>> Meet Nigeria's vigilantes on the front line against Boko Haram. His torso pockmarked with shrapnel, Dala is undaunted despite two near-fatal brushes with the militants. He and around 30,000 others are battling to rid Northeast Nigeria of the jihadists. Reuter's Ed Cropley recently met up with what's known as a civilian joint task force Or CJTF.
>> It all started about three years ago when local community groups, many of them young, unemployed men, essentially got fed up with having Boko Haram militants living in their midst. So they took up weapons, sticks, bows and arrows, cutlasses, very rudimentary stuff, and joined up with the military using their local intelligence.
And are mass, mass arrests of hundreds if not thousands of suspected Boko Haram militants. This had massive effect on the capacity of the Muslim group to occupy towns and cities like Maiduguri.>> Here in Maiduguri in the northern Borno state, the vigilantes make their presence known. For many, they are undoubtedly a welcome show of force.
The region is the epicenter of Boko Haram's bloody campaign to build an Islamic caliphate. But the CJTF presence in Nigeria has also drawn allegations of abuse.>> There are several reports that we've received from human rights groups and, indeed, civilians up in places like Maiduguri of abuses on behalf of some of these members fo the CJTF.
That's to say extortion in return for providing access to safe and secure refugee camps. Some, indeed, have been accused of demanding sexual favors from women refugees in return for supplies of food
The volunteer force argues this is just a few bad apples. And for many in the country staring down the barrels of Boko Haram's guns, these black-clad volunteers have provided a salvation of sorts.
Late last year, the Nigerian government declared the Jihadists technically defeated, raising questions about the need and long-term plan for the 30,000-strong armed volunteer force.