With grim determination, two Chibok schoolgirls escaped from the Sambisa Forest camp of their Boko Haram captors after eight years as wives of top commanders of the deadly terrorists.
After their abduction from the dormitory of the Government Girls Secondary School (GGSS), in Chibok, Borno State along with 276 others on April 14, 2014, Mary Dauda and Hauwa Joseph were married off to members of the deadly sect.
Yesterday in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, they recounted their ordeal in the camp, and how they fled, risking their lives, and landed in the hands of troops, who rescued them.
After their abduction, the schoolgirls were shared out into camps where they became spouses of terrorists.
Mary, who was abducted at 18, is now 26 and mother of one. Hauwa is now 24.
The two ladies said more than 20 of their schoolmates are still in Gazuwa camp in Sambisa Forest.
Gazuwa camp is the acclaimed headquarters of the Boko Haram faction, formerly known as Gabchari, Mantari and Mallum Masari, located about nine kilometres to Bama Local Government Area of Borno.
Interacting with reporters at the Command and Control Centre, Maimalari Cantonment, in Maiduguri, Marry, said she could still vividly recall her compulsory marriage eight years ago.
She narrated how she walked through the deadly forest for many days before she found help.
Like the others conscripted by the militants, she had been told that she would be hunted down and killed if she deserted.
According to a News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) report, Mary said: “I took excuse from Malam Ahmed, that I will be visiting my relative from Chibok in Ngoshe town and he allowed me to go for one week. That was when I began my journey for freedom.
“I left Sabil Huda, popularly known as the camp of Abubakar Shekau and preceded towards Njimiya and Parisu, where I met some of the Mujahedeens. They asked where I was going and I told them I was given permission to visit my sister in Ngoshe.
“I finally arrived at Gava Village in Gwoza, after walking for many hours through the deadly forest under hardship and poor condition. I asked some people to direct me to the home of ‘Ddaughter of Chibok’.
”After meeting her, I told her of my plans to return home, she told me she had wanted to come with me but her husband had placed her under strict surveillance for attempting to run away in the past. I then left her and proceeded toward Ngoshe town.
”On my way, I met an old man who promised to help me to escape. But he told me that it won’t be possible in the afternoon until the sun had set. At about 8pm, he took me to Ngoshe and told me to pass the night in the outskirt of the town and I proceed in the next morning.
“When the day broke, I took myself to some soldiers where I was rescued with my baby.”
Giving her own account, Hauwa said she was forcibly married to Amir Abbah, Commander of Boko Haram (Munzul), at Gazuwa camp who was later killed during an encounter with the troops of the Nigerian Army.
She said she voluntarily escaped from the camp of the terrorists during a massive incursion by the troops of the Nigerian army into their camp in Gazuwa on June 12.
Hauwa said as people were running in the same direction where the sect members were hiding women and children, she took a separate route to escape from the terrorists camp.
She recounted how she tricked some of the insurgents who met her on the way and sought to know where she was going.
According to her, she told them she was following some women to hide in the nearby forest.
She said: “I slept under the tree with my child. I then proceeded the next day until I arrived at the road where I approached a military check point. Initially, they thought I was a suicide bomber, but when I explained myself, they took me along with them.”
She thanked the military for rescuing her, saying she hoped other girls still in the camps of the terrorists would be rescued.
The Theatre Commander, Operation Hadin Kai (Northeast Joint Operation) Maj.-Gen. Christopher Musa, confirmed that the girls were among the list of the missing Chibok schoolgirls.
Gen. Musa said that they were rescued due to a massive military operation in Sambisa Forest, Mandara Mountain, and the Lake Chad area.
”We are putting more efforts to ensure that the rest of the girls are rescued through the ongiong Operation Lake and Desert Sanity,” the Theatre Commander said.
Maj.-Gen. Waidi Shuaibu, the General Officer Commanding (GOC) 7 Division of the Army, said the girls were rescued between June 12 and 14, around Bama and Gwoza general area.
Gen. Shuaibu said the girls had received necessary medical attention and would soon be handed over to the appropriate authorities.