ICYMI

April 6, 2024

Chibok Girls: Gory tales of trauma, stigma 10 years after

US lawmakers pass resolution on Chibok girls, Boko Haram

Chibok girls

By Prisca Sam-Duru

“On the day we were taken by Boko Haram, we (SS3 students) were in our hostel. It’s a mixed school but the boys were day students… So, some students who went to fetch water, came back to tell us that they noticed our teachers packing up and leaving in a hurry.

When they asked one of them, the teacher told them that it’s like Chibok was not safe. The teacher chased them back in, locked the gate and left.”That same night, Boko Haram fighters took Amina Ali and Jummai Muttah who narrated the above story, and over 270 other Chibok school girls, to Sambisa forest in Borno State.The action of those teachers smells of the height of betrayal.

Otherwise, why was there no teacher in the school when the abduction took place? Why were the teachers seen packing up and leaving hurriedly? Did they get a hint?Well, that happened on April 14, 2014. It was an incident that put Nigeria on the wrong side of the world map; a year the country was first hit by the venomous monsters called Boko Haram on that scale. Ten years later, it is still a traumatising story to tell. Over 80 of the girls according to one of the parents Yahi Bwata, who has been very vocal in demanding for the release of the remaining girls, are still missing. Also, 48 of the parents of the girls have been killed by trauma!

While in conversation with journalist Kadaria Ahmed, Amina Ali told the audience her story of being the “first Chibok girl to escape from captivity, with a baby girl.” Her baby is 8 years old now. She was married off to a man who they all thought was a Boko Haram fighter but was also abducted. He helped her with the idea of how to escape. “Before 2014, I heard about Boko Haram, how they are destroying schools, burning libraries. We have a student who came from one of those schools. We didn’t think they would come to Chibok, we were living happily. Our teachers told us that if Boko Haram comes to our school, we should not be worried or afraid that they won’t do anything to us, that they may just destroy the school.”

The two girls spoke on Thursday, during a private viewing of ‘Statutes Also Breathe’, held at Nordic Hotel, Lagos. The “film follows the extraordinary collaborative journey of faculty, students, survivors and mothers of women” who are yet to come home, to give a physical form to each of the girls still missing using terracotta sculptures. It was held courtesy of collaboration between S.A.B Art Foundation and the Chibok Parents Association. The full length of the documentary according to Nigerian-German musician, and social activist, Ade Bantu, will be premiered much later.

The documentary birthed from an exhibition of sculptures representing the Chibok Girls, held last year. With the same title ‘Statutes Also Breathe’, the exhibition was a product of French multidisciplinary artist, Prune Nourry, the department of Fine & Applied Arts of the Obafemi Awolowo University and families of the Chibok Girls.

Eventually, the terrorists came about 9:45pm in disguise- military camouflage, Ak- 47. Jummai Muttah, who had her Holy Bible she sneaked out with, speaks, “When they came, they assured us that they had come to rescue us. Because we were inexperienced, we believed them and came out from hiding.” The terrorists demanded to know where the boys were hiding but they were told they were day students. They also needed matches! Later, they revealed they were monsters- warned them of the consequences of trying to escape.

Where were the teachers and matrons in the boarding school during that attack? That’s a very pertinent question to ask at this juncture. The school was closed down previously for fear of Boko Haram but according to the girls, the SS3 were asked to go back to school to prepare for their NECO, WAEC exams. As wise as these little ones were, while being taken through the bush onward Sambisa forest, they left their scarf, shoes etc, to fall off the bus as a mark. They hoped some people or their parents would find them.

While in Sambisa forest, it was another world altogether. ‘They lived their lives as we do’, the girls said. There were markets, houses etc. “They kept us, started teaching us the Koran and asked to know those who wish to convert to Islam. Shekau came and told us that they don’t want to hear about school in Nigeria; that it’s a taboo. He said what they are teaching students- biology, geography, etc, is taboo and that it spoils children’s behaviour. The only school they wanted was Islamic school. They also didn’t want anything like mixed school,” Amina recalled.

Jummai added, “They treated us badly. We discovered that they deceived us when they promised to take us to our parents if we convert to Islam. They said we didn’t know how to read the Quran so they said they’ll keep us till we learn.” She explained further that they were told that the abduction was in line with an agreement they had with the government. The girls were given the option of becoming their slaves if they refused to marry them. Out of fear, many married their abductors; some others were sold as slaves. Jummai however, refused to give in to any of the options because their lifestyle was repulsive to her. She also said her faith in Christ as she clung to her Bible kept her strong. Eventually, she was among some of the girls exchanged with some Boko Haram members held by the government.

A guardian/sister of two other Chibok girls abducted who also spoke at the event on Thursday, narrated how the girls’ father died of heartbreak. One of the girls is back but with gory tales that can redesign one’s psyche for life. The little girl was married to three different Boko Haram fighters, lost her baby, had two of her husbands killed during raids. She came back with her third husband who surrendered to the Army. That’s too much for a teenager! Sadly, her sister is still missing. The sisters didn’t see each other again after they were taken from their school.

Amina and Jummai, in spite of the stigma they face even in the American University of Nigeria where they are getting educated, are happy for their freedom. They’re begging the government to recover their sisters still missing.