29 December 2012

Nigeria: It's My Duty to Protect the Vulnerable in My Community - Female Vigilante Guard

Brave, dogged and selfless are how one would best describe this woman who risks it all to protect the vulnerable women and children in her community. Malama Aisha Sani is the only female member of a vigilante group in Suleja Local Government, Niger State. Her voluntary service has made her come face to face with members of her community who have questionable characters. In this report, she tells MAIRO MUHAMMAD MUDI why, despite the dangers involved, she still dedicates herself to the service even though she is not on the payroll.

Born into the royal family of Suleja 54 years ago, Aisha feels she has the responsibility to contribute her quota in seeing that there is peace and security for all in the ancient town. She has always had compassion for others and believes that everybody is entitled to some form of protection, especially the women. This prompted her to join the vigilante group, a terrain widely known to be a male domain.

Explaining to LEADERSHIP WEEKEND on other reasons for volunteering her services, Aisha said apart from her interest in ensuring that there is peace in her community, she is also of the opinion that in every part of the community, women and children should be considered and given priority and the only person to do that is a woman which prompted her to join the group. She said that in a lot of the cases that are being handled by the vigilante group, women and children are involved.

How do people react to her, one would begin to wonder?

Aisha said when she introduces herself as a member of the security outfit, she usually gets strange looks.

"But I don't have to be a macho-looking woman to fit in there. The role I play is mostly for taking corrective measures and making sure that accused persons, most especially the women and children are not abused and that is why I am a regular face at the social welfare office in Suleja."

Talking about the cases that have posed a challenge to the job, Aisha said, since she offered herself for the service for the past four years, the cases she finds challenging are domestic ones that have ended up in court or left unresolved.

"One of such cases involves a certain Blessing, an Igbo lady married to a Yoruba man. They met in the church that they both attend, through the head of the church that is female. Unfortunately, it turned out to be an abusive marriage against the woman.

That was when the Vigilante had to come in. The more I tried to reconcile them, the more the woman would face abuse in the hands of her husband. It was later discovered that the match maker was the genesis of the problem.

She was poisoning the man's mind by insinuating that his wife is an Ogbanje (spirit) who eats her own children in the womb. I wanted to seek the service of some members of the International Federation of Women Lawyers as usual, but the woman was scared because of the threat she was facing, so I withdrew the case. This type of case really hurts me."

Considering the time and effort associated with this type of job, LEADERSHIP WEEKEND asked the retrenched staff of the Federal Capital Territory Abuja on her take home package but she smiled instead and later heaved a sigh.

"Nobody pays me anything but I just decided to do it for my community even though sometimes it is hard for me to raise cash for transport in pursuance of cases, I manage by the mercy of Allah."

Baba Abdulwahab, the Coordinator, Suleja Emirate Civil Security Corps popularly referred to as 'yan banga' or Vigilante of which Aisha is a member, talked to LEADERSHIP WEEKEND about Aisha's invaluable contribution not only to the group, but the entire community, because she reaches where male members cannot, most especially when the comes to women and children.

He described her as a mother who is more interested in reconciliation and rehabilitation; saluting her courage for her attempt to come near them and study their activities before joining them.

"Most people, especially the women dread us. The mere mention of yan banga usually sends fear down many peoples' spines, and so for Aisha to offer herself for service in the community, it is worth commending and encouraging."

LEADERSHIP WEEKEND had to know why despite her efforts towards her community she was not even on any type of allowance. To which the Director said theirs is a voluntary organisation that gets allocations from the government.

"This can hardly sustain us, not to talk of paying salaries. We would like to call on privileged individuals and organisations in the society to please come out to support us."

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