Larai Umaru reminisced about the life she had with her husband and two daughters in Gidan-Illo, Zamfara, Northwest Nigeria, before the terrorists came. The 48-year-old woman is a Hausa housewife whose source of livelihood comes from selling local ornaments.
“Our lives were peaceful before they started attacking us, but now we are forced to keep hiding in our houses,” she says.
“They always come in the middle of the night. We started to go into the bushes to hide but when they discovered that we do that, they started following us there.”
In 2021, women from the Tsafe local government area of Zamfara came out in the hundreds to protest the persistent attack by terrorists. The women, tired of losing loved ones and their source of livelihood and being raped by the terrorists, blocked the Gusau-Kaduna major road to express their grief. But they are not the only women in Zamfara affected by this unfair new life.
Sometimes, in addition to the attacks, the terrorists demand that the villagers pay them taxes which can sometimes add up to millions of naira. In 2022, about nine villages were forced to pay 24 million naira to bandits.
The same thing is playing out in Larai’s community. “They demanded that we pay them a tax of ₦2 million, an amount is fixed for each household,” she says.
When a man is unable to pay for his household, the wife is forced to pay if she has a source of income. Despite the fact that there is barely enough to live on, the terrorists still wouldn’t leave them alone even after paying the tax.
When the attacks became the norm in the village, Larai and her husband Umaru, a Fulani farmer, made the decision to send the two girls away. Her first daughter, Aisha, is currently in Gumi, Zamfara state, because the terrorists kept bothering her and her family. Every time they came into the village, they made their way to Aisha’s room. Even though they had already kidnapped her husband once, they refused to let her have any rest.
While some women have had to witness their children slaughtered before their eyes, some had to witness them taken away by the terrorists. It was this fate that Larai was trying to protect her daughters from.
Her second daughter, Shafa’atu, was sent to Nassarawa, Bukuyum local government area, to stay with her sister. Larai believes it is much safer there, and she would rather have her daughter hawk in Nassarawa than be kidnapped or brutally raped by terrorists in Gidan-Illo.
In 2021, terrorists kidnapped over 20 women in some villages neighbouring the state capital and in 2022, they abducted female students from Zamfara College of Health Science, but even in villages like Gidan Illo, girls and women are not safe in their houses.
‘‘I go to visit them from time to time, and we talk on the phone regularly.” Larai knows that she cannot protect her children from cruel fates in the hands of terrorists if she lets them stay with her.
“If not for tests from God, nothing would have separated us the way it did. The pain of separation between a child and a parent is immeasurable. But I know I have to protect their safety.”
In an earlier report by HumAngle, mass migration in the North-central part of the country was going on as well in an effort to evade sexual violence from terrorists. Displaced women from Shiroro Local Government Area of Niger State reported first having to hide their daughters in the house to save them from sexual violence, then having to send them away to places considered safer.
Larai has been separated from her daughters for about four weeks. “If my first daughter says she wants to visit, I don’t let her come. I would rather go all the way to Gumi myself. She is not always healthy, but she is much better these days.
“I have lost so much, the worst being my place to stay. They rob our houses, they have killed people, they have extorted money from us, but they still don’t want to leave us alone. They have catered away most of our domestic animals. They take girls and women and cart them away, they demand a ransom before bringing them back, but that never stops them from coming back again.”
When asked if there are any security measures in the village protecting the people from the wrath of the terrorists, Larai lamented the situation at hand. “There is no security at all in Gidan-Illo; no one protects us. They do whatever they want with us. We always try to get the government’s attention to us; maybe they can do something to help us. It is getting harder to get by each day.”
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