NEWSCOMMENTS At Hot Bites, the party is in full swing and there is beer, dancing and boy-meets-girl until curfew time hits Maiduguri, the cradle of the Boko Haram jihadist movement. “We need to move on,” said 18-year-old Fatima, her almond-shaped eyes rimmed with eyeliner, teetering on high heels with a dress sporting a plunging neckline. “Maybe I can find my future husband here,” she said with a laugh.

Nightlife is slowly returning to the northern city, where the Boko Haram insurgency erupted in 2009 and has since spread havoc and destruction across Nigeria and its adjoining countries. At Hot Bites, the trendiest nightclub in the capital of Borno State, northern Nigeria’s many cultures cavort, with dancers in veils next to writhing women in sexy glittering dresses. Beer flows as indulgent soldiers watch on, taking a welcome break from the rigours of the frontline.

After years of being under siege, Maiduguri is attempting to return to normal. The ceasefire has been pushed back four hours to 10 pm, and there are fewer policemen and soldiers on the streets. Boko Haram’s violent campaign for a hardline Islamic north has claimed more than 20,000 lives in Nigeria alone and led to more than 2.6 million people to flee their homes. Teens like Fatima have spent half their lives living in fear: fear of being abducted, raped or killed, or having someone in the family murdered.