A 17-year-old girl has told of how a policeman raped her and put her in the family way at an Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camp in the Northeast.
She told Human Rights Watch (HRW): “One day he demanded to have sex with me. I refused but he forced me. It happened just that one time, but soon I realised I was pregnant.”
“When I informed him about my condition, he threatened to shoot and kill me if I told anyone else. So I was too afraid to report him,” the girl said.
President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday ordered a probe into the HRW report, which alleges massive sexual and rights abuses in the IDPs camps.
Inspector General of Police Ibrahim Idris and Borno State Governor Kashim Shettima are to investigate the HRW report.
Those in the camps were displaced from their homes by the Boko Haram insurgency.
On his twitter handle (@MBuhari), the President said: ”I have seen the new @hrw report, and asked the Inspector-General of Police and concerned State Governors to investigate immediately.”
His positon was reinforced in a statement by the Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, that the President is ”worried and shocked” and that the welfare of the most vulnerable of Nigerian citizens has been a priority of the government.
Nigerians and the international community, he said, can be rest assured that the allegations raised in the HRW were not being taken lightly.
The statenment added that “President Buhari has instructed the Inspector General of Police and the state governors of the affected states to immediately commence investigations into the issue.”
Their findings, Shehu said, would determine the next course of action for the government and define an appropriate response.
“While the Nigerian military continues to work hard so that these unfortunate victims of Boko Haram terrorism can soon return safely to their homes, the government will do its best to ensure their protection and welfare in the temporary IDP camps,” the statement explained.
The HRW said in a report published yesterday that it documented 43 cases of women and girls in seven IDP camps in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital and the epicentre of a seven-year battle with Boko Haram, who had been abused by camp leaders, policemen and soldiers.
In July 2016 NOI Polls, a Nigerian research organisation, reported that 66 per cent of 400 displaced people in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states, said camp officials sexually abuse the displaced women and girls.
“It is bad enough that these women and girls are not getting much-needed support for the horrific trauma they suffered at the hands of Boko Haram,” said Mausi Segun, senior researcher at the HRW.
“It is disgraceful and outrageous that people who should protect these women and girls are attacking and abusing them,” she added.
The victims, according to the report, were displaced “from Borno towns and villages, including Abadam, Bama, Baga, Damasak, Dikwa, Gamboru Ngala, Gwoza, Kukawa, and Walassa”.
In some cases, the victims had arrived in the under-served Maiduguri camps, where their movement is severely restricted after spending months in military screening camps.
“Four of the victims were drugged and raped while 37 were coerced into sex through false marriage promises and material and financial assistance,” the report said.
“Women and girls are abused by members of the security forces and vigilante groups,” the report claimed, adding that the civilian self-defence groups working with government forces in their fight against Boko Haram told the group (HRW) “they feel powerless and fear retaliation if they report the abuse.”
Four of the victims told HRW they were drugged and raped, while 37 were coerced into sex through false marriage promises and material and financial assistance.
“Many of those coerced into sex said they were abandoned if they became pregnant. They and their children have suffered discrimination, abuse, and stigmatisation from other camp residents,” the global rights body said.
HRW said irregular supplies of food, clothing, medicine and other essentials in camps were making the women vulnerable to abuse and exploitation.
“In some cases, men used their positions of authority and gifts of desperately needed food or other items to have sex with women,” it said.
Boko Haram has devastated northeast Nigeria, killing over 20,000 people and displacing 2.6 million from their homes. Since taking up arms against the Nigerian government in 2009, the group has also disrupted trade routes and farms.
Now, nearly 50,000 children face death by starvation if they don’t get food and almost 250,000 more are severely malnourished in Borno state, according to UNICEF.
The report said: “Irregular supplies of food, clothing, medicine, and other essentials, along with restricted movement in the IDP camps in Maiduguri, compounds the vulnerability of victims – many of them widowed women and unaccompanied orphaned girls – to rape and sexual exploitation by camp officials, soldiers, police, members of civilian vigilante groups, and other Maiduguri residents.
“Residents of the Arabic Teachers Village camp, Pompomari, told HRW in July that the camp had not received any food or medicines since late May, just before the start of the month-long Muslim fast of Ramadan.
Restricted movement in the camps is contrary to Principle 14.2 of the United Nations Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, which provides that internally displaced people have “the right to move freely in and out of camps and other settlements.”
In some cases, men used their positions of authority and gifts of desperately needed food or other items to have sex with women. A woman in a Dalori camp said residents get only one meal a day. She said she accepted the advances of a soldier who proposed marriage because she needed help in feeding her four children. He disappeared five months later when she told him she was pregnant.
The report also said: “Victims of rape and sexual exploitation may be less likely to seek health care, including psychological counselling, due to the shame they feel.
“Fewer than five of the 43 women and girls interviewed said they had received any formal counseling after they were raped or sexually exploited.
“A medical health worker in one of the camps, which has 10,000 residents, said that the number of people requiring treatment for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections has risen sharply, from about 200 cases when the camp clinic was established in 2014 to more than 500 in July 2016.
“The health worker said she believed that many more women could be infected but were ashamed to go to the clinic, and are likely to be suffering in silence without treatment.”