Borno state in northeastern Nigeria has been devastated by a deadly conflict between the Army and Boko Haram jihadists for more than a decade. Authorities announced the closure of the Borno refugee camps stating that the insurgency was almost eradicated. However, in recent months there have been deadly attacks on the outskirts of Maiduguri. We speak to some of the two million displaced people who have fled the fighting.
Fatima, 26, forcibly married a Boko Haram commander. He did it to prevent the Islamist sect from turning his son into a child soldier. But since then her family has disowned her and called her “Boko Haram’s wife.”
Falmata, 50, saw the jihadist group put a price on her head simply for being a businesswoman. She barely survived, but she lost everything in Bama, her hometown, and she doesn’t know how she will feed her five children and three orphaned nephews. As for Mala, 70, she was saved from a peasant massacre, but she no longer dares to go back to the fields.
It took seven months to liberate the city of Bama. Schools, so hated by Islamists, are no longer empty.
Stories of these displaced people are rare in the western media. Borno state in northeastern Nigeria and neighboring countries have been ravaged by the Islamist insurgency for more than ten years.
We are the first Western camera crew to film the martyred city of Bama since Boko Haram made it its short-lived caliphate in 2014. Released after seven months, Bama now resembles a ‘supercamp’, a city of outposts of control and barricades. The schools, so hated by Islamists, are no longer empty, but the countryside remains subject to organized crime and attacks by Islamists.
The Covid-19 pandemic and the security situation forced our team to reinvent remote working methods, with two co-authors in France and a third in Nigeria. We filmed our report for several weeks so that we could take the time to speak to all of our interviewees. But it all took place in a highly volatile security context: Maiduguri, the regional capital of Borno, was hit by an attack just two days after the team began its journey back to France.
This report shows the absurdities of an endless war and a seemingly desperate situation, just when the Nigerian government wants to close the refugee camps.