Nigerian officials have been accused of sexually abusing women and girls displaced by Boko Haram terrorists in the country's northeast. A report by rights group Human Rights Watch (HRW) alleged 43 women and girls were sexually abused in seven internally displaced camps (IDP) in Maiduguri, capital of restive Borno state.

Four of the victims told HRW that they were drugged and raped, while 37 claimed they were coerced into sex following false promises of marriage and financial assistance.

Some of the alleged victims said they had also been abused by vigilantes who are currently helping the army in the fight against Boko Haram.

This is not the first time that similar allegations have emerged. Earlier this year, NOI Polls, a Nigerian research organisation, said several displaced people interviewed claimed camp officials sexually abused displaced women and girls.

In 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari relocated the military headquarters to Maiduguri, the epicentre of the seven-year-long Boko Haram insurgency.

The Nigerian army is leading a regional offensive – consisting of 8,700 troops from Nigeria, Niger, Chad, Cameroon and Benin – against Boko Haram.

The offensive has scored some successes, such as the recapture of key territories and the recovery of arms and vehicles used by the terrorists during their attacks.

Although Buhari declared a technical victory over the fight against the insurgents in December 2105, Boko Haram still carries out attacks, with security experts warning that underlying issues such as disenfranchisement, poverty and strong links with the Islamic State (Isis) will continue to pose major threats to stability in the region.

UPDATE 1800 GMT: Following the release of the HRW report, President Buhari instructed the Inspector-General of Police, Idris Ibrahim, "and governors of affected states" to investigate the allegations.

"Their findings will determine the next course of action for the government and define an appropriate response," Buhari's senior special assistant on media and publicity, Garba Shehu, said in a statement.

"While the Nigerian military continues to work hard so that these unfortunate victims of Boko Haram terrorism can soon return safely to their homes, the government will do its best to ensure their protection and welfare in the temporary IDP camps," Shehu concluded.

Who are Nigeria's Boko Haram?

Boko Haram, which has renamed itself Iswap, fights against Western influence in Nigeria and aims to impose its version of Sharia law throughout occupied territories.

The group launches attacks in Nigeria and neighbouring countries in a bid to take control of more territory. Three Nigerian states – Adamawa, Borno and Yobe − have been under a state of emergency since May 2013.

Boko Haram has killed more than 20,000 people since 2009 and was deemed the world's deadliest terror group, surpassing Islamic State in November 2015. Nigeria has also become the world's third-most terrorised country as a result of the group's violent insurgency.

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Boko Haram
File photo of displaced Nigerian villagers Reuters