Some 3,000 people from the Dalori camps for internally displaced people (IDPs) on the outskirts of Maiduguri took to the streets on Sunday, demanding improved conditions.
They also called for permission to return to their homes in the second-largest town in Borno state, Bama, but were blocked from heading to the governor Kashim Shettima’s office.
Ibrahim Bukar, from protest organisers the Bama Youth Development Association, said they were told to disperse and return to the camp.
“But surprisingly, the police arrested eight people among us and took them to the police headquarters,” he told AFP by telephone.
“Our leaders (chairman Kazalla Grema Kyari and secretary Mohammed Hassan) went to the police station to bail them out but they were also detained.
“They have been there since yesterday (Sunday). We have made several attempts to be allowed to see them but this is an order from above.”
Bukar’s account was backed by two other people from the protests. There was no immediate comment from the police when contacted by AFP.
At least 20,000 people have been killed and more than 2.6 million others forced to leave their homes in the eight-year insurgency, which has devastated remote northeast Nigeria.
Most of the displaced have been living with distant relatives and friends, many of them in Maiduguri, with the remainder forced into camps.
They have become reliant on aid agencies for food, water, shelter and healthcare, with the dire humanitarian situation leaving hundreds of thousands on the brink of famine.
Boko Haram has also shown no let-up in attacks in hard-to-reach rural areas, despite government denials, but many IDPs say the risks of returning are worth taking.
Bama — once a major trading hub on the way to Cameroon — has been virtually completely destroyed since it was captured by Boko Haram in September 2014 and liberated last year.