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The Agony of Ikarama Community




FROM TAYESE Mike, Yenagoa

Ikarama is a Community under Okordia Clan in Yenagoa Local Government Area of Bayelsa State which is also blessed with crude oil in large quantity that have brought untold hardship and penury to them. The oil that suppose to be a blessing is more or less a curse as a community with less than hundred thousand people cannot feel the impact of their God given resources.

What a sad and pathetic situation and the agony Ikarama people are facing might not be too different from other oil and gas producing communities across the Niger Delta. Why Ikarama case is so peculiar is because the community has witnessed the highest frequency of oil spill since 1991 and till date  not much has been done to clean up the environment and proper remediation carried out within and around  the community and its environment.

The peaceful Ikarama Community that have been enjoying agrarian life in time past started their problem when oil was discovered in 1964 and from that time till date every valuable things to the Community have virtually been eroded due to the activities of the multinationals.

Shell Petroleum Development Company started operation of oil exploration in Ikarama community and also Exxon Mobil since that same 1964 but nothing to show forth as an oil producing community.

The constant oil spills in the community has caused so much environmental pollution as the people can no longer farm while fishing activities has completely come to a halt since fish cannot survive in an Hydrocarbon polluted areas, most of the economy trees have gone into extinction while so much sickness and diseases have ravaged the community. Diseases like cancer, skin disease, infertility especially in men, blood disorder, asthma, still birth and other horrible disease due to the activities of the Oil Companies.

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The Community cannot boast of a good health center, clean water and other social amenities that make life more meaningful despite the fact that every part of the community is blessed with crude oil. The recent incident that took Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF) to the Ikarama Community was the case of a young man who was trying to make a living for himself and his family hired an excavator last year to excavate the ground for fish pond but surprisingly oil was oozing out of the ground and the same experience this year after spending so much resources only to end in futility.

Visiting the community is the Director of HOMEF and his team in company of Morris Alagoa an environmental Activist to see the extent of oil pollution in the community. Dr. Nnimmo Bassey described Ikarama Community as the capital of oil spill incident in the whole of Niger Delta because Ikarama community has the highest frequency of oil spill. It’s really shocking to see the level of pollution in this community. Meanwhile we heard that shell has come severally to take samples of the soil at various depths but till date, nothing has been heard about the result been released.

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Nnimmo said what really brought HOMEF to the community was to see for themselves the sad situations of a community youth who have invested so much by trying to excavate the ground for fish pond last year and this year and surprising oil was coming out of the ground. He said, they want to make sure the result of various samples shell have collected so far is been released for proper action.

Not just NOSDRA only should involved in it but Ministry of Environment at both the state and federal level should get involved in the process of ascertaining the level of contamination, not just in one location but the entire community soil because oil pipeline transverses the length and breath of the Community and in fact other Niger Delta Community “we are very disturbed by what we are seeing that plants will remain stunted for a over a year. It says a lot about what the people have to contend with and it is a sad thing that government will just be carrying on as if nothing is happening, as if Niger Delta is just a place to be exploited, this is totally unacceptable.

He described the health challenge of the people as pathetic because anywhere there is activities of oil and gas activities, oil spill, gas flair and other unwholesome activities will follow like exposing them to hydrocarbon. They will definitely have serious health challenges like skin disease blood disorder, cancer, still birth infertility especially in men amongst the rest. So the critical thing is to clean up the environment, carry out heath audit across the Ikarama Community and the rest of the Niger Delta, take measure to remove the sickness and diseases hiding in the body of the people or already manifesting and they should make sure they stop completely the oil spill and the gas flares.

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Shell and other oil companies must need to carry out thorough remediation in the community. The HOMEF Director said what is going on in Ikarama and the Niger Delta can be called environmental racism and they won’t do this in their country. So we are calling for enough clean up.

As the oil companies are planning to sell of their Assets and move to deep waters, obviously they are running away from responsibility and accountability and before they move to the deep waters operation they should consult with the communities that they are leaving and must be ready to clean up the environment they have polluted over the years and carry out proper remediation and make sure adequate compensation are paid.

Seeing the pathetic situation of the people and the community environment is Mr Alagoa Morris, an environmentalist, who said  monitoring the environment demanded factual and evidence-based data collection, recording and reporting. Alagoa who had written over seventy (70) reports on Ikarama oil spills called on Shell and other oil companies to be proactive when such happens for the safety of the rural dwellers, and the aquatic lives that the people depend on. 

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2023: Nigerian Military and Protection of Democracy




As military coups have all of a sudden become fashionable in the West African sub-region and the Nigerian Army continuously dealing with rumbles from its officers, Sumaila Ogbaje in this piece harps on the need for the Nigerian military to dedicate itself to its constitutional responsibility especially as its hands are full from all manners of security challenges posed by Boko Haram and ISWAP terrorists, bandits and separatists groups.

It’s no longer news that Nigeria experienced long history of military rule, during which members of Nigerian Armed Forces twice truncated democratically elected governments. The first was in 1966, and the second in 1983.  The military presided over the affairs of Nigeria for a cumulative period of 29 years.
Experts have viewed military government as an antithesis to democratic governance, as the country’s constitution is often suspended to give way for decrees as seen in Nigeria when the military took over.

These periods were viewed as the era of military intervention in Nigerian politics, where the centre was governed by military Head of State and the states by Military Administrators.
Nigeria will be heading for election in February 2023, which will make it 24 years of unhindered democratic governance since the end of the military regime in 1999.

This is a huge step towards consolidating democracy in the country, in spite of the challenges being encountered within the period arising from bad governance by elected officials, poverty, insecurity, among others.
Recent military coups in some African countries had sparked fears in Nigeria owing to numerous challenges bedeviling the nation.
They include over a decade of insecurity, ranging from terrorism and insurgency in the North-East, banditry in the North- West and North-Central as well as secessionist agitation in the South-East and South-West.
In spite of these obvious threats, the Armed Forces of Nigeria has continued to demonstrate unalloyed loyalty to the nation, providing support to civil authorities in the protection and defence of Nigeria.

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The military has also come out at different times to reaffirm its commitment to protecting democracy and civil rule in the country, warning that it will deal decisively with any personnel found engaging in any act of disobedience to democratic order.
In the words of a former Commander of United States Central Command, Gen. Joseph Votel, an apolitical military was essential to maintaining balance among all institutions in a country, as the military often confront threats of active pandemic, civil unrest and economic crisis.

Votel said that resolving these crises would require coordinated efforts involving the federal government and state governments, the military, press, business communities and academia.
According to him, although, the military is an entity within the executive branch, its place within the constitutional order requires special consideration and respect to secure the intentions of the nation’s forefathers.

The four-star general posited that the U.S. military had at one time or the other came under intense scrutiny, but had managed to maintain the esteem of the people it served.
“For our democratic system to work, civilian leadership must have trust and confidence in the military and its leaders, without concerns of partisanship. Like those civilian leaders, every person who joins a military branch, both enlisted members and officers, takes an oath “to support and defend the constitution.”

According to him, that shared loyalty to the constitution should give elected leaders the confidence that the military and its leaders are serving the common good.
“It therefore behooves that elected leaders would always want prudent military advice that is free of political bias,’’ he said.
Before and after the 2015 general elections in Nigeria, there were accusations and counter accusations about involvement of some senior officers of the Nigerian Army in the various elections, which the military hierarchy took decisive measures to address.
Before the 2019 elections, the then Chief of Army Staff, retired Lt.-Gen. Tukur Buratai, set up of a “Special Standing Court Martial’’ to try any partisan personnel during the general elections.

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Buratai had warned that any Nigerian Army personnel found hobnobbing with politicians or being partisan will be investigated and sent to the Special Standing Court Martial.
He added that any officer or soldier who wishes to be sympathetic to political, religious or ethnic cause should voluntarily retire from the Nigerian Army.
So, as the 2023 general elections draw near, the current military hierarchy has also drummed its determination to ensure smooth and safe conduct of all elections come 2023 across the country.

During the just concluded Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Second Quarter Conference in Abuja, the Army Chief, Lt.-Gen. Faruk Yahaya, ordered for a review of Nigerian Army Rules of Engagement and Code of Conduct ahead of the general elections.
Yahaya directed all personnel of the Nigerian Army to remain apolitical while providing enabling and secured environment for electoral processes to thrive, assuring that the army would continue to enhance civil-military relations and provide necessary support in aid of civil authority.

He said that the Nigerian Army must continue to discharge its constitutional roles in support of the civil authority without compromise.
“Accordingly, commanders are reminded that as the 2023 General Elections approaches, troops under their command must remain apolitical and operate professionally.
“They must continuously review their contingency plans for the provision of security support through an effective mechanism of cooperation with other security stakeholders.
“As earlier highlighted during my opening remarks, the reviewed Rules of Engagement and Code of Conduct for Operation Safe Conduct guiding troops during the upcoming 2023 General Elections will be distributed in earnest.

“I therefore urge you to thoroughly sensitise troops on their contents and implore them to operate in accordance with extant provisions throughout the period,’’ he said.
Also, the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Gen. Lucky Irabor, reiterated the commitment of the armed forces to supporting and protecting democratic governance and institutions to effectively discharge their constitutional responsibilities.
Irabor, while addressing newsmen recently, warned politicians and their supporters who are planning to cause trouble during the 2023 general elections to desist, saying the military would not stand by and watch anyone cause trouble before, during and after the elections.
He said that though it was obvious that some individuals were not desirous of peaceful elections, the armed forces would give necessary support to the civil authority to ensure peaceful conduct of the elections.

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According to him, the military will ensure a peaceful period during the upcoming elections, so that everyone will have a country to be proud of.
The CDS also advised those desirous of getting political positions and appointments after elections to conduct themselves peacefully.
“Anyone who is looking forward to be elected, must do it within the ambit of the provisions of the law, because we will not in any way stand aside and see those who perpetrate violence all because they are looking for political office or appointive offices.

“Nigeria remains a nation that must live in peace, desire to live in peace, and Nigerians deserve to live in peace.
“And so, we will not allow criminals among those or if you like, thugs that might have made themselves available for anyone to use.
“We are working very closely with the police and we stand ready to give them all the support that is necessary, because going forward, Nigeria must be peaceful and that is what we are looking forward to,” he said.
Indeed, Nigerians are looking forward for peaceful elections and happily the Nigerian Army has pledged unalloyed loyalty to sustain and deepen democracy. (NANFeatures)

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Democratic Betrayals: the Challenge of Statehood




By Wealth Dickson Ominabo

Recently Nigerian leaders and other democratic actors in the country  have been in a binge of festivity;  celebrating democracy in the country . From May 29 when many governors took time out to give account of their years of stewardship to Sunday June 12 when the federal government rolled out the drums to celebrate the new  Democracy Day  in Nigeria, our nation’s public sphere has been obsessed with commentaries about the valiance of democracy and the sacrifices of the different actors in time past and present.

Without a doubt ,  democratic rule was not an easy wish. It was not a buffet served on a dinner table to  citizens and other democratic enthusiasts. Democracy was birthed from the streets of rugged struggle; a struggle  that had some casualties, heroes and villains . Democracy was a product of agitations and negotiations by different stakeholders.

Here lies the vault of great expectations; that democracy will be properly nurtured, cherished and yield good fortunes   to the citizens.

23 years ago,  democracy was a thing hoped for; a prayer point to many, who believed that democracy was the promise land- a system of many possibilities, an oasis where the basic rights of citizens  will flourish and dreams and aspirations will be realised.

23 years later, democracy is losing its meaning, its value and  essence in the lives of the citizens. Beyond the refrain of democracy being the government of the people by the people and for the people, the real meaning of democracy is lost  in the multiple  conflicts and social contradictions in the nation. Almost all the intrinsic promises of democracies have either been betrayed by different actors and the values of a democratic reign have been discarded. The promises of liberty, justice and peace have been betrayed.

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The virtues that  define a democratic state are eroding – freedom of expression is daily curtailed, freedom of thought, conscience and religion are being challenged by non-state actors, while the civic space is shrinking  on a daily basis even as the state is busy in pursuit to capture institutions to their advantage.

The ballot is losing its potency  at every electioneering cycle, votes are traded to the highest bidder, our democracy is commercialized, legitimacy is manipulated, accountability and good governance are  trivialized, social justice is ostracized.

Today, the  sovereignty of the Nigerian state is contested with non-state actors – those without the mandate to govern- now superintend over a  large expanse  of the Nigerian territories,  imprisoning citizens and executing punishment, and judgement on innocent citizens in different guise through different terror tactics and strategies.  They kidnap, kill and rape and impose levy on citizens  in different parts of the country. They move daily from state to state like roaring lions devouring the destinies of many and taking others to slavery and servitude. Government to which the people willed their sovereignty through the ballot decides to share its legitimacy with these non-state actors through indiscretion, inaction and dereliction of responsibilities.

In Nigeria, democracy has not been able to address the challenges of the  citizens. Civilian rule in all these years has failed to guarantee the two basic democratic rights – freedom from fears and wants. Nigeria is at a crossroads; it is captured by human miseries, and characterized by sallow marks such as hunger, poverty, conflicts and underdevelopment.  Nigeria is a fallow ground for extremists – who cling to different frustrations to undermine the State, thereby exposing the country to wanton fragilities. 

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One cannot but situate the crisis of Nigerian statehood to the challenge of leadership amplified by sustained culture of democratic betrayals by government. The Nigerian Guardian in a recent editorial aptly captures the crisis of the Nigerian state when it wrote that :

“ The deluge of socio-economic and political upheavals in the Nigerian polity currently portrays a very bad omen for peace, progress and continuity of the country. For an entity with so much potential, the wasting of assets, both human and material, in the past few years has been monumental even to the uncaring. In totality, the ruling political elite at all levels of government have ran the country almost aground such that hope for a redeem is dim; and, unless some drastic action is initiated, not only will it be difficult for the country to survive eventually, her downfall can be slow, steady and painful. The handwriting is on the wall, and the dastardly results are playing out. Surely, the state of the Nigerian nation calls for a change of direction to avert a looming doom.”

The Paper drawing the attention of all stakeholders to the near collapse of the Nigerian state, warned of the danger of the  sustenance  of the present governance culture of democratic betrayal, abscondment and dereliction of responsibilities by leaders .

It posited that : “Today, the country is hell-hole describable by the absence of government in the national space and negative sovereignty; it is a country living a lie. It might not be so lucky this time around. It is the time to act; and to act quickly to rescue it from the brink of disintegration.”

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As Larry Jay Diamond, aptly observed in his article “Three Paradoxes of Democracy,”  founding  and preserving  democracy  are two different things. For democracy to endure, he argues that  it  must be deemed legitimate by the people and  “..this legitimacy requires a profound moral commitment and emotional allegiance, but these develop only over time, and partly as a result of effective performance.” Democracy he asserts  will not be valued by the people “unless it deals effectively with social and economic problems and achieves a modicum of order and justice.”

Here lies the challenge of Nigeria’s democracy and the recession of the country into a failed state.  The point must be stressed that the fault does not lie in democracy as a form of government but on the actors – coy democrats who are too shy to live and act according to the dictates of democracy.

To improve Nigeria’s democracy and make it work for the common good of all citizens, leaders and all democratic actors must incentivize social and economic rights of citizens. This is the most sustainable way to reinforce  the waning legitimacy of the Nigerian State. 

Legitimacy is not an end in itself- it doesn’t start and end with electoral mandate.  Legitimacy is enhanced through shoring up of public trust; trust is reinforced  through fulfillment of democratic promises and commitment to  the social contract between the government and the citizens.

Ominabo is the Communications officer at the Goodluck Jonathan Foundation

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The Drug and Sex Lives of Boko Haram Terrorists




Women abducted during the early years of the Boko Haram insurgency in Borno, northeastern Nigeria, ended up becoming wives of the insurgents. Hauwa Shaffi Nuhu spoke to those who recently escaped about an aspect of their abduction that has been under-documented — the sex life of the insurgents.

One hot night in the deep forests of Sambisa, in northeastern Nigeria, shortly after a military airstrike targeted the Boko Haram settlement where they lived, Amina Mohammed and her husband — alongside many members of the terror group who had fled the location during the bombing — are hurdled up in hiding. 

They are under small, inconspicuous tarpaulin tents. It is very uncomfortable because they are trying not to attract attention to themselves, as an aircraft can still be heard hovering above their heads.

This means staying still is the surest means of surviving. Still, in the middle of the palpable tension and ensuing danger, she sees her husband approaching her corner of the tent with a familiar expression. She knows what is to come and braces herself for it. 

There is no talk; he simply comes to her. The sex is aggressive. So aggressive that it numbs out her inner thighs, and she feels as though there is an organ from deep inside her that may spill out of her vagina. It is not an irrational fear or concern. 

She has a friend who experienced a curious incident she believes was prompted by her husband’s use of excessive and prolonged force during sex, which she says was so aggressive that her uterus fell out of her vagina. This friend was married to a Boko Haram member as well.

When Amina’s husband first enters her tent as she sits on a tarpaulin, she notices that he smells of drugs and so knows this is one of those nights he can go several rounds without tiring. The first round lasts two hours, then he rests and goes another round. 

He is her third Boko Haram husband, the other two having died — the first, by execution, and the second at the war front. So, by now, she knows the drill. It does not make it any less bearable.

“They make love like horses,” she says, referring to their energy. 

“They only care about their satisfaction […] Even when you complain of tiredness, they won’t let you be, as long as you are not on your period, they don’t care. They have sex anywhere, even when we are under attack. Sometimes, even under the tree.”

Even now that she has returned to town, she hears comments about her marriageability. 

“People see me and whisper among each other that no man can sexually please any woman who has been married to a Boko Haram member before.”

Uterine prolapse 

Uterine prolapse is a condition in which the uterus in a woman’s body falls out of place and protrudes out of her vagina. It usually needs to be pushed back into place. The prolapse occurs when the ligaments and muscles supporting the uterus get weakened and can no longer support it in place. 

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According to Dr Ishaku Musa, a chief consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist at the Gwarinpa General Hospital in Abuja, “forceful intercourse can damage the support structures of the womb. This now leads to uterine descent, also called uterine prolapse.”

This was what happened to Amina’s friend.

Illustration showing a dejected IDP at the tent of a Boko Haram terrorist. Illustration by Akila Jibrin/HumAngle.

Uterine prolapse is widespread among the women captives, especially due to limited access to medical supplies. Often, it happens during childbirth. Many of the women are girls who were abducted seven to 10 years ago and who have had to grow among the terror group and be married off to its members. Some of them are now radicals as well. 

Stephen Yusuf, a doctor at the Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University Teaching Hospital (ATBUTH), explains that the uterus is kept in position by various ligaments. “Repeated pregnancy and delivery weakens these ligaments,” he says. “Or if there is a very large baby. And some other conditions that weigh down on the uterus from above.”

Amina says there wasn’t enough support for child birthing in the terrorist camps. Even though there were sometimes medical personnel, usually those abducted in Maiduguri and Adamawa, they were not enough for all the people needing help. 

“All the children I gave birth to there, I did it alone. No doctor, no help […] A lot of women die when giving birth. There is no proper care. When I had my last child, it was my friend that served as a midwife. We used a stick to cut the umbilical cord after the baby was born.”

Drug use among the terrorists 

On the day Amina asked her husband for ₦500 to buy tomatoes for food, he not only denied having the amount, he nearly became violent towards her. It would not have been the first time. 

But later that same day, he pulled a wad of naira notes from his pockets and gave them to her. It totalled ₦30,000 when she counted it. She became terrified. 

“How can someone that refused me ₦500 give me ₦30,000?” she remembers thinking. “I became scared.”

Still, she took it. After handing her the money, he hung his rifle around his neck, then walked out without first wearing his shoes. 

When he returned later at night, still barefoot, he informed her his money was missing. ₦30,000 to be exact. She reminded him that he had given her the money. He labelled her a liar and accused her of stealing it from his pockets.

Amina admits that before he gave her the money, she had seen him injecting himself with drugs, as he occasionally did. He was more of the pills-popping type, but sometimes he injected himself too. The effect usually lasted hours. 

“I told him he was not in his right senses; that I saw him take the injection, and what was it meant for?”

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He told her to keep quiet, asking if she was looking to get him killed. The punishment for drug use amongst Boko Haram members is death. It did not stop the terrorists, including Amina’s husband, from using it in hiding. 

Usually, after he had injected himself, he would give her the bottles to bury in the ground, she says. But after she confronted him that day about his drug use, he became suspicious and scared that she might one day out him. So he ordered her to dig up all the bottles from wherever she had buried them, and then give them to him to dispose of himself.

File photo of bottles of pentazocine in a plastic bag, pictured among drug users in Kano state, northwestern Nigeria. Hauwa Shaffii Nuhu/HumAngle.

“I went and dug everything out with my bare hands and gave them to him, and he threw them away,” she recalls.

The pills were easier to take for him because then he could just claim they were pain killers. Once, she asked to take the pills to numb the pain she was feeling, and he warned her not to, saying that she would run mad if she did.

“They always say they are pain killers. One time I attempted to take the drug — it is red in colour — and my husband said I will run mad if I take it. How will I run mad when he has not? And they usually take it when they are about to go to the battlefield. They go out of their senses after taking these drugs.”

She did not know it then and would not until she left Sambisa forest but the pills her husband took were mostly tramadol, and the injections, pentazocine. 

But Boko Haram members do not use drugs only before going to the battlefields. They also used them in preparation for sex. It made them so energetic and powered up that they could spend an entire night on rounds and rounds of sex tirelessly, Amina says. It was also often aggressive. Another woman, Maijiddah, tells HumAngle that barely three months into her marriage with one of the men in Sambisa, she sought to end the marriage for this reason. 

But she could not ask for divorce explicitly. She, therefore, threatened to report his drug use to the terror group’s leadership because it was what powered his violent sexual activities. 

Before this, she had first tried to run away from the group. She was caught and locked up in prison for some time. 

“He was so into drugs that without it, he would be useless. He was also a dealer. He could spend an entire night on top of me. Sometimes he would sleep off on top of me, and if I tried to roll him off, he would immediately get violent.” 

Like Amina’s husband, he also partook in the use of tramadol and pentazocine. When she threatened to report him, he opted to divorce her instead. “He said since I wanted to destroy his life, he would rather divorce me, and he did. That was how I escaped that life.”

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After the divorce, she was transferred to a building known as Gidan Zaurawa, she saysA Hausa term that translates to mean ‘House of the single-women.’ It was where women among the terror group who were either divorced or widowed were kept for three to four months before being remarried. 

Amina displays her scars gotten after an airstrike. Photo: Hauwa Shaffii Nuhu/HumAngle

How does Pentazocine work?

Pentazocine is an opioid in the same class as tramadol. According to Dr Yusuf, there are other opioids that can be injected for the purpose of ‘getting high’, like morphine and fentanyl but they are very expensive. Their effect is also short-lived. Pentazocine, known among drug users as ‘Penta’ for short, is cheaper than the rest, in addition to having a more lasting effect.

“It’s usually to numb pain but it also causes euphoria and makes them happy. That’s the major feeling. The feeling of euphoria,” Dr Yusuf says. 

“That euphoric feeling might be the reason he took that amount of money and gave it to his wife even though he would not have given it to her normally if he wasn’t under drug influence.”

Any religious justification?

Drugs — intoxicants, generally — are prohibited in Islam. And, since the terror group insists it is Muslim, the use of drugs is generally prohibited among Boko Haram members. 

However, the group has seen different stages of evolution and acceptance towards the vice. According to sources familiar with its operations, at some point it started to unofficially overlook the use of hard drugs, especially tramadol, on the basis of it being helpful to them on the war front and therefore necessary for their work. When certain members were questioned about its use, they argued that it usually helped them with strength on the battlefield. 

While the use of tramadol, therefore, has always been rampant among the group, it is usually mostly hidden. It is ferried through to the militants from Damboa, according to Maijiddah, usually the same way that bullets are sent down to them through canoes. She also explained that individuals partner with allies who are domiciled inside the towns. 

report published in 2018 described the pill as “the drug of choice for Boko Haram.”

Certain hard drugs have been used, too, by the group to aid amputation due to their limited access to medical supplies. Later, as the group evolved, they began to use the drugs for sex too. 

According to women who had been wives of eminent members of the insurgent group, hardcore members of the group are not punished for the use of hard drugs. Sometimes, even high-ranking members were punished, as long as they were identifiable as people with milder or less radical ideologies. 

“It’s usually the members that are not hardcore radicals that are punished for it,” one of the women says. “The ones that don’t know what they’re doing, that are only there to fight aimlessly.”

Culled From HumAngle

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