BY NDAHI MARAMA
Maiduguri—Parents of school girls abducted last Tuesday from Government Girls Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State by Boko Haram terrorists, yesterday, recounted their experience in the dreaded Sambisa forest in search of their daughters who are being held there.
The aggrieved, traumatised parents who spoke when the state governor, Kashim Shettima visited the school, also disputed the figures provided by the state government of those who have escaped.
The parents had vowed last week to sacrifice their lives and storm the forest because the military had allegedly failed to enter the forest and rescue their children.
Narrating their experience, Mallam Amos Chiroma who was among those who combed the Sambisa forest told Vanguard: “We saw a lot of strange things in the Sambisa forest but we will not be able to disclose all for security reasons. Borno and indeed this country require prayers from all and sundry.
“While we were in the forest with over 200 volunteers who only had cutlasses, bows, arrows and sticks, we came across different make-shift camps suspected to be owned by terrorists. It is however unfortunate that we had to turn back when we met one good Samaritan in the forest who advised us that it was in our own interest to go back because the area we were approaching in the forest was a dead zone dominated by terrorists.
“If soldiers had accompanied us to the forest, we were optimistic that our missing children would have been rescued, or we would be satisfied if we can just see the dead bodies of our daughters”.
Another parent, Mallam Shettima Yau Haruna, who spoke on behalf of parents of the abducted school girls, told the governor that since the incident, they have been having sleepless nights and they summoned courage to enter the Sambisa forest.
He said: “We want to seize this opportunity to thank you for the visit and identify with us at this sorrowful moment. But the truth of the matter is that only 39 out of about 250 students have so far been rescued contrary to official reports that 44 students were rescued out of 129 who were abducted as they were preparing to write their senior secondary school certificate examinations. We want to emphasise that we are not happy with this development. While we continue to pray for the safe return of our daughters, we therefore appeal to government and our security operatives to please intensify the search for our missing innocent children”, Haruna said.
Our correspondent who visited the school, yesterday, observed that the entire structure and vehicles in the school were set ablaze as well as the council secretariat and the residence of the caretaker chairman.
Governor Shettima, while addressing parents of the abducted students sympathised with them and promised to deploy all human and material resources towards the safe release of the missing students.
He, however, called on all and sundry to continue to pray and fast for the safe return of the abducted girls.
Soldiers, vigilante groups continue hunt for kidnapped girls
Meanwhile, Governor Shettima’s spokesman, Isa Gusau said, yesterday that soldiers and vigilante groups were hunting “around the clock” for the terrorists holding the schoolgirls hostage.
Isa Gusau, said that 52 students had escaped so far, after seven more girls were found safe, yesterday.
Two ran to the state capital, Maiduguri, while five others found their way home, he said.
“With this development, we now have 77 girls still in the custody of their abductors,” Gusau told AFP.
According to him, “this is the most trying moment Governor Shettima has faced in the last three years. A security (operation) has been put in place to rescue the remaining girls and this included soldiers and members of a civilian force that was formed last year to help the military fight Boko Haram.
“We are working around the clock to ensure all of them are freed unharmed,” he said.
Gusau’s figures were disputed, yesterday, by the school’s principal, Asabe Kwambura, who said she was working with parents to compile a complete register of those taken. She said, “a total of 230 names” were registered by parents. So far, 43 girls have escaped. We still have 187 missing.”
Residents of Chibok have also appealed to Boko Haram to show mercy and release the girls.
“We are appealing to Boko Haram to show mercy and release these girls,” said Chibok resident Haladu Sule, adding “the people of Chibok will know no peace until they are freed.”
Members of the community have also criticised the rescue mission, claiming they have not yet seen a large build-up of troops in the region or any indication that the military had mobilised a major search effort.
Some of the girls who escaped said the Islamists took the hostages to Borno’s Sambisa Forest area, where Boko Haram is known to have well-fortified camps.