Armed ViolenceFeatures

“Every Time I Close My Eyes, They Are Shooting Me Again…”

Lydia David moved to Dogon Noma, Northwest Nigeria, for a simpler life. But almost four years ago, she was shot and cut with a machete by unidentified attackers. Now whenever she closes her eyes, she is back in the place she was wounded.

The excruciating pain and the trauma she experienced come back to her in a flood, even though the incident happened nearly four years ago. 

She still struggles to cope with the trauma caused by terrorists in an attack on her farm in Dogon Noma, Kajuru Local government area, but she tries to struggle on.

“I was satisfied with my life in the village,” she told HumAngle, “but I am left with nothing because the armed men burned everything to the ground”. 

Escaping From Dogon Noma

The early morning of March 11 2019, was like many others. 

“I remembered waking up at 5:30 in the morning for morning prayers, but my sister and I decided to go back to sleep since there was no work to be done,” 

But then the peace was shattered. “Piercing screams woke us up,” Lydia said. 

Lydia, her husband David, a recently retired police officer and their only son, had been staying in Kano before she chose to permanently return to Dogon Noma in Kajuru Local Government Area of Kaduna, Northwest Nigeria, in 2014.  She made this choice because she preferred life in the countryside. She said there was strain in the marriage; she had grown tired of her husband’s affairs. 

“I made him buy me a plot of land when I returned, and I used that to farm so I could sustain myself.” Lydia planted crops like maize and soybeans, and her husband visited from time to time.

Lydia and her husband, who was home for the week, went outside to investigate, and that would be the last time they saw each other until after the attack. 

Some of the attackers were dressed in camouflage military uniforms, but she didn’t have time to ponder on that as her sister grabbed her, and they ran through the chaos. 

“Something told me it was not a great idea for us to be together. If we each went our separate ways, maybe one of us would survive. So, I told my sister it was best if we ran in opposite directions.” Lydia believes that decision saved their lives because even though she ended up a victim in the attack, her sister made it out safe.  

Lydia remembers running aimlessly as bullets went off behind her. One grazed her upper back but, fortunately, didn’t get to do much damage. However, the shock and impact from the shot made her lose her step. She struggled to run into the nearest hut, where she hid under an old mattress- but that was not enough to shield her from the wrath of the armed men because she was soon found after they came in to ransack the hut. 

“I heard one of them say something in their language before they pulled the mattress. I tried to play dead, but they seemed to know I was still alive because they shot me again, and the bullet hit my hip region. After which, they brought down a cutlass on my left leg and hand, also slicing off three fingers in the process. “

Lydia became unconscious, but smoke from the fire they set in the room woke her up.

“I couldn’t stand up because I was very dizzy and in so much pain.” But her desire to survive made her crawl out of the room, and she barely managed to leave it before she passed out again. The next time she opened her eyes, she was at Saint Gerald hospital in Kaduna. 

“I remembered waking up screaming because my entire body was hurting. My body was burnt all over, and the pain from the cutlass and bullet wounds was excruciating.” Even though she almost lost her arm, the doctors managed to reattach it.

“Unless I tell people what happened, many cannot guess that the arm had been reattached, but I still feel it. My leg still hurts a lot, from the burn I sustained in the fire and the cutlass attack. Sometimes when I am walking, I feel like I am about to lose my balance.” 

Healing was a slow and painful process, and Lydia knew that she was never returning to Dogon Noma again after what had happened. 

The village had previously suffered smaller attacks, and there were rumours about similar attacks going on in neighbouring villages in the southern axis of Kaduna. Last year, the president of the Southern Kaduna People’s Union, Jonathan Asake, reportedly said that approximately 148 communities were destroyed in attacks in the past six years.

Building A Life In Marrarraban Kajuru

Prior to the attack, Lydia’s husband, David, had started building a house in Marrarraban Kajuru. The couple moved into the uncompleted building after they reunited, and she was discharged from the hospital. 

“It is still hard to adjust. I am always in pain, and I find it hard to sleep. Every time I close my eyes, the images keep popping into my head. “Lydia is grateful that her sister and husband made it out alive and her son was far away in Kano when all that happened, but she is still struggling to come to terms with what was done to her and the entire village. 

“I could remember some people in my family saying they should just have killed me instead of doing what they did to me because how will I be expected to live a normal life after this?”

But even after leaving Dogon Noma, the stories of subsequent attacks still haunt them. “Before the village was abandoned, many of our family members refused to leave because they did not have anywhere to go, and if someone got kidnapped, we had no choice but to help raise funds for ransom.” 

In 2021, the Kaduna State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) said that the state currently has no designated camps for IDPs. The only previous camp was being used as a base for the military women assigned to the Abuja-Kaduna highway. Most people who were not fortunate enough to have relatives in other places or houses to move to end up staying in government primary schools, which served as temporary camps before they were dispersed. 

The couple lives off her husband’s pension, and sometimes, she gets enough money to buy and resell food items like salt for their sustenance. 

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