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N. Nigeria City Fears Both Police Brutality and Boko Haram

  • Emilie Iob and Patricia Huon

KANO, Nigeria — Attacks and suicide-bombings are multiplying in northern Nigeria after the Islamist group Boko Haram re-emerged on the scene in 2009. The group - which aims to establish Islamic law (Sharia) - is believed to be responsible for more than 1,000 deaths in the past few years. In Kano, one of the largest cities in the Muslim-dominated north, the population lives in constant fear.

Scenes of chaos have become the norm in Kano. Attacks and security raids are daily occurrences in recent months, and Kano’s residents say they are trapped by threats and fear.

During the night, the army attacked a house suspected of sheltering members of Boko Haram. Hamza Abdulayi was there when it happened:

"We heard the sound of a gun, we got scared," said Abdulayi. "We could not get out of our houses, even to get food. We thank god that no one got injured. And only one house got destroyed. No other house was damaged. Now it's the only thing we talk about."

People in Kano are scared of Boko Haram, but they share the group’s anger at the government.

Even though Nigeria is the most important oil producer in Africa, 60 percent of Nigerians live on less than $2 a day. In the less-developed northern states, two out of three young people are unemployed and hopeless.

"There is absolute poverty in the environment," said Musa Baban Iya who works with a civil society group in Kano. "Go to some typical rural areas in the Northern far of the country where people are homeless, they are unemployed, no road, no electricity."

An oppressive atmosphere prevails along the city streets. Security checkpoints are everywhere and every vehicle is subject to inspection.

Police and soldiers, top Boko Haram targets, are on edge.

The drivers of the common moto-taxis say they are regularly abused by security forces -- who suspect them of transporting members of the jihadist group.

"I don't know how these security people, they are treating us," said moto-taxi driver Salisu Nuku. "Because we are not terrorists. We are not the people who are doing these action. So they come in order to give us peace, they come to protect us, but they come to beat us."

A feeling of injustice is spreading within the population, a frustration that can only feed the cycle of violence.

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