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People displaced from their communities following attacks by Boko Haram at an Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp in Maiduguri in Borno State, Nigeria. PHOTO: AFP

Human Rights Watch has accused Nigerian officials of sexually exploiting women and girls in Internally Displaced Persons’ camps in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital.

The rights group said it had documented 43 cases in seven IDP camps where camp leaders, vigilante groups, policemen, and soldiers sexually exploited women and girls.

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“It is bad enough that these women and girls are not getting much-needed support for the horrific trauma they suffered at the hands of Boko Haram,” said Mausi Segun, senior Nigeria researcher at HRW.

“It is disgraceful and outrageous that people who should protect these women and girls are attacking and abusing them,” he added.

No government response yet

Government officials were not immediately available for comment on the allegations.

Four of the victims told HRW they were drugged and raped. Thirty-seven others said they were forced into sex through false marriage promises and material and financial assistance.

“Many of those coerced into sex said they were abandoned if they became pregnant.

”They and their children have suffered discrimination, abuse, and stigmatisation from other camp residents,”

A victim recounts her ordeal

The rights group said it spoke to one 17-year-old girl who was raped and made pregnant by a policeman.

“One day he demanded to have sex with me,” she said. “I refused but he forced me. It happened just that one time, but soon I realised I was pregnant.

“When I informed him about my condition, he threatened to shoot and kill me if I told anyone else. So I was too afraid to report him.”

HRW said irregular supplies of food, clothing, medicine, and other essentials in camps were making the women vulnerable to abuse and exploitation.

“In some cases, men used their positions of authority and gifts of desperately needed food or other items to have sex with women,” it said.