Working in Boko Haram Controlled Regions

The attention of the whole world has shifted towards Nigeria. No thanks to the atrocities of Boko Haram, a militant ‘Islamic’ group which has unleashed terror on the West African country. Prior to the abduction of over two hundred school children in Chibok, a town in Northeast Nigeria, the activities of the terrorist group have only been given passive mentions in the Western media. The whole world was awoken to the danger of Boko Haram through the Social media, especially the #BringBackOurGirls campaign on Twitter.

Now that Nigeria has sought for external help to secure the release of these innocent children and possibly bring to an end the over four years of sorrows and hardship Nigerians are facing through the activities of Boko Haram, It is pertinent to discuss the harrowing experience of Nigerians working in the affected region.

Due to the vicious nature of Boko Haram’s attacks and the ease at which these attacks are carried out amidst the presence of armed soldiers lining up the streets, people go to work with great trepidation. Vehicular movements are at snail speed due to the stacks of sandbags mounted on major roads in most cities of Northern Nigeria. Navigating through the numerous checkpoints to get to work is a daily battle for most workers.

The aftermath of the two recent attacks in Nyanya, a suburb of Abuja, has been longer hours for thousands of Civil Servants who throng into the Capital City daily from Nassarawa state and other neighbouring towns. People leave their homes as early as 4am to beat the traffic but will still get to work late. What sort of productivity can be derived from a tired and sleepy-eyed workforce? Meeting deadlines on assigned job functions by employees in the crisis-prone areas is almost an ambitious ask.

In all these, HR has a big role to play. The need to provide adequate security within the workplace for every employee is a key deliverable of HR. It is important to stress that even where office premises have been fortified, resignation and applications for redeployment are on the increase. Employees working especially in Borno and Yobe states are seeking for redeployment to other peaceful states of the country and in instances where these requests are denied, some have towed the difficult but logical route, by resigning and relocating to the South of Nigeria.

HR pros are not only inundated by requests for transfer and resignations, they also have to deal with providing adequate training for Managers on how to lead in these difficult times. Productivity of employees is on the decline and Managers are still expected to post results. Office hours are continually being shrunk leaving the doors of most premises shut during business hours. In some organisations, businesses and services are carried out through the backdoor; they dare not open their doors wide. It is that bad!

I do not envy anybody caught up in this web of terrorism. These are abnormal times that require special skills and management from HR to deal with. I will advocate studies and research be carried out on how HR pros in volatile and crisis-prone countries are managing to coordinate employees to staying focused on organisational goals amidst terrorism. Initiatives like change in dressing and special bonus for employees in those areas are beginning to emerge. Most employees now wear traditional long dresses; dumping the conventional black suits.

I must salute the courage of employees that are still giving it their all with all the violence and terror going on around them. These guys have no social life; they cant unwind after work and are restricted to their homes. Even in their confines, they live in fear. I will remind my colleagues in HR that policies are only there as a guide and the conditions under which employees in Boko Haram’s infested states work are not normal and a lot of flexibility should be exercised.

My thoughts are with the families of the abducted children and every employee working in Northeast Nigeria. #BringBackOurGirls


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