Northern Nigeria. Early 2015.

It’s almost a year since Boko Haram kidnapped 273 girls at Chibok (#bringbackourgirls) and their rampage in northern Nigeria has continued ever since. On-the-spot reports of the effects of the insurgency, from inhabitants of northern Nigeria, are rare. In this diary, journalist Jack Vince documents his experience in the state of Borno where he lives in the capital, Maiduguri, in the Maiduguri district, via his Facebook page and sometimes with #Titbits. Fiona Lovatt documents the arrival of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Kano city, where she lives with a group of almajirai and with them co-ordinates support for the newcomers.

Jack Vince
Fiona Lovatt

The map below shows the relationship of Maiduguri to Kano.

map 1

For those of us who aren’t familiar with the geography, here’s a more detailed map that includes some of the places Jack refers to and shows Chibok in the lower centre.

map 2

JV 23 January Survivors From The Baga Massacre On my way home (along Baga Road in Maiduguri) from the popular Post Office Area three days ago, on Monday precisely, I saw a school bus filled with Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) who were being evacuated to the camps in town.

I thought I’d seen the very last of the victims of the Baga massacre. Curious, I decided to observe the place in my estate called Checking Point (CP), where IDPs are kept for inspection before being allowed into Maiduguri. My estate is on the outskirts of town.

This was around 6:45 pm or thereabout. The next day, I saw the little that was left of the people after a good number of them were taken to the camps.

Mallam Ibrahim Mohammed Ado, a survivor, was among those I was lucky to meet for an interview. An interview that sent chill down my spine.

Mallam Ibrahim Mohammed Ado

Mallam Ado said he was in Minatti, a village few Kilometres from Cross Kauwa (where the attack started from) when he, with others, was compelled by the heavy sound of gun shots to scurry into the bush for safety.

Close to hundred of them, he said, were in the bush for five days before they could find their way to Maiduguri on donkeys and carts. It took them 14 days, he said, to get to Maiduguri from Minatti. The sojourners consisted of families, men, women, children, youth and the aged.

Most of the time they camped for the night in the cold. They were hungry and weak. As were their animals.

Close to Monguno, he was crying when he said they discovered children. Only children. Abandoned. Crying. Frail-looking. Starved. Dying. They picked up 11 of the children who were alive and left the decomposing corpses of the dead ones in the open field where they met them.

Carts that brought the survivors to Maiduguri

Ado also said that the number of corpses they saw on their way to Maiduguri ba iyaka (was uncountable).

Mallam Hassan Rabiu who corroborated Mallam Ado’s story
Abdulrahman Mohammed, a survivor of the Baga massacre

The children and people have since been evacuated to the IDPs Camps in town for medical and sundry attention. Mallam Ado and the few people I met at the checking point were left behind to tend to the donkeys and look after their carts.

One of the donkeys

I write to let Nigerians and the world know the truth of the matter on stories that will never make headlines.

May the dead find rest eternal; may these untold stories end for the better and may all victims of the situation find inner peace free from haunting trauma. Amin.

JV 30 January That the population of Maiduguri has ‘quadrupled’ recently due to the influx of displaced persons from the local government areas, towns and villages is no longer news. That’s stale now. The trend is that members of the dreaded Boko Haram insurgents, disguised as IDPs, are now very much in town.

At almost every entry point into Maiduguri, especially through the popular Baga Road, what could comfortably be termed a sand dune of humans, IDPs, could be seen everywhere. The price Maiduguri residents have to pay as a result is the infiltration of the relatively calm city by the outlaws.

Those familiar with the Baga Road branch of First Bank area would recall that since the onslaught on Baga by the terrorists, the location has been playing host to stranded IDPs as well as relatives of the displaced who hope to find their missing loved ones.

Yesterday, amongst the crowd, three members of the Boko Haram group were identified and arrested by members of the civilian JTF. After a thorough search of their vehicles, drips, syringes and other hospital equipments as well as assorted food items were discovered, expertly hidden in their vehicle. It was obvious they’d wanted to take the supply to their fighters in the bush. In fact, they confessed to the crime before being handed over to the authorities of the military JTF.

The city seems impregnable from external aggression, but from within, it could be a different ball game all together. This is because the gathering of people along Baga Road could spur a detonation of bomb that could lead to heavy casualty on the masses. Nobody seems to be alarmed by the capacity-filled stadium-like kind of gathering until there is a situation. Mind, this is not paranoia, but precaution and being proactive. A means should be deviced to prevent the gathering before possible harm is inflicted on the innocent.

In another development, the liberation of Malamfatori by the Chadian soldiers is a remarkable feat.

map 3

It goes to show that if the war on terror is devoid of moles and saboteurs, victory is certain.

Fresh facts emerging after the Njimtilo attack indicate that a convoy of special forces bringing heavy arms to the 7th Div. were ambushed by the insurgents.

map 4

In the exchange of fire that ensued, 18 of the soldiers were killed. Indeed surprise can defeat the strongest of giants. The million dollar question, however, is “Who told the rebels about the convoy? Was it a mere coincidence?” I don’t think so.

On the flip side, the soldiers have repelled attempts to enter Maiduguri through the Maiduguri/Gamboru Ngala axis twice, inflicting massive casualty on the rebels in the process.

map 5

The needful should be done to flush the rebels out of Monguno (see map 2) completely. Benin Republic, Niger, Chad and Cameroun must work with Nigeria to eradicate this insurgency. It is possible!

FL 30 January Kano people, brother, sisters… an urgent need for food, accommodation and other basics has arisen with the arrival of more than 100 people seeking refuge today. One woman gave birth on the street. Please don’t force them to keep moving. The State has no provision for them. Hisbah will distribute and coordinate whatever can be supplied.

JV 31 January

Mr Edward Mensah and Jack Vince

Mr Edward Mensah, a Ghanaian, is one of my several acquaintances in Doron Baga when I was hustling with the late Mr Matthew Akpan (a family friend) during semester breaks. A very funny man indeed who could pass for a stand up comedian, no jokes.

Edward Mensah is one of several foreign nationals who were resident in Doron Baga for twenty, thirty or more years. Doro is a quintessential mini West Africa. Until the recent onslaught on it by the marauding Boko Haram insurgents, it played host to Africans from Benin Republic, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Togo, Cameroun, Central Afrique, Niger, Mali et cetera. These people were predominantly fishmongers, business people, chemists, artisans, harlots, drug pushers and so on. A very lively town, or village if you like.

Oga Mensah started out as a bun seller and an obioma (tailor) before venturing into fishmongering.

Yesterday, his son, Isaac, was one of the internally displaced persons who made it to my estate. He was quite small the last time I saw him. He’s all grown now. You should see the look on his face when he saw me. I asked after his dad (the mother is late), brother and sisters. Here is his response:

Dem come for morning. Dem start from Mile Four to Baga Town before dem reach Doro. Na for our eyes dem burn Doro. I run. I see one akworinkuda (truck) na im I come jangulova (can’t interprete that) come Monguno before soja motor carry us come Maiduguri. I no know where my father, my brother and sisters dey.

I was the closest family he could lean on. So, I took him in.

Few days later, we were at the various IDP Camps in search of his family, but the effort was fruitless. Just yesterday, Isaac’s father, Mr Edward Mensah, like a vision of the night, showed up in my estate.

I never knew what it meant for a man to be a shadow or ghost of his former self until I met Mr Edward again. Boy. He looked several years older than he is originally.

Mr Edward said he was with his wife and kids when they ran into the insurgents in the pandemonium. He and other men were shot at, but he dived into a mud just in time and fainted. The insurgents thought he was dead and left him and other survivors with the corpses. When he regained consciousness, he couldn’t find his wife, six daughters, a son and two grandchildren. Ten members of one family. Taken away by the insurgents. You should see that out-of-this-world look on Edward’s face. I really don’t know how a man with such sense of loss and grief could be feeling on the inside. Mr Edward was in Monguno when it was attacked.

Since the insurgents seldom kill women, I pray they are alive; I pray God gives Mr Edward’s wife the strength to hold on and be strong for the kids. I pray they are liberated soon enough to reunite with their loved ones.

We are together. We will manage. Can’t leave them!

FL 31 January Al Hajji has opened his humble home in Kurna Yankifi, Kano, to more than 160 exiles from the theatre of sorrows, a haven in a house with just three rooms. His rooms are lined with dangote sacks and old Ghana-must-go bags. He is clearly not a wealthy man but o my! his heart is huge.

FL–Prayers with a young mother who delivered her child early when she was shot through the leg. Some hospital staff are on strike. No hospital care for her tonight.
FL–Really hard to get a photo of the 161 people currently living in this three bedroomed house. They give thanks for rice, beans, oil, soaps, medicine and clothes.
FL– Around our ankles, little ones cried in the crush, and were easily placated by being lifted up for air and a better view.
FL– Later we realised how hard it must be just to wash when 161 people have to use the rudimentary facilities: water pumped and carried from a bore hole. $3 buys a sturdy bucket for the task.

With 500 similar houses across Kano, our effort is a drop in the proverbial bucket.

FL 1 February Gidan Almajirai is an active co-operative of young students who live as a household and attend a traditional school in Kano. [Fiona lives there too.] Now self-employed and with their own home, each young man is committed to fulfilling his own potential in National Curriculum Education, business, service and brotherhood.

The education of an almajiri is such that the scholar is deeply imbued with a social conscience that enables him to respond with empathy and pragmatism in a crisis. His ability to work with all ages, both genders, and broker deals with landlords and traders means he can stretch every Naira a very long way. He gives his time freely and joyfully, assisting people (in this case, displaced people) get back on their feet, and being the conduit for gifts of people who cannot walk these humble lanes for one reason or another.

Gidan Almajiri is working to alleviate some of the hardship being experienced by the displaced people from the eastern states. It is our honour to be among people of peace and patience.

Thanks to private contributions, the help of CEE HOPE Nigeria, and the canny bargaining power of an almajirai supporter, we have been able to do some small good to benefit the Internally Displaced People of Borno.

FROM KSM News 1 February


…As at 11:15am this morning, calm has returned to the city of Maiduguri;

…The artillery bombardment and gun shots have subsided;

…Thousands of Civilian JTF at an estimate of over 30,000 mobilised from all fronts to defend the city of Maiduguri;

…The insurgents who could not withstand the fire power from the military backed by thousands of the gallant Civilian JTF to form a large wall of defence to protect Maiduguri retreated;

…Scores of insurgents were believed to have been killed while some captured alive by our gallant Civilian JTF.

JV 2 February The artillery started shelling from Maimalari Cantonment towards Tunkushe and Gajigana around 2pm, Sunday. It was sporadic, so I knew something was amiss.

Tunkushe is only a stone’s throw away from my place. In fact, for only a hundred naira, I could trek from Tunkushe to my house.

The soldiers knew the insurgents had advanced to Gajigana and Tunkushe, hence the shelling, but they did not alert us to prevent panic among the people.

Immediately after the Ghana/Guinea AFCON match, I discovered that a lot of people had deserted the estate. We were [too] carried away in the frenzy of the competition to realise that there was pandemonium outside.

Now we are awake because the terrorists, from intelligence, may strike tonight. There is nowhere to run. In God we trust. I will die someday, I know, but by the grace of God, I will not die today.


FL 2 February O sweet victory for Maiduguri! The people are defending themselves and they will do the job. Respect.

FL 3 February Good news: we have found a four bedroom house. A six month lease has been negotiated for N30, 000. We hope to have some of the overcrowding reduced within 24 hours. In shaa Allah.

FL–Several large cooking pots (cauldrons in other parts of the world) were brewing up porridge and soup. “ALHAMDULILAH,” the exiles say for there is food in the house today, and buckets, and water. And the scenes of carnage are behind them.
FL– A lovely talk with this grandmother as she does what she has known to do in times of need: buy a small quantity of a primary product, process it a little, sell it at a higher price. She makes no allowance for her labour but her resourcefulness is an encouragement to all the quiet hearts.

This mother spent her last week of pregnancy escaping violence, riding in an open truck for two days with 160 men, women and children. I met her on Friday. She birthed last night, in this tiny space of privacy that the exiles granted her, behind a curtain of wrappers (sarongs). May her child know only peace, like this peace in her mother’s loving gaze.

FL– Moments of serenity can be found in a room without a door, made into a maternity suite with the rolling out of a mat across the earthen floor. The child is well. Again, “Alhamdulilah”.

JV 3 February Most of the survivors who made it through the bush after the Baga and Monguno attacks were directed to safety by kind-hearted Fulani herdsmen. Why the Fulani men and their ruminants are spared from these attacks is a story for another day. #Titbits

Eyewitnesses assert to seeing a white aircraft flying at a relatively low altitude and dropping off supplies and mercenaries who are mostly Arabs of Libya, Yemen, Tchad and sundry stock close to Doro at the Nigeria-Tchad border. Anytime this happened, there was bound to be a major attack. #Titbits

Doro inhabitants who survived the onslaught on Baga and Monguno say the dreaded Boko Haram insurgents comprise of Guran, Guduma, Kanembu, Wula-Wula and Shuwa Arab people of Tchad Republic, Agadez, Kanuri, Gwoza and Hausa people of Niger Republic and Nigeria respectively; Wula-Wula from Cameroun, Arab mercenaries as well as abducted and conscripted victims including females. Note, Doro is a quintessential mini-West Africa hosting nationals from Tchad, Niger, Burkina Faso, Mali, Ghana, Togo, Cameroun, Central Afrique et cetera. #Titbits

JV 4 February 14:05 hours. Location: Maimalari Cantonment Military Cemetery. Heavy duty vehicle digging single and mass graves for burying the fallen soldiers depending on the level of decomposition. Grapevine has it that death toll has now soared to 70. How are the mighty fallen?

These soldiers have families who are not aware of the death and burial of their loved ones. The dead, could at best, be declared missing in action, cowards or deserters by the military authorities and their wives and children in the Barracks would no longer receive their salaries. They, like me, my mother and siblings when we lost our father in a similar circumstance, would be made to face untold hardship and a deep sense of loss.

I would rather stand before a moving trailer and be run over so that my family can see my corpse than for me to go back to that place.

Words of a soldier who among several others are camped in front of Maimalari Cantonment and have decided not to go back to the theatres of sorrow if the military authorities do not equip them with the requisite arms and aerial bombardment to combat the lingering insurrection.

This development would most likely be termed insurbodination and indiscipline and the ‘culprits’ would be court-martialed and dismissed from the army like several others to whom a similar fate was meted less than three months ago.

If nothing is done, it means there is nothing stopping Shekau and his boys from the bank of the Lake Tchad to the very gates of Maimalari Cantonment. Also, whoever is responsible for all these is hell bent on ensuring that the insurgents succeed at all cost.

Nigerians and the world. I have just scribbled facts as objectively as I possibly can.

So help me God!

Eyewitnesses say before the Baga attack, a sizable number of the youth in Doron Baga belonged to the Yusufiyya mystic brotherhood of Boko Haram. A boy sought to kill his father during the onslaught in order to be made a field commander. An imam was forced to serve as the group’s cleric after he was compelled to watch as the throats of six of his adult and married sons were slit by the evil terrorists. #Titbits

JV 4 February Few minutes after 5am, I heard a sound on my roof. There’s a big neem tree at the middle of my compound. It could have been a dry stem or fallen fruit. Under normal circumstances I’d have written it off as such, but the circumstances are not normal.

I left my bed around 6:30am or thereabout and went outside. There. A gold-coloured metallic substance caught my attention. Lo and behold it’s the empty shell of an ammunition.

I picked it up and observed it closely. At the flat circular base of the shell, MKE 12.7x99 60 was emblazoned. I became scared. And confused. So I took the stuff to an old friend of my father. A retired Regimental Sergeant Major, RSM Ben, and he enlightened me.

RSM Ben understood my fears. He said the substance is actually the empty shell of an anti-aircraft projectile. That it couldn’t have been hurled at my roof by a weapon. The bullet, during fire, he said, goes out towards the direction of its target, while the shell falls to the ground in front of the gunman. RSM said the landing of the empty shell on my roof could only be the handiwork of a child or mischief-maker throwing things about.


Holy Ghost Fire!

JV 5 February Often-times, with a day or two margin of error, the dreaded Yusufiyya mystic brotherhood of Boko Haram have lived up to their threats; and have actually carried out premeditated attacks on civilians and the military alike. A phenomenon that defies common sense. Contrary to the shameless denial by the decision makers in the military, the onslaught on Baga, Monguno, Maiduguri and sundry places were announced before they were carried out. Fact. The Alpha (fighter) jets are invited from Yola or Makurdi to Maiduguri only in reaction to an attack. Never for pre-emptive purposes.

Everybody, military and civilian in Maiduguri, is aware of another impending attack. WE ARE WAITING FOR THEM is all we hear from the military camp. What? Waiting for them? Can somebody beat that lame and crappy response? What happens to being the aggressor for a change?

Because I see, smell and feel the combatants at the frontlines up close, I know the lingering insurrection is something they can do very little or absolutely nothing to change. A cabal, clique, vile and clandestine think tank, a dubious institution or conglomeration of masked men are hell bent on maintaining a status quo that’s not in the best interest of the hapless poor and insecured in the northeast in particular and the federation as a whole.

For the first time in three weeks, residents of Maimalari cantonment and environs slept (last night) without the sound of an AK47, a GPMG, RPG or SHILKA cutting short their sleep. The insurgents are really having it rough this time. Thank God and thanks to Niger, Tchad, Cameroun and of course our gallant and combatant CJTF and soldiers at the battle-front.

Ironically, when we try to cool off by putting on our TV sets, our privacies are invaded by political campaigns in the heat of the blazing fire.

FL 6 February One of our brothers was a fisherman in Borno. He has nowhere to cast his net these days. Another was a trader man with a shop in Maiduguri last week. He admits his head has been sore as he cares now for newly widowed daughters, wife, elderly family members and his remaining children. This house gives them privacy as a family unit, twenty-one move in on Saturday by the grace of God. They can carry everything they possess.

FL– Discussions about repairs before the tenants move in on Saturday: doors to hang, walls to paint, concrete floors to re-surface.

Adamu (in jeans) lost his mother last week. He will stay with teenage boys in a single room that opens directly on to the street. Ikirama writes the bilingual contract, with input from all sides.

FL–Ikirama, a foundation member of Gidan Almajirai at left (and in previous image) here engages in a proofreading discussion before money changes hands. Translator, scribe, counsellor to his peers, dispenser of smiles to pensive men, fair, just, upright.

JV 7 February Niger, Tchad and Cameroun, from information reaching us, are quite impressive in tackling insurgency at the borders and even in border towns within Nigerian territory. So much so that from Diffa in Niger Republic through the Sahara and the bank of the great Lake Tchad to the fringes of north-western Cameroun Republic bordering Nigerian towns of Dikkwa, Gamboru, Ngala and et cetera, the ragtag band of heartless terrorists are being dealt fatal blows.

Yet, from Baga through Mile Four and Cross-Kauwa to Monguno down to Gajiram, Gajigana and Tungushe (very close to Maimalari Cantonment in Maiduguri), the rebel forces still hold sway over these mentioned places. In fact, one needn’t be a military strategist to know that there is every need to push the rebels far away from Maiduguri the state capital; and like a colossus, the joint forces of the Tchad Basin countries could put an end to the demons by swooping on them from all directions.

Instead, daily, truck-loads of supplies (food, clothes, drugs, patroleum etc) are seen on Baga Road in Maiduguri heading towards the direction of those places supposedly occupied by Boko Haram. The impression is that regular folks don’t live in those places. So, who are the irregular transporters or irregular people being supplied with the goods?

A suspicious-looking chap who couldn’t be up to 30 years of age was caught this afternoon in my estate. Upon interrogations, he made bold to affirm his membership of the dreaded Boko Haram group. When the soldiers pressed him to state his mission, the dude said he would NOT even if it meant dying as a result. Eight soldiers opened fire on him. I don’t know if their action was appropriate. Methinks, however, that torturing him to obtain requisite and vital information would have been better. Before wasting him, if that’s necessary.

Maiduguri has been infiltrated by the insurgents, no doubt, who would be working on how to weaken structures from within. Please, to whom it may concern, the service chiefs should be nudged or goaded to do the needful if Maiduguri must not fall. Gen. Chris Olokolade, please what is stopping the aerial bombardment? Why is it that Baga to Maiduguri have no military base? Why are we on the defensive; waiting to react only when attacked? Why must residents of Maiduguri live in fear perpetually? Answer these questions before you organise press conferences to tell Nigerians tailored stories after the deed must have been done?

Gosh! What kind of a country is this?

image & text via FL– Reality TV producers are missing a great opportunity: they could be riding on the trucks that ply the routes of NE Nigeria, delivering essentials and commodities, trucking supplies and people through some of the most beautiful landscape in the world.

JV 8 February Quite unbelievable, but true. A considerable number of the locals in the villages from the north through the centre to the southern parts of Borno have not been to Maiduguri before. They are visiting the capital for the very first time. Not as tourists, but as internally displaced persons seeking for refuge in a relatively safe place. The sights and scenes of Maiduguri are quite alien to these common folks who live simple, rustic lives and are highly contented.

What they care about is to be free and safe enough to relax after the days job in their thatch houses, cultivate their crops, rear their livestock, build their mud grain-stores, and trade on their weekly market days. Nothing more.

They have no idea what the stock market is saying, no idea about inflation, monetary policies and other sundry issues. They have no idea what electricity is used for, no idea why the people in the city fight over politics, religion, ethnicity and other trivials.

They can’t fathom why they are being rounded up and shot like common criminals or slaughtered like the goats, rams, cows and camels at Kasuwan Shanu. These folks have no idea what the grievances of Boko Haram, their oppressors, are. They have no idea why the world they know is gradually fading into oblivion before their very eyes.

The precarious situation could be likened to centuries of yore when the Scandinavian war-lords, French vandals and Caesare Borgia unleashed mayhem on common folks for no-just-cause. The situation is like living in those survival-of-the-fittest times.

These people are now in Concentration, sorry, IDP Camps where, like prisoners, they are not allowed to venture out until after the elections. Now the elections have been postponed, so what next? This isn’t a conspiracy theory of sorts, but a probe on why politics should be a vice rather than a virtue, why life in the 21st century would be likened to the medieval ages, why folks die for reasons that have NOTHING to do with them, why the Nigerian army cannot withstand a ragtag band, why in the midst of abundance we seem so cursed…

JV 9 February 15 people, or that many, perished in an automobile accident on their way to Onitsha from Maiduguri in a bid to escape the impending violence and imminent catastrophe anticipated as a consequence of the post-February 14 presidential elections [now delayed]. May their souls find rest eternal… Amen. #Titbits

Nigerians have a unique and uncanny way of discarding bad times, like a piece of bad rubbish. Smiles could be seen adorning the countenance of the people only a day after an unfortunate situation of tsunamic proportions had occured. The trend could probably be responsible for Nigerians being recognised by the United Nations (UN) as THE HAPPIEST PEOPLE IN THE WORLD.

The insurgent activities, political upheavals, and general apprehension in the polity are but retrogressive cogs in the wheel of the progress of a people destined to redefine the continent’s future from its bleakness.

The people smile amidst stormy situations because they are in a hurry to embrace happier times while dumping the unfortunate sadness in the bottomless pit of oblivion.

A look at the faces of Nigerians walking the streets of Maiduguri would give a keen observer misleading information about the state of security in the city. The people don’t look terrorised at all. In fact, they look happy and walk purposefully. This is because gun shots and bomb blasts have been absent for about a week now.

This should be a time to uplift intelligence, reconnaissance, strategy and all it takes to TRULY be ‘on top of the situation.’ It should never be a time to let down our guard. And be hit in the heat of excitement.

Remember, the problems in Nigeria escalated while we were still basking in the euphoria of being THE HAPPIEST PEOPLE IN THE WORLD…

FL 10 February Assessing the situation: key figures who have brought a truck load of people on a two day journey to find a sanctuary in Kano.

11 rooms leased, with contracts for six months. 15 pots purchased to share across 7 family groups. Sleeping mats and water pots purchased. Anything beyond this is also a mercy granted to these displaced people we met 10 days ago.

FL– Selecting cooking pots for the various new households, and seeking the best price from a traderman who is touched to find that strangers have given in charity to assist these needy ones.
FL– Eleven large floor mats for 11 small rooms.
11 water containers, and 11 more buckets. Two dozen plates. Two dozen cups.
A couple of cooking pots per household. Eight families set up with the basics. We were honoured to deliver this much good.
FL– Another contract written with a poor neighbour willing to lease a room or two for six months. These displaced people now can have this much privacy.
FL– Our sister, with five children, and another on the way, does not know where her husband is. She is one beneficiary of a stipend of N4000 ($20USD) that she can use to start a small business.
FL– Children make up the vast majority of displaced people. They are in good spirits considering the sights they have seen and the journey they have made.

JV 10 February On what could safely be considered a weekly basis, 10 or more soldiers at the battle fronts, on the average, are dismissed from the Nigeria Army.

Soldiers who withdrew when they were over-powered by the heavy fire-power of the insurgents were branded deserters and dismissed. Others include soldiers whose corpses could not be found. These include countless number of decomposed fallen soldiers who’d be branded ‘Missing-In-Action’ and whose families would be made to suffer lack of payment of their salaries.

This superflous dismissal goes on unreported. A considerable number of those dismissed are soldiers of pensionable age. How frustrating can this be for them and their dependants? These are soldiers whose productive years have been sucked like the juice from an orange only to be discarded like expired tyres.

There are soldiers who actually dropped their weapons and absconded for fear of dying like their colleagues at the frontlines. My case is not for those.

But for joining the ranks of the terrorists or bearing arms on the highways, I wonder what other options are opened to these (unceremoniously) dismissed combatants?

FL 12 February Relief that rent is paid for six months in advance. Time to take stock and form and action plan for a regular income to cover the expenses for the family of 18 people.

Sometimes you just need to listen. Seven fine women generated multiple ideas for how to begin small businesses for N4000. ($20USD). In a household of 35 people, and the ideas were all sound and each woman received her start-up fund. This house is now set to take care of itself.

FL– Discussing business options

The children were present throughout our discussions. What stories they will have to tell of this period in exile! And what a beautiful model of the practice of mashura — consultation with all who will be affected by the possible decisions.

FL– Lawal there in jeans is the oldest male remaining in this family, with his mother, grandmother and aunts as the adults, and the rest, all children.
FL– Ikirama at my side, as always, translating, keeping records, writing any contracts for leases. He has known the reality of the financial situation the displaced people are currently dealing with. And of course we debrief together when the tour of duty is done.
FL– Blessed to cradle the little survivor of a birth that took her mother and twin brother. The formula is N1600 per week. The grandfather of this babe has four generations of women and children to care for: 25 mouths to feed.
He was a successful businessman who has lost all his capital in the theatre of sorrows. Perhaps there is a business man or an Investor out there who would help him begin afresh in the business he knows well.

JV 13 February From Sudan, Niger, Tchad, Cameroun, Central Afrique and so on, traders used to come to Maiduguri to do legitimate business. Today, insurgency has as good as put a stop to that once thriving international trade. #SayNoToTerrorism

FL 13 February

FL– And there are smiles as adjustments are made: a period of exile; father/ husband gone; property/ wealth gone… but books remain. And knowledge. And manners. Breastmilk.
And there is food today: greens chopped and sprinkled with groundnut and ginger…Beautiful people. Two women reading, one preparing food with their little ones, the teenagers making jewellery… a lovely scene with gentle voices in the interactions.

In this house of women and children
widows and orphans thread beads
into skeins of lustrous beauty:
links and loops and details like lives,
knotted and bound in patient labours;
a kind of gentle genius born in battle.

FL– What would you pay for work like this?
N20, 000 could train ten women to do this work, giving them an income through a joyful cottage industry.
Let me know international prices for such items.

JV 15 February There, most definitely, was more to the eradication of insurgency in six weeks than six years. Armageddon is come upon the vile sons of perdition. Say a prayer for our troops. Victory is from God alone. Nigeria Army, Buffalo Soldiers. No going back. Today, to the east of the North, it is not Valentines, but JUDGEMENT day!

(four hours later) Remember our brave, gallant and combatant soldiers in your prayers. As I scribble these lines, the Boko Haram are being decimated from all directions. Several choppers have been hovering o’er the sky above us; I noticed alien flags. It may be Waterloo for the beasts today. May God grant victory to our troops… Amen.

Maybe it’s possible to do in six weeks what was almost impossible in six years after all. In any case, fidelitas et deligentas et victoria for our heroes…

(2 hours later)

He wrote his wife’s name and phone number on his bag before handing it over to me for safe keeping…

“If I don’t make it back, send it via waybill to my wife.”

I said to him, “Sir, you will go, you will conquer, and you will return. “

I was glad when my words sparked a change in his countenance…

FL 15 February Children from the theatre of sorrows form the majority, among the displaced people. They carry with them seeds of hope.

JV 16 February My kid bro! A gallant; a combatant… Five boys in my family, Gurgur, this one, the last, chose to be a soldier like our father…

I see weapons that I have never seen before. My friend who works at the Maiduguri Int’l Airport says cargoes of diverse weapons are brought in daily. I am yet to confirm what he said, but he said that he saw a couple of white soldiers yesterday.

Maiduguri. Residents agog in a frenzy of excitement over the apparent air of electioneering campaigns and of course General Muhammadu Buhari’s expected presidential campaign at the popular Ramat Square at the city Centre, today.

Yesterday, I was around the roundabout in front of Alh. Bukar Bolori’s house where I saw politicians, in a convoy of vehicles, spraying thugs and ‘party loyalists’ with money on the main road. A boy was almost run over in the process. Would have been unfortunate.

Nothing about the people’s behaviour shows it is the same Maiduguri and Borno State where throats are slit, people killed, communities displaced, economy shattered, livelihood destroyed and et cetera and et cetera…

Jack Vince is a Maiduguri journalist. You can follow his updates on Facebook.

New Zealand educator and poet Fiona Lovatt has been based in Kano, Northern Nigeria for some time, working on micro-projects, including Gidan Almajiri and Mothers Alive. Helen Clark, head of the UNDP, recently commended her dedicated work.

Fiona is working on a small scale project for orphans like those Jack writes about, keeping village groups together so that a collective memory and rights to family land are not lost in the confusion of the present unrest. It will start with a pilot project to house and home-educate 24 girl orphans, under the care of two adults who are also survivors of the violence that has destroyed their communities.

Jack can rarely supply pictures because his only phone is very old. He would love an iPad, to provide us with images.

If you’d like to support the work of Jack and/or Fiona, please don’t hesitate to leave a note!