This Day (Lagos)

12 May 2014

Nigeria: Chibok - How Teachers Locked Up Our Daughters and Ran Away

Frustration and despair over the fate of hundreds of schoolgirls kidnapped by Islamic extremists in northern Nigeria is forcing families to organize ... ( Resource: Nigerian Families Organizing Search For Kidnapped Girls

One of the parents of the abducted Chibok schoolgirls Sunday introduced a new twist to the saga surrounding the abduction of almost 300 girls from their school in Chibok, Borno State almost a month ago, when he said the students were locked up by their teachers who subsequently scampered for safety and left them at the mercy of the terrorist group, Boko Haram.

Speaking to reporters from THISDAY and ARISE TV Networks, who were in Chibok Sunday for almost two hours, Watila Simon, the father of one of the girls, Godiya Simon, said though he was out of town when the insurgents laid siege to Chibok, he immediately made a phone call to his daughter, but was told that the school had not yet been attacked.

His daughter was one of the few girls who was fortunate to escape from the notorious Sambisa forest, the enclave of the terrorists.

He said: "I called my daughter in the school, asking, 'Godiya where are you?' She told me she was in the hostel. Then I said but they are attacking the town and they have started burning houses and you are still in the school, and she said yes.

"I asked, 'Are you together with soldiers?' She said no, and I asked about the police, and she said they were not with them, but that they were safe in the school."

He revealed that when he spoke with Godiya, the insurgents were still attacking the town and had not gone to the school.

"She equally told me that all the teachers had already left and there was no elderly person with them," he said. Simon said it was on the realisation that there was no one guarding the school that he told his daughter to take to her heels if the opportunity arose.

"I told her once the insurgents finished with the people in the town, they would turn to the school and she should run. "When the sound of gunshots started in the town, the teachers were still with them but they later took to their heels, locked them in and ran away," he maintained, adding that "there are teachers' quarters within the school premises where some teachers hid at the time of the attack". "She even told me that the teachers instructed them to stay put and not to run; then one of the teachers locked the gate so there was no way for them to escape.

"As I expected, when Boko Haram finished with the town, they came for the girls at the school. They told the girls to come with them, assuring them that they were soldiers and the girls believed them because they were in military uniforms. They were told that they would be protected from the insurgents who were attacking the town and would be safe.

"The girls believed and complied. They were then asked to bring all their mobile phones and it was then that they asked them to show them where the government property was sited in the school and they picked out some of the girls to show them.

"I knew that my daughter was in trouble immediately I called her and she was no longer picking her calls. This was further confirmed the next day when I called the people in town and they told me all our daughters had been carried away," he said.

On his reunion with his daughter, he said: "I am happy and I prayed to God before her arrival. Since she got back, I have been having night vigils with members of my family."

Narrating how she escaped from her abductors, Godiya informed THISDAY and ARISE that she and three other girls asked for permission to have a bathroom break and seized the opportunity to flee. She revealed that after running for a distance, they were subsequently assisted by a Fulani herdsman. She said before her escape, the insurgents had threatened to kill them and were not properly fed during her short time in captivity.

Also opening up on his experience, Rev. Enoch Mark who had two daughters abducted, said: "We ran into the bush on the night of the 14th April and in the morning, we returned but the gunmen were still in town. "I learnt that one of my daughters had jumped out of the truck and got injured and this motivated me to run after them to retrieve her.

"I saw some of them with their vehicles broken down but I could not summon enough courage to approach them. I was warned by the people around that I should leave the place if I did not want to be gunned down since some of the insurgents were on trees and in surrounding bushes."

He said they parked their vehicles all over and were in Chibok until 10.30 am the next day, "and because there was no help I was forced to come back".

He further disclosed that the soldiers on the night of the attack were insufficient to match the number of the insurgents who attacked the town, attributing it to the reason the girls were captured. "The soldiers were overwhelmed and had to flee," the reverend said, insisting that had the soldiers been more in number and well equipped, the schoolgirls would not have been abducted. Mark said owing to the lack of security operatives, Chibok residents had to appeal to vigilante groups who demanded some money, which was paid by parents to assist them go after the insurgents. "But this yielded no result," he said.

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