In the face of weak, uncoordinated and ineffective military action against the Boko Haram insurgency in northeast Nigeria, vigilante groups called Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF) have gained prominence.
Officially armed and authorised by authorities to conduct security operations alongside government security forces in villages and local government areas (LGAs), these forces and their members have become powerful.
There have been numerous accusations that the CJTF has violated the rights of community members, mistreated others, and usurped power from traditional chiefs, threatening community relations in the process.
International Alert's Ido da Ido project was set up to address some of these issues.
The project trains community leaders, security forces and CJTF members in peacebuilding, human rights and mediation. More broadly, this project's activities are aimed at preventing CJTF members from exploiting their powers.
Project activities also seek to ensure that no authority employs the same violent and intimidating tactics as the Boko Haram insurgents.
Alert spoke to Abdulsalam (pictured), a CJTF member from Gonidamgari, in the city of Maiduguri.
We began by asking him what he thinks has been the impact of the Ido da Ido project on himself and the community.
“Working with International Alert has really had a positive impact on me. I have become more peaceful, accommodating and tolerant towards other people,” he said.
Before getting involved in the project, I had this perception of being too powerful. As a CJTF member, I felt I had an upper hand over people.
“People were afraid of me. They were afraid of associating themselves with me. My peers, even those we grew up together, were distant. It did not bother me in anyway. As far as I was concerned, I was right, and they were wrong.
"It wasn’t until I started engaging with International Alert, that I was able to reflect and think about my attitude and behaviour. I still remember the session on the ‘qualities of a peacebuilder’. The trainings got me thinking. They made me realise that I had to work on myself and be a better person to my family and my community.
Today, I am glad to see that people notice the change in me. I have become a better person, I am more understanding, and members of my community are confident and happy to report their problems to me.