Amina Ali Nkeki and Serah Luka, two of the 217 schoolgirls abducted from Government Secondary School, Chibok on 14 April, 2014 by Boko Haram, was rescued last Wednesday and Thursday respectively from the fringes of Sambisa Forest, more than two years after their abduction, thus raising hope for the return of other girls, write Tobi Soniyi and Michael Olugbode
When the news broke, it took many by surprise. Not a few doubted it until photographs of Amina Ali Nkeki, one of the 217 schoolgirls abducted from Government Secondary School, Chibok on 14 April, 2014 by Boko Haram began to trend on the cyberspace. Coming a couple of weeks after a false report that one of the Chibok girls had been located in Cameroon, and the hurriedly written press release by the military last Wednesday giving the name of the rescued girl as Falmata Mbalala, instead of Amina Nkeki, the initial doubts about the authenticity of Amina’s rescue were not unfounded. It however turned out to be true. But just as the joy of her rescue filled the Chibok community, there were also mixed feelings. The disclosure by her that six of the abducted girls were dead sent a pall of grief across the community.
Also the realisation that a girl who was barely 17 when she was abducted was found with a four month old baby was a sad indication of the condition of others still missing.
Amina was rescued by troops of 25 Brigade Damboa in conjunction with Civilian JTF deployed in Baale, near Damboa. A man suspected to be her abductor, Mohammed Hayatu, who claimed to be her ‘husband,’ was also arrested with her. Both were brought to Headquarters 25 Task Force Brigade Damboa, while Amina and her baby later underwent medical examination.
Barely 24 hours later, another abducted Chibok School girl, Serah Lukah, was rescued by the joint effort of 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 while conducting clearance operations at Shettima Aboh, Hong and Biladdili general area in Damboa.
A statement by the military said Miss Serah Luka, who is number 157 on the list of the abducted school girls, is believed to be the daughter of Pastor Luka. The statement also said Serah disclosed during debriefing that she was a JSS1 student of the school at the time they were abducted.
The statement by the military also disclosed that Serah, who was immediately taken to the medical facility at Abogo Largema Cantonment, Biu for medical attention, said there were other three girls who fled from Shettima Aboh when the troops invaded the area on Thursday.
The rescue of the two girls has raised hope that others may soon be reunited with their families because of the vital information that may have been provided by them as the military continues with the ongoing operations inside Sambisa forest – the last stronghold of Boko Haram.
The President Receives Amina
At about 3p.m. last Thursday, Amina arrived the Presidential Villa in Aso Rock. She had been flown into Abuja in a presidential jet.
Amina was rescued by a vigilante group in a village on the fringes of Sambisa forest last Tuesday.
Amina was brought to the villa by the governor of Borno State Kashim Shetima amidst tight security.
The girl came with her four month old baby and her parents. She was shielded from journalists as she was ushered into President Muhammadu Buhari’s office.
At first, she was taken to the State House Banquet Hall, but when it dawned on her escorts that Buhari would receive her in his office, they quickly made a detour and headed for the president’s office. In the midst of this confusion, journalists from across the world who had come to capture the visit embarked on a hot chase of Amina trying to get a good shot.
The drama did not end there. In what appeared to be a prepared list, journalists were called into the president’s office to cover the meeting with the president. Sadly, the mentality of giving preference to foreign media which was thought to have been discarded long time ago was reignited as the State House gave preference to foreign media organisations to the detriment of local media who were always in the State House to report presidential activities.
According to those who had the privilege to be in the president’s office while Amina met Buhari, the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr Femi Adesina, spoke first.
He said: “We are here for an event that is a watershed in the history of our country. Yesterday when the refreshing news came out we immediately sent a presidential jet to the state to fetch the girl who by now has become a mother and the girl is here with her baby, her mother and her brother. They are here so that you can officially receive them and rejoice with them.”
Praises for Buhari
Also at the meeting were Borno State Governor, Kashim Shettima, Defence Minister, Mansur Dan Ali, and other dignitaries.
Shettima spoke next. He praised the President saying, “Your patience, persistence, perseverance, doggedness for the restoration of peace in the north east has started to yield dividend.”
According to him, one year ago nobody could venture out of Maiduguri beyond 15 kilometers.
Maiduguri, he said, was on the verge of falling into the hands of demented monsters called Boko Haram.
“We were under siege until God in his infinite mercies intervened with your emergence as president,” he added.
He described the abduction of Chibok girls as the tilting point.
He said: “The abduction of the Chibok girls was the point the world woke up from her slumber when the conscience of the world got pricked. We have to thank you for your efforts in the north east.
“Boko Haram are now on the defensive and 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 Boko Haram.
“They have been sufficiently degraded and now they have resorted to suicide bombing which is a sign of weakness.
“With mix feelings, with happiness mixed with sadness because 218 girls are not accounted for but a journey of a thousand miles starts with single steps and the recovery of Amina Ali is a sign of greater things to come as our gallant troops engaged in the counter insurgency operations especially in the Sambisa and the shores of the Lake Chad.”
The Minister of Defence, Mansur Dan Ali also spoke. He relished the moment when he said, “What we are celebrating today is your political commitment and support which has given major boost to the success of the fight against terrorism.”
According to him, the change of military leadership at the inception of the administration injected new ideas and vigour into the military administration.
He said: “Consequently Sir, the Armed Forces of Nigeria achieved tremendous success by ensuring that the safety of lives and property and protection of territorial integrity of our country.
“This operation crack down is offensive operation within operation Lafia Dole which started on the 28th of April. It was aimed at clearing Sambisa forest, the haven of Boko Haram terrorists. In that operation we have been able to clear a lot of villages, 20 villages have been cleared in the last 22 days of this operation.
“We have also rescued over 150 in this operation since it started among which we separated our Chibok girl, Amina Ali.
“The officers and men of the Armed Forces have actually been involved in this operation.
“In these 22 days we have lost about 7 soldiers, 3 due to enemy action and IEDs, one accidental during clearing of IEDs, and 3 as a result of road traffic accidents. We have also had some troops injured and they are responding to treatment.
“We have counted close to about 69 killed in action and we have also captured equipment and also bombed some of their own platform.”
The President Assures Amina of Support
In his response, Buhari gave an assurance that Amina would return back to school to complete her education after undergoing necessary medical attention to reintegrate her back into the society.
Buhari, who expressed mixed feelings at the recovery of the girl, who had already been forced into marriage by the insurgents, also promised to ensure that Amina get the best of medical attention.
The president said: “Like others all over the world, I’m delighted that Amina Ali one of the missing Chibok girls has regained her freedom. But my feeling is tinged with deep sadness and horrors the girl had 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 take 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 to get full recovery and be integrated into the society.
“Yesterday, medical personnel from government and other NGOs examined her for a total of about five hours. Trauma experts from UNICEF also met her. The FG will assist the Murtala Mohammed Foundation which has already been providing support for the families of the missing Chibok girls and which runs a truama and counseling faciity in Kano will also be involved in the ongoing work with Amina in monitoring her progress and any additional support she requires.
”For the continuation of Amina’s education, so abruptly disrupted, will definitely be a priority of the federal government. Amina must be able to 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 of life.
“Rest assured that this administration will continue to do what it can to rescue the Chibok girls who are still in Boko Haram’s captivity. Amina’s rescue gives us new hope and offers a unique opportunity to vital information.”