When Babagana Kyari was arrested, his wife was pregnant, with her expected date of delivery only a few months away. By the time he was released, she had given birth.
Babagana worked as a cleaner for FHI 360, an international non-governmental organisation. The military arrested him and two others — Kaka Mallum Musa and Sani Haruna, both security guards under the employ of Halogen Security — on April 27 and then handed them over to the Borno State Police Command. The police Crack Unit detained them in Maiduguri, the state capital, for several months without trial and only released them on Sept. 15.
The trio’s arrest took place shortly after the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), a terror organisation, attacked a guest house in Ngala and kidnapped three employees of FHI 360 as well as two Halogen security guards. Ngala is an area in Borno state, northeastern Nigeria, that’s only a few kilometres from Cameroon.
HumAngle learnt that their employers accused the three arrested men of colluding with ISWAP to execute the abduction. They all deny this allegation.
“My wife gave birth to our baby while I was still locked up,” Babagana recalled. “I did not know what she went through until I was released. She informed me how they suffered without me by their side. They had to borrow money to pay for all the medical expenses and conduct the naming ceremony of our newborn baby, and this happened in my absence.”
He said none of his colleagues at FHI 360 checked on him since his arrest. According to him, he became so ill during his detention that he thought he was going to die.
Kaka Mallum Musa also reported suffering at the detention facility, where he fell “terribly sick because of hunger and mosquito bites”. His family ran out of money after exhausting what he had in his bank account, which made life difficult for them. Since he stopped earning a salary, he had no means of supporting.
“My wife used some to clear medical bills and buy foodstuff while I was held captive in Maiduguri for a crime I did not commit. As I am granting this interview, I don’t have a kobo that I can use to buy food for the family to eat.”
Sani Haruna’s family also had a difficult time when he was away, as he was the sole breadwinner. Life has not been the same even after he regained freedom, he told HumAngle, “because we lost our source of income and we are facing all sorts of discrimination from some members of the community.”
They were not paid during the period of their arrest and have not been compensated for the prolonged detention, which contravenes Nigeria’s laws. The country’s constitution stipulates that any arrested person must be arraigned before a court within a day or two, adding that anyone unlawfully arrested or detained is entitled to compensation and a public apology.
Despite not being compensated, Kaka and Sani are unsure of their employment status, having neither been reabsorbed nor officially dismissed.
HumAngle’s attempts to get comments for this report from the various organisations were not successful.
An official at FHI 360’s Maiduguri office said they do not speak to the press and directed HumAngle instead to the Abuja office. However, the Abuja office’s telephone lines could not be reached and emails similarly went unanswered.
During our visit, an employee of Halogen Security Company in Maiduguri said our enquiries should be directed to one Jessy, a zonal assistant. But Jessy declined to be interviewed. “Go and meet the police that arrested them; don’t call me,” they said.
The Borno State Police Command has also not responded to our requests.
At first, after the arrests, the families had no idea where the men were. It was only several days later they learnt that they were detained in Maiduguri. They said they spent a lot of money in trying to secure their loved ones’ release, including engaging lawyers.
“We pushed with all that we have to see them released. I had to sell my plot of land at some point in order to pursue the case,” said Salisu Haruna, Sani’s elder brother.
“We were persistent because the situation is a complete infringement of human rights and abuse of power. Keeping people in detention for several months without trial is what worried us most. We were helpless and could not do anything about it.”
He added that since the police did not find them guilty after their investigation, they should get justice for the time and resources wasted on the matter.
“My brother was innocent. In fact, all the three were not guilty. Having known this, all the other families, together with my own, supported me to see that our relatives were released. FHI 360 and Halogen did not treat our relatives well despite all the sacrifices and contributions they have made to the organisations. They did not sympathise with the parents and the families. This is really unacceptable after wasting people’s lives.”
Babagana’s mother was traumatised when she heard that her son was arrested and taken to the Crack unit. She fainted and later suffered paralysis in her leg.
“My blood pressure rose when the news reached me; I fainted and fell because of it. Even though he was released after many efforts, my health is affected, but I am grateful he is alive. My son was innocent, but they treated him like this. Everything in the family has been affected since he was arrested,” she told HumAngle.
She said this was the first time she would be diagnosed with high blood pressure. “We want justice,” she added.
Meanwhile, two of the abducted FHI 360 aid workers were rescued about a week after the incident. “We continue to urge the unconditional, immediate and safe return of those still missing,” FHI 360 spokesperson Christy Delafield told AFP in May.
Support Our Journalism
There are millions of ordinary people affected by conflict in Africa whose stories are missing in the mainstream media. HumAngle is determined to tell those challenging and under-reported stories, hoping that the people impacted by these conflicts will find the safety and security they deserve.
To ensure that we continue to provide public service coverage, we have a small favour to ask you. We want you to be part of our journalistic endeavour by contributing a token to us.
Your donation will further promote a robust, free, and independent media.Donate Here