They are sad and angry. And indeed, such emotions are understandable.
For months, their husbands and breadwinners have been away on national security assignment, far from their habitation. And these women are worried.
At an encounter with some of these aggrieved widows, their emotions could hardly be curtailed.
So how did it all start? In January, some personnel of the Police Mobile Force (PMF), popularly known as mobile policemen, were posted from several units across the country to some parts of Borno State to join other security personnel as part of Operation Layifa Dole, the special operation set up to curtail the activities of insurgents that have relentlessly tormented that part of the country for years. The mobile police officers left with so much zeal and arrived at the state battle-ready.
The mobile police officers, it was gathered, have since been part of the teams fighting the Boko Haram members.
The policemen’s expectation was that, as it is in the force’s tradition, they would be redeployed not later than three months after staying in Borno, contributing their quotas to the war against Boko Haram.
But it has not been so. Now, more than six months after they have been dumped in Borno, many of the police officers have remained in the North East. Although some of them have been redeployed back to their bases, some of the police officers, for reasons unknown to them, have been forced to continue as part of the operations, even as morale has continued to dwindle on the battlefield.
The officers are also entitled to monthly allowances of between N30, 000 and 90, 000, depending on their ranks. But it was gathered that many of them have not been paid any allowance since January. The newspaper also learnt that no feeding arrangement is made for them, unlike their counterparts in the military. Every day, they look forward to leaving the war-torn zone and to be replaced by a new set of colleagues, who would be coming with fresh vigour to continue the fight. But such hope is always dashed.
“My husband left in January this year, and he has not returned since,” said Iyabode, a mother of three. “We have not seen him since. My children have not seen their father since. All through the period of the total lockdown, when everyone was home with their families, we were living in fear, as my husband was far away from us.
“Their allowances are not paid, and so we’ve been managing with his meagre salary. I have also lost my job at the insurance company where I used to work.
“On many occasions, we can’t get through to him, as the network is really bad. I’m confused. Many of us who are wives of these Mobile Police officers in Borno are confused. We don’t know where our breadwinners are. Why can’t some other officers be redeployed there as the law stipulates? What did they do wrong? We are planning a protest soon to bring it to the attention of the Inspector General of Police.”
A police source confirmed that many of the police officers have indeed grown weary and frustrated. He opined that leaving them in the bush for weeks and months without redeployment might be doing more harm than good for not just the officers but for the country.
Mariam, another aggrieved woman whose spouse has also been in Borno since January, They argued that the authorities’ continuous refusal to pay their loved the entitlements due to them, was an indication that the personnel’s efforts were not being valued.
Even before now, there have been protests in certain parts of the country. Early in the year, there were protests by the troops of the 159 Battalion, Geidam Sector 2 in Yobe State who were complaining that they had overstayed in the North-East. The protesters said their long stay in the North-East was causing undue hardship for their families.
A wireless message by the police sighted by the reporter had earlier expressed concern at the rate at which squadron commanders leave their units on special duty without being rotated or changed for more than three months.
“These attitudes have caused unnecessary hardship, apparent display of indiscipline and exhibition of unruly behaviours by personnel.
“You are, therefore, directed to ensure you change any unit or units on any special duty/operations that have stayed over three months. Any unit on special duty must be changed at most, every four months without further reminder.
“Any act of indiscipline exhibited by personnel as a result of disobedience to this directive will attract serious sanction,” the letter read in parts.
Describing the condition as unbearable, the worried relatives told the reporter their loved ones could not continue to put their lives on the line while the government looks the other way.
They are appealing to the appropriate authorities to change the mobile policemen who are already psychologically bruised. They are also appealing for their daily allowances to be paid so that their spirit could be once again lifted for the task ahead.
Jennifer, one of the women, said she was inconsolable when she heard that her husband and others might be forced to stay back permanently in Borno, as part of a new policy. She said she heard that there were plans to move the families of such officers to Borno, a move she said the wives of affected officers have vowed to resist.
“We’re shouting now so that the Police authorities and President Muhammadu Buhari might know they type of agony that we are passing through. We want our husbands back. There should be justice. They cannot keep our husbands in Borno forever.
“My four children and I have not seen our father and husband for close to six months. What kind of thing is that? And the rule says they shouldn’t stay there for more than three months,” Jennifer said.