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Our pains, agonies, by widows

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It sounds unbelievable but true. In this 21st century, with advancement in science and technology, many women are still being forced by tradition and culture to undergo obnoxious widow’s rites, which violate their fundamental human rights. In this report, JULIANA FRANCIS, takes a look at the experiences of widows, conflicts between the Nigerian laws, culture and tradition

 

 

 

It took Mrs. Confidence Achinefu (37), exactly seven years to get over her depression caused by her husband’s death, and alleged series of physical abuses from her in-laws. Today, the brokenhearted, downtrodden woman has a new glint in her eyes.
She said: “All those times that my brothers-in-law were flogging and beating me, I never knew they were making me strong. The physical abuses were all because I refused to accept to marry one of my husband’s brothers. Less than a week after my husband died, while he was still in the mortuary, a meeting was called where I was ordered to pick and marry one of my husband’s siblings. They said it was their tradition. The idea was allegedly being orchestrated by my late husband’s sister, Chikodi. It was a terrible culture. How could that have been possible?”
The Achinefus were 10; five men and five women when I was married to their family. Louise, my late husband was the first among the male children, followed by Innocent, Nnamdi, Augustine and Obioma. “I was asked to marry Nnamdi, but just in case I didn’t like him, I could pick between Augustine and Obioma. That was the instruction.”
Confidence, who is from Mbaise in Imo State, just like her late husband, explained that the only tradition she knew, were those that she had observed. She had to wear black clothes for a year and on the day of her husband’s burial, another widow, had to clean-shave her head. The mourning clothes had to be removed and burnt after a year. But Confidence was shocked when her mother-in-law asked her to cut her head again after the mandatory mourning period, which she vehemently refused.
The first meeting to discuss Confidence’s marital status was held in Imo State between Confidence and Louise’s families. It was held in the palace of the Igwe (king). Confidence recalled: “After the burial, they called another meeting that I must accept their condition and marry one of the brothers. The pressure was too much, and to get them off my back, I told them I had rather marry Obioma.
“But the truth is that Obioma, the last child, was too small for such a task at the time. I was instrumental in bringing him to Lagos. He used to be a good boy. I didn’t really want him, but I wanted them to let me be. I needed to mourn my husband. For reasons I couldn’t fathom, the brothers insisted I must put my acceptance into writing.
“Right from the onset, my family members didn’t support the idea of me marrying one of my husband’s brothers. In fact, even the Igwe told them that that part of the culture was outdated. He said that they should allow me to marry whosoever I wanted. He also said that I should be allowed between a year and two to mourn my husband before thinking of remarrying. My father-in-law asked them to leave me. He said that I should be allowed to go to any of the brother to let them assist me to have children for Louise if I was still interested in having children for my late husband. He insisted that I shouldn’t be forced.”
Before she finally decided to leave her matrimonial home to her in-laws’, taking her two girls along with her, Confidence had allegedly repeatedly been beaten. She said that most of the beatings were done in the presence of her six-year-old daughter. The youngest daughter was just two-months-old then. She knew it was time to take off, when she and her eldest daughter became scared of her brothers-in-law. After the death of her husband, who was 42, Confidence got to understand the true meaning of, “fortune is an unfaithful bitch.”
Before Louise died, Confidence was the apple of, not just her husband’s eyes, but his siblings’ and parents’. She and Louise lived at Unity Estate, Ayobo, Lagos, in their personal building. She was the mistress of the sprawling two bungalows; one is the main building, the second is located at the back of the compound.
Today, sadly, fortune has turned its back on Confidence. She now squats with friends whenever she comes to Lagos State. Seven years ago, she was a shadow of herself, scurrying and hiding from her in-laws, fearful of everyone. She ran to the village, gathered her scattered wits and ebbing self-esteem and with the help of her brother, started a business. She’s now back in Lagos, seeking for justice, asking her in-laws to leave her matrimonial home, as well as to return one of her husband’s companies to her.
She said: “I returned to Lagos because I want to fight. If I had continued to live in that house with them, they would have killed me. I left but I’m back, stronger to fight them. I want them to vacate my house and if they want the business, no problem, but they should give back one of the companies to me; I don’t mind if they keep the one that deals on heavy duty materials to themselves.
“I want the second company, the pumping machines’ company. The first one is the money spinner; but I don’t care. I just want something to take care of my children. Before Louise died, we were both running the companies. But his brothers seized all of them and asked me to do my worst. I had to run away because I realised my life and that of my children were in danger. The only condition given to me was repulsive and against everything that is right.”
Louise, a businessman, died in one of his companies located at Iyana-Ipaja in 2012. He was reportedly died after allegedly fighting with someone. His first daughter was six-year-old and his youngest was just two-month-old when he died. The widow said she was still grappling with the shock of his death, when the in-laws started talking about her marrying one of them.
“I met my husband, Louise, on January 7, 2004. We met where I used to sell call cards. We dated for a year and then got married on April 19, 2005. We had a traditional wedding. When we

started dating, my husband’s younger brothers were living with him and the relationship was cordial. But Nnamdi had travelled overseas. I never had any issue with my in-laws. They, including my mother-in-law, treated me like an egg. Before they collected anything from Louise, they would come to me. I was shocked at how they changed after his death. They said there wouldn’t be peace until I accepted to do what they wanted.
“It became too much for me. I had to take them to Ayobo Police Station. The policemen told me that it was Igbo culture which I had to accept. One of them from Anambra State said that after his father died, he inherited his property and married his stepmother. He said that the only way for me to inherit my husband’s property was for me to marry one of his brothers. He said I should go and do what my in-laws asked me to do.”
She also recollected that while preparing for her husband’s burial, the in-laws asked her to bring money. According to her, when she went to bank, she discovered that her husband used their first daughter as his next of kin. The in-laws borrowed money on her behalf for the burial and asked her to refund the lender later. When she finally returned to Lagos after the burial, she discovered that her husband’s brothers had taken over their house. They were able to gain access through one of her sisters-in-law, Oluchi, a divorcee, living with Confidence and her husband before he died.
She said: “During all those meetings, I repeatedly told them that I didn’t want Nnamdi anywhere near my husband’s business. He’s not a straightforward person. I rather preferred Obioma, but their sister, Chikodi, said that I preferred Obioma because he was young and could easily be manipulated. The following day, we went to shop, I told them that I would prefer to handle the pumping machine business, while they take charge of the heavy duty material business. But they told me that my days of dictating what goes on, were over.
“Nnamdi and Obioma started controlling the business and money. I couldn’t get money for transportation or feeding of my children. They refused to give us money. They then started cooking separately. They asked me to stay at home. When I complained of lack of money, they started giving me N2000 every week. My baby’s Golden Morn alone was at least N700. In fact, I had to use money contributed to me by church members to offset my first daughter’s school fee of N25, 000.”
Confidence decided to go to Office of the Public Defenders (OPD). She and her brothers-in-law were invited for a peace talk. It was at the meeting that the brothers alleged that Confidence wanted to sell Louise’s buildings, using the documents in her possession.
“They wanted me to give them all documents to my husband’s property and bank accounts. In fact, Nnamdi broke into my bedroom with a weapon and took the keys to my husband’s companies,” she alleged.
OPD advised Confidence to return to her matrimonial home. She and her brothers-in-law were given a new date for a meeting. Two days to the meeting, Nnamdi and Obioma allegedly struck. “Nnamdi and Obioma stormed into my room and woke me about 4am. They accused me of stealing Nnamdi’s phone. I didn’t know what they were talking about. They started beating me. Obioma joined in beating me; that was his first time. I was shocked and disappointed.
“Before that, their sister, Oluchi, left the house, saying she was going for Morning devotion, a kind of evangelism. Indeed, to avoid running into them in our house, I had taken to keeping bucket in my room at night. Rather than go to the bathroom, I urinate in the bucket. I didn’t come out of my room, let alone to steal a phone. I was shouting as they attacked me; my daughter ran out and started shouting before neighbours came to our rescue.”
While these dramas were playing out, Confidence’s first daughter stopped schooling. She had to take the girl to her elder brother’s place in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, where the man enrolled the girl in the same school with his only child. Soon, another tragedy struck. Confidence’s brother, who had been assisting her, lost his wife. Confidence had to withdraw her daughter while her brother assisted her with some money with which she used to start a little business. With the proceeds from the business, she enrolled her daughter back to school.
One day, she received a strange call from Chikodi. She said: “Chikodi called me that I was causing trouble, that my late husband attacked her, Augustine and Nnamdi. She said that my husband turned into a spider to bite Nnamdi.”
However, Confidence’s story is not an isolated one. Hundreds of widows in Africa, particularly in Nigeria, are continually being forced to undertake obnoxious rites. Although this is 21st Century, many, because of their staunch belief in the culture and tradition of their villages, have continued to practice these detestable widows’ rites without recourse to national laws. Many states and villages continue to be slaves to culture and traditions and many widows, especially in Nigeria, bear the brutes of these traditions.
Many widows are often forced to marry their late husbands’ brothers, shave their hair and wear mourning clothes, even though these practices only serve to make the women to continue in their sadness and depression, with their lives practically being on a pause. Some of them are not allowed to inherit their husband’s property and the situation becomes worse if such a widow didn’t have any male child for her late husband. In many of these cultures, it is believed that “Women cannot inherit land or property.”
Many of them are kicked out of their husband’s houses along with their children and their husband’s property taken over by their (husbands’) siblings. In the quest to take possessions, some of these in-laws do not bother to ask how the widow will be able to take care of her children.
According to investigations, most widows, especial those with wealthy husbands suffer more in the hands of their in-laws and are often threatened with these practices to kill their spirits. Many give up at the first stage of the battle with their in-laws.
Mrs Chioma Ifezua (51) is another widow presently fighting to get possession of her husband’s property from her late husband’s brother. She had already been accused of being responsible for her husband’s death and had been asked to take an oath, which she stubbornly refused. Her case is puzzling considering the fact that she has a male child for her late husband. One would have expected her in-laws to leave the property for her 15-year-old son.
Chioma got married to Benedict Ifezua in 1998. They also had a white wedding. They are both from Anambra State. The couple and their children lived in Ajao Estate, Lagos, until the death of Benedict. The couple had three girls and a boy. Today, the first daughter is almost 19, while the boy is 15. Benedict died on March 28, at 53. Before his death, the couple had acquired two hotels, Entrasit Hotel located in Ogba and Nice Touch hotel located in Okota.
While Benedict was alive, he preferred to live at Entrasit Hotel, where he oversees the running of the place. Chioma said that they were both dedicated Christians. When he moved into the hotel, he went with some vital documents of their property.
Chioma, fair complexion, with a pretty face without makeup, speaks in a hush tone. She said: “When we finished building the hotel, he said there was a room he liked in the hotel and he would like to stay there. My husband hired a manager called Pastor. He was the person controlling my husband’s businesses. My husband died this year. He was in the hotel at Ago-Palace Way when he died. After his death, while he was yet to be buried, his younger brother, Guide, came and took over everything.
“Guide was the first person that called when my husband died. He resides in Onitsha, but he came to Lagos and rushed to the hotel and took over everything. He took all the documents and the key to my husband’s hotel room. He started telling people that my husband was in coma, while my husband was already dead. When he went to the village, he told people that when my husband was dying, he told him that I should not be at his burial. He said that my husband also gave him one bag and when he opened it, there was a key. He claimed that my husband told him to put somebody in our compound in the village, who would be taking care of it.
“He also said that my husband told him to take care of our children and that he had a Will in which he instructed him to take charge of my husband’s assets. He said that when my son gets to 35, he would then hand over the property to him. He also told them in the village that I killed my husband. He called my kinsmen and theirs and told them I would have to take an oath to prove my innocence. My family members said there was no problem as long as he would take an oath to prove that everything he said was true. In the next meeting, both kinsmen rejected my taking an oath and they also said that I should be allowed to bury my husband.”
Chioma said when it was noticed that Guide was trying to bury her husband by excluding her from the burial rites, she went to her church. The Bishop called a peace meeting involving her kinsmen and her late husband’s. At the meeting, Guide was told to return all documents and other things, which were Benedict’s to Chioma.
“He agreed. But when I called him to return the documents, he promised, but till date he was yet to hand them over. He is with my husband’s two cars, his phones and even my children’s passports. All these items were in my husband’s room at the time of his death in the hotel. I came to Lagos and went to our hotel at Ogba; I was told that Guide was with the keys to the rooms. When I called him to say that I want to take over the hotel, he said that he had told me not to go to the hotel. All I want now is to be in charge of my property. My children are in school and will need money for their fees and other needs. My eldest daughter registered for a quiz competition, in which they will take the winners abroad) but she cannot proceed with it because their passport is in my brother in-law’s possession,” she added.
However, it is different narratives in different states. Indeed, in a village in Abia State, a widow without a child is never allowed to inherit her husband’s property. But how strong and effective are laws that protect widows in Nigeria?
The national coordinator of the Network on Police Reforms in Nigeria (NOPRIN), Okechukwu Nwanguma, who Confidence and Chioma ran to in their need for justice, promised to link them to probono lawyers. Reacting to the incident, Nwanguma said: “This is a form of violence against and discriminatory practices against women. These women need to be assisted, not just for them, but for many other women who are suffering similar injustice in silence. It’s a culture we must fight to uproot to protect women.
“Despite judicial pronouncements and enlightenment efforts, ingrained traditional cultural notions and practices which view and treat women as second class citizen persist. Widows and their children are still subjugated and deprived of their rights in marriage by their brothers in-laws who dispossess them and deny them access to their late husbands’ fathers’ estate.
“There are many cases of such gross acts of discrimination and deprivation which render many widows poor and unable to take care of themselves and their children. Institutions of government established to assist poor and vulnerable groups gain access to justice don’t seem to help matters apparently because they are headed by men who still hold such prejudicial and discriminatory notions about women and by women who have accepted their own subjugation.”
Mr. Louise Alozie, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), reacted differently. He said: “I am not aware of any law known as obnoxious laws. What I know is that the constitution prohibits discrimination and there is what we call, ‘Married Women’s Property Right’. And for such practices to occur, it depends on the type of marriage that the couple has. So, under the Married Women’s Property Right, any property acquired during the course of marriage belongs to both parties and the onus is now on the woman to assert her right.
“A woman, who has children for instance, is believed to have laboured alongside her husband in order to sustain their family. And during this period of labour, nobody ever attempted to edge her out of the shares or dividends. So, I think it’s unfair to deprive the woman of her husband’s properties simply because the man is no more. Whatever practice it is, it’s totally unacceptable. However, if there are such laws that encourage such practices, I am not aware. And to the best of my knowledge, such laws cannot be valid and therefore cannot be allowed to stand.”
The Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Star Advocacy for African Women and Children, Mirian Obioma Okoro, Esq, also said: “It’s difficult to believe that too many repugnant practices against women, particularly widows, are in existence up till date. These widows are usually subjected to a lot of inhuman treatment in the name of ‘customs and traditions.’ Some of them are made to drink the water used to wash their husbands’ corpses as a means to prove that they don’t have a hand in the death of their husbands. Some communities lock the widows up at home for a couple of weeks while others send them to the forest to spend some days to prove their innocence.
“Certain communities even force these widows to take oaths before terrible shrines. In most cases, they forcibly take the properties belonging to the widow’s late husband, leaving the widow and the kids stranded and financially handicapped.”
According to Okoro, in Star Advocacy for African Women and Children, which is a Non-Governmental Organisation, “we are currently handling a matter, involving a widow, who was made to leave her husband’s house as a result of her refusal to get married to her late husband’s brother. She currently resides with her kids in an uncompleted building infested with snakes and other dangerous reptiles.
“We can all agree that these customs are repugnant to natural justice, equity and good conscience, and should be tackled with immediate effect and as such, offenders should be seriously dealt with. There’s no doubt that there are laws protecting the rights and dignity of citizens as provided under Section 38 and Part IV of the 1999 Constitution as amended. There are also laws pertaining to violence as embodied in the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act (VAPP). However, I would suggest that greater punishments be imposed to permanently deter people from getting involved in such inhuman treatments.”

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Features

Travellers flee deadly highways

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Travellers flee deadly highways
  • Now send, receive goods by courier

 

  • Transport firms making brisk business

 

 

Nigerian highways are increasingly becoming a nightmare for travellers to ply on; no thanks to the rising menace of kidnappings for for money, banditry and other deadly crimes, which take place along the routes.

 

 

Although the highways are not the only places of fear for Nigerians as the deteriorating security situation across the land occasioned by the activities of terror groups including Boko Haram, armed bandits and dreaded Fulani herdsmen killings on a daily basis, is sending casualty figures mounting.

This was brought home recently when the Permanent Secretary, Special Services Office of the Secretary Government of the Federation, Amina Shamaki, said that Nigeria recorded a total of 1,460 deaths and 330 attacks in the last seven months.

 

 

She said this at a security meeting by the federal and states security administrators in Birnin Kebbi, Kebbi State, recently. These harrowing figures have led to many travellers opting to boycott the highways when they can.

 

 

Sunday Telegraph findings showed that those, who usually travel to major cities like Lagos, Abuja, Onitsha, Aba, Kano and Kaduna for businesses, are currently discouraged from travelling by road – instead they have found courier services a good replacement for physically travelling by road.

 

 

A director in a federal government research facility in Yaba, who hails from Kaduna State, until the last Eid el Kabir, had a tradition of going to his roots to celebrate the festival with members of his extended family members.

But this year, he did not. He opted to stay in Lagos. “I can’t risk my life travelling along the Kaduna – Zaria road,” he said in a chat with Sunday Telegraph.

 

 

The director, who spoke with the weekly on condition of anonymity, said he did the needful before Sallah.

 

“I paid them a pre-Sallah visit. The road is too dangerous for one to ply it anyhow. I do not have money to pay for ransom.”

 

 

It is not only the roads in the North Western axis that travellers are fleeing from. The Benin-Asaba highway is not left out. It was on this route that a Divisional Police Officer (DPO) was abducted months back.

He paid N3 million to regain his freedom.

“It is those who know him that probably kidnapped him in order to collect their own share of a ‘deal’, a group of Police officers confided in Sunday Telegraph.

 

 

This has sent shivers down the spine of the aged mother of an official of the Abuja Council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ).

 

 

“My mama, asked me not to bother coming home. She specifically called me not to go the Delta if I am not travelling by air,” he said in a telephone chat with our correspondent, when asked whether he would attend the annual convention of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), which held last month.

In the South West, the Akure-Ilesa highway has since been largely abandoned.

 

 

Many of the commuters, who ply the Trunk A highway to connect Ekiti and Ondo states and the North Central part of the country now do so through the Benin-Ore road, in order to get to their destinations.

“Although it is longer, but it is safer,” said the driver of a Lagos-based transport company. “There are security personnel manning the highway,” said one of the drivers on Friday.

 

 

This has led to more traffic and occasional traffic gridlock, especially in construction zones.

In addition, more time is spent on the road. A journey of 7 hours now takes 14 hours by road. “We left Lagos at 6:45am and got to Utako a little after 9:00pm,” volunteered a traveller, on Friday.

 

 

Our source said: “It will also cost me more money. I am going to Kaduna, I will to pass the night in Abuja and complete my journey by train on Saturday morning,” said a traveller, who identified himself simply as Tolu.

 

 

“There was a reduction in the number of kidnapped cases on the Taraba axis since August 6, 2019, since the lid on alleged kidnap kingpin, Bala Hamisu Assume was blown open,” a retired director, Federal Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN), Bayo Atoyebi said on a television program.

 

 

According to him: “There had been a lull in the activities of the marauders even on the Abuja-Kaduna highway since his arrest until the recent incident in which the three A.B.U. final year law students were abducted.”

 

But for those who it has become inevitable to travel, they have devised means to beat the insecurity. For many of them, it’s now safer to travel by night. This is based on the notion that most prominent men and women do not travel by night.

It was so bad that even the police even advised some government officials and certain expatriates to travel to Port Harcourt by night.

 

 

More so, a frequent traveller, Mr. Nelson Jideofor, told Sunday Telegraph of a very wealthy man, a co-traveller, a Nnewi-based businessman from Anambra State, who in the fear of highway marauders, totally changed his disguise before entering a public bus in Onitsha.

 

 

The Nnewi-born businessman (name withheld) dressed in simple attire, three quarter jeans shorts and branded singlet. He furthered disguised himself by wearing simple palm slippers on.

 

 

According to Jideofor: “You would never expect to meet such a man in the vehicle. In fact he totally blended in chatting easily with his co-travellers. No one, except a person who really knows him well would believe he was someone else.

“Many didn’t know why he was there but the truth of the matter is that he was scared of driving along Benin-Ore road due to the nightmare kidnapping along the corridor has become.”

 

 

Travellers shun Abuja-Okene, other routes

During Sunday Telegraph’s tour of major motor parks at Maza-Maza along the Lagos-Badagry Expressway, where virtually all the transport companies are located, many travellers and motorists who responded averred that fear of kidnapping and killings along Benin-Ore route stopped them from traveling along the road.

They also held that the same reason prevented many travellers from going to Abuja and other parts of northern Nigeria through Abuja-Okene route, the reason they preferred courier services to physical travelling.

 

 

According to a traveller, Miss Ijeoma Obi, who was going to Onitsha that morning, she has not been traveling to the South East since the cases of the kidnap and robberies along Benin-Ore Road increased.

 

 

“After hearing about the kidnappings, the killings, robberies, I became so scared to travel on that road. I have been sending things home by courier; I have stopped going in person. Even this one, I would not have made the trip but it has become very important that I’m going,” she said.

For Martins Asika, a passenger on G.U.O Motors headed for Asaba, responded in the same way, adding that the worse part of the route is Abuja-Agbor stretch of the journey.

 

 

According to him, the route has one of the worse roads coupled with the herdsmen activities, saying that he stopped traveling to Abuja by road instead he would send money to his brother to buy things for him and courier it back to him in Lagos.

“My friend was among the people attacked by the herdsmen on the route sometime in the past. After that, there was a broadcast that the route was unsafe, so I shunned the route. I don’t have money to travel by air but I try to book ticket weeks ahead of my trip to get it cheaper. I can’t travel to Abuja by road again,” he averred.

An Alaba trader, who came to send his goods through courier services provided by the transport companies instead of traveling in person, said he does not have business traveling by the roads due to the level of insecurity in the country.

 

 

“What I do these days, is to collect money and orders from my customers in different parts of the country, get what they want and send back to them. I don’t have business traveling to anywhere. This is what some of us do today,” he said.

 

 

More so, in a bid to confirm how the insecurity has affected transport companies and increased the volume of courier services, Miss Faith Chude, a ticketer at Genesis Motors, said the company has been receiving parcels on daily basis but loads only one mini-bus per night.

At the Young Shall Grow Park, people were trooping in and out of the park with goods and parcels to freight to one part of the country to the other. Cartons of goods, including, motor parts, refrigerators, clothes, bags of rice and other consumables among others, were seen stacked at the company’s premises.

A driver with Libra Motors, Paul Ovie, who plies the Lagos-Onitsha route, said for fear of attacks, he doesn’t ply Benin By-pass again, instead he enters Benin City metropolis and faces the minor traffic therein.

 

 

“It is better I got to my destination late than to be attacked and injured by herdsmen if I’m left alive. I have devoted that day for travelling, so there is no need rushing. We are not in the season yet,” he said.

 

 

Sunday Telegraph’s interaction with some of the passengers and drivers among area boys generated group discussions where travellers and others condemned the nonchalant attitude of the Federal Government which is yet to take decisive actions to arrest the situation on the roads apart from having pockets of police and military checkpoints here and there along the routes.

 

But Force Public Relations officer, Frank Mba does not agree that things are that bad, insisting that the security infractions are not enough to send people away from the highways.

 

 

“If you go to our motor parks, Nigerians are travelling every day. The transport companies are not complaining of lull in business. As a matter of fact, if you do not book ahead, you may not get a seat. The roads are heavy of traffic.

 

 

“Another way of confirming this, once there is a little issue on the road, there is traffic snarl. It is not to say there is no challenge. However, I disagree that it is an overwhelming perennial issue. Most of the challenges are occasional security breach that happens on the road.

 

 

“We are engaging the public, deploying more man power and logistics and more technology. I want to assure Nigerians that what is happening is a phase and it will pass away. In those areas where there are challenges, order will be restored, very soon,” he told Sunday Telegraph.

 

 

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Mad man takes centre stage in Eke-Oha Market face-off

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Mad man takes centre stage in Eke-Oha Market face-off

 

 

The last has not been heard about the madness going on Abia State, following the blunt attack on the state government by a ‘mad man’, at the Eke-Oha Market (Shopping Centre).

 

The video of the mad man’s verbal attack on Governor Okezie Ikpeazu and the Speaker of Abia State House of Assembly, Hon. Chinedum Orji, which has gone viral was obtained by Sunday Telegraph with his words in exact.

 

 

In the video, the mad man, to the cheering of crowd at the market, accused the Abia Speaker of lording over Ikpeazu and controlling him with serious political pressure.

 

The mad man went ahead to accuse Ikpeazu of mismanagement of state funds that could have been used to mitigate the infrastructural decay in the state.

In the words of the mad man: “Okezie Ikpeazu, what have we done to you? Whenever it rains, we have hypertension. In Ariaria the so called International Market whenever there’s rainfall, Ariaria overflows with flood.

 

 

“Okezie Ikpeazu come and explain the money you spent on Faulks Road which is still flooding and killing people whenever it rains.

 

“Okezie Ikpeazu, why are you frustrating us? Did we offend you by electing you as our governor? Okezie Ikpeazu, you were once a Chairman of the Abia State Environmental Protection Agency (ASEPA), but Aba is the dirtiest city in Nigeria.

 

 

“Okezie Ikpeazu, your cup is overflowing. Leave Government House for us. You and Ikuku (Hon. Chinedum Orji, Speaker Abia State House of Assembly) will soon meet your Waterloo.

“Ikuku is carrying Ikpeazu on his back pressurizing him seriously.

 

“I’m interested in Aba because Aba is our commercial nerve centre. Okezie Ikpeazu, we’re going to impeach you. I’m standing at Shopping Centre and speaking so that the whole world will hear me.”

 

Just two days after the video of the mad man’s verbal attack went viral in the state and beyond, a new video emerged where the same mad man was said to have been arrested and had started making confessional statements.

 

In this particular video, the mad man was being interrogated by some unseen faces alleged to be police officers in an office also alleged to be the office of the Chairman of Eke-Oha Market, Mr. Friday Dimiri.

 

The mad man went ahead to mention some names of notable traders in the market and linked them to the 2019 governorship candidate of the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA), Dr. Alex Otti.

 

 

The mad man mentioned the following names: Jude Osuagwu, Innocent Anosike, Ugochukwu Oriaku, Chima Onuoha and one Augusta, stressing that they were all agents of Otti who offered him N10,000 to come into the market and carry out the verbal attack on the state government.

Those whose names were mentioned by the mad man in his second video called a press conference where they denied all the allegations against them as published by New Telegraph some days ago.

 

 

The accused traders, who came under the name: “Concerned Traders of Eke-Oha Market” went further to accuse the Eke-Oha Market Chairman, Mr. Friday Dimiri of inviting the man to insult the government and link them to it just to turn the government against them for standing against his excesses as market leader.

Ugochukwu Oriaku, the leader of the concerned traders said: “The whole problems got hotter not quite long ago. There’s a road inside the market which we call ‘Flower Pot’. It’s no longer than two poles.

 

 

“Friday Dimiri poured asphalt on it with our money and now turned around to order that every shop along that road will pay a lot of money.

 

 

“There are up to 400 shops downstairs he said they’ll pay N200, 000, while the ones upstairs will pay N100, 000 to him each. He gave instructions that come on or before August 20 that the money must be paid to him.

 

 

“But on August 8, our good governor Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu through his Chief Press Secretary, Onyebuchi Ememanka issued a statement that nobody should pay that money and even went ahead to tell him to refund the money of those who must have paid, but Dimiri defiled the governor’s order and kept insisting we must pay.

“On the 27th, we answered to the invite of the Aba Area Command that there’s a petition against us by Friday Dimiri who said that we want to kidnap and kill him.

 

 

“We went to the Area Command after listening to us released us. On the same day, the governor visited some markets in commemoration of the 28th anniversary of the creation of Abia State and made another pronouncement that nobody should pay a kobo.

 

 

“On the same day we were granted bail at Area Command, Dimiri transferred the petition to Zone-9 Umuahia. On August 28, I was in Zone-9 as well to answer questions on the petition of attempted killing and kidnapping.

 

 

“They granted me bail the same day and asked me to bring other persons mentioned in the petition which is the same name he wrote to the Area Command. We all went there on the second and stayed there till late because they said they were coming to our various houses for search which they did and we were later bailed.

 

 

“All of a sudden, I was told that a mad man mentioned my name in a video. That was when the whole plan became clearer to us. His Excellency Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu came on August 27 to make that announcement which favoured all the traders and everyone was happy.

 

 

“Then two days later, he (Dimiri) and his cohorts brought a mad man to come and speak against the governor so that he could deceive the government to think that it was the traders that brought the mad man to castigate the same government that saved us from his impunity so that he could provoke the governor to reverse the decision to enable him force us to pay the N200, 000 levy per shop as he desired.

 

 

“Now, tell me how we the traders who were very grateful for what the governor did by saving us from our extortionist Chairman now turn around to work against him? It was Friday Dimiri that concocted all the lies.

 

 

“To show you the funniest part of all these madness, the place the mad man stood to insult the governor is two poles away from Friday Dimiri’s office. All his Bakassi boys were around they did nothing. We even got a report that he was around monitoring what the mad man was doing without stopping him because it was all his plans.

 

 

“When the mad man finished insulting the governor and the video went viral, Friday Dimiri, Chibuike Ugochukwu, Chris Urakpa and his Bakassi boys took the same person they called a mad man to the comfort of Dimiri’s office in the name of arrest and cook up what the public is consuming now.”

 

 

The traders went further to accuse Dimiri of other offenses including embezzlement, erection of illegal shops in his name, using Abia State Vigilante Group aka Bakassi to intimidate traders and using market funds to do charity works in his village, Ohanze in Obingwa without their approval.

But reacting to the traders’ allegations levelled against him, Dimiri denied the accusations stressing that there is no way he could have turned against the governor who made him what he is today.

 

 

“There’s this adage that says that a man that bites the fingers that feeds him must definitely feel hungry again. Somebody that appointed me and gave me the honour to be Chairman of this market, somebody that called me when I had nothing and lifted me up, what reason do I have to call a mad man to castigate him?

 

 

“APGA people nearly killed me here during the election because of this same man. How then will I castigate the same man I placed my life for? I didn’t write any list for the mad man to mention. I was not even away that a mad man came into this market.

 

 

“It was the Commissioner for Information, Chief John Okiyi-Kalu and Hon. Kelechi Nwamkpa, (a former Commissioner in Ikpeazu’s first tenure), who called me on Sunday after the day the mad man came. I was surprised to hear it from them. They gave me a mandate to verify it that it is not good for my leadership.

 

 

“The mad man even wrote a statement with the police that a group of people invited him to do what he did against the state government. I never invited any mad man.

 

 

“It was the same mad man that castigated President Muhammadu Buhari and former Imo State governor, Rochas Okorocha. The names I included in my petition about attempted kidnap were not the same names the mad man mentioned,” he said.

 

 

On using market funds for charity work and erecting 35 illegal shops in his name, the Chairman said he is a successful business man and can afford to do charity works for anyone without using market funds. He also denied erecting any illegal shops.

 

 

On the Flower Pot Road asphalting, the Chairman said that he only came in to implement and reduce the N550,000 that was agreed by the traders there as levy among themselves to tar the road to prevent further construction of illegal shops there.

 

 

Dimiri added that no trader paid the much talked about N250,000 to him before the governor issued a statement to stop it. He challenged the traders to provide one person that paid and was not refunded as instructed.

 

 

Speaking on the issue of using Bakassi boys to intimidate traders, Dimiri said: “I was Vice Chairman when this market was often looted by hoodlums.

 

 

“We applied to government to give us Bakassi boys and since then, not one shop has been looted since they came in here. The Bakassi boys only come out by 6pm after traders must have left.”

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Idiroko border town on tenterhooks over Oro festival

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Idiroko border town on tenterhooks over Oro festival

There is growing tension at the Idiroko border town in Ipokia Local Government Area of Ogun State as traditionalists and some religious groups battle over Oro festival, reports KUNLE OLAYENI

 

 

 

 

An uneasy calm is pervading Idiroko town in Ipokia Local Government Area of Ogun State in the wake of the fight among traditionalists, Muslims and Christians over the celebration of Oro festival.

Still grappling with the socio-economic effects of ongoing border closure, the community in the Nigeria-Benin Republic border is now tottering on religious conflict which, many feared may snowball to a major crisis if not well managed.

 

 

Already, no fewer than 13 persons have been arraigned by the police following reported clashes between proponents and opponents of the Oro festival in the town. Those charged to court have been subsequently remanded in prison custody.

 

 

In many towns and settlements of Yoruba origin, Oro festival is held annually. This antiquated festival is patriarchal in nature as it is only celebrated by male descendants who are paternal natives to the specific locations where the particular event is taking place.

It is the age-long tradition that during this festival, females and non-natives are confined indoors as they must not see the Oro cult. The uninitiated, who are caught violating the ritual often die mysteriously, according to the Yoruba beliefs.

 

 

Although the ceremonies surrounding Oro festival vary from town to town, the conduct in Idiroko has sparked crisis and pitted traditional worshippers against Muslim and Christian faithful in the border area. The indigenous people of the town are mostly Yoruba, Anago and Egun, while languages spoken by the residents include Yoruba, English and French.

 

 

Sometime in August, this year, irate traditional worshippers allegedly stormed a mosque in the town and dispersed Muslim faithful observing their prayers. The Umar bin Khatab Mosque, Odan-Aje, which was attacked, is behind the General Hospital, Idiroko.

 

The traditionalists allegedly pelted worshippers in the mosque, shattered its window louvers and vandalized the worship centre. They reportedly accused the Muslims of calling people to prayer in flagrant breach of the warning not to do so when Orisa Oba ritual was being carried out.

 

Our correspondent learnt that Orisa Oba is a ritual which has been held in the town from time immemorial. Its spirit is usually invoked to cleanse the town in the wake of calamities. The Orisa Oba forbids noise, music and light whether during the day or at night.

 

During the rites, everybody is expected to stay indoors for two to three days. Residents are warned to abide by this restriction anytime the ritual is observed. The penultimate edition was said to have been held over ten years ago.

Apart from the mosque attacked, some vehicles were also reportedly vandalized by the traditional worshippers at the Holy Trinity Catholic Church located at Old Baggage Road, Idiroko.

 

But barely a month after the incident, another attack took place in the town last a fortnight ago. Apparently to forestall a breakdown of law and order, the police swiftly arrested nine Oro adherents.

The arrested suspects included Idowu Desu, Monday Akinlolu, Dele Dada, Raimi Jacob, Dondo Sunday, Abiola Azeez, Olarewaju Akerele, Nurudeen Lawal and Tetede Jamiu.

 

Sunday Telegraph learnt that Oro adherents had allegedly imposed a curfew on the town on Saturday during their traditional festival but this was defied by Muslims in the area who went out to observe their prayers.

 

It was learnt that some Muslims and Christians who are residents, were assaulted and beaten severely for violating the curfew imposed by the Oro adherents. Some property was also allegedly vandalized during the attack.

 

One of the affected residents, Tolahat Yahya, while narrating his ordeal, claimed that the traditionalists destroyed his car during their festival.

 

Yahya said: “We were coming back from a programme held at our mosque when the Oro adherents attacked us. They beat us and said we did not obey the curfew order.

 

“We stood our ground and we ensured we grabbed three of them who we later handed over to the police. The intimidation is too much; they refused to allow us practice our religion. Despite the agreement that the Oro ritual will not be performed in daybreak, they did not obey that.”

 

 

Our correspondent learnt that prior to the renewed violence, a peace meeting was held on Thursday, last week, between Muslims who were led by the Wakeel Musulumi of Yorubaland, Edo and Delta States, Sheikh Iskeel Lawal Sugar, and the traditionalists, represented by the Oniko of Ikoland, Idiroko, Oba John Olakunle. However, the meeting ended in a deadlock.

 

 

The monarch allegedly refused to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) proposed by the Muslims, insisting that the community had been performing daybreak rituals for long and would not stop.

 

 

He was said to have asked the Muslim community to be ready to either accept the traditions or leave the community.

 

Sunday Telegraph gathered that a High Court in Ipokia had about two years ago delivered a judgement which restrained Oro adherents from observing their ritual in daytime in any part of the area. The traditional worshippers, on the other hand, have gone to the appellate court to appeal the judgement.

 

 

The Muslim community wants the court judgement obeyed while the traditionalists insist that even though appeal was pending, traditions are still sacred and sacrosanct.

 

 

Speaking with Sunday Telegraph, Imam Abdulazeez Omoakin of Umar bin Khatab Mosque, which was invaded in August, said unlike the previous attack, the traditional worshippers laid ambush for their latest victims and beat them to a pulp.

Omoakin appealed to the authorities to ensure strict compliance of the ban against Oro adherents whom he accused of being hell bent on carrying out their festival in the day time at the expense of other residents.

 

 

On Tuesday, September 10, no fewer than 13 persons were arrested for allegedly perpetrating the attack on Muslim and Christian faithful in Idiroko. They were arraigned before a Chief Magistrate’s Court sitting in Ilaro, Yewa South Local Government Area of the state.

The accused persons were arraigned on charges bordering on conspiracy, contempt, and conduct likely to cause breach of public peace, malicious damage and assault occasioning harm in two separate suits filed before the court.

 

 

The prosecutor, Dada Olushola, said the 13 accused persons were arrested by the police while committing the offence during the last Oro festival. He added that the accused persons observed the Oro festival during day time contrary to an order of the High Court in Ipokia.

According to the prosecutor, the offences were contrary to and punishable under Sections 516 (a), 133 (9) and 249 (d) of the Criminal Code Vol. 1 Laws of Ogun State 2006.

 

 

The presiding Magistrate, S O Banwo, while ruling on the bail application of the accused, granted them bail of N2.5million each and two sureties in like sum.

 

 

One of the sureties must be a traditional ruler who must deposit his original Certificate of Title until the final determination of the matter while the other surety must possess a landed property that is registered at the Lands Registry and has a Certificate of Occupancy.

However, the accused persons could not perfect the bail conditions and were ordered to be remanded in prison custody in Ilaro.

 

 

The case was adjourned till October 8, 2019 for the hearing of the two suits.

 

 

When our correspondent visited Idiroko on Wednesday, the town was relatively calm as residents went about their businesses. Efforts to get the reaction of monarch of the town were not successful as he was said to be out of the palace.

But sources at the palace, who preferred anonymity, confirmed to our correspondent that the peace meeting convened over the Oro festival was deadlocked.

 

 

The Muslim community was said to have raised some demands before the traditional ruler and requested him to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU). The demands included apology to the Muslim community; respect of the court judgement restraining the performance of rituals during the day except in the midnight between 12am and 4am and stoppage of threat to lives.

 

 

However, the alleged refusal of the monarch to sign the MoU annoyed the Muslim delegation and they reportedly left the palace.

 

 

Speaking on the conflict, a traditional chief in the town, who craved anonymity, said what led to the attack was the insistence of the Muslims not to give to Caesar what is Caesar’s. He described the Muslims agitating against Oro festival as extremists who are bent on changing the age-long tradition of the town.

 

 

The chief explained that the Orisa Oba ritual is not done periodically but based on necessity to appease the gods of the land in the wake of calamities. According to him, the Orisa Oba was last observed in 2004.

 

 

While claiming that the gods that often struck opponents of the Oro rites, the chief argued that most of those arrested in connection with the attack on worship centres in the town were innocent.

 

 

When contacted, the state police spokesman, Abimbola Oyeyemi, said the matter was already before the court.

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After 12 years in Trinidad & Tobago, I want to return home, sickly Nigerian cries out

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After 12 years in Trinidad & Tobago, I want to return home, sickly Nigerian cries out

This appears not to be the best of times for some Nigerians who had gone in search of the proverbial greener pastures abroad. Before now, many, especially the youth believe that foreign countries hold the key to their future. How wrong they were. As events in the last few weeks, which has seen some of them been forced them to flee these countries unfold, stories of others who may not have realised their dreams abroad have also emerged. Though, unlike those in South Africa where the host’s hostile environment forced back recently, there are those who are making efforts to come back to Nigeria due to ill health. One of such is an Osun State indigene, Benjamin Sesan Ojo, who has been in Trinidad & Tobago for the past 12 years.

In a video that went viral on Thursday, Ojo narrated his rather sad story. About three years ago, he was struck by a strange illness, in which a part of his body started getting smaller and the other abnormally swollen. Unfortunately, he had no means of seeking the required medical treatment. Ojo, in his attempt to get assistance that will enable him to return to Nigeria and possibly access proper medicare, tried to get the attention of the Nigerian Embassy in that country to help him out of his pathetic situation. He did not only fail but got treated like a leper. Some embassy officials only gave him a little money to enable him to feed for one week with an instruction never to return to them again. He was considered insane.

His seemingly hopeless situation appeared to have forced him in the video to beg fellow Nigerians anywhere in the world to come to his aid as he needs money to buy ticket to return home to his family. He said: “My name is Benjamin Sesan Ojo. I am from Osun State. I have been in Trinidad Tobago for the past 12 years but since three years now, I have been sick and one part of the vein in my body is getting smaller than the other while the other part is oddly swollen too.

“I went to Nigerian Embassy for assistance to return back home but they said they cannot help me because they were not responsible for my coming here in the first place. “According to what they told me, they said if they help any Nigerian, many others would flood the embassy for similar assistance. That was the only reason given for refusing to help me. “However, they gave me some money to buy something to eat for one week. When I returned there, they simply locked the gate against me; they said that I’m a mad man and I was not allowed to enter inside. “The only thing I would like to say is that, I need the help of Nigerians to survive and money to buy ticket to go back to my family in Osun State.”

 

 

Interview and photo: @ SAINTAVENUE_ENT

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Absence of witness stalls Evans’ trial

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Absence of witness stalls Evans’ trial

The absence of a police witness yesterday stalled the criminal trial of an alleged kidnap kingpin, Chukwudumeme Onwuamadike (as ‘Evans’), at an Ikeja Special Offences Court, Lagos. Evans, who is standing trial alongside three of his gang members: Joseph Ikenna Emeka, 29, Chiemeka Arinze, 39, Udeme Frank Upong, 43, was arraigned on a seven count charge of murder, attempted murder, conspiracy to kidnap and selling of firearms. Yesterday’s proceeding was billed for the continuation of evidence in chief of a police inspector, Idowu Haruna, an Investigation Police Officer (IPO).

The witness, attached to the Inspector General of Police Intel- ligence Response Team for six years, was b i l l e d to continue his evidence against E v a n s and his g a n g members for allegedly shooting the Young Shall Grow Motors (YSG), Chief Obianuju Vincent and killing two of his escorts. However, as a result of the IPO’s absence, the State prosecutor, Mrs. O.A Badulaiye- Bishi, informed the court that witness has travelled outside the court’s jurisdiction. Badulaiye-Bishi said, “My lord, the matter is for a continuation of trial. But unfortunately, the prosecution witness is unavailable because has travelled outside the court’s jurisdiction. We will kindly have to request for an adjournment.”

Meanwhile, the IPO, in his earlier testimony, narrated how the YSG Chairman was shot while his two escorts were murdered by Evans and his gang in an attempt to kidnap him. According to the witness, “The incident occurred on August 27, 2013 at Third Avenue Festac Town when the YSG chairman was returning from a game house with his convoy and was attacked by heavily armed men led by Evans. “During the attack, the YSG chairman WA shot on his right arm while his driver, one Mr Peter Nweke was shot dead. One of his escorts, Chijoke Ngozi (female) was also shot dead. “During a gun duel between the chairman’s police escorts and the gang, three of kidnappers were shot dead by Inspector Solomon Igwe, while the rest fled from the scene,” he said Justice Oluwatoyin Taiwo therafter adjourned the case till October 25 for continuation of trial.

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Why I orchestrated beheading of our gang leader –Kidnap suspect

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Why I orchestrated beheading of our gang leader –Kidnap suspect

Operatives of the Inspector- General of Police Special Intelligence Response Team (IRT), have smashed the gang behind the abduction of the Chief Accountant of Plantgeria Limited, an oil servicing firm, operating in Port Harcourt, Rivers State. The victim, Dr. SMC Maduagwu, was kidnapped and a ransom of N20million paid for his release. Four among the alleged kidnappers have been arrested. The suspects, including a native doctor, have been identified as Tony Rafael, Nnaji Romanus, Nwobodo Uche and Uchechukwu Ibekwe. According to police sources, the suspects were grabbed in their hideouts in Rivers and Imo states. The police said that the suspects have admitted to abducting the Accountant and collecting N20million ransom.

It was gathered that the leader of the gang, Christian Kenjika alias School-Boy, was beheaded by a rival cult group before the operatives could arrest him. It was further learnt that Kenjika had four AK47 rifles and two Pump Action short guns in his armoury before he was killed. The source further said: “School- Boy carried out several kidnappings within Rivers State and was declared wanted by the Rivers State Government.

The government placed a bounty of N20million on him in 2018. He met his waterloo when one of his gang members, Uche, who wanted to take over leadership of the gang, gave out his location to members of De-Gbam confraternity. De-Gbam confraternity had been hunting for him for long.” The hunt for School-Boy and his gang members started after the IGP instructed the IRT Unit, headed by a Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP), Abba Kyari, to ensure the rescue of Maduagwu. The gang was alleged to have specialised in robbery, cultism and other heinous crimes. Kyari and some members of the unit launched an investigation and by March got information on the activities of the gang of kidnappers.

The Accountant was abducted in February 2018. Part of what the operatives discovered was that a driver working at Planteria Limited, gave information about Maduagwu to members of the gang. This information aided the gang in the abduction of the victim. The driver, Ibekwe, when arrested, made confessional statement that assisted IRT operatives in the arrest of other members of the gang, including the one who orchestrated the murder of School-Boy. According to Ibekwe, 37, he planned the abduction of Maduagwu because he refused to grant him a salary advance. He explained that when he requested for the salary advance, Maduagwu shouted at him. Ibekwe, who is married with three children, said that shouting embarrassed and angered, thus he plotted how to get even with his boss.

He said: “I am a driver to an oil services company known as Plantgeria in Rivers State. I was employed in the 2007 and transferred to Shell Oil to work as a driver in 2017. I was later recalled and posted to the head office of our company to work as a driver to an expatriate. But in 2018, I applied for a salary advance, a sort of a loan from our company. I met the Chief Accountant of our company to perfect the loan, he shouted at me and sent me out of his office.

“I left his office, angry. I thought of how to deal with him. Unfortunately, I got a call from a friend of mine, Stanley, who is also from my community. Stanley was into armed robbery and kidnapping. I narrated what happened between the Chief Accountant and I to him and he suggested that we should kidnap him or any of the expatriates.

I preferred that we should kidnap the accountant, so I gave Stanley the necessary information. On the day he was to be kidnapped, Stanley called me and I also spoke with Uche. They asked me to inform them when the man would be leaving his office. I did and the next day, I got news from my office that the man had been kidnapped. I was later given the sum of N800, 000 after ransom was paid. I didn’t know the exact amount that was paid as ransom.

I bought a Nissan Primera with my share of the money. “One year after the incident, I was at home with my wife, when policemen entered and arrested me. I’ve told the police all I know about the kidnapping. I also told them that I’ve never gone out with the gang to carry out any form of kidnapping or armed robbery.” Uchechukwu, 38, who masterminded the beheading of School- Boy, revealed that he orchestrated the murder of his gang leader because the latter was greedy. Uchechukwu, a father of five children, said: “I am a fulltime farmer, but I went into kidnapping when my wife had stroke. The doctor treating her asked for N200, 000. I approached School-Boy as our gang leader, but he gave me only N100, 000.

He told me about the accountant and said that I should keep him under surveillance. I did that for one month. On the day of the abduction, I followed the accountant as he left his office. I tailed him on a motorcycle. When he got to Oil Mill Junction, School-Boy and his other gang members in their police and military uniform, fully armed, accosted and took him into a Toyota Hilux and drove away.

“The man was taken to my farm, where he was kept and ransom negotiation started. Although I wasn’t in the farm with them, after the kidnapping, School-Boy gave me the remaining N100, 000 to give to my wife’s doctor as his balance payment. “Two weeks later, School-Boy called and informed me that N10 million had been paid as ransom for the accountant’s release.

At that time,I didn’t doubt him and he took us and every other person that took part in the operation to the home of a native doctor known as Romanus Nnaji. He started sharing money. He gave me N1.5million to give to Ibekwe and Stanley the informant. He then gave me N500, 000 as my own share. A few months after that operation, I got a call that my brother has been arrested by the police over the kidnapping of the accountant.

It was then I learnt that the operation fetched us N20million and not N10million as School- Boy claimed. I was angry over the fact that School-Boy cheated every one of us. It meant that he kept N10million to himself and had the gut to share N10million with us. “I didn’t say anything because policemen were looking for me. I went to a church in Akwa Ibom State for prayers and to ask God for forgiveness.

Police trailed me to the church. Fortunately, when they entered the church, I was in the toilet. When I noticed the police van, I escaped into a nearby bush.”When he got home, he called School-Boy. He told him that policemen were looking for him, that he was tired of running and was thinking of going to police to surrender himself. When School-Boy heard that, he allegedly threatened to him. Uchechukwu narrated: “I then ran to Imo State, where I stayed for three weeks. IRT men again, came to Imo State to look for me, I escaped. While on the run, I called School- Boy and asked him to give me my share of the other N10million, so that I could leave the Nigeria, but he refused.

I felt the best thing I should do was to set him up and get him killed. I contacted some members of De-Gbam confraternity, who had been looking for him. I gave out his location; they attacked and beheaded him. After I had succeeded in taking out School-Boy, I contacted a lawyer in Owerri Imo State, where I was hiding with my pregnant wife. I told him what happened and asked for his professional advice on what I should do since the police were looking for me. The nurse at the hospital where my wife had gone to deliver her baby called and told me that policemen had trailed my wife to the hospital. I ran away again.

I was later arrested in June 2019 by IRT operatives in Orlu Imo State.” Romanus, 50, a native doctor, whose role was to prepare charms for the gang members, confessed that he was paid N200,000 to perform oath, whereby members of the gang would never betray one another. He said: “Since I was born, this is the first time I would be arrested. Sometime last year, a group of young men came into my compound. One of them, known as School-Boy said that he wanted everyone of them to take an oath, that they would never betray one another.

I was to admitter the oath. I asked him to bring N100, 000. He also brought other items like dog, water, pepper and vegetable. I killed the dog and poured its blood on my shrine. I told them that anyone who betrayed another would die. “I poured the pepper and vegetable on the shrine. I said that anyone who betrayed any member of the gang, would die. I drank the water and then gave it to them to drink. School-Boy paid N100, 000 for my services. By 10pm that day, they brought a big bag load of money into my shrine and shared it. I didn’t know the amount of money inside the bag, but I was given N50, 000 in N500 denomination. I asked how they got the money, but School-Boy said he would come back to tell me. The next thing I heard was that School Boy had been killed.

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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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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.”

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