WOMEN AND CHILDREN AT THE RECEIVING END OF VIOLENT ATTACKS IN NIGERIA

The series of bomb attacks which rocked the Northern Nigerian city of kano on 20th January, 2012 and later escalated to Bauchi state (Another state in Northern Nigeria) has been described as the deadliest and unprecedented evil ever to be perpetrated in our land. The bomb attacks unleashed by the dreaded Islamic Jihadist Boko Haram (Meaning western education is sin) sect have continued unabated to become almost a daily occurrence. As of 26th of January, it was reported that about 30 gunmen rained bombs and gunfire on a police station in Kano, killing a woman.  The death tolls from the attacks have risen to over 250.

In recent times, the spates of violent attacks motivated by religion, ethnicity or other causes have become recurrent feature of our social life. Women and children in Nigeria continue to suffer disproportionately from these orgies of violence either as victims or survivors, since over 2years when the attacks assumed a dangerous dimension.

The most pitiable aspect is the cruel manner and gruesome pattern of violence which have been unleashed particularly on women and children in the wake of these attacks. On many occasions, pregnant women, lactating mothers and children have been wickedly, brutalized, maimed and hacked down by machetes or destroyed by bomb blasts.  Though, it is apparent that the reproductive and domestic responsibilities of women and the weak nature of children make them more vulnerable to these attacks. But the conduct and frequency of the striking pattern of the attacks on women and children which occurred in the Jos, a city in Northern, part of Nigeria however suggest that women and children are deliberately targeted

One of such attacks occurred on March 7, 2010, in 3 farming villages near Jos, plateau state, where over 500 people including many women and children were slaughtered.  Barely a week after this attacks, another violent attack occurred which left about 12 people dead. Victims of the attacks included pregnant women and children who were wickedly burnt to death and some had their tongues cut out.

In a striking resemblance to the Jos attack of March 2010, again, on February 23, 2011 armed attack by Fulani and Hausa men on Bere Village, near Jos in Nigeria’s Plateau State, left two men and 16 women and children dead. In that attack, a woman, Sarah Isuwa was reported to have been killed together with three of her children. Her eldest daughter Salomi who was heavily pregnant was not spared from the machetes of the attackers. One-year-old Hope Pam was also killed with her mother as they tried to flee from the attackers. Their bodies were found a few metres from their home, with her mother bent over and cuddling Hope in an attempt to shield her from the bullets and machetes. A similar pattern of attack was recorded on 28th of December, 2011 in another village near Jos where a husband and wife with their child were found dead with bullets holes all over them.

However, other attacks have not indicated any deliberate target on women and children but many women and children have suffered severely from these attacks. On 29th December, 2011, attackers threw a bomb into an Arabic school  in Delta state, southern Nigeria wounding six children and an adult. In a communal clash which occurred on 2nd of January, 2012; between two communities; Ezillo and Ezza in Ebonyi state of Nigeria, children between the ages of three to five and women were reported to be among the victims of the attacks which claimed about 66 lives.

Families have been wiped out, many have become widowers and widows and many more have been turned barren at old age by these callous attacks. One Ms Dike a member of the St. Theresa Catholic Church, Madalla, Niger State, near Abuja where the deadliest of the Boko Haram Bomb blast occurred on 2011 Christmas day, cried out in despair thus “I have lost my husband and my children. I have lost all. My life is empty and void. I don’t know where to go now. No husband and no child; where do I start my life? Somebody should tell me I am dreaming”. http://www.thenationonlineng.net/2011/index.php/news/31355-my-agony-by-woman-who-lost-husband-five-children.html

Another woman, Mary Pam  who managed to escape the 28th of December 2011 attacks which occurred near Jos, narrated how she managed to escape, according to her “When the Fulani herdsmen came around late in the night, I managed to escape through the window before they killed my son, daughter-in-law and grand-daughter with guns,”

The grotesque pictures of the pattern of violence visited on women and children are better imaged than experienced. Many who witnessed the violence suffered by these women and children continued to be haunted by its memories?

This senseless and mindless pattern of  violent attacks especially on women and children is becoming one too many and is gravitating towards a dangerous boiling point which may erupt into serious conflicts or full scale civil war if immediate measures are not taken to nip it in the bud.

The Nigerian Government rather than help the situation decided to further overheat the system by removing the fuel subsidy on the 1st of January. This sparked off the #Occupy Nigeria movement protests which crippled the country for over one week, plunging more women who are already poor into deeper poverty. Watch the video documentary of Nigerian Women views of the removal of the fuel subsidy, #Women Occupy Niaja….http://youtu.be/bHZurWPn8rY  and  NIGERIAN WOMEN SAY ABSOLUTE NO TO FUEL SUBSIDY REMOVAL |www.worldpulse.com

The imposition of state of emergency on 15 local government areas hardest hit by Boko Haram’s violent attacks did not deter the attackers rather the situation became worse.

The Nigerian government appeared clueless and powerless as to what measures to take to curb these attacks, till date government is yet to take any concrete security measures to protect the lives and properties of the Nigerian people against these attacks.  They have rendered little or no assistance to families who have suffered these attacks as many who survived the attacks but are injured continue to suffer in ill- equipped hospitals without adequate medical care.  The hospitals in Kano were reported to be over stretched as a result of the bomb attacks of 20th of January, 2012 and in such situations there is tendency to give preference to treating injured men and boys above women and girls

The arrest of the leader of the Boko Haram sect who had claimed  responsibility for most of these violent attacks and his subsequent escape from police custody have further heightened the level of insecurity and eroded the trust the public have in government to protect and safeguard their lives and properties.

The inability to identify the people who have lost their lives, coupled with lack of accurate and credible data of deaths from these attacks have also not helped matters.   Getting the actual numbers of women, men, boys and girls who have been devastated by these attacks continue to be a big challenge.  Many a times, government have deliberately downplayed and reduced the actual number of casualties resulting from these attacks,  as a result the number of casualties are been regarded as mere data instead of  human beings whose lives government have responsibility to account for. Inability to identify victims of these attacks has left many families in despair. Many are not certain whether their loved ones are either dead or missing. This steady and gradual descent into violence and chaos is a worrisome development which many believed may lead to the disintegration of Nigeria.

Nigerian women have on many occasions carried out protests, fasted and prayed and written several petitions to the government all to no avail.  It is high time government took this issue very seriously by conducting thorough investigations into the attacks and maximum penalty imposed on the perpetrators to deter future occurrence.  It is also of utmost importance for government and the broader civil society to conduct an investigation into the striking pattern of attacks on women and children to uncover the actual motive behind such patterns for appropriate interventions. Effective procedures must be put in place to facilitate timely identification of victims in other to give accurate accounts and sex – disaggregated data of death tolls.

It is instructive also that adequate security measures which take cognizance of the peculiarities of women and children should be prioritize in finding sustainable solutions that will guarantee the lives and properties of the Nigerian people. Taking these steps with other security measures will help reduce fatalities and manage impacts of such violent attacks on women and children in Nigeria.

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