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Escalating abductions for ransom keep women holed up at home

25 September 2023
Reading time: 5 minutes

Residents grateful to government for providing more security but they say they will never be safe as long as insurgents roam Borno State forests

There were so many women abducted for ransom while collecting firewood in various areas of Borno State in August that now many won’t venture out of their villages and towns, staying holed up at home, because they are terrified they will be the next victims.

They say that even though the state government has deployed many more security personnel to protect them, they still fear being abducted by insurgents.
It is having a major impact on their lives, though, because in most cases collecting firewood is their only means of making money. Each day they stay indoors, their livelihoods are deteriorating.

The government has deployed many more security personnel, including members of the civilian joint task force, and has provided guns, ammunition and more patrol vehicles to try to safeguard the women. But the women are still anxious.

Since 48 women were abducted by insurgents on August 21 while they were collecting firewood in the forest along the Maiduguri-Mafa road, women in the area are just too scared now to set foot near the forest.

A male resident of the Dalori community in the Konduga Local Government Area, who asked to remain anonymous, told RNI that it was evident that there had been a drop in the number of abductions of women this month but that they were still afraid.

“The frequency of the kidnappings has reduced. I’m sure the actions of the government have helped. There are more security personnel and they are better equipped. But we know that there will be more abductions – of men and women – if the security measures are not kept in place. The government must not make the mistake of thinking these abominable actions by insurgents are under control. We still hear about kidnappings happening once or twice a week.

“When demanding a ransom for those kidnapped, they do not just want money. They want cellphones with airtime, food and other essentials. And, if you don’t follow their instructions, they inevitably kill the kidnapped person or use them as sex slaves and cooks in their hideouts. The young girls are sometimes forced to marry their captors and end up having children with them. The insurgents also demand that we do not to involve security personnel, telling us that if we don’t comply, ‘you will bear the consequences’.”

The resident said the most frequent kidnappings occurred in the Maiwa, Baram Karuwa, Bela Kamkam and Kan Kwana communities of the Mafa Local Government Area.

“Only last week seven farmers were abducted, five live in Muna Camp and two live in the Muna community. The insurgents demanded a ransom of ₦350,000 from their families. We heard some women were also kidnapped last week at Baram Karuwa. We do not know how many were taken.”
The resident said he also used to go out to the forest to get firewood to sell so that he could feed his family but he was “very hesitant to go out these days”.

“On Monday [September 18] we heard that two women and six men had been kidnapped by insurgents and yesterday [on Wednesday] a few of us men were on our way to the forest. But before we even reached our destination, we turned back. A group of women were running towards us and told us the insurgents were there. They told us that as soon as they saw the insurgents they quickly ran home, although they said three women had not been able to escape and had been taken by the insurgents into the forest.”

Falmata Abatcha, who lives in the Muna community, said: “The number of kidnappings has certainly reduced. In months gone by we would sometimes hear that 20 to 30 women were being abducted every day. I am calling on the government to tighten security even more. It’s still not safe for us to set foot in the forest and yet collecting firewood is our only means to put food on our tables.”

Halima Abdullah, from Muna camp, said many women still took the risk of going to the edge of the forest to collect firewood.
“If we don’t get firewood, our families will starve. We need the money to provide basic essentials. So, we take the risk. We know we could be abducted but it is not a choice – we just have to get wood. We are so vigilant, though, we are constantly on the lookout for insurgents. If we see or hear them, we run as fast as we can to get back home.

“The security personnel provided by the government are trying their best and that is evident in the reduction of the number of kidnappings. But the insurgents are relentless. If they get the chance, they will take you in seconds. We appreciate the efforts of the government providing better security. But the fact is we will only be truly free and able to do our work when all the insurgents are caught and punished. Until then, we know they are out there. They have no hearts. They will even abduct children. As long as there are insurgents around – and there are many – we will never feel secure. It’s extremely frightening,” said Halima.


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