Increasingly, incidences of girl child suicide bombing are becoming much more worrisome than the actual damage they wreak on the society. The overreaching consequence of all the havoc is the increase in poverty in Nigeria. Also, there is the suspicion and distrust for the released returnee kidnapped girls to IDP camps by some family members and other women who believe that those girls were wives of the Boko Haram forces during their detention and as such would still be loyal to their Boko Haram husbands. This has caused conflict in the camps. These effects are the challenges we must work together to tackle and minimize.
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Before I begin to sermonize on how to curb the menace, let me tell you a little bit of my encounter with a returnee of these kidnapped girls in Maiduguri. It happened early last year when I travelled to Maiduguri for my cousin’s wedding. It was on a Friday afternoon, the weather was very hot. I was feeling bored, therefore, I went to a corner shop down the street under that burning sun of Maiduguri to get myself a local candy which I love very well. I saw a girl, about 13 years old, at the shop that came to buy one bar of bathing soap, N50 sugar and small-sized toothpaste. As I waited on the queue for my turn, I saw her buy all she wanted to buy and left. A guy standing behind her came closer to the shopman and I heard him ask, “Is this the girl that escaped Boko Haram?” I got interested when the shopman answered yes and went further to tell him how the incident happened. Being the person that I am, I quickly got interested and my brain was running fast searching on what to do and how to get the whole story from the source’s mouth. I was thinking very fast, I immediately got an idea of what to do. I told the shopman to give me two sets of soap, two big sized toothpaste, three boxes of cube sugar, not the type she bought. I also bought two boxes of a Lipton tea, 15 pieces of sachet milk and Milo. I paid and quickly followed the girl to her house, which I discovered was just four houses away from the corner shop.
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I entered the house and greeted the elderly woman I saw fetching water from the well. She welcomed and ushered me into the compound. At my far left, I saw two ladies washing dirty plates and two young guys washing their clothes. The girl I followed was sitting on a mat with a woman, which happened to be her mother. I heard them talking about the things she bought at the corner shop. I also greeted the girl’s mother. As she answered, the girl quickly stood up and brought a wooden chair for me to sit. As I sat down, I noticed them looking at me in a strange way. I swiftly asked of her name and she said, “My name is Yaagana”. I smiled and then kept the shopping bag on the mat in front of the mother and I said, “This is for you ma”. She opened it and started thanking me as if she was going to cry. I said to myself, ‘This was the moment I was looking for’, then I smartly started sympathizing with her over what I heard at the corner shop. There and then, the mother started telling me everything she knew about the incident. Finally, I turned towards the girl and asked her what happened. She told me that she was at the ‘Monday market’ selling cold sachet water with her junior sister, a 10-year-old, when a young man, about 27-year-old, walked to them and said: “How much is all the pure water you people are carrying?” She said she had to count each one and calculate the money and told him. She said the young man searched into his pocket, which I believe was empty, and told her to follow him for the money because what he had at the moment was not going to be enough.
She and her younger sister became excited because they didn’t have to stay long and waste their time in the market. They quickly followed him to a parked vehicle. He opened it for them to enter and promised to bring them back. She said that was all she knew and the next thing she saw herself in the forest with many other young girls. She added that they were treated nicely and well fed with good food that she doesn’t eat at home. She said some strange-looking men would come into their camp, selected some girls and took them to the inner chamber of an out-of-bounds room. They would not come out until after some hours. I asked in a diplomatic way, “did they rape you?” She kept quiet and looked down, that answered my question anyway. I quickly changed the question to how did she escape. That was when she got talking again and said: “There was this particular guy that was nice to me from the beginning. He was the one that helped planned my escape. Unfortunately, I did escape without my younger sister, because they didn’t allow us to stay together ever since they took us to the forest. So, it was kind of hard for him to include her in the escape plan.” To my surprise, Yaagana told me that the guy that helped her escape looked familiar, but she couldn’t remember where she knew him.
At this moment, it became apparent to me that Yaagana’s mother didn’t want the probing to continue as she interjected the flow of our conversation with her gory account of how she felt when the incident happened and how she is still feeling at the moment. She told me that she was happy when her daughter came back home, but at the same time sad because of the younger sister’s absence. She said she still couldn’t eat or sleep well, she was always crying. My heart became heavy, full of empathy. I brought out some amount of money and gave her and she started crying.
Now, to cut this long story short, I so much believe that Yaagana’s story and her mother’s agony are only a tip of the iceberg. Remember at midnight of 14/15 April 2014, 276 students of Government Secondary School, Chibok, Borno state were abducted by the Boko Haram. Also, 110 schoolgirls of Government Girls Science and Technical College (GGSTC) Dapchi, Yobe state, were forcefully kidnapped by the same Boko Haram again. Some of the girls were lucky to be released after some long battle and negotiation. But others who are yet to be released cannot be said to be alive or not. There are concerns that they are being used as suicide bombers by the insurgent organization. Research data shows that this might be true and factual.
UNICEF while expressing their valid concerns over the use of children suicide bombers made this statement, “It was extremely concerned about an appalling increase in the cruel and calculated use of children, especially girls, as “human bombs’ in northeast Nigeria. The use of children in this way is an atrocity.”
However, this fight is for all of us to the finish. It is deliberate that I used the word “us” in looking out and canvassing for tangible yet realistic solutions to curb this atrocious menacing act of using our girl children as suicide bombers that cut short their glorious future indiscriminately and unjustifiably. This is because I realize that it will take every collective effort from the Federal and State Government to governments of countries, to international donor agencies to individuals who understand that what affects one human affects all because we have a shared humanity. More importantly is that these girls who are sadly engaged on a suicide mission are victims of deadly and evil terrorists. They are pawns in their hands, used inordinately to accomplish vile acts. We must stop and put a definite end to it.
Even though there have been efforts to curtail the extent of the humanitarian emergency, it seems unmitigated. There must be both national and international coordinated security drive to end the insurgency in northern Nigeria. We know the root cause of humanitarian and girl child bombers is caused by Boko Haram terrorists. The global security effort must be conscious and deliberate in gathering intelligence data and not be inhibited to share with Nigerian intelligence and security apparatus. There must be a co-joint effort in sending both human and material resources to fight, depower and eradicate the terror group known as Boko Haram. Only then would the humanitarian disaster and girl child suicide bomber completely be non-reoccurring or a growing phenomenon.
These are my thoughts and ideas and I hope I have enlightened all of you here
Ms Yuguda can be reached via [email protected], [email protected], or on Twitter at: @HadeezahY.