2013 began like every other year for Fatima until her husband was diagnosed of kidney problems early that year. She was now saddled with raising money and getting a donor to save her sick husband and fending for 7 children and 1 niece.
Fatima said ‘‘I knitted caps, the local Kanuri cap; so I increased the number of caps I was knitting for sale daily hoping that one day, it would make enough sales to accommodate my husband’s surgery while also praying he held on till when it will happen. My husband never had an opportunity to go through the surgery. Boko Haram attacked our community that same year. As if their presence in my house was not exasperating enough, they made my husband negotiate of the kind of death he wanted; after dragging him out of hiding from one of the rooms, they asked him if he wanted to be macheted or shot. My neighbour who used to live right next to our house but suddenly disappeared was one of the Boko Haram men that attacked my household and he was the one that pulled the trigger.’’
Following the killing of her husband, one of her daughters and her niece were abducted by the Boko Haram gang; their whereabouts remain unknown. Fatima and other residents of Gwoza trekked to Maiduguri through Biu. They were initially settled in Giwa barracks before the military conveyed them to Bakassi IDP camp where she and her family now live.
Fatima said ‘‘I miss my girls, I wish to see them again, I know they are alive because I got a call sometime last year, 2016 from a man who claimed to be a soldier saying if I wanted to see my girls alive, I should pay thirty thousand naira to an account he would send me. I didn’t have that kind of money so I ran to a military officer in our camp to help me beg since they were supposed colleagues. When the camp soldier spoke with the man using some military slang, he couldn’t respond so we knew it was a Boko Haram member that gave me the call. The caller mentioned that my niece was pregnant already. Seeing them will give me closure. My niece would be 26 now my daughter 21.’’
Fatima is one of the women ActionAid trained on fashion designing who opted to specialise in bed-sheet making with pillow cases, throw pillows and duvet. She said ‘‘Today is a very happy day for me. In less than 2 months that I met ActionAid, they turned my life around suddenly. Providing me with sewing machines and everything I require starting up make today the beginning of my own new year. Thank you ActionAid. My priority is to firstly get 2 of my children to school. My life and my children’s will definitely change from today.’’