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Cyclists’ robbery gang: We robbed victims by monitoring banks, ATM points

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Cyclists’ robbery gang: We robbed victims by monitoring banks, ATM points

Operatives of the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Mohammed Adamu’s Special Intelligence Response Team (IRT), have smashed a robbery gang, which specialised in using motorcycles to trail and rob bank customers in Lagos State. At the last count, the number of those in police custody are 10, while efforts are still on to catch others. Members of the gang claimed to have built houses from the proceeds of their crimes, and still another confessed to have given his father a befitting burial. Those currently in police custody are; Musibau Ogunbiyi, Rilwan Olarinwajo, Wahab Wasiu, Akeem Hassan, Idowu Taofiq, Sadiq Alada, Razaq Isah, Tunji Kundus, Tijani Koyim and Ibrahim Olagoke.

The downfall of the gang started after it robbed a businessman, who deals in motorcycle of N2million. The gang was alleged to have attacked the businessman in his shop at Abule-Egba area of the state, where they dispossessed him of the money.

It would be later discovered that the brain behind the attack on the businessman, was one of his regular customers. When the businessman’s shop was attacked, his phones and those of his staff were taken by the armed robbers. He petitioned the IGP, who directed IRT, headed by a Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP), Abba Kyari, to look into the matter.The police said: “Investigations showed that those behind the robbery were members of a large gang, operating on motorcycles.

The gang specialised in dispossessing bank customers of their money, moments after they had withdrawn it from banks or Automatic Machine Teller (ATM) points. It was also discovered that a member of the gang visits banks and monitor customers making huge withdrawals. He would then follow such customers.” The police further narrated: “The suspect, who has a waiting motorcycle, would trail the target and then alert his gang members. The gang members would normally wait nearby for signal.

They would dispossess the bank customer of his money at gun point. These suspects have been in this business for long and have robbed several bank customers in various parts of the state.” One of the gang members, Wahab Wasiu (28), whose job was to monitor bank customers as they leave the banking halls or ATM points, said that one Tunde lured him into armed robbery. He said that Tunde used to work with his motorcycle. Wasiu, a father of three, said that he was into Aluminium engineering.

He confessed to have joined robbery in 2017. He said: “There was a day Tunde invited me to follow him to do his business. He asked me to go to First Bank, located at Idimu and stand beside the ATM point, monitoring customers making huge withdrawals.

He said when I have a target, I should call our cyclist, Akeem Hassan, and then we should start trailing the person. “Sometimes, when I’m standing by the ATM point, monitoring customers coming out of the banks with nylon bags of money, I and my cyclist would trail the victim and rob him or her. So far, I have trailed over eight bank customers from different banks and robbed them.

I’ve built a house with the money I made from the robbery operations.” Another gang member, Musibau Ogunbiyi, alias Egwufe, said that he buried his father with his own proceeds. Ogunbiyi, who introduced himself as a mechanic, said that he used to work with Lagos State Waste Management Authority (LAWMA) as a supervisor. He would later join the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW). He said that he was arrested after fighting to take over a park at Alaba International Market area of Lagos. He spent a year in prison, and was later granted bail. Ogunbiyi, who said that he was a member of the Eiye Confraternity, added: “After I was released from prison, I started looking for a job, but couldn’t get any. I met Tunde at a popular hotel in my area. He told me that he had a gun, and was looking for connection to go for any robbery operation.

Three weeks after we met, Tunde called and said he had an operation and wanted me to join him. I met him at Egbeda and we went on a motorbike that was driven by one Semo. We went to Idimu and robbed a man, who was walking along the road; we took the sum of N250, 000 from him. Tunde had someone who used to give him information about targets. I got N70, 000 as my share, while Tunde left with the rest of the money.

“A month later, three of my friends called and told me that they had information that an Igbo trader that deals on motorcycles was making huge sales daily. They said that they wanted to lead a gang to rob him.

I told them that I had no gun for the operation but they persuaded me to use my contact to get a gun. “I called Tunde and told him about the operation; he brought his guns and we all went and robbed the man. We took N2milion from him.

I got N230, 000 as my share, Tunde got N240, 000 and we gave the remaining to the informants. I buried my father with my share of the money and bought some clothes with the remainder. Before I knew it, the police came and arrested me.”

Rilwan Olarinwajo (24) alias Star boy, said: “I’m a motorcycle operator; I became an armed robber through my friend Egwufe. My first operation was at Liasu Road in Idimu. I was the person riding the motorcycle, and there was a guy called, Enny, he was inside the bank. Enny was the person that monitored the man we robbed from the bank. I don’t know the amount of money collected from him, but I was given N30,000.”

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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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on

By

Ex-Boko Haram fighters face their hardest battle: Reintegration

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In 2017, he managed to flee.

But reintegrating back into society has been near impossible.

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

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

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

In an instant, Adamu was an outcast.

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

Former fighters were not welcome guests.

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

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

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

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

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

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

But his neighbours don’t trust him.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Adamu said being ostracised was “humiliating”.

“It is painful,” he said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stigma sticks to family members

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continue Reading

Features

Ex-Boko Haram fighters face their hardest battle: Reintegration

Published

on

By

Ex-Boko Haram fighters face their hardest battle: Reintegration

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In 2017, he managed to flee.

But reintegrating back into society has been near impossible.

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

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

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

In an instant, Adamu was an outcast.

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

Former fighters were not welcome guests.

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

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

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

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

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

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

But his neighbours don’t trust him.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Adamu said being ostracised was “humiliating”.

“It is painful,” he said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stigma sticks to family members

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continue Reading

Features

Ex-Boko Haram fighters face their hardest battle: Reintegration

Published

on

By

Ex-Boko Haram fighters face their hardest battle: Reintegration

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In 2017, he managed to flee.

But reintegrating back into society has been near impossible.

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

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

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

In an instant, Adamu was an outcast.

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

Former fighters were not welcome guests.

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

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

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

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

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

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

But his neighbours don’t trust him.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Adamu said being ostracised was “humiliating”.

“It is painful,” he said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stigma sticks to family members

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continue Reading

Features

Ex-Boko Haram fighters face their hardest battle: Reintegration

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on

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Ex-Boko Haram fighters face their hardest battle: Reintegration

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In 2017, he managed to flee.

But reintegrating back into society has been near impossible.

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

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

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

In an instant, Adamu was an outcast.

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

Former fighters were not welcome guests.

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

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

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

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

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

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

But his neighbours don’t trust him.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Adamu said being ostracised was “humiliating”.

“It is painful,” he said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stigma sticks to family members

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continue Reading

Features

Ex-Boko Haram fighters face their hardest battle: Reintegration

Published

on

By

Ex-Boko Haram fighters face their hardest battle: Reintegration

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In 2017, he managed to flee.

But reintegrating back into society has been near impossible.

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

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

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

In an instant, Adamu was an outcast.

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

Former fighters were not welcome guests.

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

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

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

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

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

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

But his neighbours don’t trust him.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Adamu said being ostracised was “humiliating”.

“It is painful,” he said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stigma sticks to family members

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continue Reading

Features

Ex-Boko Haram fighters face their hardest battle: Reintegration

Published

on

By

Ex-Boko Haram fighters face their hardest battle: Reintegration

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In 2017, he managed to flee.

But reintegrating back into society has been near impossible.

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

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

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

In an instant, Adamu was an outcast.

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

Former fighters were not welcome guests.

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

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

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

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

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

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

But his neighbours don’t trust him.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Adamu said being ostracised was “humiliating”.

“It is painful,” he said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stigma sticks to family members

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continue Reading

Features

Ex-Boko Haram fighters face their hardest battle: Reintegration

Published

on

By

Ex-Boko Haram fighters face their hardest battle: Reintegration

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In 2017, he managed to flee.

But reintegrating back into society has been near impossible.

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

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

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

In an instant, Adamu was an outcast.

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

Former fighters were not welcome guests.

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

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

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

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

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

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

But his neighbours don’t trust him.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Adamu said being ostracised was “humiliating”.

“It is painful,” he said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stigma sticks to family members

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continue Reading

Features

Ex-Boko Haram fighters face their hardest battle: Reintegration

Published

on

By

Ex-Boko Haram fighters face their hardest battle: Reintegration

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In 2017, he managed to flee.

But reintegrating back into society has been near impossible.

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

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

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

In an instant, Adamu was an outcast.

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

Former fighters were not welcome guests.

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

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

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

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

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

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

But his neighbours don’t trust him.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Adamu said being ostracised was “humiliating”.

“It is painful,” he said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stigma sticks to family members

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Ex-Boko Haram fighters face their hardest battle: Reintegration

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Ex-Boko Haram fighters face their hardest battle: Reintegration

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In 2017, he managed to flee.

But reintegrating back into society has been near impossible.

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

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

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

In an instant, Adamu was an outcast.

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

Former fighters were not welcome guests.

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

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

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

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

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

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

But his neighbours don’t trust him.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Adamu said being ostracised was “humiliating”.

“It is painful,” he said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stigma sticks to family members

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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