If Army or Police Barracks lacked anything in the past it was not security.
The fact that security men resided there was enough to assure one of security. So there was security there especially in the Army Barracks. One could not easily gain access into the barracks without being thoroughly searched except one was a resident. Non residents avoided the barracks and only visited when necessary.
Have times so changed that insurgents could invade an Army Barracks for more than two hours, unleash mayhem on soldiers and their families and leave unchallenged?
Although this may not be possible in many parts of the country, it happened in Borno State. The North Eastern Nigeria has its peculiar cases of attacks by Boko Haram terrorists.
“It was a midnight attack. They took everybody unaware and when they were done everybody was searching – children for their parents and soldiers for their families. Many were killed,” Mrs Sara Steven Zira recounted Thursday when we visited her in Yelwa Kakadama, a suburb of Bauchi metropolis.
She now resides there after losing her husband, Sergeant Stephen Zika, in an unbelievable attack on 202 Battalion Army Barracks, Maiduguri late last year.
Sarah has two kids to cater for, a five year old boy and a three year old girl.
“I never knew that life would turn out to be this way,” she cried.
She appeared strong during the exchange of pleasantries. But as soon as she settled to begin her pathetic story, she was fighting back tears. Just 31, the burden of ensuring her kids go to school now falls on her. She only got married six years ago. Sarah is from Dasham Bakin Kogi Village in Tafawa Balewa Local Government of Bauchi State while her late husband hailed from Michika Local Government Area of Adamawa State.
During the brief period of her marriage to Sergeant Steven Zika, life was a bed of roses for Sarah as she had everything every woman could wish for. Zika was not a top military officer but his investment in the family was more than what money could buy, according to Sara. He was caring and very proud of his family. He gave them so much and Sara had what mattered most in life- happiness.
But life is no longer at ease for her. Her battle is now on how to train the children. Borno State has paid each family that lost their bread winner in that attack N1m each. She has received hers and feeding the kids has gulped a big chunk of it. Sara is in search of a trade that can put food on the table for the kids. She lives in a dilapidated house.
Boko Haram struck their Barracks on December, 20, 2013. She said that it is by providence that she lives to tell her story.
“Last year, precisely on December 20, the entire family would have been wiped out,” Sara began, “but God said that the children and I will live. My husband was on his duty post as the Motor Transport Officer when Boko Haram launched a massive attack on the barracks. They took everybody unawares. It was past midnight, actually about 2am. I was already asleep with the kids when I heard gunshots and chanting of an Islamic slogan, saying” Allah akubar” at the frontage of my house. So, immediately I heard that, I grabbed my little baby and backed her. I went flat on the ground because my husband told me that anytime I hear a gunshot, I should go down to the floor”
“The gun men started shooting sporadically and throwing bombs at the neighbourhood. I started panicking and began to pray to God to save us. Some few minutes past 4 am, members of the Boko Haram set my neighbour’s house on fire and I heard the kids running, saying “mummy, mummy,” but unknown to me, their mother had already been killed. I could not help them because I was so scared to come out.”
“Later, Boko Haram started saying that they were going to burn my house. They spoke in Hausa, Kanuri and English. While I was inside, they were breaking the doors of other people. But they did not touch my own. I was thinking about what would happen to me if they broke into my house and met me there. I heard them saying that they were going to set my house on fire. I didn’t need anybody to tell me I should find a way out of the house. I escaped through one of the entrances. Shortly after I left with the kids and hid in one abandoned house my house was set ablaze.
“My last baby was asking about her father and I told her that he would soon join us. I saw the way the Boko Haram members set fire on my neighbour’s houses. They burnt everybody’s house, including my house. I shed tears because I could not pick even a pin from my house. Everything burnt to ashes.
The only thing I left that house with was a phone and there was no network that very day.
“After the attack that lasted for more than three hours, everybody came out and started looking for their husbands, wives and children. Many people were killed that day. More than 21 soldiers were killed, including my husband. I will never forget that day for the rest of my life.”
Sarah confirmed that the Borno state government paid all the widows who lost their husbands N1m each.
Can that start a new life for them again?