had lived with Boko Haram.

In an instant, Adamu was an outcast.

He moved into a refugee shelter in Maiduguri, the capital of the northeastern state of Borno, living alongside displaced people, many of whom had lost loved ones to Boko Haram attacks.

Former fighters were not welcome guests.

“If I had known that I would be so rejected here, I would have stayed in the bush,” he said.

He used the last of his savings to buy jewellery to trade in the suburbs, but this brought little income.

Now, Adamu sees no way out of the refugee camp.

Boko Haram has been active since 2009. Over the past 10 years, the armed group has killed thousands of people, taken hundreds of young women captive to be fighters’ “wives”, kidnapped hundreds of schoolgirls, and forcibly recruited huge numbers of boys and men to join the battlefield.

Speaking to Al Jazeera in Bakassi refugee camp in Maiduguri, Audu Ali said he has been trying to get on his feet for three years, but the stigma weighs heavily.

He claims that he was forced to join Boko Haram after fighters attacked his town in 2014, and that he never killed anyone.

But his neighbours don’t trust him.

Ali lived with Boko Haram for one year, together with his wife and five children, in a town called Naona.

At first, he found the ideology appealing – all the talk about fighting in the name of God.

“But after realising the cruel side of their preaching, I started to doubt the ideology because of the massive killings.”

The longer he stayed, the less he could bear it.

“They kept telling us that the Nigerian army would kill us immediately if they caught us. So, even those of us who thought about running away, stayed hiding in the bush,” he said.

One day, he decided he couldn’t face it any longer – even if that meant risking death and losing his family, who he left behind. He had feared his wife or children may tell someone else about his desire to leave, increasing the likelihood of them all being killed.

When he reached a military post in Gwoza, not far from where he had been living with the armed group, Ali discovered that he would not be killed by Nigerian troops – that the Boko Haram fighters had spun him a tale.

But he soon realised that society would not accept him back either. He often spends his time with former fighters, who, like Adamu, claimed were the only people who understood him.

Today, at 35 and having not heard from his family in three years, Ali has lost hope. His dream of running a convenience store is a distant dream.

According to a government official, who requested anonymity, the state-led rehabilitation programme, launched in 2016, is a successful project.

She explained that earlier this year, the programme started to work closely with local communities, adding that more than 1,000 former Boko Haram fighters have been rehabilitated so far.

But outside the corridors of power, the picture is different.

“Boko Haram killed my husband and father, we cannot simply forgive and forget,” said 20-year-old Laraba Mohammed, who cannot imagine living side by side with former fighters.

After her family members were killed, she joined the Civilian JTF, a militia formed in Maiduguri that fights Boko Haram.

To prepare the ex-fighters for verbal assaults, one of the key lessons of the rehabilitation programme is to keep quiet. Peace education, the government calls it.

“People always talk bad behind my back. I do my best to ignore them,” said Ali.

Adamu said being ostracised was “humiliating”.

“It is painful,” he said.

Dr Anthony Ali Mshelia, Head of the Department of Mental Health at the Federal Neuropsychiatric Hospital in Maiduguri, treats former fighters and warned that their post-Boko Haram experiences could lead to substance abuse and depression.

“And wherever they go, people will be sceptical if they were really only there in captivity,” he said.

Anyone associated with the group is most often rejected by the community, he said.

The most common problem among his patients is drug abuse, especially tramadol – a narcotic-like pain reliever.

Ex-fighters, IDPs and the unemployed are among the groups who use the drug.

The drug is also allegedly popular within Boko Haram. For some, tramadol numbs a sense of fear, fuelling risk-taking on the battlefield.

Adamu said he was part of Boko Haram’s drug business; his main task was to get drugs to supply his fellow fighters.

Stigma sticks to family members

In addition to former fighters, some ex-wives of Boko Haram members say they are outcast from society and that finding a new husband can be difficult.

Zarah Bunu (not her real name) lives in Bakassi camp in Maiduguri, and spends her time with other women in her predicament.

Originally from Marte, she was already married when she suddenly discovered that her husband had joined the group. They moved into a Boko Haram village – she stayed for a year.

“I tried to run away four times. When they caught me the third time, they brought me to my husband. My husband threatened he would order to kill me immediately, should I even try to escape again. But four days after my son was born, we ran again,” the 20-year-old said.

That time, with her only child in her arms, she got away successfully.

That was two years ago. Since then, she has always been labelled “a wife of Boko Haram,” she said.

She gets particularly upset when people call the children of fighters, including hers, “Boko Haram bastards”.

Because of the heavy stigma, some decide to leave Borno State.

They create fake identities and start over, said Umar Lawal Yusuf, a researcher at the University of Maiduguri.

Adamu has considered this exit plan, but was not yet ready to leave the area that raised him, where he has roots.

He points to a small gold ring that he wears next to the big red one.

“My father gave it to me,” he said. “He wanted me to remember our traditions here in the northeast.”

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