One hundred and fifty-eight women and children abducted by the dreaded Boko Haram sect who were freed last month have been reunited with their families in Yobe State.
The women and children were abducted in Katarko town, Gujba Local Government Area in Yobe, a distance of 22 kilometres south of Damaturu, the state capital, sometime last year.
However, after they were released by the insurgents in January, they were taken by security agencies for psychological evaluation and debriefing before their eventual release to the Yobe State Government.
Presenting the victims to their families, the Chairman of the state Committee on Rehabilitation and Resettlement of Insurgency Victims, Mr. Ahmed Goneri, said the 158 victims comprised 62 adults, while 96 are children and were abducted late last year after an attack carried out by the insurgents in Katarko town.
Of the 62 adults, according to him, 15 are now widows because of the attack on the town. He said that the abductees are “today being handed over to their families”.
The chairman said the adults would be given two bags of rice, sugar, cartons of noodles and a bag of salt as well as two sets of wrappers.
He also revealed that those who lost their husbands in the attack would be given N50,000 as support, while others would be given N30,000, noting that the monies would help them restart their lives after the attack.
He expressed his gratitude to the state government for the gesture and thanked the security agencies for all the measures taken towards ensuring that the abductees were safe and healthy.
Chairman of Gujba Local Government, Alhaji Kyari Batarama, also expressed his appreciation for the support from various quarters towards the recovery of those abducted and called for sustained security measures towards liberating the towns currently under the control of the insurgents so that law abiding citizens could return to their homes.
Mallam Abdulrahaman Dauda, who discovered the released detainees in Kasaisa village on the outskirts of Damaturu, explained that they were traumatised when he found them.
He added: “Thank God that they have been reunited with their families and I hope others will also be released by the abductors.
“These are wives of some people who God has rescued from the hands of the Boko Haram militants. A friend saw them in Kasaisa village and called to tell me.
“So I used a truck to convey all of them and handed them over to security agents for further verification. I thank the security agencies and the Yobe State Government for all their support.
“When I saw them they all had psychological issues having gone through severe trauma after being held hostage for three weeks.”
The abductees, who narrated their ordeal, expressed sadness over their abduction and captivity for three weeks. They also spoke of their gratitude to all those who had assisted them in ensuring that they could start life afresh.
Hauwa Mohammed, one of the abducted women, said: “They did not maltreat us during our captivity for three weeks. We had enough food and drink all through our stay in captivity. Any time they entered where we were held to preach their ideology to us, they asked us to avoid looking at them.
“They called us pagans and when they were releasing us, they asked us to prepare to join other pagans in the town. We thank God that we are reunited with our families after three weeks in captivity.”
Gambo Mohammed, another of the abducted women, said: “We told them we will not practise their style of religion. So they agreed to release us, saying we should go and join the pagans who have the symbol of the green-white-green flag in Nigeria, vowing that they will meet with us one day. But we then told them we would rather join the pagans instead.
“They often provided raw food items to us and we cooked them ourselves. They gave us soap, perfume and any other basic needs you can think of. It’s only God that released us from the hands of this dreaded militants.”
The voluntary release of these detainees was the first since the insurgency started in the North-east six years ago.
Meanwhile, a committee set up by the federal government to look into allegations of human trafficking and rape at the internally displaced persons’ (IDP) camps yesterday, stated that there was no concrete evidence yet to substantiate the claims.
Speaking at a meeting with the stakeholders of IDP camps in Maiduguri, the chairperson of the committee, Mrs. Bilikis Mohammed Abdullahi, said in the two camps visited so far, there was no conclusive evidence yet that such criminal acts had taken place.
Abdullahi, a Deputy Director in the Directorate of State Security (DSS), revealed that membership of the committee was drawn from the Nigerian Police, Nigerian Red Cross, the media, National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Ministry of Justice and National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), among others, adding that the inquiry into the allegations should not be seen as an indictment on the Borno State Government.
Instead, she said it was an indictment on all the stakeholders in the management of the camps including the police, DSS and NEMA, which are all agencies of the federal government.
She was of the view that if the abuses had occurred, “it was unfortunate that they happened under our watch,” calling on all the agencies to come together to put a stop to it.
Abdullahi, who said the committee had been able to visit just two camps in Maiduguri, promised that all other camps would be visited, revealing that there were allegations that two girls might have been raped.
She however said it was still an allegation as far as the committee was concerned “until we can proved the incidents actually happened”.
She revealed that one of the girls had been handed over to medical experts to ascertain the veracity of the claim.
The Chairman of the Borno State Emergency Management Agency, Alhaji Grema Terab, said: “As the custodian of the camps, we will never know of a case of rape and not go all out to prosecute it.
“It was a surprise to hear that there were cases of rape in our camps. We will carry out our investigations and take appropriate actions.”
He averred that it would be difficult for girls or women to be raped in the camps, as the refugees live in dormitories and there was no secluded places at the camps, adding that the camps are well manned by security personnel.
He however assured the committee that the allegations would be thoroughly investigated.