Gender and Development

Managing the Effects of Boko Haram’s Insurgency on Nigerian Women and Children

Boko Haram’s insurgency is a blight to development in Nigeria causing the deaths of tens of thousands and displacing about 2 million citizens. Afeez Odunoye examines the critical effects of the crisis on women and children.

BY: AFEEZ ODUNOYE

To say that the Boko Haram insurgency is a headache for Nigeria may be an understatement. It is actually the upmost challenge for the nation’s security; the closest challenge to it is herdsmen killings of defenceless citizens. In the wake of the uprising, Nigeria has lost many productive hands.

In 2010, Boko Haram metamorphosed into an assemblage of killers and suicide bombers. Prior to 2010, the group didn’t engage in violent attacks, rather it staged protests on their loathing of Western education. Eight years down the line, no fewer than 2 million persons have been displaced from their homes. Degradation of habitats, collapsed structures, and disrupted means of livelihood are traits of attacks and bombings orchestrated by the deadly group. It is among the five deadliest terrorist groups compiled by Australian news medium, SBS in 2017.

Timelines of the incessant, unjust killings are scary and disheartening. It will be unfair to the people of the region not to talk about the effects of the crisis as it relates to the economy and society.

The group’s affiliation to the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) has made it even more difficult to neutralise and collapse the structures that enable its operations. Tens of thousands have been killed. No single group, local or international, has the exact figures of casualties to the 8-year-old crisis.

Due to the troubles, citizens comprising able-bodied men and women as well as children have fled into neighbouring Chad, Niger, and Cameroon. However, the nation can’t afford to lose its population to migration on security grounds. With cases of human rights abuses linked to troops combating insurgency, perhaps the actions of those relocating outside the country’s shores are justified.

Beyond the killings, Boko Haram derives pleasure from abducting children, specifically girls. The abduction of 276 schoolgirls at a secondary school in Chibok community, Borno, some four years ago is still fresh at heart. Although about 100 girls have been released, others remain in captivity. To this effect, concerned groups including Red Card Movement and Bring Back Our Girls Group (BBOG) have been holding rallies regularly in the nation’s capital, Abuja, for the girls’ release. Notwithstanding, boys, men, and women are in the captives of the deadly terrorist group. On May 14th 2018, a certain old man was rescued by troops.

In February, 2018, the group descended on Dapchi, Yobe kidnapping about 100 schoolgirls in the process. Five days later, 105 girls were returned to the joy of the community’s residents. The group categorically warned the girls not to go back to school. About five of them died in captivity. To date, no one is aware of the safety of Leah Sharibu, the only Dapchi girl left in confinement. Brave Leah refused to denounce her faith, hence her denial of freedom and efforts to secure her release have been made more cumbersome. The Federal Government’s negotiators haven’t been able to make progress to secure the girl’s release to date.

The girl-child is no doubt a major victim of the crisis. Many of them have been used as suicide bombers to cause deaths to citizens in Maiduguri, Borno’s capital, and some parts of Adamawa and Yobe states. Scores of bombings executed by young girls are sore spots in the hearts of citizens residing in Maiduguri, the stronghold of the group since its inception. The troubles of using the girls to wreak havoc is a result of brainwashing.

While the problem is quite disturbing, the efforts of the Joint Task Force (JTF) and civilian JTF are commendable despite the corruption that has frustrated their efforts. In 2015, funds set aside to purchase arms and ammunitions for the troops were misappropriated by ex-National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki. That singular inhumane act caused avoidable deaths to many soldiers.

Aside from the corruption, the gallantry of late Col. Abu Ali, who led troops to recover territories from the grips of Boko Haram is laudable. The unknown soldiers who place their lives on the line daily for the nation have indeed helped to reduce the threats of the group as the country makes further attempts to degrade them completely.

The crunches of the crisis on women and children are evident in the lives they are leading and living. They are with no means of livelihood. That alone is depressing. They are made to depend solely on aid. For Internally Displaced Persons (IDP), placing the thoughts of not being able to fend for upkeep and take care of offspring puts pain to the heart. Some of the children living in IDP camps in the dozens of camps in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa are in need of parental care. Some of them have lost their parents to the crisis. Hence, the children are made to lead irresponsible lives.

In some of the IDP camps, hopes of securing formal education are bleak. Children at Durumi IDP camp, Abuja, don’t have access to formal education offered in regular schools. Where education is available, the makeshift structures of such provision of formal education don’t match up with what is obtainable in the walls of a regular school. One must commend the efforts of volunteers in these camps seeking to educate children. These children deserve the basic necessities of life too.

If you pick a sample from the population of women and children at the camps, you will find that most of them want to return home with what they have been through at the back of their minds. What do you make of a life plagued by infectious diseases and the mental pangs of residing in a place you can’t call home?

United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) puts the figures of people living in the camps at 80 percent in Borno and 20 percent in other locations. UNICEF is doing well in providing primary health care services to women at two clinics in Muna Garage camp, Borno and 50 other camps in some parts of Borno, Adamawa, and Yobe. Due to security challenges, women are forced to give birth at home most times. 43 newborn deaths from a total of 1,000 live births is worrisome. Perhaps, peaceful co-existence would have reduced the concern to the barest minimum.

Although, the Federal Government incurs much costs catering for people at IDP camps, care must be taken not to yield to calls to shut IDP camps scattered across the country. Implications of the step must be properly considered, particularly with security concerns. The Federal Government must ensure that State governments do not take this step, but there is a deceiving conviction that safety can be guaranteed.

Individuals that have been connected to manipulating monies meant for IDPs must be brought to justice. Until now, the Federal Government is yet to convict former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal, for diverting monies meant for IDPs. Such acts are worse than killing people with weapons.

As the Federal Government makes concerted efforts to find lasting solutions to the crisis, more should be done to alleviate the sufferings of people at the camps. Japan, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), and implementing partners are doing a great job in the region. The activities, support, and funding are quite commendable.

Beyond boosting water, nutrition and medical supplies for IDPs, concerted resources should be devoted to integrate the affected. Children should be shown that they are loved and cherished. Women should be empowered with means of livelihood and motivated with soothing words to break the thoughts of what they have lost to the crisis.

Ultimately, ending insurgency once and for all in the region is the best bet to making life worth living for children and women living in camps within and outside the crisis-stricken states. To achieve this, Nigeria needs more help from the international community. Help ranging from intelligence support to weapons and financial aids to drug supplies is pivotal to crushing Boko Haram.

Women are key drivers of the society. To shut them out and leave them to suffer is to invite confusion and disorder to the society.  Women are builders, children are leaders. They are both influential to any society or nation. The best time to mitigate the effects of the crisis on women and children in North-east Nigeria is now.


Afeez Odunoye studied Mass Communication at Moshood Abiola Polytechnic, Abeokuta, Nigeria. Afeez promotes good governance and development with thoughtful pieces on Nigeria and larger societies. This piece is published as part of the #BeFREECampaign, a student-led initiative at Princeton University that is raising awareness about Nigeria’s humanitarian crisis and funds to support women, children and families affected by the conflict in Northeast Nigeria. 

Please note that opinions expressed in this article are solely those of our contributors, not of Political Insights, which takes no institutional positions.

Photo Credit: The Guardian

The #BeFREECampaign at Princeton University is raising funds to support women, children and families affected by the conflict in Northeast Nigeria. All donations will support the Foundation for Refugee Economic Empowerment in providing humanitarian relief to people affected by conflict in Northeast Nigeria. Click here to make a donation today.

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