WE SURVIVED BOKO HARAM V: “I’m not leaving here. It’s my home”

by Eromo Egbejule

You hear a lot of stories about North-East Nigeria, a slice of the country that has been at war since 2009, at the hands of Boko Haram. But we have largely only heard a single story. Sending a reporter across 7 cities, we tell a more complete story – personal tales of survival and recovery – that speak to hope, to strength and to faith. Stories that speak to life. Across 20 narratives over the next 3 weeks, you will hear the most inspired and touching stories about Nigerians – at their best, even when they have only just recovered from their worst.

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In June 2015, there was a double suicide bombing one evening at the popular Jimeta Modern Market in Yola as traders were haggling with buyers over open fires about food, second-hand clothing and various other merchandise. There were also a lot of commuters were going home in the ubiquitous Toyota Starlet taxis and tricycles. The incident disrupted the last-minute transactions.

Everyone was rushing home to beat the curfew which was from 7pm-5am at the time, as a result of the state of emergency imposed in 2013. Travellers have to stop, park and sleep in their vehicles, if they do not make it to their destination before 9pm, becoming easy targets for night marauders and roving insurgents. And this was so in many parts of the North East until late 2014 when the curfew was reviewed to begin at 10pm.

So it was precisely at rush hour that the bomb went off, killing at least five people and wounding a lot more. “It only took two days for the market to reopen”, says Asauten Anderibom, head of operations at a local Microfinance bank. “Everyone has to feed their families so they went back to trading right at the same spot Boko Haram struck, and also around it. It was unbelievable for me and I couldn’t even drive around there for a bit but these people are so resilient.”

Born in Jalingo, Taraba state almost thirty years ago, he obtained degrees in economics from the Benue State University and Aliyu Modibo University of Technology, Yola before settling down in Adamawa state.

Since the insurgency began, his bank has had to cut down its workforce and the number of daily deposits has reduced too. “Many people left the city and the queues at the bank have reduced”, he says.

There was another blast in November 2015 but in a repeat of the situation five months earlier, economic activities resumed only a few days later.

Things began to take a turn for the better earlier this year, even though there was a lot of uncertainty about the economy, given the slow pace of the Muhammadu Buhari administration in fixing its economic policies.

These days, he can afford to stay out long and drink with friends at one of the many spots in town without worrying about security. And with the inflow of international aid organizations and donor agencies into town, the conditions of IDPs are getting better; a few are even going to the banks to deposit their savings from their meagre earnings running small businesses.

“People are coming back; it’s just that they are not spending money like before because of the state of the economy. But I’m not leaving here. It’s like home.”

READ: [WE SURVIVED BOKO HARAM I: The boy from Bama]

READ: [WE SURVIVED BOKO HARAM II: F is for Fati, and Faith]

READ: [WE SURVIVED BOKO HARAM III: “We survived Shekau’s men, we can survive hunger”]

READ: [WE SURVIVED BOKO HARAM IV: Jibrin went back to school]

*The next installment will be published at 10am WAT tomorrow.

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