Human Rights Watch (HRW) says Nigerian security forces have raped and sexually abused women and girls fleeing the Takfiri Boko Haram terrorist group in the country’s troubled northeast. The international rights group said in a statement published on Monday that at least 43 cases of “sexual abuse, including rape and exploitation” had been documented by its researchers in July.
The group noted that the victims were housed at seven camps in Maiduguri, the capital of the northeastern Borno State. Several women and girls told HRW of the abuse carried out by camp leaders set up to help the military fight the terrorist group across the troubled region. Thirty-seven told HRW that they had been coerced into sex through false marriage promises and financial assistance. According to HRW, at least four victims were drugged and raped at the camps.
A 17-year-old girl said she was raped by a policeman who approached her in a camp. “One day he demanded to have sex with me. I refused but he forced me.” The victim stated that the policeman also threatened to kill her when she discovered that she was pregnant. A 16-year-old girl said she was drugged and raped a community security group member in charge of distributing aid in the camp.
Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari has ordered a probe into allegations by a rights group. “President Buhari has instructed the inspector general of police and the state governors of the affected states to immediately commence investigations into the issue,” Buhari’s spokesman Garba Shehu said in a statement on Monday.
The spokesman stressed that Buhari was “worried and shocked” by the allegations. The camps are home to thousands of refugees who had fled Boko Haram’s reign of terror. Boko Haram started its campaign in 2009 with the aim of toppling the Nigerian government. The terror group later expanded its activities to the neighboring countries of Cameroon, Chad and Niger. These countries have, in return, stepped up counter-offensives in the form of unilateral operations or contributing to a multinational force against the militant group. The group has pledged allegiance to the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group, which is mainly operating in Iraq and Syria.