IDP Girls as young as 13 still getting raped by security officers in camps

It's hardly news that security operatives in charge of camps have been carrying out several alleged acts of sexual abuse.

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14-year-old Falmata has been raped repeatedly by Boko Haram fighters and Nigerian soldiers play

14-year-old Falmata has been raped repeatedly by Boko Haram fighters and Nigerian soldiers

(Adam Ferguson/The New York Times)
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When Nigerian girls as young as 13 are not getting strapped with bombs by Boko Haram to carry out suicide bombings, they're getting raped by security officers in Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps.

It's hardly a new revelation that security operatives in charge of camps have been carrying out several alleged acts of sexual abuse on young girls and women they've been sworn to protect.

It's a topic that's reared its ugly head over and over again with hardly any tangible solution to end the abominable acts.

According to a recent report by the New York Times (NYT), it's a practice that continues with even more stories of woes told by helpless victims who are mostly widows and unaccompanied orphans.

A young girl at an IDP camp in Riyom Local Government Area in Plateau state play A young girl at an IDP camp (Bella Naija)

 

Widespread rape of girls in IDP camps

Before she was unfortunate enough to be taken to an IDP camp in Maiduguri, 14-year-old Falmata had been kidnapped by Boko Haram from her home when she was only a primary school pupil.

For the next three years, she was married off to a string of militants and had already lost a baby few days after birth before she even became a teenager. After a fortuitous escape, she ran into soldiers who took her to the Dalori Camp in Maiduguri.

The same day after her arrival in the camp that was supposed to be her refuge from years of awful abuse, she was raped by two soldiers only hours apart.

"They did it one after another. I'm not even sure those two knew about each other," she said.

After two gruelling months of being raped by different security officers, Falmata fled again for her dear life in search of her family in Maiduguri, lonely and penniless.

"I felt it would continue forever," she said.

Contrary to what the top brass of the army and other security agencies in charge at IDP camps would like to make you believe, Falmata's case is not an isolated one.

In a camp called Teachers Village, security operatives have fashioned out a well-known system to target girls and women to sexually abuse.

According to residents in the camp, young women were selected to cook for them; afterwards, the operatives insisted that they bathe themselves in the officers' quarters while they watched with leering eyes and sordid intentions.

18-year-old Hadiza was raped as many as 20 times by security operatives in an IDP camp play

18-year-old Hadiza was raped as many as 20 times by security operatives in an IDP camp

(Adam Ferguson/The New York Times)

 

18-year-old Hadiza revealed that she'd been raped by a soldier after she was instructed to serve water to four security officers in their room. Three of the officers had left the room just in time for the last one to drag her into a separate room and rape her.

Despite sweeping the episode under the rug and trying to keep a low profile, Hadiza claims that other soldiers marked her out and she was raped as many as 20 times in the camp.

"Once they identified you as a girl they wanted to have sex with, they would hardly leave you alone a single day," Hadiza said.

The widespread rape of young girls in Teachers Village was so well-known that people began showing up at the gates to look for missing relatives. Hadiza was found by her relatives and taken away from the camp.

Another unnamed 13-year-old girl claimed she had to flee from a camp in Maiduguri because security operatives, old enough to be her father, had raped her about 10 times.

Previous reports of rape in IDP camps

In a damning report released in July 2016, Human Rights Watch (HRW) documented many cases of women and underage girls being sexually assaulted in seven different camps in Maiduguri.

One of the victims, a 17-year-old girl, was raped by a policeman, and according to her, he threatened to kill her when she told him she was pregnant.

Another 16-year-old girl from Baga that spoke to HRW said she was drugged and raped by a vigilante group member after she rejected his sexual advances. Months later when she gave birth to his baby, he ran away from the camp.

Their stories almost match with that of several other women who were taken advantage of by authority figures and abandoned to their fates afterwards, even worse off than when they ran to the camps for sanctuary.

Most of the victims were exploited with promises of food or other basic necessities in exchange for sex.

An IDP camp in Maiduguri, Borno state play

An IDP camp in Maiduguri, Borno state

(The Sheet)

 

Boko Haram menace

Since the insurgency of the terrorist group escalated after a 2009 crackdown by the military, Boko Haram, chiefly under the leadership of Abubakar Shekau, has been responsible for the death of over 20,000 people and the displacement of more than 2.5 million scattered across IDP camps across the country and its neighbours.

According to the NYT report, the United Nations (UN) estimates that at least 7,000 women and girls have been victims of Boko Haram's sexual violence.

However, soldiers, police officers, camp officials, and members of civilian vigilante groups have been equally just as responsible for a spate of sexual violence against victims.

Reaction from authorities

Despite a half-hearted admission of the problem and several promises to thoroughly investigate the allegations of sexual abuse of female victims in IDP camps, not enough has been done to rectify the situation.

In November 2016, Borno State's Commissioner of Police, Damian Chukwu, deployed 100 female police officers to the Maiduguri camps "to dig out true happenings in the camps regarding the allegations."

In December 2016, two policemen, three soldiers, one prison official, one Air Force personnel, a staff of Borno Ministry for Agriculture and two members of the Civilian Joint Task Force (JTF) were arrested for alleged abuse of IDPs.

Despite these arrests, the number of female officers deployed to these camps seems sparse especially considering there are hundreds of thousands of IDPs in dozens of camps in Borno and neighbouring states.

Chukwu had also constituted a committee, led by Assistant Commissioner of Police in charge of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID), with Divisional Police Officers (DPO) and other senior officers, to take over the daily running of the camps.

NYT reports that according to some aid groups and the police, this has resulted in the decline of the number of complaints. However, stories of sexual abuse carried out by security operatives continue to linger.

Solving the problem

The situation in camps is worsened by the short supply of food, water and other basic amenities that people in positions of power use to exploit their victims.

Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) play

Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs)

(Today)

 

The government has to do more to protect helpless young girls and women from falling prey to the wiles of security officers who are prone to being predators of the vulnerable.

While survivors such as Falmata and Hadiza have eventually found refuge with their respective families, there are thousands more just like them who are trapped in the grim realities of being playthings to evil predators.

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