By Aminah M. Abubakar
The crackdown on women begging for alms or food in Arewa communities has raised questions and fears of human rights violations. Attacks on innocent women, based on fear-mongering claims of a group of women trained as cultists to carry out nefarious missions, are becoming increasingly alarming.
Several audio clips circulating on social media alleged that about 100 women were trained by a secret society group to infiltrate Arewa communities, posing as beggars or impoverished individuals needing financial assistance. It is claimed that if you allow them into your home and offer any assistance, whether money or food, you will instantly collapse or die.
How was this baseless and manipulative statement conceived?
Who is responsible for perpetuating the fear-mongering that endangers women’s lives in Northern Nigeria?
Why do many, including the educated class, believe such a narrative paves the way for the blatant abuse of vulnerable women?
Why haven’t religious scholars and traditional leaders investigated to uncover the truth behind this notorious fear-mongering, which poses a threat to innocent women struggling with poverty and hunger?
At times of every new power shift in Nigeria, there has been different tribulation and tension. Hence, rumourmongers have a role to play in creating chaos and instability.
Islam condemns rumour-mongering. It is well known that Islam enjoins its followers to act cautiously and verify any story or news that comes to them according to Shari’ah because Allah says in the noble Qur’an:
“Believers, when a dishonest person brings you a piece of news, carefully ascertain its truth, lest you should hurt a people in ignorance and afterwards you become regretful for what you have done.” ~ Surah Al-Hujuraat 49:6.
While I may be mistaken, my instincts compel me to question the authenticity of the initial stories that struck fear into the hearts of people, creating tension and distrust towards women seeking financial assistance at a time when most families struggle to afford decent food.
I wonder if the fabricated fear-mongering was aimed at silencing people and preventing them from voicing their grievances toward government policies that exacerbated the existing economic breakdown caused by the previous administration. It’s always difficult to discern the extent to which those in power will go to manipulate and conceal their shortcomings.
Just two days ago, I witnessed a disturbing video on Facebook where two destitute women were mercilessly beaten by a group of teenage boys for no apparent reason other than their quest for food or to visit another community. Similar incidents can be found on WhatsApp groups, where women have been stripped almost naked and beaten by groups of youths over flimsy allegations, such as causing the collapse of someone merely through conversation. Treating vulnerable women is unjust and unwarranted, as any form of human rights violation is profoundly concerning and illegal.
Those who pushed the fabricated narrative that 100 or 1000 occultic women were capable of killing people by simply greeting or begging have now created the violent “monsters” that are now taking advantage of the situation to attack or even kill poor women – widows & mothers whose means of survival depend only on going out to beg for food or financial support.
We are all aware that the harsh economic situation created by the new government has increased the number of people seeking food and financial assistance. This group includes mentally ill and poverty-stricken citizens. Millions of Nigerian families have been enduring significant hardships due to the new government’s policies and are unsurprised.
It has always been the usual norm in Nigeria: the politicians and elites live in luxury, indulging in the finest pleasures – lavishly eating the best whenever they desire, living in luxurious homes they build, while the ordinary citizens who entrusted politicians with their votes suffer from poverty and the consequences of self-serving decisions made by the elites.
I hope this brief piece sheds light on the fabricated fear-mongering prevailing in Arewa communities, emphasising the gravity of human rights violations. It also underscores how impoverished and hungry women have been made scapegoats by a nonsensical false alarm intended to divert attention from the harsh economic realities that adversely affect people’s health and well-being.
Aminah M. Abubakar sent the article via email@example.com. She can also be contacted via her X handle (formally known as Twitter): @MinahMbubakar11.