Hope Musa was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. On 25 June 2014, a suicide bomber believed to have ties to Boko Haram blew himself up at the busy Emab shopping plaza in the heart of the Nigerian capital, Abuja. Dozens were killed, many more injured.
Musa, a 35-year-old businessman who loved the art of trade, sustained severe head injuries. He spent eight months in hospital before finally being sent home, still suffering from seizures and brain damage. Unable to afford further treatment or a neurological operation abroad, he died from complications due to his injuries earlier this month, more than a year after the blast.
There have been hundreds of bombings throughout northern Nigeria since the Boko Haram insurgency started in 2009.
The frequency of such attacks has diminished slightly since July, following the election of President Muhammadu Buhari, but they still occur with alarming regularity.
On 7 July, a teenage girl blew herself up in the ancient city of Zaria in northwestern Kaduna State. Twenty-six people were killed. The majority of the dead and wounded were civil servants and primary school teachers. Most recently, last Sunday, in the deadliest wave of attacks since Buhari took office, a series of four Boko Haram bombs ripped through crowded spots near the airport in northeastern Borno State’s capital Maiduguri, killing more than 100 people.
Despite the raising of more than $400 million by a government-formed committee to support the victims of Boko Haram, many say they still face financial hardship due to prohibitively expensive treatment costs.
“Victims are dying needlessly with deaths that could be avoidable if urgent and continuous medical attention was provided,” said Kayode Oladele Olatunji, chairman of the Bomb Victims Association of Nigeria. “We have cases of first-degree burns, cornea opacity, compound fractures, orthopaedic cases, limb amputees, [ear] damage, intensive nerve and tissue injuries, and so on, all of which are in need of urgent medical attention.”
Here is what some of the survivors had to say:
Sadik Ibrahim, age 18
Injured during a 2012 blast in Kaduna State
“I was training in my brother’s shop on the day the suspected suicide bomber was arrested trying to bomb the Thisday Newspaper office along my street. We rushed to the scene to have a look, but unfortunately the suspect threw a bag at the crowd and it exploded.”
Ibrahim spent four months in a coma at the 44 Army Reference Hospital before being transferred to the Zaria Teaching hospital in Shika.
“I was seriously injured… My left hand and leg are now partially paralyzed. I also can’t see clearly with my left eye.”
He said the government helped pay for some of his initial treatment, but most of the costs, including prescription drugs, fell onto his parents, who have exhausted their savings trying to help him recover.
“We really need assistance because my left hand and left eye are still not functioning well,” he told IRIN.
Injured during the 7 July attack in Zaria
“The suicide bomber, a woman, came into the verification centre screaming ‘move, move!’ But before we realised what was happening, the bomb [she was carrying] on her exploded.”
Hassan lost consciousness and didn’t wake up for many days. He spent the next few weeks in the hospital.
“I was lucky… Many of my colleagues died on the spot because of the magnitude of the blast. It is a day I will never forget in my life as we are still traumatised and confused. We are just civil servants.
We saw no reason why somebody would want to kill us.”
Ibrahim Aliyu, age 25
Injured during 2012 suicide bombing while selling newspapers
“I was [working]… when it exploded,” Aliyu told IRIN. “I woke up in the hospital bed in cold blood. I was seriously injured. I lost my left eye and seven teeth. Now I use dentures given to me at the hospital. We are hoping the government will come to our aid, because I don’t have enough money to treat myself. I am just a newspaper vendor.”
Father of a bomb victim injured during an attack in Kaduna in 2013
“I almost lost my daughter… on the day Boko Haram hit the city,” Hamisu said.
“As a father, I was very terrified because I thought I was going to lose her because of the number of people killed. We were lucky though. She only sustained a fracture on her right leg.”
His daughter, Lubabatu, spent more than a month in the hospital recovering from her injuries before going home to see a traditional healer.
“I had to take her out of the hospital because I couldn’t continue footing her drug bills. As you can see, I am financially broke and we were left with no compensation.”