Six women and their nine children who were abducted by extremists in Borno State managed to escape after months in captivity and join their loved ones this week after a very long walk through the bush.
One of the escapees was an eight-month pregnant woman.
The group braved all obstacles to regain their freedom. They walked a distance of about 90km through the Buni Yadi forest in Yobe State, one of the hideout places and strongholds of the Jamā’at Ahl as-Sunnah lid-Da’way Wa’l-Jihād (JAS), more commonly referred to as Boko Haram, and the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP).
They were discovered by security forces and taken to safety in Damboa in Borno State, said Zuwaira Gambo, the commissioner for women affairs in Borno State.
“They showed great tenacity to walk in the bush for six days,” said Gambo.
Three of the women and five of their children were captured in October 2020 in the village of Takashi, which is in the same district of Chibok. The other three women and their four children were captured last May in Kufre village, in Hong District, neighbouring Adamawa State.
The 15 were received on Monday, October 11, by the local authorities, headed by the governor of Borno State, Babagana Zulum.
“Today is one of our happiest moments for us to see these young girls and women who were abducted by the insurgents,” Zulum said, attributing their freedom to “prayers and ongoing reconciliation and reintegration programmes” in Borno State.
“I want to call on all the inhabitants of Borno and all Nigerians to continue to pray so that we can have absolute peace. As a government, we are working with the security agencies to improve the situation so that our other daughters can come home,” he said.
JAS and ISWAP have been targeting women and children in attacks for years.
More than 1,000 children had been kidnapped since 2014, according to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). That includes the 2014 abduction of 276 girls from a school in Chibok, which drew international outrage. More than 100 of the girls are still missing.
A 2020 report by the UNDP said: “Abducted women have been subjected to violence and abuse and used as spies, fighters and suicide bombers. Women who have escaped are not always welcomed back to their communities and those returning from captivity or involvement with armed groups do not have access to training, counselling and reintegration programmes, unlike their male counterparts.