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Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust (HART) release a new visit report documenting the current situation for civilians in Northern Nigeria. The magnitude of the devastation and terror inflicted on civilians by the insurgent group Boko Haram is far beyond what reporting figures have indicated. Both Christian and Muslim populations have been targeted indiscriminately, with brutal tactics that have resulted in a prevailing climate of fear and mistrust. Now, as many internally displaced people (IDPs) are debating returning to their homes, urgent support is required to assist them in rebuilding their lives and to promote a peaceful future.
The Boko Haram Insurgency
- In recent months, the Nigerian Security Forces and Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF) have had some success in forcing Boko Haram out of occupied areas. This is revealing the sheer scale of the devastation left behind. As of early December 2015, the most accurate data available, a conservative estimate based on press coverage, assesses that there have been 43,101 deaths as a result of the insurgency.
- In 2015, Boko Haram has increasingly used suicide bombers – particularly young women and girls – to attack crowds of people. There are fears that these girls may be those abducted and forcibly converted.
- Amnesty International reported that between November 2014 and February 2015, more than 500 women and 1,000 children were abducted from Gwoza Local Government Area (LGA) alone. We were told, “Chibok is just the tip of the iceberg. Wherever Boko Haram is present there are abductions”. On 28th November, four women were abducted in Bauchi State. Abducted women are likely married off to Boko Haram members, entrapped in domestic slavery or used as fighters. Women who escape or are released may face stigma from their communities; there is a need for trauma healing and rehabilitative care for these women.
- Overall, due to the population demographics in the northern states, more Muslims have now been killed by Boko Haram than Christians. 13 of 64 District Heads in the Borno Emirate have been killed by Boko Haram.
- A combination of poverty, unemployment and illiteracy may contribute to making young men vulnerable to radicalisation. The insurgent group are able to offer significance in the way of money, loot, power and women to encourage membership. Alternatively, they also forcibly recruit with the threat of death.
Persecution and Inter-faith Relations
- The threat to freedom of religion and belief is a serious concern in Northern Nigeria. In addition to the direct targeting of Christian populations by Boko Haram, Christians are under-represented in politics in many northern states and have unequal access to services, including education. We also heard of multiple instances where Christians were coerced into having criminal trials heard in sharia courts instead of courts of common law. This is against the Constitution of Nigeria. However, Christians in the North often do not have access to a lawyer who would be willing to fight against the hegemony of the sharia legal system.
- In rural communities surrounding Jos, further tensions exist between predominantly Christian farming communities and the Muslim Fulani herdsmen. Increased cultivation, combined with growing herd sizes, has put added pressure on grazing land available, resulting in the closing of many legal cattle herding routes and reserves available to the Fulani. 2015 has seen a sharp increase in violence.
- It is estimated that there are 2,233,506 displaced people within Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno (Borno has the highest displacement), Gombe, Taraba, Yobe, Nasarawa, Plateau and Kaduna States – 88.6% of whom have been displaced by the Boko Haram insurgency. Furthermore, more than 177,000 Nigerians have escaped the conflict to neighbouring countries.
- 875,000 people in Yobe and Borno states are facing emergency levels of food insecurity or worse. Stunting levels stand at 40 percent in North-Eastern Nigeria.
- This month and next, the Nigerian Government has said that they will begin closing camps in Adamawa and Borno States. This, combined with the information that Boko Haram has retreated from many areas it previously held, is promoting the return of many IDPs. Those returning will require urgent support as shelter, food stocks, schools and places of worship have been destroyed in many north-eastern areas. Food security is certain to be a significant problem in 2016 as the planting season this year was largely missed.
Priorities for Future Peace
- Education: Boko Haram has systematically attacked education provision in North-East Nigeria. The country has exceedingly low enrolment levels in primary, secondary and further education, particularly for girls. In 2015, UNESCO reported that only 56.6 percent of adults in Nigeria are literate. Many schools in the north-east have been closed for two to three years.
- Inter-faith Reconciliation: Small, community-led inter-faith reconciliation projects require urgent support in order to continue their excellent work in repairing the deep divisions and mistrust that exist between religious communities. One such project is the Mai Adiko Peace Project where Christian and Muslim women are empowered with practical skills. The project promotes cross-communal dialogue and learning and has significantly improved relations between these communities in Rayfield, Jos.
- Political Representation: Across all political levels, it is important that issues of representation are addressed to prevent the disenfranchisement of minority groups within the Nigerian political system.
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You can download the report below. Printed and large copies are available on request from HART.