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Women grounded by recent spate in the number of kidnappings

7 September 2023
Reading time: 3 minutes

Women firewood collectors say they are too scared to go to the bushes because they are easy pickings for insurgents who lie in wait to kidnap them.

The recent spate in the number of kidnappings of women firewood collectors has left many fearful of going to bushes close to forests where the insurgents lie in wait for them.

The women are easy pickings for the attackers who, after the kidnappings, demand huge sums of money for their return, usually threatening – and sometimes going through with it – to kill them if the ransoms are not paid promptly.

A recent example occurred on Tuesday, August 21, when 48 women were abducted by the Jamā’at Ahl as-Sunnah lid-Da’way Wa’l-Jihād (JAS), better known as Boko Haram, while collecting firewood in the bushes along the Maiduguri-Mafa road in the Jere Local Government Area of Borno State.

They were released only after their kidnappers were paid more than ₦2 million.

In most cases, selling firewood is the only way for these women to earn money so that they can feed their families. Many are now feeling hamstrung because they don’t know any other way to make a living.

Hadiza Adam, who is from the k3renowa community in the Marte Local Government Area, is a widow and has six children to feed. Her husband was killed many years ago at the beginning of the insurgency in 2009.

“Since the abduction by Boko Haram of the 48 women in bushes close to the forest, most of us are just too scared to fetch firewood there. Before the abduction, that was our only means of making enough money to feed our families. In one day, we could collect three to four bundles of firewood which we sold for up to ₦3,000. That was enough for us to provide two square meals a day for our families.

“Now we have stopped going to the forest because of the spate of kidnappings. If we go, we know that there is a good chance that we might get abducted too. Most of us are now sieving grain for people. We get paid anything from ₦100 to ₦200. I have to go out every day to try to find something for my family to eat because ₦100 to ₦200 is not enough to feed them even one meal a day.”

Ya Kaltum is a widow from the Musari community of Marte. She is in desperate need of money because she has to feed her 15 children and grandchildren.
She told RNI that she used to go every day to collect firewood.

“Now I am afraid of going to the bushes near the forest. If I am caught by Boko Haram, how will my children and grandchildren get enough to eat. And they are too poor to pay a ransom for my return if I am kidnapped.

“I had to find other work even though it pays less. Within the community, there is a grinding machine business. That is where people bring their grain to be ground. I take the leftover maize and sell it for ₦50 or ₦100.

“I also pick the remains of the grain on the floor of the grinding shop. If I get enough, I cook it for my family. If it’s not enough, I try to find some other way to make pap for the family.”

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