Psychological Impact of Insecurity in the North

Psychological Impact of Insecurity in the North

By Zainab Nasir Ahmed

AREWA AGENDA – One of the fundamental human rights of the people in any given state is the right to security and this is why it is always provided for in the constitution of most sovereign states. Nigeria is not an exception, thus Section 14 (2) (b) of the Nigerian 1999 constitution states clearly that “the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of the government”.

Although the problem of insecurity is not new in Nigeria, however since the confirmation of Goodluck Jonathan in February 2010 as the President and Commander-in-Chief of Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria following the hospitalisation and eventual death of President Yar’adua, the nation has been witnessing unparalleled security challenges.

Now, hardly a day goes by without a report of one security challenge or the other. Unfortunately, ordinary citizens as well as the nation’s economic resources are at the receiving end of this destruction. The series of bombings and killings in the north; kidnapping and armed robbery attack in the south; political and economic related assassinations as well as the politically influenced communal wars has become a common occurrence which Nigeria appear incapable of handling.

Security has long been a part of human existence and sustenance and could be aptly viewed as freedom from threat or violence which could lead to the loss of lives and properties. That is, security is a situation in which citizens are free from any threats to their life and means of livelihood, safe from bodily harm,diseases, unemployment, and human rights violations wherever they may find themselves within a sovereign nation.

The conflict between Boko Haram and Nigerian security forces in the north-east of the country is entering a decade, with no sign of a long-term resolution. Since the start of the conflict in 2009, more than 20,000 people have been killed. As many as 2,000 women and girls have been abducted and subjected to physical and psychological abuse, forced marriage and sexual violence, forced labour forced to participate in armed operations and repeatedly raped.
Young men and boys have been forcibly recruited into armed groups, and their families either killed or left not knowing if their wives, daughters and sons are still alive.

This complex context of protracted violence, abuse, killings, disappearances, enslavement and imprisonment has had a profound impact on the mental health and psychosocial wellbeing of people in the north-east. Millions of people have been affected, either first-hand or through indirect exposure to violence. Entire families and communities live in fear, fleeing their villages to seek refuge in safer areas, bigger cities or neighbouring countries.

The Nigerian security forces have also perpetrated abuses against civilians in the north-east. A report by Amnesty International in 2015 states that more than 1,200 people have been executed, and at least 2,000 mostly young men and boys arbitrarily arrested. Civilians from areas under the control of Boko Haram have been tortured. Hundreds of Nigerians have disappeared and at least 7,000 have died in military detention from starvation, overcrowding and lack of medical care.

According to the Displacement Tracking Matrix produced by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), by March 2017 more than 1.8 million people had been displaced across the six most affected regions: Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Taraba and Yobe. A third are in official IDP camps and camp-like settings, with the rest living in host communities, with friends and relatives or in rented or free accommodation temporarily provided by private citizens, churches and other local groups. The scattering of the displaced population across large areas has made locating them and providing them with humanitarian assistance especially challenging.

Victims of violence reported to be suffering from psychological distress, sometimes severe. Many complain of deep fear, sleeplessness and/or nightmares, generalised anxiety and unexplained somatic symptoms, such as body pain, and headache. Women and girls who have managed to escape Boko Haram are often marginalised and stigmatised by their communities, who fear that former abductees have been radicalised. The lack of trust these women and girls feel leads them to isolate themselves from their social networks. Some are rejected and abandoned by their families and communities. Children and teenage boys forcibly enrolled in armed groups are similarly affected.

To solve the psychological problems that insecurity caused in the country, there is a need to study Nigerian government policy responses to the mental health needs of people exposed to terrorism. Additional studies need to be conducted on mental health policies and programs of the Nigerian government that cater to the mental health needs of people who have experienced violence. There are very few or no government policies or programs that catered to their mental health needs following the Boko Haram insurgency.

Activities of donors in northeastern Nigeria who are providing psychological support to children exposed to the Boko Haram insurgency need to be studied, the little programs made no appreciable impact on their psychological and economic needs.

There are no government resources to address the psychological trauma because of the affected individuals, Hence, there is need for a study to assess perceptions of mental health care and how these perceptions impacted the affected regions.

Security is everyone’s concern

Arewa Agenda is a Publication of young writers and journalists from Northern Nigeria towards Peaceful Coexistence and National Development through positive narratives