Today makes 2 years given that over 200 college girls were abducted from Government Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State, with their location continuing to be a secret.
In an exclusive interview with Premium Times, a 25-year-old mother of two, Lami John, has narrated how she was captured by Boko Haram terrorists and used as slave, adding that some of the 200+ Chibok schoolgirls were once camped near her location.
She narrated her ordeal in captivity, escape, bloodbaths, coping with the trauma of her abduction, how she arrived at a displaced person’s camp in Abuja, and a lot more.
Below are excerpts from the interview;
How were you captured by Boko Haram members?
Boko Haram came on the 22nd of September 2014 and started picking us one after the other. As at the time they came to abduct us, I was with this my little son while his elder brother ran to the mountain. I had ran to the mountain before I was abducted.
How did it happen?
Nine of us had run inside a little enclosure in the mountain being pursued by Boko Haram. They commanded us to come out. One other woman had answered that we were coming out. She even asked me “Mama Yakubu are you not coming out”? I was praying silently. Boko Haram said if we don’t come out, they would spray us with bullets inside the cave. I then decided to come out instead of everyone being killed. I came out with my son and two other girls followed me. Our captors said they would convert we pagans and took us to Sambisa.
How long were you with these Boko Haram members?
I spent two weeks with them. I was able to escape when I got some money.
How did you escape and what money were you given?
I trekked to Mubi. I was given N10,000 by Boko Haram. It was meant to be my bride price but because we were escaping, I spent the money to run away from them.
Where were you kept?
Where is reserve?
It’s a part of Sambisa forest.
What’s the place like? Are there houses there or what?
They don’t have any house there. They only use people’s cars as homes.
Cars they must have stolen from people. They sleep inside them. These are their kind of homes. Sambisa is an open forest. There are no houses there.
Where did you sleep? In those cars or what?
No, I was sleeping on the bare floor. I never had the opportunity to sleep in the cars.
While there, how were you given food and water?
At the time we were abducted, we were given an option to become Muslims. Those of us who refused to become Muslims were tagged slaves, kept in an enclosure and given a spoon of food and water once a day.
A spoon? What kind of food?
They used to give us any kind of food they feel like giving us.
Who were preparing the food?
Their wives. Those who had accepted to be converted to Muslims.
Did you at any point agree to become a Muslim?
I refused to become a Muslim. Had it been I had agreed to be one, I would have joined the crop of wives and won’t have difficulties again.
So, were those who converted to Islam treated specially?
Those who accepted to be Muslims had everything going on well for them. Had I accepted, I would have become part of them and wouldn’t escape since I would have been a part of the family. It’s because I refused to be one, that’s why I was able to escape.
How were you able to escape? Was there no Boko Haram member watching you people?
They had the believe that we would want to escape since we refused being converted. Three days earlier, I had gotten a hint of where this my son was kept. He had been taken from me. At about 3am when someone forgot to lock the padlock, I sneaked to were my son was kept, placed him on my back and started my journey to Mubi. It was raining heavily that day.
How long did you spend in locating your way out of Sambisa?
I spent five hours trekking.
Ok. So, on leaving there, where did you go? What happened?
I went to a place called Dutse to pick my first son who initially escaped to the top of the mountain. Then I told my relatives that I was leaving for either Cameroon or Abuja. They asked if I had money. I said no. I told them whatever happens to me on the journey is what fate has destined for me.
When you were in captivity, what did you do as a slave?
We the slaves washed plates, broke firewood, swept and carried very heavy stones for their masters.
Did you ever see Shekau the Boko Haram leader?
No, but I saw the second in command; Yakubu Musa.
Did you ever witness any activity linked to the abducted Chibok girls?
When the Chibok girls were abducted, they were divided and taken to different camps. They have different camps in Sambisa.
How did you know these girls were taken to Sambisa and to these places?
I was in captivity with some other people abducted in Gwoza. Some of them had been kept in the same place with the Chibok girls before being moved here. They were the ones who told us that the girls were a stone throw away from us.
You said captives were given a spoon of food and water daily. What was the health of captives like in the camp?
So many people were very ill and we were malnourished. The Boko Haram members loot hospitals and patent medicine stores for medications. That’s what they administer on the sick.
Are there doctors amongst them?
Yes, there are professionals amongst them. They just chose the kind of wicked lifestyle they live.
About your escape, how were you able to find your way out of Sambisa? Is it an open space? What’s it really like?
Sambisa is a forest. You can’t find your way around. You’ll just be going, following the turns and bad roads. You just manoeuvre your way through.
While in captivity, were any of the girls who refused to be converted manhandled, as in, raped?
For the period I was there, no one was manhandled. We were only kept aside for whatever purpose they had in mind.
You mean, there was no violence in any form?
While I was there, I was beaten with the edge of a gun. I even had a dislocation in my waist due to the intensity of the beating. That was my punishment for refusing to become a Muslim.
Were your wounds treated?
There was no medical treatment for me. It’s the grace of God that saw me through the ordeal in their camp. Getting food to eat was a challenge not to talk of medical care.
While in captivity, were people killed? As in, in your presence?
Yes, so many were killed. They were slaughtered with knives as if goats were being killed.
Do you possibly know who and why those women were killed?
The women that were killed were those whose relatives are Muslims. If I’m a Muslim and my relations are Christians, I’ll be saved. But if a Christian and my relations are Muslims, I’ve committed a crime so must be killed. For the men, they were scared that if left to be alive, they would point them out whenever the dust settles. That’s why they were not spared.
Please, repeat the Muslim/Christian relatives analogy.
Women who are Muslims but have Christian relatives are spared, while the Christian relatives are killed.
But how come weren’t you killed immediately for refusing to become one of them?
They were going to marry me with or without my consent. That’s why I was given the N10,000 which I later used in escaping. I spent the money on my way. The money helped me get to Mubi.