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Brave women hunters and vigilantes join men to keep Damboa safe

12 January 2023
Reading time: 4 minutes

Women hunters and vigilantes are among the security groups fighting against Jamā’at Ahl as-Sunnah lid-Da’way Wa’l-Jihād (JAS) insurgents, who have been making life a living and dying hell in Borno State for 13 years.

They are working side by side with the mostly male security operatives – made up of soldiers, police officers, hunters, vigilantes and civilian joint task forces – and making a major contribution to counterinsurgency operations.

Amina Waziri, a female hunter in the Damboa Local Government Area who is also a commander of a women’s vigilante group, shared her experiences working with the mostly male counterinsurgency operatives and spoke about the contribution she and other women were making to restore and keep peace in the community.

Apart from taking part in counterinsurgency operations which, she said, were hard and at times very scary, the women also took care of people who had escaped from the insurgents.

“I’m the commander in my group. Any time people return from the forest and bushes, they are handed over to us and we take care of them. We cook for them, give them water and bath the little children as we do our own kids.

“There have been times that we have hidden escaped captives, so that the insurgents would not be able to find them and take them back into the bushes.”

Waziri said often when people arrived after having escaped from their captives they were barely recognisable.

“But we are not afraid. They are handed over to our head commander, Ali Gwoza, and then we take over. Often their hair is long and really scruffy; they are usually very hungry and weak. We give them a place to stay and treat them with care. The head commander usually brings a doctor to examine them.

“I have been doing this work for eight years now. My father was a hunter and vigilante and I took over from him. When he died, the leaders of our teams decided to make me a commander. I am here as the lead women hunter in Damboa and that is how it has been for eight years now. I am happy with my work and I believe I am making a worthwhile contribution to the fight against the insurgents.”

Waziri said there was a time when the citizens in Damboa had shown little or no respect for her and other women vigilantes.

“Men and women often abused us, calling us names and threatening us because we were wearing uniforms. It was a struggle at first but now other women in the community have joined the vigilantes. I am the commander of at least 35 women vigilantes.

“What is happening often now is that it is not just the women who have decided to join us. More and more husbands are encouraging their wives to join the hunters, saying it is important for them to show their patriotism and to do what they can to help restore peace and keep the community safe.

“The Borno State government pays us ₦10,000 a month, although a few women receive only ₦5,000.”

Waziri said that years ago there were traditional processes and rituals that had to be conducted before women were allowed to sign up as vigilantes.

“We still drink the herbs and use other things to help protect ourselves when we go out into the field and on missions.

“Every time we get back from operations, we sit down and discuss the way forward and how we can improve the way we work to ensure our safety. We are not afraid to take on new challenges and we are proud of the work we do,” she said.

“I’m married but I still do this work. Single women are also allowed to join. And even six girls have asked to join. Their guardians will decide if they can.”

Waziri said her group was thankful for the relative peace that had been restored in Borno State. “We thank God and we hope peace and security will be fully restored as soon as possible.”


About the author

Aisha Sd Jamal