The Nigerian Army’s fight against insurgency has continued unabated with female members of the Civilian Joint Task Force lending immense support to the war, writes KAYODE IDOWU
Peace is gradually returning to the troubled North-East sub-region of the country which has been held by its jugular for over six years by the deadly terrorist group, Boko Haram.
In Borno State, the sect largely operated by destroying farmlands, bombing houses, killing many and rendering hundreds of thousands of people homeless.
As the military continue to wage war against the sect, some patriotic youths and adults in the state refused to sit on the fence. The youth belonging to a vigilance group known as Civilian Joint Task Force, have continued to join forces with the military to dislodge the insurgents. The youths are witnesses to how the sect crippled their people’s businesses, ravaged their communities and killed their loved ones. The exploits of members of the CJTF in Borno State and neighbouring states to smoke out insurgents have been lauded by many Nigerians but many are not aware the female members of the group have also played immense roles.
The women told SUNDAY PUNCH that they took the decision to sacrifice their lives for the return of peace in the North while either mourning their neighbours, husbands or children felled by the bullets of the sect.
These women are the amazons of the Boko Haram war in the North-East. Their weapons and strength are in the clandestine way they operate.
Though usually dressed in mufti, they have undergone trainings in self-defence tactics and decoy. They can sneak in and out of dangerous spots with ease and have robust intelligence on how to identify threats especially suicide bombers. These women have many times sniffed out suicide bombers before they could do damage.
At the peak of insurgency in the North, the women frisked people in public places using metal detectors with a view to detecting suicide bombers with explosive devices.
With the military winning the war against insurgency, these female fighters, though now reduced on the streets of Borno, continue to gather intelligence to frustrate plans of the insurgents.
Speaking about the activities of the women, Head of the sector commanders of the CJTF in Borno State, Baba Shehu AbdulGaniu, described their contributions as invaluable to the operations of the military against insurgency.
He said, “They are very important to our operations in the state. They are mostly used for intelligence gathering. They give information which we report to the military and security agencies and this has been useful in arresting many of the insurgents. Without adequate information, we could not have achieved the level of success we recorded in the fight against terrorism.’’
AbdulGaniu said despite threats from Boko Haram, they continue to show bravery.
“They also check women entering markets. Though we have not lost any of them to the operations against Boko Haram, they equally face dangers from the insurgents. The insurgents traced one of them to her house in Gamboru-Ngala area in Borno State. She was lucky not to be at home but her teenage son was seized. Till date, he is still in their custody, ’’ he added.
On Wednesday, the palpable peace in the state experienced a mild fracture when five persons were killed in an explosion which rocked a bus garage in Maiduguri.
The Police Public Relations Officer of the state command, Victor Izukwu, said in a text message to our correspondent that two vehicles were involved in the blast. He added that four, female occupants of the first vehicle including the driver were killed.
“The five occupants in the second vehicle which was close to the first bus had five occupants. They were injured but none died,’’ he said.
He noted that the occupants of the second vehicle were lucky to escape death because they ran out of the vehicle as soon as the explosion occurred.
He added, “The explosion occurred when the taxi was attempting to join the convoy of other vehicles heading to Gamboru town.”
But the spokesman for the National Emergency Management Authority, Sani Datti, said eight persons were killed and 15 injured.
Speaking with our correspondent, the female CJTF members said the latest attack would not deter them.
I decided to fight Boko Haram after they killed my brother — Danladi
Tell us about yourself.
I am Hauwa Danladi; 35 years old and a divorcee with two boys.
For how long have you been a member of the CJTF?
I joined the CJTF in Maiduguri, Borno State, during the peak of terrorism in the state. My major tasks are to gather intelligence and report to security agencies. I have received trainings on how to escape dangers.
Why did you join the JTF?
I joined to contribute towards the restoration of peace in the North and to assist in salvaging lives and property. When the insurgents were carrying out isolated attacks on Maiduguri, I was among the CJTF as a pioneer member.
But what really led me to join the civilian JTF was the death of my elder brother, Zannah Santalma. He was killed by Boko Haram. He was one of the title holders at the Shehu’s palace. He was a Bureau de Change operator. They killed his friend in a bank. My brother was killed at home after attending his friend’s funeral. Till date, we cannot say why he was killed. I have a 15-year-old son, Mohammed Bukar, who is also a member of the CJTF.
What experience can you recall in the course of discharging your duties?
There was a time at Garba Satomi street in Maiduguri. We discovered a woman who hid a pistol under wig. What surprises me is that some of the insurgents are people I know as babies. I even strapped some of them at my back. It is really sad that those babies are now bearing arms against their country.
What does your family think about your joining the CJTF?
My family has been supportive of my joining the CJTF. They are proud of my humble contributions to peace in Maiduguri.
Do you get paid for your efforts?
I receive a token of N15, 000 from the state government every month as I am in the Borno State Youth Empowerment Scheme. Though the money is paltry but I see my contributions as a sacrifice for the return of peace to Borno.
Was there a time you were scared for your life?
Since I have decided to sacrifice my life for this cause, I do not see any danger. I have sworn to tread this path.
I once coordinated arrest of an insurgent — Mohammed
Whatcan you say about yourself?
I am Kaka Mohammed. I am 30 years and divorced with a son.
What led you to join the CJTF?
I am one of the pioneer members of the CJTF. When Boko Haram members were killing residents, we were all afraid to reveal their identities to the soldiers. But later, I and some of my friends summoned courage and started exposing them. At the time, security forces were threatening to kill us if we did not expose the insurgents.
When we discovered that exposing them was yielding results, we courageously joined the formation. Though no member of my family was lost to insurgency, the killing of two of my neighbours, one Garba and a policeman, Amadu, by the insurgents really touched me. I desire to contribute hugely to the betterment of society.
What major experience can you recount?
It was when we exposed one Umar believed to a commander of the sect. He hid in the residence of his mother in our neighbourhood. He was arrested and taken away by the military. This made me to continue working to ensure peace for the overall interest of all. My mother encourages me a lot.
Also, I singlehandedly coordinated the arrest of a wanted Boko Haram member. It all started when soldiers gave me the number plate of a tricycle belonging to a suspected insurgent. When I saw the tricycle, I pretended as if I was on the way to a place and quickly alerted the soldiers that we were coming towards them. The soldiers arrested him on the way.
Are you well treated by the state government?
We are currently being paid N15, 000 monthly. But I am appealing to the state and federal governments to find alternative sources of livelihood for us once the insurgency ends.
‘I don’t see my work as dangerous’
Canyou give us a brief profile of yourself?
I am Altine Mohammed. I am a 28-year-old widow with a son and four daughters.
When did you join the CJTF?
I joined the formation in the early days of its formation. I joined when a sister, Hajju Mohammed, and her husband; a police personnel, Ahmed, were killed by Boko Haram in Gamboru Customs area of Maiduguri. Her husband was killed while on a routine patrol.
Also, a friend and three of my neighbours were killed by the insurgents. All these irked me and eventually made me resolve to work against the insurgents by exposing them. I did not face any resistance from my relations when I decided to join.
Are you also being paid by the state government?
I am not receiving any salary working for the CJTF.
What are your major contributions to the formation?
I have participated in the arrest of many Boko Haram members who wanted to sneak into Gamboru market to wreak havoc. I was able to recognise them because they used to be my neighbours.
Are you sometimes afraid for your life?
I do not see my work as dangerous. I also do not entertain any fear since I have volunteered to sacrifice my life for the sake of security. My younger brothers, Mustapha who is 18 and Abba, 15, are also members of the formation.
Do you see a speedy end to the insurgency?
I am optimistic that the insurgency is coming to an end soon considering the effort of the President and the Borno State governor. After the end of it all, I will be glad if government can give us jobs.
My husband encouraged me to join CJTF — Tijjani
Who is Zainab Tijjani?
I am a 35-year-old married woman and mother of two girls and three boys.
What made you join the CJTF?
I joined the formation when my elder brother, Ibrahim Tijjani, was killed by Boko Haram at Dala area in Maiduguri. The loss made me vow to expose them so that peace can be restored.
My relations did not prevent me joining the group, in fact, my husband encouraged me.
I have been providing information and intelligence reports to security forces about the hideouts and movements of insurgents even before the formation was established.
What can you say about the Chibok girls?
I cannot say anything about their whereabouts. But I know that the Army is doing its best to restore lasting peace to the troubled region.