By Ndahi Marama, Maiduguri
His every move was calm and deliberate as if he was scared of attracting unnecessary attention, but his gaze was directed at the baby in his hands. With eyes full of emotions and compassion as he lovingly cuddled the four-month-old baby, it was extremely difficult for onlookers to believe the man was a member of the dreaded Boko Haram terrorist group.
Amazement can best be used to describe how the witnesses who gathered at the Borno State Government House, Maiduguri on Wednesday, felt as they watched the Boko Haram husband of rescued Amina Ali Nkeki display such love, for members of the dreaded sect are generally known and perceived to be monsters whose stock in trade is the unleashing of sorrow, tears and blood.
The scene was at the handing over of rescued Amina and her baby as well as her Boko Haram husband who allegedly surrendered. They were received by Governor Kashim Shettima from the Acting General Officer Commanding 7 Division, Brigadier General Victor Ezugwu in a brief ceremony.
Amina, 19, was found with the baby by an army-backed vigilante group on Tuesday in the huge Sambisa Forest. She was one of 219 schoolgirls of Government Secondary School, Chibok, missing since being abducted in April 2014.
Security was tight around the premises, however Amina and her Boko Haram husband had some elements of freedom as they moved around. Anxious waiting journalists were barred from neither taking any picture nor speaking to Amina who spent that night at the Government House amidst tight security, before being moved to Abuja on Thursday to meet President Muhammadu Buhari.
Rescue, movement to Maiduguri
Immediately after her rescue, Amina was airlifted by Nigeria Air Force Super Puma aircraft from Damboa to Maiduguri alongside her baby and supposed husband, Mohammed Hayatu. According to Colonel Sani Kukasheka Usman, Acting Director, Army Public Relations in a statement, “Prior to that, they were examined at Air Force medical facility and were found to be stable and normal blood pressure was observed.”
Colonel Kukasheka buttressed that in continuation of “Operation Crackdown”, troops of 25 Brigade Damboa in conjunction with Civilian JTF deployed in one of the blocking positions at Baale, near Damboa rescued Amina and received Hayatu.
“Both were brought to Headquarters 25 Task Force Brigade, Damboa at about 2.30pm today. Preliminary investigation shows that she is indeed one of the abducted Chibok School girls abducted by Boko Haram terrorists on April 14, 2014 in Chibok and her name is Amina Ali Nkeki as against Falmata Mbalala that was earlier stated. In addition, she is a nursing mother with a 4-month-old baby girl who was named Safiya. Both the suspected Boko Haram terrorist and the nursing mother have been taken to Maiduguri for further medical attention and screening.
“Thereafter, she was released to the Operation LAFIYA DOLE Headquarters in Maiduguri for further investigation and handing over.” Meanwhile, the supposed husband is undergoing further investigation at Joint Intelligence Centre. The Military Spokesman further assured that Mohammed Hayatu, the acclaimed husband to Amina was well treated in line with Operation LAFIYA DOLE Rules of Engagement regarding insurgents who voluntarily surrender to the military.
Aso Rock reception
On Thursday Amina arrived at Aso Rock Presidential Villa, Abuja, for audience with President Muhammadu Buhari. The girl, her baby, her mother and her brother were led to the Villa by Borno State Governor, Alhaji Kashim Shettima. The Governor and the girl, with her child were quickly taken to the President’s office by his Chief of Staff, Alhaji Abba Kyari, for a closed-door interaction with the President. With both she and her baby dressed in hijab, they were shielded from newsmen by security officials.
Apparently elated by the rescue of Amina, President Buhari said that her recovery had opened a window of new hope to Nigeria and an opportunity towards a vital information. He added that she would be given the best care Nigerian government could offer and that her education would be the priority of the government. “We will ensure that she gets the best medical, emotional and whatever care that she requires to get full recovery and be integrated into the society “, the President said. He reassured of his government’s determination towards rescuing other girls who are still at large.
Hope raises for Chibok parents
In interviews with some parents, guardians and relatives of the abducted schoolgirls, who did not want their names mentioned for security reasons, they said they hoped that with the ongoing crackdown by military and civilian JTF members in the heart of Sambisa Forest, an enclave and hideouts of Boko Haram terrorists, they were optimistic that some of the missing girls would be rescued safely like Amina.
Speaking to Saturday Vanguard, Mallam Chiroma Adams whose brother’s daughter was among the missing ones said what the people of Chibok were waiting for was to see that Military has stormed Sambisa Forest as most of them have the belief that their abducted daughters are held by their captors in Sambisa Forest and that he was very optimistic that as the military sustained its crackdown in the forest, more of the missing schoolgirls would be rescued.
Another concerned indigene of Chibok who gave his name as Mr. Ali James said it was unfortunate that a day after the abduction, “we the parents, including youths in Chibok sacrificed our lives and stormed the forest because the military had allegedly failed to enter the forest and rescue our children.
“If the military had accompanied us to the forest, we would have stormed Sambisa to rescue our daughters, but now that they have stormed the heart of Sambisa, we are hopeful that more girls will be rescued from the insurgents.”
Narrating their experience, Mallam Amos Chiroma who was among those who combed the Sambisa Forest told Saturday Vanguard that a day after the abduction, they saw a lot of strange things in 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.”
Mallam Chiroma continued: “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 the 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 that time, we are optimistic that our missing children would have been rescued, or we would even have found the corpses of our daughters.”
Another parent, Mallam Shettima Yau Haruna, who spoke on behalf of parents of the abducted school girls, said, “I have been telling people that since the incident, we have been having sleepless nights, but with the rescue of Amina alive, hale and hearty, we are hopeful that others will be rescued in no distant time.”