Stop calling terrorist our daughter’s husband, says Chibok community
Tobi Soniyi and Senator Iroegbu in Abuja
Just as Nigerians were settling into the news of the first schoolgirl to be rescued, two years after over 200 female students were abducted from their secondary school in Chibok, Borno State, the Nigerian Army claimed last night that a second Chibok girl, Miss Serah Luka, was rescued yesterday.
Serah’s rescue came as Miss Amina Ali who was rescued on Wednesday by members of the Civilian Joint Task Force (JTF) on the fringes of Sambisa, was flown in a presidential jet with her family to Abuja, where she met with President Muhammadu Buhari at Presidential Villa in Abuja.
A statement by the Nigerian Army spokesman, Col. Sani Kukasheka Usman, said Serah, who is Number 157 on the list of the abducted schoolgirls, was a junior secondary school one (JSS1) student of Government Secondary School, Chibok, at the time of her abduction, and is believed to be the daughter of Pastor Luka.
However, the claim by the army immediately raised doubts due to the timing of a second rescue exactly 24 hours after the first Chibok girl, Amina, regained her freedom after two years in captivity.
Also, the claim by the army that Miss Luka was a JSS1 student at the time of her abduction ran contrary to what has been reported consistently for two years that the 276 girls who were abducted by Boko Haram were senior secondary school three (SS3) students who were in school taking their West African School Certificate examination.
A review of the full list of the abducted girls published by THISDAY also showed that there was no Serah Luka on the list. The names with some semblance to Sarah Luka on the list included “Serah Samuel”, “Serah Nkeki”, “Kauna Luka” and “Naomi Luka”.
The full statement from the statement read: “At about 11 am today, Thursday, 19th May 2016, troops of 231 Battalion, 331 Artillery Regiment (AR), Detachment of Armed Forces Special Forces (AFSF) 2, Explosive Ordinance (EOD) Team and civilian vigilante group of Buratai, conducted clearance operations at Shettima Aboh, Hong and Biladdili general area in Damboa Local Government Area of Borno State.
“During the operations, the troops killed 35 Boko Haram terrorists and recovered several arms and ammunitions and other items.
“In addition, they rescued 97 women and children held captives by the Boko Haram terrorists. We are glad to state that among those rescued is a girl believed to be one of the Chibok Government Secondary School girls that were abducted on 14th April 2014 by the Boko Haram terrorists.
“Her name is Miss Serah Luka, who is number 157 on the list of the abducted school girls. She is believed to be the daughter of Pastor Luka.
“During debriefing, the girl revealed that she was a JSS1 student of the school at the time they were abducted. She further added that she hails from Madagali, Adamawa State.
“She averred that she reported at the school barely two months and one week before her unfortunate abduction along with other girls over two years ago.
“She added that there were three other girls who fled from Shettima Aboh when the troops invaded the area earlier today which led to their rescue.
“She is presently receiving medical attention at the medical facility of Abogo Largema Cantonment, Biu, Borno State.”
When contacted on the rescue of the second Chibok girl, the Bring Back Our Girls (BBOG) group, Aisha Yesufu, said the goup had not received any confirmation on the rescue of the girl.
During Buhari’s meeting with Amina, her four-month-old baby and her family, he promised that the federal government will give her the best care that the Nigerian government can afford, in addition to catering to her education.
Speaking when the girl was brought to his office yesterday at the Presidential Villa, Buhari said: “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.”
Buhari, who used the opportunity to assure the parents of the remaining missing girls that his government would continue to do what it could to rescue the Chibok girls who are still in captivity, said: “Amina’s rescue gives us new hope and offers a unique opportunity to vital information.”
He said that the federal government would be responsible for the continuation of Amina’s education, which was abruptly disrupted.
Amina was rescued by members of the Civilian JTF, a vigilante group that has helped the military fight the Islamists, on the fringes of Sambisa forest last Wednesday along with her four-month-old child, and a member of the sect who had sexually violated and impregnated her.
After her rescue, she was handed over to the military, which immediately reunited her with her widowed mother. Her violator, who claimed he was also abducted by Boko Haram, was arrested by the military.
Buhari, during his meeting with Amina, said she must return to school to complete her education after getting the necessary medical care and rehabilitation.
The president received the girl accompanied by her baby girl, her mother, the Borno State Governor Kashim Shettima, Defence Minister Mansur Dan Ali, and other dignitaries. She was flown into Abuja from Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, with a presidential jet.
Buhari assured his audience that Amina would get the best of medical attention.
He said: “Like others all over the world, I’m delighted that Amina Ali, one of the missing Chibok girl has regained her freedom. But my feelings are tinged with deep sadness and horror over what the girl has had to go through at such an early stage in her life.
“Although we cannot do anything to reverse the horrors of her past, the federal government can and will do everything possible to ensure that the rest of her life takes a completely different course.
“Amina will get the best care that the Nigerian government can afford. We will ensure that she gets the best medical, emotional and whatever care that she requires for her full recovery and be reintegrated into the society.
“Yesterday, medical personnel from government and other NGOs examined her for about five hours. Trauma experts from UNICEF also met her. The federal government will assist the Murtala Mohammed Foundation, which has been providing support to the families of the missing Chibok girls and which runs a trauma and counseling facility in Kano.
“It will also be involved with Amina, in monitoring her progress and any additional support she requires.
“For the continuation of Amina’s education, so abruptly disrupted, she will definitely be a property of the federal government. Amina must be able go back to school.
“Nobody in Nigeria should be put through the brutality of forced marriage. Every girl has a right to education and their choice in life.”
In his comments, the Borno State governor attributed the success recorded in the war against the Boko Haram insurgents in the North-east to Buhari’s persistence and doggedness.
While acknowledging that the Boko Haram insurgents had been pushed to the defensive, Shettima said: “Boko Haram members are now on the run and I am pleased to tell the whole world that not a single local government in Borno or in Yobe or Adamawa is under the control of the Boko Haram.
“They have been sufficiently degraded and now they have resorted to suicide bombings which is a sign of weakness.
“With mixed feelings, with happiness and sadness, because 218 girls are not accounted for; but a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step and the recovery of Amina Ali is a sign of greater things to come as our gallant troops engage in counter-insurgency operations especially in Sambisa and the shores of Lake Chad.”
The defence minister said the president’s strategy of changing the leadership of the military helped in no small measure in the success recorded so far in the war against the terrorists in the North-east.
He also informed Buhari that seven soldiers had been lost, 69 insurgents killed and 150 civilians rescued in the last 22 days since the launch of operation crack down in Sambisa Forest, the Boko Haram enclave.
One of the rescued civilians, according to him, was Amina, the Chibok girl.
But as the president and his officials celebrated the rescue of the girl, the Chibok community under the aegis of Kibaku Area Development Association (KADA) told the government yesterday that Amina is not, and has never been married to any terrorist.
The community was reacting to reports that Amina was rescued alongside her “husband”, one Mohammed Hayyatu, a Boko Haram suspect.
The chairman of the Chibok community in Abuja, Tsambido Hosea Abana, at a press briefing organised by the Bring Back Our Girls group in Abuja, said: “The Mbalala village, where Amina hails from, and the Chibok community as a whole welcome Amina and accept her wholeheartedly with her child, while we await all others still in captivity.
“It is noteworthy also that Amina was found in the company of others, among whom was a man, Mohammed Hayyatu, who claims to be her ‘husband’.
“From the foregoing, we the Kibaku Area Development Association (KADA) wish to state the following as our stance on Amina Ali Darsha Nkeki: we condemn, in strong terms, the calling of Mohammad Hayyatu as the Boko Haram husband of our daughter.
“Rather, upon confirmation by the Nigerian military, he should be referred to as a Boko Haram sexual exploiter.
“Amina had no husband and whoever was rescued with her should not be referred to as her husband for any reason. They should be treated separately until Amina is fully rehabilitated.
“We will not support discussions with the government or any agency of government in company of Mohammad Hayyatu.
“We are strongly calling on government to set up a team of expert investigators to investigate Mohammad Hayyatu’s involvement in Boko Haram that led him to be the sexual exploiter of our daughter Amina so as to allow the law to take its proper course.
“He should be treated based on what the investigations reveal, not conclude from start that he was also an abductee. Even if he was also abducted and forced to marry her, he should not be referred to in any way as her husband, because there was never consent in getting her pregnant with a baby.
“All reports and findings of investigation should be made public. All stakeholders – parents, the Chibok Community (KADA), BBOG, etc. – should be involved in any process of discussions and relevant actions relating to Amina and her colleagues whom we are expecting their rescue soonest, for the purpose of transparency and confidence building.
“We are insisting that Amina Ali’s mother/guardian and the Parents’ Association Chairman, Mr. Yakubu Nkeki, should be making decisions that concern her wellbeing.
“We are asking for a safe haven to be provided for Amina, her mother and her baby – safe home that is controlled by her family with a reasonable amount of security support, but one that is not overbearing.
“We insist that all necessary resources be given to the Parents Association’s chairman as her legal guardian in the absence of her father and a mother who herself needs help.
“The Chibok community wishes to be involved in any further decisions on our daughters. We are dissatisfied with the approach of the military, and the government in shutting us out of the verification process. We therefore refer government and its agencies to the verification, authentication and reintegration system that BBOG designed with the participation of our community.
“It lays out the proper process for handling the return of our daughters. That was not done in this case and we would not want any recurrence.”
The community frowned on the federal and Borno State Government for treating Amina like an item, stating that she is a “traumatised young woman who needs immediate care and not any further media circus”.
“We demanded to see our daughter today (yesterday) in Abuja as leaders of the community,” the community stated.