By Zakariya Musa, Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria
Nigerian troops have found two of the former schoolgirls abducted from Chibok by Boko Haram jihadists eight years ago, Mary Dauda and Hauwa Joseph.
In a related development, EYN leadership celebrate the return of Mary Iliya, who was abducted in 2020 by jihadists from Bolakile. Also recently freed is Rebecca Irmiya.
All of these women are members of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria), from congregations located in the church districts of DCC Chibok Balgi, DCC Chibok, and DCC Gulak.
Many other women who have been abducted still cannot be accounted for.
Two former Chibok schoolgirls are freed
Major-general Christopher Musa, the military commander of troops fighting jihadists in the region, said Mary Dauda and Hauwa Joseph were found on June 12 and 14 in two different locations.
“We are very lucky to have been able to recover two of the Chibok girls,” Musa said.
Joseph was found along with other civilians on June 12 around Bama after troops dislodged a Boko Haram camp, while Dauda was found later outside Ngoshe village in Gwoza Local Government area near the border with Cameroon.
On June 15, the military said on Twitter that they had found another of the Chibok girls named Mary Ngoshe. She turned out to be Mary Dauda.
“I was nine when we were kidnapped from our school in Chibok and I was married off not long ago and had this child,” Joseph told reporters at the military headquarters. Joseph’s husband and father-in-law were killed in a military raid and she was left to fend for herself and her one-month-old son. “We were abandoned, no one cared to look after us. We were not being fed,” she said.
Thousands of Boko Haram fighters and families have been surrendering over the last year, fleeing government bombardments and infighting with the rival group Islamic State West Africa Province. Some of them regret and condemn their activity towards humanity.
The conflict has killed more than 40,000 people and displaced 2.2 million more since 2009.
Dauda, who was 18 when she was kidnapped, was married at different times to Boko Haram fighters in the Sambisa forest. “They would starve and beat you if you refused to pray,” Dauda said. She decided to flee and told her husband she was visiting another Chibok girl in Dutse (Mountains) near Ngoshe, close to the border with Cameroon. With the help of an old man who lived outside the village with his family, Dauda trekked all night to Ngoshe where she surrendered to troops in the morning.
“All the remaining Chibok girls have been married with children. I left more than 20 of them in Sambisa,” she said. “I’m so happy I’m back.”
Two more abducted women are freed
Mary Iliya, who was abducted in 2020, visited the EYN Headquarters in the company of church officials and her uncle. She informed the church officials that she refused to get married while a captive. As a result, she was starved, and sometimes they refused her food for some days. She and another woman decided to escape in the night due to difficulties they faced. When they sneaked out in the night they met hunters, a section of the Boko Haram. They asked for their help to show them the way to the main road. The hunters demanded payment, but one of them had mercy on the women by agreeing to accompany them to Pulka town on June 10, where they met Nigerian soldiers. With the help of the soldiers, they contacted their relatives.
In Sambisa, they saw about 10 of the former Chibok schoolgirls. Some are not willing to escape.
Iliya’s father was shot in the head, but to the glory of God he survived and is now settled in a settlement camp.
Rebecca Irmiya said she was taken away by four jihadists with another six girls to Sambisa. “Later they married me to one of them,” she said. “They gathered their leaders to officiate the marriage. They paid Naira 20,000 as my bride price. They gave me the money.
“We were not allowed to go out. Husbands bring what we need. We lived under strict guard. Unknowingly, we heard a gunshot around us in Sambisa. Bullets flew around us. Soldiers surrounded us. They clasped us and settled us under a tree, where they asked us our names. I told them my name, ‘Rebecca Irmiya,’ and that we were abducted from Gulak. They brought us to Gwoza.”
Irmiya said one of the women lost her life from a stray bullet, leaving her little baby crying. “They asked me to carry the baby. I informed them that my father is still alive. I gave them his phone number. When they informed him, he immediately came to pick me [up]. One woman in Gwoza agreed to pick the little orphan and I was released to come with my father home.”
Irmiya was 13 years old, attending junior secondary school, when she was abducted.
“I lost two of my children due to lack of medical care in Sambisa,” she said. “I am happy to return home and willing to go back to school.”
Her father, Mr. Irmiya said, “We are happy to see her again. Because we did not expect to see her again. We have been praying for her.”
— Zakariya Musa is head of Media for Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria).
Find more Church of the Brethren news: