Following a series of ghastly attacks in the state, hundreds of people got displaced; some of the fleeing residents reached St. Theresa’s Cathedral, Yola, to receive foodstuffs and medical care.
Several refugees with The Vanguard, telling their terrible stories of torture in the hands of the sect members.
Cecilia Sumaila from Madagali narrated how Boko Haram came after her threatening her with killing unless she got converted to Islam.
“When the Boko Haram insurgents came to my house, they met me and said they have been looking for me and I asked them why? They said they want me to convert to Islam and I told them I could never do that. They said ok, if they cannot convert me to Islam, then they would kill me.
“They tied my hands and legs behind and said they will take me to Sambisa forest and slaughter me and my children will never see me again. So everyone at home was kneeling and crying, including my mother in-law who held my feet and said they will not take me anywhere. They were crying and begging that I should not be taken away but they insisted, saying I am very stubborn because I refused to convert to Islam.”
Still she was whisked away from the house and for hours had been intimidating her, however the woman refused to convert to Islam. Unexpectedly for the victim, she was released, with the militants saying it was due to her mother-in-law.
Martina Ibrahim from Gulak said one woman helped her to run away, adding that she still does not know where her whole family is.
“When they came to my house, they met four of us, so they asked if we are Christians or Moslems and we said we are Christians so they said we should follow them so they could convert us to Islam. They took four of us to a big house still in Gulak. Fortunately, one of the women being held there helped me escape. She helped me to climb the wall and I scaled the wall to freedom. Sadly, I don’t know whether the woman eventually escaped or she is still there in captivity. I don’t know where my husband and children are, whether they are alive or dead, I can’t say.”
Elizabeth Chutsi from Bazza said soldiers had warned locals to leave, which she did not manage to do beforehand.
“As I was coming out of the kitchen, two members of the Boko Hara sect came in with two turkeys and two chickens. They asked why I did not run and I said I was having stomach ache. They said I should not be afraid, that I should stay there and kill the turkeys and chickens and cook for them. So I asked them to allow me go and get my children so we could all do the job and they said I should go. I was walking as if I was going to drop dead at any moment. They had guns and cutlasses. As I opened the door, I saw some youths firing shots at some rocks. Those two were still in the house waiting for me to return. I went behind the hill and ran away.”
Kiviana John, the widow from Gulak, had no one to help her saying she spent a week in hiding without food.
“We were in the bush for one week without food. One day, my sister said we should go and look for food as others were doing since the children were hungry and sick. She insisted we go and look for food. We decided to go to Gulak because my children were really hungry and sick.
As they went out at night to look for food, the women were caught by insurgents and taken to the camp.
“As he rode slowly and we followed behind, he was cursing us, calling us heathens whom Allah had sent them to save but we prefer darkness to light. ‘You heathens, we want to make you clean and show you the light so that you will follow the way of truth but you prefer darkness, we will deal with you.’
The woman behaved corageously saying she was ready to accept death rather than being converted to Islam.
“I said no problem, if death comes while following Christ, no problem but I will not abandon my faith for Islam. The other women with me could not utter a word. I told them to say something, that even if we are to face death, we should die in Christ. He went ahead of us on his bike as we followed behind.
“Whenever he look back, we would hasten our steps and whenever he turned his face away from us, we would slow down. At a point, he turned into a corner and could not see us.
We quickly dropped the foodstuff to save our lives. We ran into a tomb and stayed for some time. They were looking for us all over the place and when they could not find us, they left, that was how God saved us and we escaped being taken to their camp.”
Barnabas Paul Mbiya from Michika narrated how he and his relative spent 3 days on the mountain, starving. However on the third day Mbiya decided to take his family and go down to head to Yola.
Mbiya believes that some of the soldiers are sympathetic to the insurgents. He said:
“We cannot say they are sympathisers but some of the commanders have already sold out the soldiers. That is what is happening. So when they attack, the commanders will not command the troops to attack them. They just keep withdrawing instead of attacking.
But I think some of the soldiers are members of Boko Haram; in fact, many are sympathetic to the sect because some of the soldiers don’t shoot at the insurgents, they just shoot into the air to exhaust their bullets. Some have been known to shoot at fellow soldiers instead of the insurgents.”