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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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Onitsha inferno:Traders recount huge losses

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Onitsha inferno:Traders recount huge losses

Barely three days after the first tanker explosion in Onitsha, Anambra State, on Wednesday more dead bodies are still being discovered at the Ochanja Market Plaza. Some of the bodies are burnt beyond recognition while others found in some lock up shops are already decomposing. With the recent discovery the death toll has now risen to over 25 people.

Traders in the market say the number of shops burnt at the market is over 800 while six buildings had already collapsed. But the police said only three people have died so far. The Police Public Relation Officer Anambra State, SP Harunna Mohammed, stated this in a press release in Awka, the state capital. Those mostly affected are the traders along Iweka Road and Zik Avenue. Others include the electronics section, plastic, rubbers, cosmetics, household utensils and general goods sections.

Narrating their experience one of the victims, Mr. Fabian Onah, said the fire came through the drainage channel at the Ochanja round about. According to him they were sitting in the front of their shops when suddenly the explosion occurred with a bang at one of the openings in front of their shop and immediately spread like a wide fire. Onah said: “I didn’t bring out a pin. I didn’t know what to do because I was confused and helpless. I quickly jumped over to the main road and was watching my shop and others as they went up in flames.

I didn’t believe what was happening until the fire subsided. I couldn’t even collect the N1.5m cash I had and all was burnt to ashes. The goods in my shop were over 1.6m. In fact, as it is now, I am finished. Another victim, Mr Emmanuel Abonyi Nwadiogo, a post graduate alumnus of the Nnamdi AZikiwe University who was the first victim of the disaster at Upper Iweka had his warehouse completely razed down. Mr. Nwadiogo who was flanked by sympathisers at the time Saturday Telegraph visited Upper Iweka said he lost about 12m worth of good and cash.

“I narrowly escaped death by the whiskers. I was inside the warehouse after my children had displayed wears when suddenly my boys started shouting and immediately I came out. I saw a thick black smoke as the tanker crashed. I didn’t know that the gas had caught fire and was flowing through the drainage channel which was covered with slabs and wood.

“Immediately the fire spread to my shop, it caught up with my wears and spread everywhere. And I took to my heels with my children with me. I thank God no life was lost otherwise it could have been a different story. Mr. Ezugwu Donatus said that his was shop no 7 along the line A1 and he lost N1.7m cash and N2m worth of goods. According to him he deals on electronics including TV, wrist watches, Jewellery among others. Another victim Mr. Nnamani Jude said he stayed at shop No 5 and was inside the packing store when he suddenly saw people scampering for safety. He said as he was running out, the thick black smoke covered the entire place and when he eventually found his way from the crowd, his shops was already reduced to ashes.

“All the money I wanted to use to stock goods for the Christmas season was gone, all my goods gone. I have lost all I have laboured for in life. I lost cash and goods worth N9m. For Mr. Agbo Remijus, another wrist watch dealer said he lost cash of N1.8m and over N2m worth of goods.

The 58-year-old man said the fire incident had sent him packing because he has no other means of livelihood. He said: “My children are all in school and I don’t do any other thing except this. I don’t have any other hope anywhere except by God’s miracle. Where will I start now at this age? I don’t know! I don’t know!

This is the first time in my life I’m seeing this type of fire outbreak, no fire service, no help;everybody was running for his or her dear life.” Other victims include Joseph, Agbo, Nzube and Chinedu who said they lost N12m, N2.7m and N2.8m respectively.

They recounted their experience during the incident, pointing out that they did not recover anything except that they are alive. On their part, Mr. Osita Ogudu, Emeka Anosike, Onyeabo Onyeanwusi stated at the scene of the incident that they were taken unawares and could not do anything.

They echoes: “We were helpless as we scampered for our lives. Nobody was near the flame of the fire as it increased in geometric proportion, minute by minute. Some people who were trapped at the plaza could not be rescued and most of them died there. Governor Willie Obiano is the only hope we have to assist us start life afresh no matter how small.” Following the incident, Ochanja market, which is the second largest market in the commercial city of Onitsha has been shut down for now.

One of the affected traders, Chief Godswell Anyanwu, former chief security officer, of the market also recounted how he lost over N12m worth of goods. Chief Anyanwu who deals on electronics noted with regret that it is painful that no fire fighting vehicles were seen from 1pm in the afternoon when the incident happened till 9pm in the night. He also said that the state government had provided fire fighting vehicles to markets in the commercial city and none was seen throughout the period the fire lasted. According to him it was the private water tanker drivers that helped to provide some assistance that reduced the spread of the fire.

He appealed to the state governor Chief Obiano to come to their aid. However, the chairman of the Anambra State Amalgamated Traders Association (ASMATA) Chief Ikechukwu Ekwegbalu, denied that the market was shut, instead he said the market was open and business was going on as usual.

He however condemned the attitude of some miscreants who throw stones and pebbles at government officials and agents when such incidents happen in the commercial city, pointing out that it is not the real traders but criminals among them who does that. When our reporter visited the market, traders affected by the inferno were seen clearing the derbies while sympathisers who thronged the market were seen along Iweka Road, Ziks Avenue and Ozomagala Street.

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CLIMATE CHANGE: THE MESS OF A MEGA CIT Y

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CLIMATE CHANGE: THE MESS OF A MEGA CIT Y

Climate change, it seems, is gradually but steadily bringing tears and sorrow to many in Nigeria. The steady rainfall being witnessed nowadays sweeps chaos and confusion into homes, which often times, exacerbates the poor drainage system. The fear, according to this report by ISIOMA MADIKE, is that the coming years might be worse

 

 

Climate change effects such as increased rainfall intensity, storm surges, and flooding effects are beginning to take its toll in the country, especially Nigeria’s economic capital, Lagos. The impact is no longer as distant as most people think.

Though a global phenomenon that largely impacts urban life, rising temperatures, according to experts, has already started causing sea levels to rise, erratic rainfalls, increasing the number of extreme weather events such as floods, storms, and will in no time increases the spread of tropical diseases.

The first factor aggravating flooding is climate change, which has shown to contribute to more extreme storms and rainfall. Lagos State is a typical example in this instance. Rainy season, which ought to have ended, is back again in full force, and as always, it is bad news for most residents in Nigeria’s mega city.

Worries increase not only for inhabitants but also for visitors to Lagos who take a drive around this “Centre of Excellence” when it rains. With the rains, many parts of Lagos are back to a familiar path. Residents had to roll up trousers to walk on the streets to avoid being smeared, and motorists had to wade through waterlogged roads.

The people are recounting the sad experiences of the past and are afraid of what the next weeks and months have in stock for them. At junctions of feeder streets in most parts of the sprawling city are heaps of used water sachets and debris percolated by shallow floods that found inadequate avenue of normal flows blocking the canals and waterways. Some are overgrown with weeds; others filled with refuse heaps. Ketu and Mile 12 axis are most hit in recent times.

They are densely populated “ghettos,” made up of people from different parts of the country. In virtually every open space in and around these “jungles,” heaps of faeces literally jostle for space with human beings. From the homes, faeces wrapped up in newspapers are launched from windows, scattering into a spatter mess.

It piles the streets as though they are articles of ornament. Yet, no one seems to bother about it. The roads, apart from being riddled with huge potholes and gullies, have been narrowed to single lanes due to the mammoth refuse congealed by rain water whose passage is inhibited by blocked drains.

Whenever it rains, the flood sweeps the refuse to the middle of the road, making movement of any kind difficult. Mile 12 in particular, is actually a reflection of the sorry state of most parts of Lagos – a state which appears to have lost its excellence to putrefaction, filth and flood. Ojuelegba, a bustling centre of commercial activities and bus terminal, is also a pathetic site to behold in this season. So is Ojota-Maryland- Ikorodu Road axis, which often turns to a mini-swimming pool each time it rains.

Flooding here is so severe that houses and vehicles get submerged in it, resulting in a long stretch of traffic on both sides of Ikorodu Road, a major gateway to the city. Oshodi, Mafoluku, Ijeshatedo, and FESTAC Town are equally floodprone.

The Oshodi-Apapa Expressway is already a nightmare at present as motorists spend hours to navigate its difficult terrain. It is still a puzzle that a major epidemic has not broken out in this environ, given the mountains of refuse that dot the landscape. The rains have, however, compounded the situation as motorists and pedestrians now wade through the ocean-like streets. Allen Avenue, one of the major commercial centres, which is also close to Alausa, the seat of the state government, is fast losing its glamour too. The flood at the Alade Market end of the road makes the road impassable for cars and pedestrians.

They are, most times, forced to make a detour or fold up their dresses before they can ‘swim’ through the place. The same scenario plays out in Ikeja Roundabout and Oba Akran Avenue. On Agege Motor Road, the situation is also terrible.

Though, a federal road, the state government has taken it upon itself to repair it. But, just as those handling the road are busy working on it, heaps of refuse jostle for space at the other side of the highway. “The situation is pathetic,” says Idayat Balogun, a nurse in one of the private hospitals in the metropolis. According to her, the situation deteriorated when most of the local government areas decided to turn sites meant for refuse dump to shopping malls. “Now, there is no place for the people to dump their refuse,” she added.

Residents of Ejigbo, Bariga, Shomolu, Idimu, Ogba and the slums of Ijora Badiya are also counting their losses as flood and refuse have taken over major roads in the areas. Even the highbrow Victoria Island, Ikoyi and Lekki are not spared by the flood. Most of the streets in the business district – Ahmadu Bello Way, Akin Adesola, Idowu Taylor and many others – are usually flooded, resulting in cessation of business activities due to grinding logjam when it rains.

Dolphin, a sprawling estate for business and residential purposes, appears to be the worst hit in Ikoyi. Obalende, the popular bus terminal on Lagos Island, and all the nearby streets such as Lewis, Igbosere and Hawley are frequently flooded also.

This makes it difficult for workers to leave Lagos for the mainland after the close of work. Tales of flooded houses, loss of property, several hours of traffic jam and streets completely taken over by garbage are now common. Indeed, for Lagos residents, living in this former federal capital are now a harrowing experience.

Recently, Osejindu Mordi, an interior decorator who works in Ogba, Ikeja, spent three hours between Lagos State Secretariat and Ketu, a journey that usually takes 30 minutes. He eventually got to his house in Ikorodu at 3am. Tosin, who works with one of the new generation banks on the Island, was perhaps, lucky. On the same day, Ogor Anugor, a sales girl in Tejusho Market, had to trek from Palmgrove to Maryland after spending about four hours in the traffic jam at Fadeyi. Her destination was Ishawo within the Ikorodu axis.

However, after each downpour, Lagos, the country’s commercial capital with the slogans “Centre of Excellence” and “City of Aquatic Splendour” turns into a centre of confusion and chaos. However, Lagos is not an isolated case in this regard. For nearly four weeks now, the persistent flood has sacked residents of Denro-Isashi Road, in Ifo Local Government Area of Ogun State.

Their homes have literarily become swimming pools with commuting becoming a harrowing experience on a daily basis. With the road already submerged by the flood from the river in the area, residents are at the mercy of daring scavengers and other jobless boys, who make brisk business ferrying residents on their backs across the massively flooded portion of the road.

Daily, hundreds of commuters who live in the Ogun State border and work in Lagos, usually get stranded for many hours, looking for means to cross the flooded road following the collapse of the wooden bridge temporarily constructed by residents. They are typically left with two options: to be ferried by group of young Hausa cart pushers, who carry them across or be shipped through the flooded road by a group of young boys, who use a damaged refrigerator as canoe.

But Lagos and Ogun states have not been alone on this in recent times. Suleja, a town near the capital city, Abuja, equally suffers its own flooding challenge, especially since the last quarter of the year. Heavy rains have reportedly washed houses away and caused others to collapse, while trapping occupants. The seriousness of the flooding has been attributed to a combination of two events: very heavy local rainfall and the release of excess water from the Lagdo Dam in nearby Cameroon. Although the degree and seriousness of flooding in Nigeria fluctuates, it remains a recurring phenomenon in most parts of the country.

The first factor aggravating flooding is climate change, which has shown to contribute to more extreme storms and rainfall. Another factor contributing to flooding in cities is that Nigeria has experienced rapid urban growth and planning is poor.

Rainfall patterns in Nigeria suggest that rainstorms are getting more intense. Many parts of the country are presently suffering these effects. From what is happening, experts are suggesting that Nigeria needs to take measures to cope with climatic changes. This, according to them, will require both local and international interventions, and could include early warning and rapid response systems, flood data gathering and modelling, proper urban and spatial planning, flood emergency preparedness and political will.

The country, they said, can learn from others. For example, in Mumbai, India, various measures have been implemented to reduce the impact of flooding. These have included an emergency control centre, automated weather stations, and removal of solid waste from storm water drains as well as the development of emergency response mechanisms.

Nigeria, they added, must invest in these measures, and sustain them. As many are aware, the immediate impacts of flooding include loss of human life, damage to property, destruction of crops, loss of livestock, and deterioration of health conditions owing to waterborne diseases.

As communication links and infrastructure such as power plants, roads and bridges are damaged and disrupted, some economic activities may come to a standstill, and people are forced to leave their homes and normal life is disrupted. Similarly, disruption to industry can lead to loss of livelihoods.

Damage to infrastructure also causes longterm impacts, such as disruptions to supplies of clean water, wastewater treatment, electricity, transport, communication, education and health care. Loss of livelihoods, reduction in purchasing power and loss of land value in the floodplains can leave communities economically vulnerable. Floods can also traumatise victims and their families for long periods of time. The loss of loved ones has deep impacts, especially on children.

Displacement from one’s home, loss of property and disruption to business and social affairs can cause continuing stress, according to medical experts.For some people the psychological impacts can be long lasting. The term “climate change” is often used to refer specifically to anthropogenic climate change (also known as global warming). Anthropogenic climate change is caused by human activity, as opposed to changes in climate that may have resulted as part of Earth’s natural processes.

Global warming is projected to have a number of effects on the oceans. Ongoing effects include rising sea levels due to thermal expansion and melting of glaciers and ice sheets, and warming of the ocean surface, leading to increased temperature stratification. It melts the ice and describes changes in the state of the atmosphere over time scales ranging from decades to millions of years. These changes can be caused by processes inside the Earth, forces from outside, for instance, variations in sunlight intensity or, more recently, human activities.

This change is an adverse environmental phenomenon that is causing enormous concern all over the world. Nigeria is recognized as being vulnerable to climate change. If left unchecked will cause adverse effects on livelihoods in the country, such as crop production, livestock production, fisheries, forestry and post-harvest activities, because the rainfall regimes and patterns have been altered.

Floods which devastate farmlands would occur, increase in temperature and humidity which increases pest and disease would also occur and other natural disasters like ocean and storm surges, which will not only damage Nigerians’ livelihood but also cause harm to life and property. Lagos State government appears to be responded to this challenge though by drawing up model city plans over the last 10 years for a number of areas including, Badagry, Apapa, Lekki, Agege/Ifako-Ijaiye among others, which seeks to transform the entire state to a sprawling garden city metropolis.

However, the response may be complicated, in the sense that they could address the increasing volume of rain water brought about by the more intensive storms expected across the state, but may not address the other impacts climate change is expected to bring to the city such as tidal surges, water logging of soil, rising sea levels, sinking, erosion, salinity of the water table, and diseases that would spread in a saturated environment. Not long ago, the Nigerian meteorological agency (NIMET), warned that there would be a high prevalence of climate induced diseases such as malaria, cerebrospinal meningitis, and respiratory diseases in many parts of Nigeria. Most coastal cities are susceptible to flood from rising sea levels and erratic rainfalls, which Lagos is not exempted.

It was predicted since 2008, that 3.2 million Lagosians may be exposed to flooding from climate change as a result of rising sea levels, increasing storm intensities and land subsidence, making it the 15th most vulnerable city in the world in terms of all 136 million population of the world port cities.

This figures worsened six years later in 2014, and Lagos became the 10th most vulnerable city in the world, and it’s still getting worse. Climate change is principally a major problem caused by the increase of human activities or what expects call human mismanagement of the earth leading to several direct and indirect impacts on health. These have widerange harmful effects including increase in heat-related mortality, dehydration, spread of infectious diseases, malnutrition and damage to public health infrastructure among others.

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Madona Varsity crisis deepens, as litigant blames management for mother’s death

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T

he lingering crisis in Madonna University Okija, Anambra State, has deepened following the refusal of the management of the institution to accept the peace overtures extended to it by the seven accused students and lecturer for the matter to be resolved.

 

It would be recalled that six students of the university were arrested and detained for seven months for allegedly criticizing the management of the university on social media.

 

 

They were later granted bail by a court but their results and the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) mobilization letters are still in the custody of the institution.

 

According to the letter signed by Prince Ezeimo, Blackson Nwokoma and Nnamdi Harmelson, it said

 

“Sequel to the meeting we had with Very Rev. Dr. Ralph Madu, Deputy Vice Chancellor, Madonna University and Rector of Saviour House of Formation Fr. (Dr.) Oliver Udaya on the 24th Day of September, 2019 at Assumpta Cathedral Owerri, we the accused persons of a case before the Federal High Court, Awka with suit number FHC/C/03/2019, have earnestly decided to give peace a chance.

 

“We hereby agree with the management of the University to consider withdrawing this matter from court for us to settle on the round table of dialogue which must first of all include the provision of the seized results and the mobilization of our brothers to NYSC.”

But the university management did not accept the peace offer which it claimed should be unconditional. This led the matter to continue in court.

 

When contacted the Deputy Vice Chancellor of the institution Rev. (Dr.) Ralph Madu, said that he was not permitted to speak to press on the matter as according to him it is still in court.

 

But one of the accused,  Prince Tony Ezeimo told Sunday Telegraph that the management refused to accept the peace offer adding that it has refused to comply with the agreement reached in Owerri recently.

 

 

“They do not want peace even when we all agreed to resolve the matter and one wonders the type of Christianity we are practicing even when the students were unlawfully arrested and detained.

 

 

However, the matter was stalled last week with the absence of the Presiding judge, Justice Babatunde Quadir, when it came up for hearing.

 

According to Ezeimo, “We were here at exactly 8:00  this morning but they told us that the judge did not come to court today.”

 

Ezeimo noted that they had come to prove their innocence before the court adding that since the management has refused to comply with the peace agreement it is left for the court to discharge its duties.

 

 

Speaking with journalists, the counsel to the defendants (students) said the court officials gave them December 3, 2019 as the next adjourned date.

 

Reacting, one of the parents, Christopher Onyejekwe said the situation was frustrating.

 

He urged the Catholic Church to prevail on the founder of the university, Rev Fr. Emmanuel Ede to stop punishing the students unnecessarily.

 

One of the students, Blackson Owhouda, said his pain was that his mother died of heart attack when she heard he was in prison because of the case.

 

He added: “I was told she was buried in June while I was still in prison. It was really not easy for me, especially when my father was blaming me for my mother’s death.  I’m going through a lot of trauma. I didn’t commit any offence.

 

“It was in the prison that I came to know the students detained with me on this matter because I was not relating with them much while we were in school.”

 

It would be recalled that parents and relatives who have their children at the University had earlier handed down a warning that they will not take kindly to the manner students are being treated by the management of the school adding that they will not fail to withdraw the children from the school.

 

 

Currently uneasy calm still pervades the institution as a section of the affected parents have reiterated their  resolve to take action if the management refuses to comply with the peace agreement.

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I’ve enjoyed my 45 years in Nigeria, says 71-year-old Jamaican

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I’ve enjoyed my 45 years in Nigeria, says 71-year-old Jamaican

At 71, one would have expected her to retire or taking care of her grandchildren. That is not case with the septuagenarian, who has decided to serve her fellow compatriots providing leadership for the Niger Wives Association, Lagos Chapter. Welcome to the world of Lorna Opanubi, a trained and registered nurse.

 

 

Niger Wives Association is the umbrella body under which citizens of other countries who are married to Nigerians are living with their spouses in Nigeria.

 

 

For the Jamaican-born Opanubi, the journey to becoming the president of the 120-member association began in 1979, when she arrived her adopted country with her heartthrob and since then she has been not only an active member but an ambassador spreading the gospel of the body to others.

 

 

The mantle of leadership fell on her in February 2018. She will complete her duties in February next year.

 

 

Opanubi, who qualified as a nurse in 1970 in England, came to Nigeria with high expectations to practice what she had passion for. However, she had a culture shock as the system did not allow her to put into practice what she was used to doing.

 

 

“Over there you administer injections with disposable syringes and needles. I came here and discovered that people were still sterilizing needles by boiling them in hot water and the water was often not clean.”

 

 

She was not done in her frank assessment of what she met on ground: “The standard of nursing was very very low, not very hygienic and that discouraged me; that was the main reason I left the government health work. Because, I wasn’t happy doing what I was trained to do.

 

 

“If the health system here were of same standard in England where I got my training, I would have spent more years practicing nursing. When you are not happy doing what you are doing, deriving no pleasure from it, why are you doing something that at the end of the day you are not happy with it.”

 

 

This was all she needed to change her job after a spell in government facility in Apapa. She went to practice with a private clinic, where she had some level of control.

 

 

“When I arrived Nigeria in 1973 with my husband, Oladipo, it was not difficult for me to get a job with the Lagos State Health Centre, Apapa. But I spent just two years, before I left to work in a private clinic. What I did was to treat injuries and minor injuries; it was a little better, because I was in control. I made some changes and I was able to practice the way I liked.

 

 

“But when I was in government you make do with whatever they gave you. You had no say, when you meet them to complain they would tell you that is what they supplied to us, we don’t have any more.”

Rather than staying too long for the career that she seems to have passion, she opted for another hobby, cooking.

 

 

“I decided to quit the profession to set up my hobby, catering business and catering school,” she said.

 

 

According to her: “The purpose of establishing Niger Wives, was not only to foster better relationships among us by holding meetings monthly, so that we could be there for one another, but we also we try to support the less privileged in various communities.”

 

 

When asked of the challenges of securing the required residents’ permit, she said: “That was a big challenge; we had great challenges before with residents’ permits. One of the foreign wives, whose husband is late now, Lawyer Achimo, he was the one writing on our behalf, on how the government will help us, so that all the challenges of travelling out and coming back, we are not being delayed at the airport.

 

 

“What the Nigerian Immigration Services (NIS), told us at the Airport was that we have not gotten a re-entry visa.

 

 

“We were treated like people coming to Nigeria on contract work, and yet we were married to Nigerians. Eventually, a group of us went ahead and met the then president, Mr. Olusegun Obasanjo and we explained our challenges to him.”

 

 

The Minister of Interior was aware of their travails

 

 

“But when you are not getting result you have to go ahead, that is Nigeria for you, sometimes you have to start from the top. It is who you know that matters and he (Obasanjo) granted us our request. We thank God for that.

 

 

“Things have improved now, many of us have now gotten Nigerian passports, and that is a big help, so when you are coming in, you can present your Nigerian passport to the Immigration and it becomes easy.”

 

 

According to her, ironically, the presence of their Nigerian husbands did not help the situation.

 

“Our husbands too have challenges, as I said before, it was one of them (the late lawyer), who decided to take it upon himself and it was not easy for our husbands either; even though, they are Nigerians and that is why, they decided to challenge the government and stayed in Nigeria in order to make things easy for us, but things are much better now.”

 

 

Opanubi could not give statistics of the number of foreign wives registered at state level; it still posed big challenge that some of the members are not registered.

“The new foreign wives just coming to Nigeria may not know that Niger Wives exists as a body.

“Sometimes, we might know of a friend, her husband family member or some friends who are married to Niger Wives. When we are not aware, the only thing we can do is to encourage other Niger Wives that as soon as they hear of other Niger Wives, they should invite them to the meeting, so that they can be enlightened on the things they should do or not to do as Niger Wives,” she explained.

So how does a foreign wife locate the association?

She answers: “We have so many Niger Wives across the country, for example, If I attend a party and I see a beautiful woman sitting down and I know that she is a foreigner, not that she is fair or dark, but when you say Niger wives, it could be African as well, not only European or American. Once you see one, you introduce yourself, you will ask, are you a member of Niger Wives, do you attend a meeting? We have a Niger Wives Association. This is the time we meet and we would like you to attend the meeting and we invite them. That is how we spread the news.

 

 

“We meet monthly, and at the meeting, we discuss issues, we have the opportunity to discuss and share difficulties that we might be experiencing. When you share, it helps one another, we discuss immigration and that is helpful to every one of us.”

 

 

Niger Wives execute their projects for the communities by raising funds through membership dues and other levies.

 

 

“We do pay an annual membership fees, though, the fee changes, we don’t rely on that because that is for the running of the association, but we do other fund raising events for these various charity projects to support.

 

 

“Also, we belong to a group, Small World. They do have an annual event for women societies in all over the world by which we put on shows to all the various countries that were in attendance.

 

 

“We relied on gate fees and advertisement at the end of it, the money is shared amongst the countries that participated. Whatever was given to us from that project, we donate it to whichever community we want to support.

 

 

“For example, we run a Braille Centre for the blind; we print books and donate to other schools for the blind across the country, and other equipment. We also give mathematics’ kits, we import kits from other countries and present to the blind kids.”

 

 

When asked on their members who are widows if the love of their demised husbands were sustained by the families, she said: “Oh yes, we’ve heard cases like that. You know in any part of the world, such things exist. You could marry a man from the same country with you and it might happen, it is not because you are married to a foreigner.

 

 

“What we do, when we hear such things we step in, we try and sometimes it does work and sometimes it does not. Sometimes, some of them decide to leave the marriage and go back to their countries. We also have foreign widows group too, that support one another.

 

“We have several cases where families will come and take away all the properties their husbands left behind. We’ve tried our best, you know it is not easy to get involved with family matters too much, we have to be careful as well.

 

 

“But we try our best to see if we can talk to the family to see how they could help them a bit more rather than just abandoning them. But whereby they have made up their minds, there is nothing we can do.

 

 

“Sometimes the reason for the action is that their wives were not good to them, when their husbands were alive. The wives were not nice to them, probably, she did not show love to the rest of the family members. She might just love the husband and did not care about the rest of the members of the family. When we pressed further, they will say, she did not know us, when our brother was alive.”

 

 

However, Lorna remains grateful to God for the situation in her own husband’s family.

 

 

“My husband’s family, we get along easily. They are lovely. Oh my mother-in-law, she is late, she was a beautiful woman and so were my sister and brother in-laws.”

 

 

On what gave her boldness to want to marry a foreigner, she said: “I think it was love; that I want to be with this man. And I will go with him anywhere and I came back with him in 1973. Well, I saw this very handsome man.

 

 

“He was in Birmingham (UK), his appearances, his dressing, and his looks, were irresistible. In addition, he is very nice, very handsome and loving. I just saw him and our eyes met and we said, ‘oh yes, I would like to associate with you’.

 

 

“One thing led to the other and the rest is history, as they say.”

 

 

How about the terrible things you heard about Nigeria “Yes I did hear terrible things about Nigeria, but some were true and some false, my husband promised that if what I heard about happened, well, it will not happen to us.”

 

 

However, it was not all smooth sailing, as her Jamaican parents almost discouraged her.

 

 

“Some of us our parents would not have agreed towards marrying Nigerians because they had heard bad news about their children going abroad and once they did, they did not hear from them due to the poor nature of telecommunications then.

 

 

“I remembered when I first came, I couldn’t call my family at home because the network was so bad, that was in 1972, you know there was no mobile phones then. If you go to NITEL, you will spend a lot of money and in the end, you will just manage to say ‘hello’ before the connection will break. Those were the fears of our families that how they would communicate with us once we get to Nigeria.

 

 

“But now, I visit my home even my children. That is the mistake some of the Niger Wives make that is when they find themselves comfortable they forget their families. They get carried away with wealth and forget their families.”

 

Lorna said that she can speak Yoruba.

 

 

“I can speak Yoruba language that is good enough to take me out of a difficult situations, the only major difference is marriage. I had a first-hand experience when my husband was getting married to me. He is from Ikenne in Ogun State. There were so many steps – there is the introduction, engagement and the wedding day.

 

 

But this not the way back in my country, if you meet your husband, he proposes to you and you accept or not you take your wife to the family and introduce her to the family and you go ahead and plan the wedding day.”

On what she misses about Jamaica

 

 

“I miss the sea mainly because when we talk about the food, we have more of the same food, and how you prepare it that makes a difference. For example, garri, we have cassava but we use it to make bread so the processing of the food produce here differs.”

 

 

She was asked that the Jamaicans were one of the countries that their ancestors were taken away from Africa as a result of the slave trade, she said: “You are an African no matter where you come from. We are back in Africa, we the black ones we are back in Africa, there is a resemblance of what my forefather did is what is practiced here.

 

 

“I am enjoying Nigeria; I have been here for over 45 years. I have mixed parentage, my grandmother is mixed, so we have a big melting pot, we speak English but we have a pidgin language called Patua.”

 

 

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Police accuse man, sister-in-law of defrauding Chinese of N30.6m

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Police accuse man, sister-in-law of defrauding Chinese of N30.6m

Operatives of the Inspector- General of Police Special Intelligence Response Team (IRT) have arrested Mr. Adamu Garuba, aka Honourable Ibrahim, for allegedly defrauding a Chinese national of the sum of N30.6million. The IRT Unit, headed by a Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP), Abba Kyari, alleged that Garuba, working with his sister-in-law Rita Waziri and others still at large, specialised in defrauding contractors, interested in road construction contracts from the Kaduna State Government.

The suspects were arrested after they defrauded a Chinese Engineer, identified simply as Su of the sum of N30.6million under the guise of assisting him to land a road construction contract from the Kaduna State Government. Su, residing at the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, was approached in July 2018 by one Mayowa, a member of the syndicate, now in jail over a separate fraud case.

Mayowa intimated Su that the Kaduna State Government was searching for contractors to rehabilitate a 14 Kilometre Road at the Kagoro area of the state. Mayowa, in his bid to convince Su that the contract was genuine, brought in Garuba, who he presented as Honourable Ibrahim, a serving member of the Kaduna State House of Assembly, who is also the Chairman of Budget and Planning Committee of the House. Playing his part smartly, Garuba informed Su that he would have to register his company with the Kaduna State Public Procurement Authority. He told him that the process of the registration was N1.6m.

The Police said: “After Su paid the N1.6million, Mayowa and Garuba invited him to the Kaduna State Government Secretariat, Kaduna State. They took him to a makeshift office, which proudly displayed pictures of members of the syndicate.

The pictures identified them as representatives of the Kaduna State Government. Rita Waziri, whose picture was also on the wall, played the role of the Commissioner of Works and Housing. Another member, identified as Captain, currently at large, presented himself as Commissioner of Finance.

The sum of N28million was taken from Su after negotiation of the contract. A fake contract awarding letter was issued to Su, but a few months after the letter was issue, he became suspicious of the deal. He contacted Garuba, complaining and demanding a refund of his money. Garuba lured Su to Kaduna State, where he was kidnapped and a ransom of N2million collected from him before he was released.”

Su reported his kidnap and the fraudulent activities of Garuba and his syndicate to the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu. The IG instructed Kyari and his Unit to investigate the case. After weeks of investigations, the Unit smashed the syndicate. In the course of investigation, it was discovered that Rita is the sister-in-law of Garuba.

Rita was first arrested and then led IRT operatives to arrest Garuba. After the downfall of the syndicate, Garuba confessed to have received the sum of N15million as his share from the deal. According to him, he used the money to build a house around a choice area in Kaduna State. He also admitted to have given Rita N200, 000. Garuba 51, married with four children, said: “I went into fraud seven years ago.

It was late Otunba Obanla from Lagos State, who introduced me to the business. I met Otunba in a hotel at Kaduna State, where he was drinking. We became friends. He taught me how to defraud people looking for contracts. My first job was in 2013. I defrauded Alhaji Sani of the sum of N200, 000. I took the money from Sani under the guise of helping him to process the registration of his company at the Kaduna State Tenders Board, where he intended to procure road contracts.” Garuba further said: “I also defrauded Alhaji Tijani of the sum of N400, 000 in 2015.

Tijani also wanted to procure contract from the Kaduna State Government. I defrauded a Lebanese of the sum of N7million. However, I was not the only person that executed the job. I got N1.5million as my share from the deal.

I was arrested later by policemen from the Kaduna State Police Command. After my release, policemen from the Federal Anti-Robbery Squad Adeniji Adele, in Lagos State, came to re-arrest me. They made me to repay the money I got from the deal to the Lebanese man. “In July 2018, Mayowa brought the Chinese man’s job. Mayowa told us that the Chinese man needed a road construction contract. We collected N1.5million from the man for the registration of his company, and then we took him to Kaduna State Government House.

We used the reception of an office to execute the job. We were four that did the job. Rita, who is my elder brother’s wife acted as the Commissioner of Works and Mayowa enlarged Rita’s picture, which he hung beside that of the Kaduna State Governor and President of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari. This made the venue of the operation to look like an office of the Kaduna State Government. There was one Captain that Mayowa brought into the game.

The Captain played the role of the Commissioner of Finance, Kaduna State. I acted as the Honourable member of the Kaduna State House of Assembly.” Garuba said that he and other members of the syndicate told the Chinese man that the governor wanted him to rehabilitate a 14 kilometre road at Kagoro area of Southern Kaduna. The Chinese was also told that he would first have to construct a seven kilometre road, which will gulp N2billion.

“We told him that we would get five per cent of the total cost as our share immediately he is mobilised for the contract. We also showed him contracts’ agreements between his company and the Kaduna State Government.

The man paid us the sum of N28million. He stopped paying when he realised that he has been defrauded,” recalled Garuba. He added: “I got N15million as my share because I was the person that organised the office that was used for the job. Mayowa got N13million because he had other people, including the Captain to settle. I was the person that settled Rita. I gave her N200, 000. I used the rest of my money to develop some of my landed property in GRA Kaduna State. I also built a three bedroom flat in the same GRA. I want to quit this business and I am ready to sell all my houses so that I will raise money to refund the Chinese man. I feel very ashamed of myself, especially now that I have a grandson. I don’t want him to know that his grandfather is a fraudster.”

Rita claimed that she was tricked into the crime. She insisted that her brother-in-law didn’t tell her that what they were doing was a criminal act. Rita, a trader, said: “I have never done this before. It was my brother in-law that got me involved in this business. My brother in-law is the younger brother to my husband. He was the person that took me to where I snapped the picture at Banawa Shopping Complex in Kaduna State. That was also where they enlarged the photo that was used at the office.

I introduced myself as the Commissioner of Works. After we exchanged pleasantries, I told them that I wouldn’t be staying, that I was leaving for another meeting. I left in Garuba’s car and headed straight to my house. Later that day, Garuba came and gave me N200, 000. He didn’t tell me that the money was for the assistance I rendered to him that day. I thought the money was just a gift. I didn’t know that the Chinese man was defrauded of the sum of N30.6million.”

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Victims of Kaduna institution tell stories of terror

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Victims of Kaduna institution tell stories of terror

When Jibril had tried to escape as a boy from an institution in Nigeria that called itself a place of Islamic teachings, he said he was hung up by his arms until bones in his shoulders broke.

Another teenager, one of about 400 men and boys freed in Thursday’s police raid, said boys were often kept in chains and those caught stealing food were whipped until they bled.

“They used car engine belts and electrical cables to flog us,” 15-year-old Suleiman told Reuters, staring at the floor. “Teachers used to sexually harass us … They tried to loosen my pants once but I fought them off and was beaten.”

Horror stories are emerging about life in a two-storey house in Nigeria’s northern city of Kaduna as the authorities try to find families of the victims who often spent years at the site.

Police arrested seven adults in the raid on the building, which had a sign in Arabic at the entrance declaring itself “House of Imam Ahmad Bin Hanbal for the Application of Islamic Teachings”.

Some parents paid fees, believing it was an Islamic school. Some described it as a good institution and dismissed talk of abuse. Others saw it as a correctional facility. Police and regional officials said it was not registered as either.

Despite mixed accounts about its role, the abuse reported by victims has thrown a spotlight on Nigeria’s struggle to provide enough school places for its rapidly expanding population, leaving a gap for unregulated institutions that poor parents sometimes turn to.

The West African nation’s population will swell from 190 million to 400 million by 2050, according to U.N. figures. Primary education is officially free but about 10.5 million Nigerian children aged five to 14 are not in school.

“Nigeria is facing a demographic tidal wave,” said Matthew Page, an associate fellow with the Africa Programme at Britain’s Royal Institute of International Affairs.

“The long-term viability of the Nigerian economy – and the state itself – hinges on the government, religious, and traditional institutions developing a plan to address this challenge before it becomes impossible to remedy,” he said.

Prior to Thursday’s police raid, those who made it out of the Kaduna institution were sometimes returned by families. Some parents said they needed to discipline wayward children and others said they were too poor to look after all their kids.

Kaduna state government said there were at least 77 boys under 18 years old held there. The youngest was five.

Reuters spoke with seven victims and five parents of those who had been inside, withholding their full names to protect their privacy.

SHACKLED

All the victims said beatings were regular and said children and men were frequently shackled. Days were dark, long and hungry: food was only served at 10 a.m. and 11 p.m.

Suleiman’s elder brother sent him to the institution five months ago for skipping school. He was signed up to board while he studied Arabic and Islam’s holy book, the Quran.

“They beat us everywhere in the house, even in the mosque. If you asked to speak with your family, they would shackle you,” said the 15-year-old, who showed sores, scabs and scars on back.

When Suleiman and three friends were caught trying to steal some garri – a staple food made from cassava shavings – they were stripped and whipped, he said.

“When the police raided the school the whole place was in pandemonium, we were so happy,” he said. “What I want now is to return home. I’ll be a good boy.”Jibril, now 17 and who was hung up for trying to escape when he was 10, said boys faced a stark choice: submit to regular sexual assault or be beaten. Jibril chose beatings.

“The teachers and prefects raped boys. Those who were sexually molested were enticed with canned fish. Those of us who refused were caned,” he said, blaming a scar beside his left eye on a caning. “They used planks of wood to beat us.”

He now struggles to raise his arms since his punishment for trying to escape. He was sent home for six months after that incident. His family returned him when he had healed.

Jibril and Suleiman are now in a safehouse on the edge of Kaduna while the authorities try to find their relatives. Their temporary home is filled with laughter as boys and teenagers, up to 17 years old, play together. Those adults who were freed are staying in a neighboring building.

At the Kaduna institution, relatives were not allowed to see boys for three months after admission and had limited visiting rights after that, parents and children said. Punishment was swift for those who talked of any abuse, boys said.

“If anyone tried to tell their family, they would be hung up from a wall or put in chains,” said 14-year-old Umar, whose grandfather sent him to the facility two years ago for skipping school.

SEXUAL ABUSE

About 40 police officers finally raided the building, acting on a complaint by an uncle who was denied access to his nephews.

Police said they found several boys and men in chains. Reuters filmed victims in chains on Thursday after the raid. Some boys said they were shackled to broken power generators, which they dragged around, including to bed or the bathroom.

Police said they expected to charge seven people, who they said ran the institution, over physical and sexual abuse allegations. Those arrested could not be reached for comment.

The building lies in Rigasa, a rundown Muslim district of Kaduna, a city that, like Nigeria, is evenly split between Muslims and Christians.

Reuters journalists who visited the labyrinthine building saw wheels and generators attached to metal chains. Floors were strewn with litter and stained sponge mattresses. Flies swarmed.

Children begged in the traffic on the streets outside.

Islamic schools, known as Almajiris, are common across the mostly Muslim north of Nigeria. Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC), a local organization, estimates about 10 million children attend Islamic schools in the north.

President Muhammadu Buhari, a Muslim, has sought to encourage school attendance, with programs that include one offering free school meals that the government says reaches 9.8 million children in 32 of Nigeria’s 36 states.

But Nigeria, an oil producing state whose finances by the government’s admission have been drained by corruption, only spends 0.5% of gross domestic product on health and 1.7% on education, among the lowest worldwide, the International Monetary Fund said.

With few options, some parents defended the Kaduna institution, which charged fees of N35,000 ($114) a term.

“There is no problem in this school,” said a woman who only gave her name as Zainab, wearing a Muslim veil and speaking outside the locked gates. She said she had seven children at the institution where she cooked meals and had not seen any abuse.

Ahmed Balrabe, a tailor who lives next to the site, said two of his children attended the school and he had never encountered any abuse. “It was good for them, they became calm,” he said. “They showed them how to read the Quran. I liked it.”

*Courtesy: Reuters

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Victims of Kaduna institution tell stories of terror

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Victims of Kaduna institution tell stories of terror

When Jibril had tried to escape as a boy from an institution in Nigeria that called itself a place of Islamic teachings, he said he was hung up by his arms until bones in his shoulders broke.

Another teenager, one of about 400 men and boys freed in Thursday’s police raid, said boys were often kept in chains and those caught stealing food were whipped until they bled.

“They used car engine belts and electrical cables to flog us,” 15-year-old Suleiman told Reuters, staring at the floor. “Teachers used to sexually harass us … They tried to loosen my pants once but I fought them off and was beaten.”

Horror stories are emerging about life in a two-storey house in Nigeria’s northern city of Kaduna as the authorities try to find families of the victims who often spent years at the site.

Police arrested seven adults in the raid on the building, which had a sign in Arabic at the entrance declaring itself “House of Imam Ahmad Bin Hanbal for the Application of Islamic Teachings”.

Some parents paid fees, believing it was an Islamic school. Some described it as a good institution and dismissed talk of abuse. Others saw it as a correctional facility. Police and regional officials said it was not registered as either.

Despite mixed accounts about its role, the abuse reported by victims has thrown a spotlight on Nigeria’s struggle to provide enough school places for its rapidly expanding population, leaving a gap for unregulated institutions that poor parents sometimes turn to.

The West African nation’s population will swell from 190 million to 400 million by 2050, according to U.N. figures. Primary education is officially free but about 10.5 million Nigerian children aged five to 14 are not in school.

“Nigeria is facing a demographic tidal wave,” said Matthew Page, an associate fellow with the Africa Programme at Britain’s Royal Institute of International Affairs.

“The long-term viability of the Nigerian economy – and the state itself – hinges on the government, religious, and traditional institutions developing a plan to address this challenge before it becomes impossible to remedy,” he said.

Prior to Thursday’s police raid, those who made it out of the Kaduna institution were sometimes returned by families. Some parents said they needed to discipline wayward children and others said they were too poor to look after all their kids.

Kaduna state government said there were at least 77 boys under 18 years old held there. The youngest was five.

Reuters spoke with seven victims and five parents of those who had been inside, withholding their full names to protect their privacy.

SHACKLED

All the victims said beatings were regular and said children and men were frequently shackled. Days were dark, long and hungry: food was only served at 10 a.m. and 11 p.m.

Suleiman’s elder brother sent him to the institution five months ago for skipping school. He was signed up to board while he studied Arabic and Islam’s holy book, the Quran.

“They beat us everywhere in the house, even in the mosque. If you asked to speak with your family, they would shackle you,” said the 15-year-old, who showed sores, scabs and scars on back.

When Suleiman and three friends were caught trying to steal some garri – a staple food made from cassava shavings – they were stripped and whipped, he said.

“When the police raided the school the whole place was in pandemonium, we were so happy,” he said. “What I want now is to return home. I’ll be a good boy.”Jibril, now 17 and who was hung up for trying to escape when he was 10, said boys faced a stark choice: submit to regular sexual assault or be beaten. Jibril chose beatings.

“The teachers and prefects raped boys. Those who were sexually molested were enticed with canned fish. Those of us who refused were caned,” he said, blaming a scar beside his left eye on a caning. “They used planks of wood to beat us.”

He now struggles to raise his arms since his punishment for trying to escape. He was sent home for six months after that incident. His family returned him when he had healed.

Jibril and Suleiman are now in a safehouse on the edge of Kaduna while the authorities try to find their relatives. Their temporary home is filled with laughter as boys and teenagers, up to 17 years old, play together. Those adults who were freed are staying in a neighboring building.

At the Kaduna institution, relatives were not allowed to see boys for three months after admission and had limited visiting rights after that, parents and children said. Punishment was swift for those who talked of any abuse, boys said.

“If anyone tried to tell their family, they would be hung up from a wall or put in chains,” said 14-year-old Umar, whose grandfather sent him to the facility two years ago for skipping school.

SEXUAL ABUSE

About 40 police officers finally raided the building, acting on a complaint by an uncle who was denied access to his nephews.

Police said they found several boys and men in chains. Reuters filmed victims in chains on Thursday after the raid. Some boys said they were shackled to broken power generators, which they dragged around, including to bed or the bathroom.

Police said they expected to charge seven people, who they said ran the institution, over physical and sexual abuse allegations. Those arrested could not be reached for comment.

The building lies in Rigasa, a rundown Muslim district of Kaduna, a city that, like Nigeria, is evenly split between Muslims and Christians.

Reuters journalists who visited the labyrinthine building saw wheels and generators attached to metal chains. Floors were strewn with litter and stained sponge mattresses. Flies swarmed.

Children begged in the traffic on the streets outside.

Islamic schools, known as Almajiris, are common across the mostly Muslim north of Nigeria. Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC), a local organization, estimates about 10 million children attend Islamic schools in the north.

President Muhammadu Buhari, a Muslim, has sought to encourage school attendance, with programs that include one offering free school meals that the government says reaches 9.8 million children in 32 of Nigeria’s 36 states.

But Nigeria, an oil producing state whose finances by the government’s admission have been drained by corruption, only spends 0.5% of gross domestic product on health and 1.7% on education, among the lowest worldwide, the International Monetary Fund said.

With few options, some parents defended the Kaduna institution, which charged fees of N35,000 ($114) a term.

“There is no problem in this school,” said a woman who only gave her name as Zainab, wearing a Muslim veil and speaking outside the locked gates. She said she had seven children at the institution where she cooked meals and had not seen any abuse.

Ahmed Balrabe, a tailor who lives next to the site, said two of his children attended the school and he had never encountered any abuse. “It was good for them, they became calm,” he said. “They showed them how to read the Quran. I liked it.”

*Courtesy: Reuters

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Traders flee deadly highways

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Traders flee deadly highways
  • Now send, receive goods by courier
  • Transport firms making brisk business
  • Normalcy, order ‘ll return to the roads –Police

 

Nigerian highways are increasingly becoming a nightmare for travellers to ply on; no thanks to the rising menace of kidnappings 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 between January and July this year. 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.

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.

An Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) and other co – travelers in a Sharon vehicle going to Abuja from Port Harcourt were not that lucky. Suspected kidnappers waylaid them, short at their vehicle when the Driver sighted them. In his bid to escape from the marauders, he engaged the vehicle in a reverse.

They short at it which made it to somersault, killing all the occupants. Also, another group of travelers from Ibadan in a Toyota Camry sighted some young men ahead in a military camouflage, in black mask, stooping vehicles. One of the survivors of the incident, said that the driver who suspected that they were kidnappers engaged the car in a reverse and in the attempt to escape, they short at them and the bullet hit the driver on the shoulder and came out at the other side and hit another man on the back seat in the head.

They reported to the nearest Police Station from where the police men race to the scene. They were taken to the Federal Medical Centre in Lokoja. Unfortunate incidents like these, have 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 to the Delta if I am not travelling by air,” he said in a telephone chat with our correspondent. 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 Lagosbased 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 have to pass the night in Abuja and complete my journey by train on Saturday morning,” said the 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, when the lid on alleged kidnap kingpin, Bala Hamisu Wadume was blown open,” a retired director, Federal Radio 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 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. According to Jideofor, “You would never expect to meet such a man in the vehicle. In fact he totally blended in chatting with his co-travellers. No one, except a person who really knows him well would recognize him. “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 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 inevitable that I go,” she said. For Martins Asika, a passenger on G.U.O Motors headed for Asaba, spoke in the same vein, 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 now,” 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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Ijare, community where lightning struck 36 cows dead on ‘Sacred Hill’

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Ijare, community where lightning struck 36 cows dead on ‘Sacred Hill’

For residents of Ijare community, where thunderbolt killed 36 cows, they are still ruminating on potency of the sacred grove of Oke-Owa where the incident happened. ADEWALE MOMOH writes about the community and its scared hill

 

 

Until last week, most Nigerians have never heard much about Ijare, an agrarian community in Ifedore Local Government Area of Ondo State. The relatively obscure community emerged on the national scene following the death of 36 cows which were struck by thunderbolt in the community’s sacred grove.

 

Since the incident, which occurred on a rainy Saturday night, September 21, the sleepy community with about 20 km drive from Akure, the Ondo State capital, has been playing host to numerous individuals from various parts of the state as well as outside the ‘Sunshine state’ to witness what has been described as the ‘anger of gods’ on the dead cows. Ijare known for large cultivation and selling of kola nuts is surrounded by four different hills strategically located on the outskirts of the rustic town with various deities being worshiped by locals attached to each of the hills.

 

One of the hills, Oke-Owa (Owa mountain) where the 36 cows and calves were struck to death by thunderbolt sits majestically at the entrance point of the community when entering from Akure part of the state. According to findings, the cosmology of Oke-Owa dates back to when the community migrated from the Ilare Quarters in Ile-Ife, Osun State, some hundreds of years ago to the present day Ijare. A trip by our correspondent to the peak of the hill in the town, which took almost one hour to climb was seen littered with the bodies of the 36 cows and calves as well the newly constructed tents by the herders to provide shelter during rainfall and sunny day.

 

According to the locals who had trooped to the site of the incident, they described it as a mystery as they ponder on the potency of the mystical powers of the deity of Oke-Owa. Narrating how the herdsmen marched the herd of cattle to the hill, a resident of the community who lives some hundred metres from the hill disclosed that she saw them two days to the incident while grazing up the hill. The resident who gave her name simply as Roseline recalled that the herders were warned not to go through the route where they headed, stressing that it was forbidden for anyone but they ignored the warnings.

 

“I saw them when they were grazing up the hill. Someone here quickly call others’ attention to the route they were taking. They were told not to go up there but they didn’t listen. “It was on Sunday morning that we heard that the thunderstorm that struck on Saturday’s night when it rained had killed all the cows.

 

“The kabiyesi (traditional ruler) was immediately notified after which the chiefs went to the hill to confirm what had happened. “It was after the chiefs had gone there that everyone was allowed to go and witness the incident. That was when I joined others to climb the hill.” Another resident, Bayo Akingbade, expressed disbelief at the numbers of the cows which were lying dead on the mountain, as he stressed that the potency of Oke-Owa which his grandmother used to tell him has been confirmed. According to him, he maintained that he is aware of the prowess of the traditional lining of Ijare but stated he has never witnessed it to such extent.

 

“I know that Ijare is rich traditionally but what happened on Saturday night in this community has made me to accept all that my grandmother told me about Ijare and Oke-Owa in particular. “If you were to be in this town that night you will know that those thunderstorms and lightning were not just ordinary. In my compound, everyone was just asking the same question that what’s happening? ”One thing that I know for sure is that no armed robber can operate   successfully in Ijare without being caught. That I’m certain about. Giving more insight about the incident and Oke-Owa, High Chief Wemimo Olaniran, the Sapetu of Ijare kingdom, who described the incident as an act of God stressed that the development was not the first time such will be happening to those who desecrated the grove. “We were there and we saw about 36 cows dead apart from the one inside the bush.

 

It has happened and there is nothing we can do, we regard it as the act of God, which nobody can be queried. “There have been occasions like that but not as massive as we are having it now. Some individuals who desecrated the land in the past did witness a thunderbolt attack. When you desecrate any part of Ijare particularly the sacrifice places, the grove, the person will see the repercussion. “The place where the cows died is being called ‘Owa’ and it is normally visited once in a year by the Olujare, where he will stay for a day.

 

He will be there for seclusion to perform some traditional rites and no individuals are allowed to go to that place. “Five days before this time, we learnt that Fulani men were there and they were carrying wood to build their tent and we said that are they taking over the land from us, and we pray to God to save us, to intervene because we don’t want anything to desecrate the place it is a very special place as far as Ijare community is concerned. “No implication, it is a sign that the gods that are there don’t want whosoever to move to that place and settle down there. It is not meant for any ordinary person even Kabiesi himself goes there once in a year and there is a way he will compose himself when he is there.

 

“One unforgettable incident that happened there was that one Olujare went there and he couldn’t return, so we don’t encourage people to mount that hill and nobody can touch the dead cows, even Fulani people that we met there said it was thunderbolt attack, they even told us that if we see    anybody that has interest should go there and take away the cows and we said no, that it is a taboo for anybody to touch anything there.

 

While stating that it is forbidden for anyone to touch the dead cows, the Sapetu who is the second-in-command to Olujare disclosed that one of the deceased monarchs of the community never made it back alive when he went on the mountain in seclusion.

 

“The dead cows will be there forever. It is part of the history in our land for people to see as testimony in the future that such things happened. A whole Oba was buried there live and heaven did not fall talk less of ordinary cows.

 

“No casualty, when it happens I and some chiefs went to the police station to make an official report, police are aware of it even DPO came to the palace and we explained to him and he confirmed that it was thunderbolt attack that it wasn’t human being handwork.” Also, Mrs. Ibisanmi Oja-Anogbe who is in her 80s corroborated the claims of the Sapetu of Ijare, emphasized that Oke-Owa is one of the powerful deities in the community.

 

According to her, only the traditional ruler of the town is allowed to go into the innermost part of the grove adding that anyone who desecrates any of the hills just as she said the herdsmen had done with their cattle at the zenith of the mountain.

 

“Oke-Owa diety has been our protector from time immemorial in Ijare. If you are not an initiate, you dare not move close to the grove. If anyone dares it, that person will no doubt pay the supreme price. “In some time past, if it’s time to worship Oke-Owa, a stranger is being used as a human sacrifice. But later when civilization crept in the human sacrifice was alternated for a cow. And that is the reason that up the now, rearing of cows is forbidden in Ijare.

 

“Aside from the Olujare (Ijare Monarch), it is only virgins that can go near the grove while it is located on the uppermost part of the hill. Our oba goes there once in a year and he stays there for a whole day. The following day when it is time for him to descend from the mountain everyone in the village will gather at the foot of the   mountain to welcome him back. We dance from there to the palace. “What the Fulanis did is highly sacrilegious. There is a limit to everything in life particularly when you are in a strange territory.

 

“Since my youthful days, I have never experienced that type of thunder and lightning that struck that night. It sounded heavily four times with a kind of blazing light that accompanied it.” Meanwhile, Comrade Olayemi Egbeola, who is a traditionalist and the Deputy Governor of Odua Peoples Congress, Ondo State, stated that “Yoruba has its own culture and tradition that cannot be trampled upon anyhow without knowing what is going on in a given place.

 

Just like what happened in Ijare, it is the reality of Yoruba tradition. It shows that there are gods in that area. Why it happened that way that the lightning struck of the cows and did not affect the herders is to teach the herdsmen a lesson that you can’t just enter someone’s territory the way you feel like. “Even in actual fact, they use their cows to destroy people’s farm and as well desecrate the sacred grove. You can’t expect the gods to not protect their territory when they see such. “Yorubas will always be Yorubas. Whoever that is still in doubt that there’s nothing like tradition, the Ijare incident is an attestation. We have Ogun, Sango and other deities that are still existing.

 

Forget about civilisation, they’re people that still know the root and how to properly invoke the Yoruba deities. “Yorubas are different people entirely. Wherever you go in any of their territories as strangers, it always advisable to follow the instructions.

 

However, the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria, Ondo State branch, has described the death of the 36 cows as “an act of God”. The state chairman of the association, Bello Garba, said members of the association had visited the area to ascertain what was responsible for the death of the cows. He noted that their findings showed that the cows were not poisoned as being insinuated in some quarters. Garba said members of the association in the state would continue to live in peace with the host communities, adding that the association would continue to sensitise its members in the state on the need to avoid sacred areas to prevent recurrence.

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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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