LAGOS, NIGERIA - The Boko Haram insurgency has sent millions of Nigerians fleeing from the northeast, and despite recent military successes against the group, many say they have no plans to return home.
The International Organization for Migration said Boko Haram’s six-year insurgency has displaced nearly 2.1 million people inside Nigeria. Nearly 20,000 people have died from the violence.
At its height last year, entire towns and villages in the northeastern states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa were emptying as the insurgents pushed out military forces.
Most of the towns occupied by Boko Haram were retaken earlier this year. But in recent weeks, the military said it has been making progress in securing smaller villages from the insurgents.
Yet many of the displaced said it will take more than that to get them home.
Malami Muhammed, who fled to Bauchi from Yobe state capital Damaturu last year, said shops had been burned and vandalized, and if he goes back, he would have nowhere to stay.
Meanwhile, much of the northeast remains dangerous. As militants have lost territory this year, they have stepped up bombings against civilian targets, such as markets.
Multiple bomb attacks in Borno state Sunday killed at least 80 people and injured 150.
Sani Datti, senior information officer for the National Emergency Management Agency, said authorities are waiting for the military to deem the reclaimed areas safe before organizing returns of the displaced people.
A military spokesman could not be reached for comment.
Some have returned
However, some of the displaced have made the trip back.
Buba Musa Shehu left Bauchi this month to return to his hometown Gwoza, which he fled when it was overrun by Boko Haram in 2014. The Nigerian military retook Gwoza earlier this year.
But Shehu said the Gwoza he returned to was a mess of bombed-out buildings and dangerous countryside.
“They do come and terrorize our people. You will never go to a farm just a kilometer away from Gwoza. They will kill you," he said.
Shehu returned to Bauchi and is living in a cramped house, and like other displaced people, is waiting for a reason to return home.
Ardo Hazzad contributed to this report from Bauchi.