By Vincent Ufuoma
In 2011 when she got married to her heartthrob, Aisha Usman’s expectations were to support her husband, Ibrahim Ahmed, in every way possible to raise a home filled with love and hope.
The union, which began amid the goodwill of families and friends of both couples, was soon blessed with two children: Abdumalik, 11, and his eight-year-old sister, Halima.
Aisha was just 23 when she got married to Ibrahim.
Her husband was a local herbal medicine vendor who helped villagers deal with their illnesses through herbs made from trees and leaves. Aisha said her husband, whom she described as a very compassionate man, was always concerned about the welfare of his young family.
She remembered a loving husband who provided for his family, never insulted or abused her, and was always quick to resolve any conflicts between them. She said it was customary for him to bless their children daily and made a heartfelt promise to ensure they received both religious and secular education.
However, Aisha’s life, once filled with happiness, took a tragic turn when her husband fell victim to the fiery bullets of ravaging soldiers fighting to curtail the escalating Boko Haram terror in 2015.
She said her husband, who was at Doron Baga, a fishing community in Kukawa Local Government Area of Borno state, to sell his herbal medicines when he was killed, had been mistakenly suspected of having ties to Boko Haram. She said he was accosted by the soldiers, who wanted to forcibly take him away but got shot and left to die in the pool of his blood as he attempted to flee.
“I will not forget that unfortunate day. I was even on the phone with him on Sunday, we discussed,” she recalled amid tears.
“Then, the following day, which was Monday, he went out to hawk his herbal drugs. At around 10 to 12:00, I received a call from a woman telling me that my husband was suspected to be a Boko Haram and the soldiers tried to capture him but as he was running to save himself, the soldiers gunned him down, and he died on the spot,” she recalled.
She said her husband’s colleagues in the herbal medicine business brought his body from Doron Baga to Monguno for burial.
LIFE AS A WIDOW IN DISPLACED PERSONS CAMPS
Ten days to the end of her husband’s mourning, the insurgents attacked Gwoza, where she mourned him, forcing her to flee the town to another part of the state before finding her way to the Giwa Internal Displaced Persons (IDPs) camp in Maiduguri, the state capital.
“He was killed at Monguno. I mourned him for another four months at Gwoza but when it remained 10 days for the four months to be completed, there was another commotion, and I completed the mourning while fleeing. Since then, there has been no peace,” Aisha told WikkiTimes.
She narrated that her husband’s death has left her as the sole provider for her two children, with no support from either her own or his family.
They had gone without food for nights until divine providence provided them with a meal. This has been her reality for the past nine years and six months since her husband was killed.
She and her children stayed in the Giwa IDP camp in Maiduguri before it was shut down by the state government in 2022 without any strategic plan to relocate and resettle its occupants. Some of the occupants, like Aisha, now stay in makeshift huts erected by themselves on people’s land on the outskirts of the state capital. Like Aisha, some of them live in very deplorable conditions and are vulnerable to attacks by criminals.
“My husband and I have always been on good terms. We never had a fight or abused each other. Also, I never lack food or water. He provides for his family at his very best, using the abilities God gave him.
“I am the only one catering for the family. My family is not rendering any help, neither is his family. I am even the one supporting them. I make sure by all means my children eat and go to school and whenever I don’t have anything to provide for them. We patiently slept without eating, and whenever God provides, we eat. That’s how I’ve been managing the children for the past 9 years and 6 months since my husband was killed.
“I lost my happiness and almost everything in my life and life presently is not fair. But, I still thank God for life. I am faced with many challenges but I have left everything to God. He is the one that gave me the trial. My whole family no one cared to ask about how my children are living. I’m both their father and mother,” she said.
Attempts to have Ibrahim’s father, Mallam Musa, share insights into the incident that resulted in his son’s murder proved futile, as the 75-year-old man declared that he had moved beyond that painful chapter and would no longer revisit the case.
However, Ibrahim’s friend, Hassan Mohammed, who witnessed his burial, corroborated Aisha’s story.
Hassan, who now lives in Gwoza, described his friend as a very hardworking and peaceful loving man. He said his friend was too concerned about expanding his herbal medicine business to have time to get involved in the activities of the terror group.
JIRE DOLE — A GROUP OF WIDOWS AND MOTHERS SEEKING JUSTICE FOR SLAIN RELATIVES
Aisha is a member of the Jire Dole group, primarily composed of mothers and young women in Maiduguri seeking justice for their sons and husbands who were brutally killed and detained by security forces in Borno State.
Hajja Gana, the group’s leader, assumed her role because of her son’s unjust and prolonged detention by Nigerian soldiers since 2011. She stated that the group has made numerous unsuccessful efforts to seek justice for their loved ones who were either extrajudicially killed or detained in various Army barracks across the country on suspicion of being Boko Haram members.
Gana said the group has documented more than three thousand people, including women and men, whose loved ones were killed and unjustly locked up without any formal trial till date.
The Nigerian military has constantly been fingered in several independent findings, including multiple reports by Amnesty International (AI) and National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) in Nigeria of excessive force and several human rights abuses and violations in the decade-long Boko Haram insurgency ravaging the North-East.
The military has been accused of extrajudicial killings, torture, detention without charge or trial, internment without clear rules, rape, violence against civilians, and host communities.
KILLINGS, TORTURE, DETENTION… VIOLENCE PERPETRATED BY SOLDIERS
AI, in a report on May 24, 2012, detailed how men of the Special Military Task Force (JTF) killed at least 25 civilians in a house to house raid in the Kaleri Ngomari Custain area in Maiduguri shortly after a Boko Haram bombing. Many people, including men and young boys, were reportedly missing after the incident.
“On 9 July, the JTF cordoned off the Kaleri Ngomari Custain area in Maiduguri after a Boko Haram bombing. Going from house to house, they reportedly shot dead at least 25 people,” the report said.
“Many men and boys were reported missing. The JTF also burned down several houses, forcing occupants to flee. At least 45 people were reportedly injured. Women were allegedly also raped by the security forces.”
In 2014, the human rights organization called for an independent probe after it said it had obtained video footage showing civilian detainees being slaughtered by a combined team of soldiers and members of the government-backed Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF) vigilante group in Borno state.
“We have consistently been saying the Nigerian government needs to ensure that the culture of impunity which is entrenched within the Nigerian security services is addressed immediately,” the organization had said.
“Investigation must be conducted and those found to have (committed) such atrocities must be held accountable.
“The footage, obtained from numerous sources during a recent trip to Borno state, reveals graphic evidence of multiple war crimes being carried out in Nigeria.
“It includes horrific images of detainees having their throats slit one by one and dumped in mass graves by men who appear to be members of the Nigerian military and the ‘civilian joint task force, state sponsored militias,” it added.
In November 2014, 16 men were tragically killed shortly after their arrest by the Army, as they were leaving a mosque in the Dogo Tebo area of Potiskum in Yobe state. According to witnesses and hospital staff who received the bodies at the time, the corpses of these 16 men were full of bullets.
The same year, AI said credible sources suggested that the Army killed more than 600 people, mostly unarmed civilians, after Boko Haram attacked the notorious Giwa military barracks in Maiduguri, Borno state.
The organization in a report in 2020 estimated that at least 10,000 people, including older people, have died in custody in a very inhumane and terrible condition since 2011.
In 2013, the military allegedly killed as many as 200 civilians in the town of Baga, in northeastern Borno State. The NHRC, in a preliminary report, said the case “illustrates serious concerns about the proportionality of the use of force.”
The commission also received persistent and credibly attested allegations of indiscriminate disposal of dead human remains by personnel of both the JTF and the Borno State Environmental Protection Agency (BOSEPA). The rules of engagement are at best unclear, and information on the management of troop renewal and rotation is unavailable.
Despite all these reports and allegations, no one in the military appears to have been brought to justice. Several efforts to find out the numbers of military personnel that have been prosecuted in the past 10 years for extrajudicial killings particularly in the North-East were unsuccessful. The defence spokesperson, Tukur Gusau, did not respond to a request for comment. A text message and calls were placed to Nigeria Army spokesperson, Clement Onyeama, but he did not also respond.
In his response to these multiple reports in 2017, former Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, who was the then-acting president, set up a judicial panel of inquiries to investigate humanitarian and human rights violations in the conflict, but its report was never made public.
Amnesty International has blamed this lack of accountability and transparency as reasons for the continuous impunity of the Nigerian military.
“Of course, the consistent failure of authorities to ensure accountability has made some law enforcement officers think and behave as if they have a license to commit human rights violations,” said Isa Sanusi, AI Nigerian spokesperson.
“Nigerian authorities repeatedly failed those whose rights were violated.
This is unacceptable and must end,” it said.
While calling for thorough investigations and fair trials for those suspected of extrajudicial killings, Sanusi also called for compensation and reparations to the families of victims affected by these tragic events.
“All cases of extrajudicial executions must be investigated and those suspected of criminal responsibility brought to justice through fair trial without recourse to the death penalty. Victims’ families must get adequate reparation. Authorities must make it clear to law enforcement officers that human rights violation is not tolerated,” he advised.