The number of female Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) carrying pregnancies as a result of non-marital sex at camps in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, is assuming alarming dimensions, with an increasing number of unmarried young women, widows and divorcees becoming pregnant with no definite man taking responsibility. Some of the affected across the camps, who are either pregnant or have since delivered, told our correspondent on condition of anonymity because of stigma, that they were impregnated by officials in the camps, including those responsible for providing security.
Nigerian Insight had recently reported the President of the National Red Cross Society (NRCS), Elder Akpan Anani, when he said a major challenge faced in many IDP camps are cases of unwanted pregnancies, even as the organisation discovered rampant cases of teenage girls and single ladies getting pregnant in the camps. He said the Red Cross had been working to curb the situation by counseling the ladies against such acts because “the psychological effects and social factor affects them negatively.” But the situation, apparently, continues to worsen.
A 19-year-old nursing mother at Dalori Camp told our source that she was not forced into having sex with the two security men and a Civilian JTF man who befriended her before she took in. Rather, they enticed her with food. “You know we are very many in this camp. I understand we are about 32,000 IDPs here, so it is difficult for anything meant for us to go round. We’re supplied two meals daily. When you miss a meal, you have to wait for the next one, which may be the next day,” she said. “So if a soldier or Civilian JTF personnel promises you soap, milk and food items if you agree to go out with him, the temptation is high. But before you realize it, you’re pregnant. When I told the first soldier that took me out that I was pregnant, he almost slapped me.”
She told another male friend, a Civilian JTF personnel, her predicament. “He assured me that he was going to help me and he started going out with me. When my pregnancy became very visible, he abandoned me, saying he met me pregnant. I’m now a helpless single mother,” she said.
A pregnant IDP from Bama said men are capitalizing on the hunger and abject poverty in camps to lure women into having sex – often unprotected – leading to pregnancies. “There are many unmarried ladies who have either been impregnated or have even delivered babies, in this camp, after being enticed,” she said, adding: “Currently unfolding, is the case of a Civilian JTF personnel attached to this camp (Dalori 1), who took a 12-year-old girl out of the camp to Dalori 2 camp and camped her in the room of another Civilian JTF personnel there and was having serial sex with her until it was found out. The DPO of Bama and his men have since relocated to this camp and are handling the case now.”
She told our reporter that there are restrictions on camp, and IDPs cannot go out unless with a pass, with only 20 granted daily. “The question is, how did he take her out of the camp and into another camp? They are just using their influence wrongly,” she said.
The source said initially, the sexual fraternization was only between the IDPs, before the camps were split according to gender. “That left only security personnel like Civilian JTF and others to abuse their proximity to female IDPs,” she said. “There also are allegations of widespread cases of HIV among IDPs in this camp. Any time the authorities want to carry out HIV tests, majority of the IDPs will not turn up. So, nobody knows who is who now. But one thing is certain, nobody uses protection.”
At Gubio Road Camp, a female IDP said the cases of officials luring IDPs to sex has drastically reduced since some men were fingered by some ladies about three months ago, as forcing them to have sex. “We have committees made up of some respectable elders among the IDPs. It was that committee that made peace and warned that they will take it up with the authorities if it persists,” she said. “Now, if you hear any case of sexual act in this camp, the lady must be the one that asked for it or consented. In the past, they did it at night when non-security officials have closed, leaving us with them. They would just come to your room and call you out,” the source said.
At ATC Camp in Maiduguri, the situation is different as a young IDP in her early 20s said though some officials are having affairs with some girls in the camp, “Nobody forces anyone here to have sex. Go round all the camps in Maiduguri you will discover that the girls in this camp dress better and feed well.”
The situation at one of the IDP camps is degenerating to a hopeless one due to lack of food, making security at the once-restricted place to throw its gates open for the IDPs to go and source for money and food daily.
A health worker who spoke on condition of anonymity because she has no authority to talk to the press blamed the IDPs for their own predicaments. “They like keeping everything to themselves, refusing to confide in anyone especially when you are not a fellow Kanuri. If they had been telling us what they were passing through, we would have waded in and stopped it since,” she said.
A majority of IDPs spoken to appealed to the authorities to urgently address the situation, as it is increasingly becoming a cause for alarm.