The Borno State Emergency Management Agency, SEMA, on Sunday gave food and relief material to some 162 widows of members of the civilian joint task force, known as Civilian-JTF.
The members were killed while helping Nigerian troops to curtail the activities of Boko Haram insurgents in Borno State
The gesture was the first time since the youth vigilante operatives joined the fight against Boko Haram four years ago.
At least 674 members of the volunteer group have been killed over the period. Many of the Civilian-JTF operatives had no formal military training or protection.
The family members of fallen operatives had received no form of support from government until Sunday, when officials of SEMA organized a relief package for them.
The Executive Chairman of the agency, Satomi Ahmad, said the gesture was not only to help the poor widows and their children, but also to motivate those still active in the front line.
He said serving members of the Civilian-JTF had approached him last week to “do something” for the suffering families of their fallen colleagues.
“Last week when the management of the Borno SEMA decided to support the operations of the Civilian-JTF by distributing combat boots to them, some of their leaders approached me to plead for support for the widows and orphaned children of their members who were killed in the course of helping the soldiers to fight Boko Haram,” said Mr. Satomi, a civil engineer.
“We immediately welcomed the idea because, critically, these are youth who had volunteered to sacrifice their lives in safeguarding the territorial integrity and internal security of our nation. And majority of them are breadwinners of their families both nuclear and extended.
“We bought the idea of reaching out to the bereaved family members of these great heroes, most especially as we believe it will also help to boost the morale of their members who are still active in the ongoing war against terrorism.
He said the need to support the fallen heroes of the Civilian-JTF became necessary as the group has become indispensable in securing IDP camps, reclaimed communities, highways and other public facilities.
Each of the 162 beneficiary widows, a first batch of the bereaved families of slain operatives, received a bag of rice, a bag of beans, 2kg sachets of sugar and unit of fabric wrapper.
Speaking to PREMIUM TIMES at the event, one of the widows, Hajjagana Mbasaru, 30, said her late husband, Garba Mbasaru, was killed last year by a female suicide bomber who trailed him to their residence in Ajilari-Cross in Maiduguri.
“I am happy that for once, government has remembered me and my seven children with these food items”, said Mrs. Mbasaru.
She said since the death of her spouse, who was a senior official of the Civilian-JTF, their children had dropped out of school.
“We barely manage to eat everyday; so I do not have money to enroll them in school”, she said.
The SEMA chairman Ahmad said he has instructed leaders of the youth vigilante groups to collate and forward the names of orphans of school going age to his office in order to present them to government for enrolment in public schools.
The legal officer of the Civilian-JTF, Barrister Gunda, had informed PREMIUM TIMES that the vigilante group which started in May 2013 now has a membership strength of over 23,000.
He said only a few thousands of them were receiving monthly allowances of N15,000 under the Borno Youth Empower Scheme (BOYES).
“This is the first time the widows and orphans of our fallen heroes are being assisted in this manner”, Mr. Gunda said.