A bricklayer, Umar Umar, has recalled his agony in the hands of the dreaded Islamic sect, Boko Haram while they held sway in Monguno local government area of Borno.
Umar told our correspondent in Maiduguri that while he works as bricklayer, he also uses his motorcycle to provide transport service from his village on market days in Monguno town.
Recaounting his ordeal, Umar said: “On that fateful day, I left the market early carrying some of the items I bought with the hope that I would get home early, but it did not happen as planned.
“As you leave the market, there are military check points. When you get there, you alight from your motorcycle and push until you pass the check point. So, on that day, as I approached, the soldiers called and sent me back to the market to go and buy some cigarettes as well as Indian hem for them to help them keep vigil at night.
I had to go because if I refused, they could order me to spend the night with them as a punishment. And so, I went back to the market. I later got everything around 6:30pm and returned to the check point where I left my motorcycle. They asked me whether I could still go home or spend the night there and leave in the morning, but I told them I would manage. So, I left.
Meanwhile, I had some tablets (Tramadol) with me, which I used to take as enhancer. And I had N18,000 with me also. After leaving the military check point, I set on my way home. But about a kilometre or two from the checkpoint, there was another checkpoint mounted by Boko Haram.
“I had to pass through the spot. I also met a lot of my village people who left earlier. The Boko Haram were asking for ID cards from the people and they would collect it and destroy. (For security reasons, all motorcycle riders, traders and farmers around northern Borno have an ID card enforced by the military for self identification).
So, they were collecting and destroying ID cards from people. They were also collecting money, according to them, was a contribution for ‘aikin Allah’ – God’s work.
“When it was my turn, I hid my ID card in between my legs. When they asked me for ID Card I told them that I did not have one. Then they asked me how I managed to go into Monguno without an ID card? I manage to tell a lie, which they believed. Then one asked me to go to the next person to search me.
As I was being searched, the Boko Haram commander found two tablets of Tramadol on me and the N18,000 I had. He shouted ‘Allahu Akbar’, and all attention turned on us. I thought that was my end. But he quickly asked. Why are you taking drugs? This is unlawful under ‘Shari’a, you are going to received 80 strokes for violating the law.
“The others laughed, but for me it was a serious issue. I was relieved though when he said they were just going to flog me. They also took my money and said Shari’a had ceased it! I was asked to go and cut the cane they would use to beat me and I did. That was how I got 80 lashes from Boko Haram, they took my N18,000 and allowed me to leave around 9:00pm.”
Umar recalled that he saw people being killed that night and their bodies left by the roadside.
“I can never forget that. I decided to leave for Maiduguri to join my relations in the (IDPs) camp. Life in the camp also was unbearable but due to my trade, I moved out of the camp to survive outside it. At least, I have some freedom outside that wall”, he said pointing at the Bakassi camp along Damboa road.