By Abubakar Abdullahi Suleiman
It is a fact that the damage perpetuated by Boko Haram on humans – their education, their health, their infrastructure and their society in general in North East Nigeria is colossal. It is safe to say that in the entire history of the North East, the soil there has never experienced such degree of damage and destruction. According to a report released in 2017 by the United Nations (UN), “Boko Haram militant group has caused damage worth $9 billion in Nigeria’s northeast since its inception in 2009, destroying homes, schools, bridges and roads in the six states of the zone covering Borno, Yobe, Adamawa, Bauchi, Taraba, and Gombe”. More of these damages were recorded in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa
However, Borno State alone suffered losses worth $6.2 billion as disclosed by Matthew Rycroft, the president of the UN Security Council during their March 2017 visit to the main city of Maiduguri. The global body is stepping up support to the region as many who fled Boko Haram violence are now facing a humanitarian crisis even as attacks on their communities abate, he said.
As it stands now, there is no up-to-date official statistics or figures on the extent of damages to human lives by Boko Haram either by abduction, murder and other forms of abuse. However, one can say that thousands have been abused or wasted either through abduction or murder by the Insurgents in the North East. The lucky ones among the victims are those that are still alive by their efforts or by the efforts of the Nigerian security forces engaging the dreaded Boko Haram in the North East. As far as many victims are concerned, being rescued from the insurgents is not the only solution to the problem but more importantly is the need to be rescued from societal pressure, stigmatization and discrimination.
To become rejected or dejected by the society just for being a victim of Boko Haram abduction forces many to be psychological and mentally disturbed with suicidal thoughts, leave in fear and many more negative thoughts. There is no doubt that many Boko Haram victims especially the abducted ones, rape survivors and the enslaved are suffering and even dying in silence. Try spending quality time in an Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camps in Borno state and other locations in the North East and you will begin to understand the trauma, depression and the pain that these survivors are going through. Such statements as “If this is how the society will treat me, I prefer staying with Boko Haram or at worst becoming a suicide bomber”. Such statements are frequently heard before and at times even after the victims are counselled or rendered any trauma management service. One of the victims revealed to me in a private discussion that what is happening to some of them at the rehabilitation centre or camp is inhuman. She alleged fears that what awaits them in the bigger society is worst. Because she was abducted by Boko Haram against her wish and should not warrant the rains of accusations maltreatment by fellow women. You can imagine the quantum pain such a person is going through to the extent of considering suicide as an option.
This problem of stigmatization is in gigantic proportion in the North East. Many victims especially women and girls are not welcomed back by their communities and society at large as they and even their infants are regarded as potential members of Boko Haram. To achieve success in countering violent extremism in the region, all hands must be on deck to fight the menace and scourge of stigmatization. There is urgent need for government institutions, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), traditional and religious leaders and even individuals to be engaged and involved in providing necessary intervention in this area in other to achieve a lasting peace in the region.
Abubakar Abdullahi Sulaiman is of NAERL Samaru, Zaria and can be reached on 08054321266.