By Augustine Ehikioya
After spending about eight years in the hands of Boko Haram terrorists, two Chibok schoolgirls have opened up on their experiences in the Sambisa forest and other locations.
The two schoolgirls, now put in the family ways, were part of the five newly rescued girls among the over 275 students abducted from their school in Chibok, Borno State in April 2014.
The two girls, ageing between 16 and 18 years when abducted in 2014, have been delivered of babies from their forced marriages to the terrorists in the forest.
Taking a very slim and risky chance, they mapped out and implemented their escape from their abductors in 2022.
They were finally rescued at a military checkpoint by personnel of the Nigerian Army after wandering and trekking a long distance and scaling three valleys in the bushes.
The two rescued schoolgirls spoke in exclusive interviews with Security Watch Africa (SWA) in Maiduguri, Borno State.
The first Chibok girl, Hanatu Musa, said “They came into town at 11:00pm about midnight. We heard them chanting, so we woke up.
We wanted to run but some amongst us disapprove of the idea, saying that as women they will not harm us.
“So we waited as they kept advancing. They eventually pull down the school gate and came into our hostel. They told us that they are Soldiers on patrol. They asked us to come together. They wore military uniform so we assumed they were soldiers.
“They apprehended some of us. We all gathered before them. Then they said to us foolish girls, we are not soldiers.
“At that point some of the girls took to their heels. They already surrounded us. They brought us out and asked for the direction to our Admin block.
“They singled out 2 girls in our midst who led them to the admin block. Before they brought us out from the hostels, they asked us where is Hassana?
“We said we don’t know. They set the office complex on fire and led us out of the hostel gate. Some of the abductors suggested they should let us go, while others insisted they should take us away.
“They led us out of the school premises and kept yelling at us to hurry up before the break of dawn,” She said.
According to her, they were led into the bushes from one location to the other.
Their abductors, she added, always hide them under the shade of trees whenever military jets were hovering around their locations in the bushes.
She said “We headed for the major highway walking on bare foot until we arrived at a certain location where a big truck was waiting to convey us.
“They ordered us to get into the truck or risk being shot dead. So we obeyed and got into the truck. Unfortunately, it couldn’t accommodate everyone. So the others including me were told to continue walking.
“They arrived at a certain town and used another vehicle to convey the rest of us. We started crying while they were taking us away. We got to a major tarred road. We kept going until day break. They proceeded and took us to a forest. They said it is Maiduguri forest, a riverine area.
“They kept us there, we spent the entire day under a big tree. At night, they assembled us and gave us water. Four of our girls even escaped as a result, they warned that such should never happen again. They made us to urinate in their very presence so we don’t escape.”
Their abductors, she said, then separated them by putting the Muslims in different trucks away from the non-Muslims.
Hanata Musa went on “We proceeded from the forest until we got to at a tarred road. We kept going until it was day break and then finally we arrived at the Sambisa forest.
“They kept us under a big tree. At some point we sighted the military jet flying above us. So they warned us to remain hiding, saying we will be bombed if the plane should detect our presence in the forest.
“Every time they see the jet hovering in the sky they will make us hide. The jet comes early in the morning. It came down very close and flew away afterwards. It came back again on a Monday and dropped bomb not very far from us.
“Some escaped and others did not. So they later shared us into smaller separate groups. They asked us if we want to pray?
“Some accepted to pray while others declined. They insist we start praying so we can be set free. We started praying until it was close to fasting period.
“Won’t you take us home? We enquired. No, they said until we observe the fasting, which we did until fasting was over,” she stated.
On the forced marriages, she said “They came back and asked us to get married. We told them no and started crying. They insisted we must get married. We kept crying.
“So they began to choose from the girls. That was when they took over Gwoza. They took the grown up girls away. For the rest of us, we did not have a clue where they were taking us to.
“Little did we know that they were taking them to Gwoza. They later returned back and took the rest of us to Gwoza. At Gwoza, they still brought forward the issue of marriage. So at that point, our girls started getting married. Some of the Girls refused their proposals.”
She said they then lived in Gwoza for 3 months until they started hearing rumor of an imminent military invasion.
“We heard soldiers had invaded and taken over Mubi. On hearing the military invasion, our abductors moved us to Sabir Huda.
“We lived in Sabir Huda for one month. But they moved us again back to Sambisa. After 2 weeks, they changed our location again. They moved us to Parisu. We lived in Parisu for 1 month.
“When they noticed the presence of the military, they moved us to Ukuba. From Ukuba, they moved us to Garin Gudukwas and kept us there.
“We lived there for another 3 weeks or so until the fighter jet came and bombed the place killing 8 persons on the spot, 2 later died.”
Stressing that the life in the forest was initially sweet, she confessed that it later became very hard.
She also disclosed that their abductors always hide them in the forest whenever there was combat and exchange of gunfire with the military.
She said “For us, we were always delighted to know that the soldiers are coming close to rescue us, but we were kept deep in the forest. We were not alone in the forest, we lived amongst many other people. But the numbers have reduced now.”
Speaking on how they escaped from their abductors, she said “A lot of people has started escaping from the forest. So I visited this girl in her camp and gave her the information of our planned escape. We have been communicating with our families back at home.
“I had a discussion with this girl in regards to our planned escape. I returned home to the man I married after my visit to the girl. After a while, I informed him of my intention to visit this girl again in her camp and he permitted me.
“I went to her place in the morning and we had an extensive discussion. I told her we are leaving today, she suggested I stay with her for a while so she can pretend to seeing me off then we can both take a different route to avoid been spotted.
“My elder brother called and sent us N400 naira which her husband helped us to withdraw. And then he asked if I was leaving, I said yes. Then he said I should greet my husband.
“Coincidentally, he was summoned to come to the market and he left us. She whispered to me that as soon as he is off to the market we will take our chance. As soon as he left the house, we backed our babies. We left Ganzua at 4:00pm. By 6:30pm, we arrived the edge of the Bama valley.
On their rescue by personnel of the Nigerian Army, she said “We were able to cross the three valleys ahead and came across the military post. The soldiers sighted 4 of us. The other 2 were not part of our girls. The soldiers called us to come closer.
“They searched us to ensure we were not armed with explosives. We slept in their custody. At about 9:00am the next day, they took us to Bama where we passed another night.
“We finally arrived here the next day in company of the soldiers. I pray for the other girls to return back to their families safely. I am very happy to be free at last,” she concluded.
On her part, the second Chibok girl, Kauna Luka, said “This girl visits me often. She’s been suffering in her camp. So, when she paid me a visit, I confided in her that since people now have the opportunity to leave the forest, we should do same and return home.
“So when she visited me, we planned our escape and left. We thank the military for all its effort. We are happy to return home safely.
“We have not seen our parents since we returned. We would love to see our parents first before anything else,” she said.