Horrific, outrageous and heart-wrenching are words to describe stories of what abducted females – both young and old – went through in Boko Haram camps before soldiers of the Nigeria Army moved in to rescue them penultimate week. KAREEM HARUNA spoke with some of them in Maiduguri.
Some five months ago, troops of the Nigeria Army had made several rescue operations during raid of camps around Sambisa forests, and of the over 400 of the women that were helped to regain freedom, 214 of them, according to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) data, were found to have been in various stages of pregnancy for unknown Boko Haram ‘husbands’.
Just recently, soldiers of the 7 Division of the Nigeria Army had made yet another rescue of women trapped in villages that fell under the captivity of the Boko Haram terrorists.
Some of the women, according to some soldiers that took part in the ‘Lafiya Dole’ counter-insurgency operation, were prevented from joining their fleeing neighbours by the attacking Boko Haram terrorists because they also used them as cannon fodder in times of attacks.
Some of the women who were rescued from Bama axis of Borno state, where Boko Haram insurgents were still holding sway before soldiers moved in to tackle them, said they practically lost all their rights and dignity as women during their captivity in the Boko Haram camps.
A mother of four, Fanna Ali, who is in her mid 20s was very economic with the details of her horrific stay under the guard of Boko Haram.
“I have no words to explain what my children and I went through when Boko Haram took over our village and held us there for over four months. Everyday I cried for myself and my children; but the Boko Haram people….they had no mercy at all…..”, said Fanna trailing off in tears.
“We came from Usmanti village”, she said. “Boko Haram had prevented us from leaving when we heard that other residents of various communities around us had left. We were cut off from everything including medical care and good food. We only depended on what was permitted or given to us by Boko Haram terrorists. It was just some weeks ago that the Boko Haram had to flee as the soldiers came. That was how we were lucky to escape too. I have four children for my husband…but I can’t remember their actual birthdays, because I have recently been finding it difficult remembering things like dates. Some of my children were always having running stomachs; some always cried of body pains. I still have back pains and I am here waiting to be given some medications”.
Zara Modu, a woman in her early 30s said she came from Kijelli, a remote village in Konduga local government area. She also has three children. She said “Boko Haram have been troubling us in Kijelli so we had to find a way to escape to Konduga through the help of the soldiers” She said one of her children has been ill so bad that he urinates blood.
Modu Musa, a 45-year- old villager said he also made it to Konduga from Fadan village alongside other members of his community.
“We have suffered so much in the hands of Boko Haram who had forcefully kept us in Fadan village. Many attempts by most of our community people to escape to Maiduguri was met with terminal punishments like shooting to death or outright slitting of throats like that of animal. They seized our herds of cattle and goats. They dispossessed us of our food and other valuables. We lived in fear until the soldiers finally came. The Boko Haram terrorists had forced many of our people, especially the youth, to join them in whatever they were doing”.
A pregnant woman in her early 30s, who declined mentioning her name, said even if she was to deliver her baby, she would be in fresh dilemma of trying to identify who the real father was.
“Maybe God has destined that I will end up being pregnant for people I don’t know”, said the woman in tears. “I lost my husband to Boko Haram and now I am pregnant for people I never knew…they used women as if we were animals and they gave us crumbs or scraps when they cared to feed us from what they ate…”.
Yagana Yurahim, said she became a captive of the Boko Haram for three months after the insurgents had invaded their hamlet near Yale village in Konduga Local Government area, killing some men that refused to follow them to fight soldiers.
“After killing our men and forcing some of our young boys to go, some of them were asked to remain behind and watch over the women and children”, said Yagana, who is in her early 40s.
“Some of the women that attempted running were killed, while others were lucky to escape unhurt. We were all scared of running because the terrorists had warned that they would kill us if we attempt running. They would gather us in a house and one of them would be forcing us to learn how read Quran”.
“Our luck came when the soldiers came attacking. They all abandoned us and fled; that was how the soldiers came in and took us to Maiduguri”.