Saturday 17 May 2014

Sitting Duc

It has been a year (and some) since the state of emergency was imposed on three of the Northeastern states of Nigeria. The House of Assembly and the Senate all agreed that a second extension of this state of emergency was needed, hence Adamawa, Borno, and Yobe are to remain under the emergency rule.
One of the effects of this emergency rule is a curfew in all three states. That is not the only effect -as there are the annoyingly long military checkpoints- but this one gives most people the creeps.

The Oxford Advanced Dictionary defines the word 'Curfew' as, 'A law which says people must not go outside after a particular time at night until the morning; a time after which nobody must go outside'. In that definition, one word bobs out twice. It is a strong word and no, it is not the word 'go', but the word 'must'. 'Must' is used in the present to say that something is necessary or should be done. It connotes necessity and obligation.

So, when the military says that they have imposed a curfew on the North-Eastern zone, they are in essence saying that nobody has the right to go out from the start of the curfew to the end of it each day.

Citizens in these regions are quite obedient and stay home during the curfew hours. I don't want to talk about how almost three hundred girls were kidnapped from a town under curfew or how boys were murdered in their sleep whilst in school. I actually want to focus on what has been happening in Adamawa, specifically, Yola.

The curfew in Yola and most of the other local governments is from 11pm to 5am. During that time frame, if you are caught outside, you will be roughed up by the army. At 10pm, the streets are empty, with only a trickle of cars returning home. Now this is not unusual as Yola isn't a nightlife town. From this assessment, it is fair to say that almost everyone is tucked in their homes (and most likely in bed) by say, 11pm.

My friend was one of such people who was in bed at 11pm. He had a friend over that night. They watched football (I think it was the Champions League) and then they fell asleep. At about 1:30am, my friend woke up, having this feeling that something was wrong. He reached for his phone that was charging on the bedside drawer. The phone was not there. He put on the lights and realized his laptop was not there either. He woke his friend and asked him if he had used the phone or the computer. His friend said no. He went into his living room and found the laptop and the phone. The screen of the laptop was crushed to smithereens. Someone had been in his house.

Exactly one week later, he got called at about 2am. His family house had been raided. Someone got in and took his father's laptop and phones, money from his mother's purse, his sisters' phones, and other stuff. What was bad about this was that his father's phone was close to his head and one of his sister's phone was under the pillow on which she laid her head.

Fast-forward to Thursday and we hear of a man whose house was raided. His TV, phones, laptops, and money were taken. And to crown it all, another friend told me that armed robbers, numbering around eleven, barged into his family house on Saturday, leaving many injured, bruised, and scared.

All these happened close to or during the curfew hours; same curfew hours where people were not allowed to go out.

The stories mentioned are examples of what is going on in and around Yola. How can people be shut in their homes because of an imposed curfew and still not be safe? How can thieves traipse into a person's house, all the way to the bedrooms and even under their pillows, in the very town where Soldiers are supposed to be patrolling the night? What guts do armed robbers have to be able to carry out their raid with a large entourage to boost their fear-delivery factor?

If this is happening a lot (and I assure you it is), how effective is the military in these troubled regions? Is it then a wonder that whole villages have been razed by insurgents and girls kidnapped?

When you go to a pond and see sitting ducks, they are oblivious to any hunter in the surrounding bushes. The hunter can pick them out one by one and at his own pace. But unlike the sitting ducks in the hypothetical pond, Yola residents are well aware of all the dangers that surround us. But though those ducks sit there because they want to, Yola residents are forced to be the bull's eye targets for anyone who so chooses.

This is a cause for concern. The military and police have to step up their surveillance of the streets of Yola and protect their citizens. I cannot imagine the power the culprits have when they stand over one's head whilst they sleep. At that point, one's life actually lies in the hands of the thief.

If thieves can waltz into your house while you sleep, what prevents the insurgents from coming to kill or kidnap residents in their safety nets, their homes, and their beds?

Yola trusts you with her security and safety. Don't fail her!

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