More than 20,000 Nigerians have fled into neighbouring Cameroon from Borno State, in the last two weeks, following a clampdown onBoko Haram insurgents by the Joint Task Force, JTF.
Over 20,000 people are said to have fled several communities inGwoza local government area in Borno State when JTF soldiers stormed their communities in search of suspected members of theBoko Haram terrorist group.
The soldiers, who went round the communities with a prepared list of names of Boko Haram suspects, ransacked some houses while reeling out names from their list and allegedly killed 13 persons accused of being members of the sect.
They alleged that the people on their list were sect members who had escaped the military raids of Boko Haram hideouts and camps in the surrounding Gwoza hills.
These facts came to light when the deputy governor of BornoState, Zannah Umar Mustapha, visited the affected communities inGwoza local government as well as the refugee camps established to cater for the fleeing Nigerians in Cameroon.
A member of the Borno State House of Assembly representing the area, Ahmed Jaha, who took the deputy governor round said that the more than 20,000 refugees who fled the military onslaught two weeks ago are being camped at Ashigashiya, Jibrili and Barrawa.
Jaha said that several efforts to persuade the refugees to return to their homes with assurances of their safety had been ignored as they swore never to return to Nigeria.
The refugees condemned the action of the soldiers, saying that instead of coming to protect them and make their lives more secure, they had unleashed more pain and anguish on an already suffering people.
One of the refugees, Sadiqui Ali told the deputy governor that soldiers came into Ngoshe on June 15 with a list of people and arrested three in the community.
He alleged that the three suspects were summarily executed without being allowed to answer any questions or defend themselves, leading scores of people to flee the community in order not to meet with a similar fate.
Sadiqui said that before then, one Col. Hassan had come to the community to talk to residents and assured them than no one would be killed unlawfully by any soldier.
He regretted, however, that “five days later, precisely on 20th June 2013, we woke up with the sound of gun shots everywhere, which resulted in the killings of 8 persons including a principal, head master and an Imam of the Friday mosque.”
Another refugee, Suleiman Dalhatu, said he fled his home because he found out that his name was on the list that was being announced by soldiers as a member of the Boko Haram sect,
Dalhatu who introduced himself as an agricultural extension worker denied being a member of the sect and wondered who had added his name on the list and why, adding that there was no way he would return to Nigeria.
“We would not return as Nigerians to our country unless and until government brings to book those who because of sentiment of religion and politics gave our names as members of the sect group,” he vowed.
Another refugee, Abdu, explained to Mustapha that he fled to Cameroon for fear of being killed by Nigerian soldiers because he saw people who were not members of Boko Haram being killed.
Many of the refugees expressed surprise at the names on the list which the soldiers claimed were members of Boko Haram and alleged that there must be ulterior motives for drawing up the list.
Some of them allege that some persons with bad intentions might have drawn up the list using religious or political considerations.
The deputy governor appealed to the refugees to return to their homes assuring them of their safety while promising that security men would work with the local people in dealing with Boko Haramelements in their midst.
He advised youths in different parts of the state to take a cue from the experience in Maiduguri where young men had formed vigilante groups and were arresting members of the dreaded sect and handing them over to the JTF.
He promised that the state government was ready to equip and pay vigilante groups formed by youths to help deal with the problem of insecurity in the state.