The ruins of terrorism might sound like a folktale to many who didn’t have to see the horrific sights of amputated dead bodies and screams of agony perpetuated by the Islamic terrorists, Boko Haram, in communities of northern Nigeria.
The normal livelihood of the fishing community of Baga in northern Borno State, became a nightmare as Boko Haram insurgents attacked; killing locals and security operatives in the most unimaginable ways.
Men, women and children who managed to flee, arrived camps for internally displaced persons with grisly tales of what they saw either during the attack, or while on the run.
A woman, Jummai Ibrahim, who braved all odds to stay alive, shared a chilling details of how she lost everything, including a 21-year-old son, and how Boko Haram insurgents forced her to watch him decapitated.
Her life and that of many other women of Baga who had to fled, was fairly well, with good earnings from a booming fish trade near the Lake Chad. The 58-year old was famous as a big time merchant.
Now, seated at the Maiduguri IDP camp where she has lived for months, Jummai’s appearance tells nothing of that well-to-do past.
Jummai Ibrahim’s Story
“I have been fishing all my life,” Jummai Ibrahim said. “It was fishing that took me and my husband to Baga and even into some parts of Chad in the past 40 years.”
“Without being ungrateful to God, I will say we have made great fortune from our fishing business mostly on the Lake Chad waters,” she narrated. “But unfortunately, Boko Haram came in to dislodge our peace and caused us serious loss of our properties, and money.”
Boko Haram’s Killings Began
According to Jummia, on the day Boko Haram insurgents struck in January 2015, their last consignment of about N700, 000 worth of fish for day had been loaded to a truck at about 6 am, ready for delivery to the markets.
When gunfire stopped, the town laid in ruin as residents like Jummai had fled, leaving all they toiled for. She said;
“After loading the truck, we had to leave it in the park overnight for it to be transported the next morning. But we later lost everything because everyone had to run for their lives when Boko Haram came in large numbers shooting their ways into every household and killing everyone they came across. All our food stuff stored in our silos were also left behind.
“Fleeing for safety wasn’t easy either, we suffered a great deal. Now that we have arrived the IDP camp in Maiduguri, we came to meet a life we never envisaged at all. It was a setback to many of us women who were once masters of their own in terms of financial resources; because back there in Doro-Baga, we do our business and make enough money to take good care of ourselves and our needs.
“It is ironical to see me here today begging to feed when I could make over N3 million in a single net-drag of fishes; the least we make in the sales of fishes could be around N500, 000. We do not know any other business except fishing and farming; and here we have nothing to do other than sitting down every day and waiting for handouts from government.”
Jummai, a mother of seven children, who are mostly adults, said Boko Haram gunmen did not only invade their community, but went after them as they fled into the bushes. Many, according to her were killed in the bush and many, especially young women, were abducted by the assailants.
She further said:
“I left all my belongings back in Doro-Baga when fleeing the attack by Boko Haram. I came with only the clothes I had on me.
“We ran all day together with some of my children. When we got to a village called Kalwaram, I saw many people killed, and at the outskirts of the village I saw fresh corpses of two soldiers; one of the soldiers was stripped naked, his manhood was cut off his groin and forced into his mouth. I could not stand the sight of such horror, so I had to untie my wrapper and cover his body up to, at least, protect his dignity.
“I kept on running with only my underskirt and the blouse I had on me, until I got to a village called Minnati, where a woman saw me and out of sympathy gave me a wrapper to wear over my underskirt. That was how I got to the camp in Maiduguri, all on foot.”
Jummia said they ran into the insurgents on the outskirt of town; where her son was slaughtered.
“I lost many of my relatives while fleeing from Baga. Immediately we made it to the outskirts of Baga, Boko Haram gunmen intercepted us and took away one of my daughters who was two months pregnant and her three-year-old son and 13 other ladies who were either my cousins or my husband’s younger ones that were living with us.
“One of my sons, Habibu, who was about 21 years old was killed by Boko Haram.” Jummia paused and sobbed in remembrance.
“When they saw him with me, one of the Boko Haram gunmen told me that ‘Mama, this your son is old enough to join the Civilian-JTF, so he is assumed to be a potential member of the Civilian-JTF’. For that reason they dragged him to the ground in my presence and slit his throat,”
Jummai narrated as she continued to weep:
“They wanted to force me to hold his legs while they were cutting off his neck, and I told them I could not do such thing. I attempted to close my eyes because I could not stand to see how they were killing my own son like an animal, but one of them hit me with the butt of his gun on my arm, and insisted that I must watch them as they killed my son.
“I watched him cry and calling on me to help him, when I cried out that I could not help him, then he kept on screaming that ‘mama pray for me, and forgive me if I ever offended you, pray for me’…(more sobs)…that was how my child was slaughtered and beheaded.
“I have seen pains and torture from Baga to Maiduguri.”
Life In IDP Camp, Maiduguri
Jummia said her life in the IDP camp in Maiduguri is less than nothing. Feeding herself and family has become a priority much less getting clean clothes to wear.
“The clothes shared last year by the state government since last year is what they had to live off; which already turned to rags because of everyday use. Taking a common bath became a luxury for them; no soap or the cheapest cream to oil their body or even to wash their cloths.
“I have over 20 children including some of my own that were able to make it on their own to this camp and those of neighbours that have been killed, all living with me in the same apartment here in the camp. Food that was recently distributed by the Borno state governor during this Ramadan did not get to us in our own house. We have to depend on one or two measures of rice that some good relatives brought to us.
Weeping further, Jummai Ibrahim said,
“Just imagine the irony of life me a woman of means in Baga, whom people do come to meet for help; even when the local government council was in difficulties, they do come to me for assistance which I did render without blinking an eyelid. I was a very independent woman financially. I was very famous and prominent in my community; none of our Lawans (District Head) and Bulamas (village heads) would say they don’t know me.”
Jummia Ibrahim said nothing would be more important in the camp than to have enough food to go round. She pleaded that both states and federal government to quickly come to their aid and share raw foods so that they can cook it on their own since the foods prepared by camp committee members are poorly cooked.
“What we want is for the state government to come to the camp and give us the uncooked rice and corn flour so that we can cook them on our own, just like it did during this Ramadan. Allowing us to cook our food is better than some people coming to cook in the camp kitchen and at the end no one can eat what they prepare for us.
“I have seven children, one was killed; some that were captured by Boko Haram were able to reunite with us after soldiers rescued them. But most of them, especially the males have to leave the camp to go into the world to fend for themselves. One of my daughters who has 4 children has not seen her husband for a very long time now.”
This is one out of many stories told of the horrors of Boko Haram terrorists, who have caused uncountable deaths toll and destruction yet to be remedied.