Nigerian officials ‘sexually abusing Boko Haram victims’

October 31, 2016 2:20 pm

In this photo taken on September 15, 2016 women and children queue to enter one of the Unicef nutrition clinics at the Muna makeshift camp which houses more than 16,000 IDPs (internaly displaced people) on the outskirts of Maiduguri, Borno State, northeastern . AFP PHOTO / STEFAN HEUNIS

Human Rights Watch on Monday accused Nigerian officials of sexually exploiting women and girls living in camps for victims of Boko Haram in the restive northeast.

HRW said it had in July documented 43 cases of women and girls in seven internally displaced persons’ (IDP) camps in Maiduguri, the epicentre of the seven-year Islamist insurgency, who had been abused by camp leaders, vigilante groups, policemen, and soldiers.

“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 Nigeria researcher at HRW.
“It is disgraceful and outrageous that people who should protect these women and girls are attacking and abusing them,” he added.
Government officials were not immediately available for comment on the allegations.

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 spoke to one 17-year-old girl who was raped and made pregnant by a policeman.

“One day he demanded to have sex with me,” she said. “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.”

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 in its quest to create an Islamist state, killing over 20,000 people and displacing 2.6 million from their homes.

Since taking up arms against the Nigerian government in 2009, the jihadists have disrupted trade routes and farms.

Now nearly 50,000 children are facing death by starvation if they don’t get food and almost 250,000 more are severely malnourished in Borno state, according to UNICEF.

The international rights group said in a statement published on Monday that at least 43 cases of “sexual abuse, including rape and exploitation” had been documented by its researchers in July.
The group noted that the victims were housed at seven camps in Maiduguri, the capital of the northeastern Borno State.
Several women and girls told HRW of the abuse carried out by camp leaders set up to help the military fight the terrorist group across the troubled region.
Thirty-seven told HRW that they had been coerced into sex through false marriage promises and financial assistance.
According to HRW, at least four victims were drugged and raped at the camps.
 A 17-year-old girl said she was raped by a policeman who approached her in a camp. “One day he demanded to have sex with me. I refused but he forced me.” 
The victim stated that the policeman also threatened to kill her when she discovered that she was pregnant.
A 16-year-old girl said she was drugged and raped a community security group member in charge of distributing aid in the camp.
Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhar has ordered a probe into allegations by a rights group.
“President Buhari has instructed the inspector general of police and the state governors of the affected states to immediately commence investigations into the issue,” Buhar’s spokesman Garba Shehu said in a statement on Monday.
The spokesman stressed that Buhari was “worried and shocked” by the allegations.
The  camps are home to thousands of refugees who had fled Boko Haram’s reign of terror.
Boko Haram started its campaign in 2009 with the aim of toppling the Nigerian government. The terror group later expanded its activities to the neighboring countries of Cameroon, Chad and Niger. These countries have, in return, stepped up counter-offensives in the form of unilateral operations or contributing to a multinational force against the militant group.
The group has pledged allegiance to the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group, which is mainly operating in Iraq and Syria.
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