A 67-year-old Boko Haram escapee has revealed that her escape has given her an idea of where the kidnapped Chibok girls are being kept, as she recalls the horrors in the camps and how people were forced to convert to Islam.
The 67-year-old woman, Maryamu Bala, of Madagali, Adamawa state, who is now in a refugee camp in the state, says she could still locate one of the camps where she was taken near Sambisa forest because she used to fetch firewood in the area in her younger days.
She also disclosed that she saw both Arabs and “pure white men” holding regular meetings with Boko Haram commanders, and helicopters dropping heavy equipment in one of the camps.
In relaying her experiences to a correspondent of Daily Times, she said; “My son, I saw devils, I saw cannibals and people who can do anything in the name of religion. My first three weeks in that camp also opened my eyes to the fact that the place is for training recruits as foot soldiers. We saw helicopters dropping things in cartons; heavy objects were always being unloaded using the captured victims under very hash instructions.”
She said she was separated from her daughter for about a month in one of the camps. She said she noticed “people every day going into the other part of the building amidst tight security. Some of the people resembled Arabs with long hairs, while some are pure white coming around having series of meetings.
“A girl who is one of the maids confided in me, ‘Mama, you see the other side of the camp is where Abubakar Shekau and top commandants are living. There are many girls of our age there, even me, they don’t allow me to go there’.
"When that young girl said that to me, I quickly remembered the story of the abducted Chibok school girls. Though I did not see them, my spirit told me they are in that camp," she said
The woman who said she was abducted while on the farm with her granddaughter, said for several months she did not know the whereabouts of her daughter, but that when they were eventually reunited, her granddaughter was in such a bad state that she knew the young woman had been “defiled” by the insurgents.
The grandmother, who was forced to convert from Christianity to Islam, noticed many strange things in the brand of Islam practised by the insurgents, commenting that it was very different from that practised by her relations at home.
“They gave us Muslim veils and told us we were no longer Christians. They taught me to be meditating on a portion of the Koran daily… It surprised me so much that their kind of Islam is different with the one I know many of my relations are practicing in Madagali. They taught us to be worshiping at periods different from those I used to see my people observing when they are to pray. At times, East is not a compulsory direction of worship.”
An escape route came the way of the woman and her granddaughter one day through a stranger who had witnessed her emotional reunion with her granddaughter the previous day: “In the night, a man I never met walked up to where we were sleeping and told us, ‘I saw you crying yesterday and it touched my heart. I was kidnapped just like you for more than four years. But don’t worry, I will help you to escape —you and your daughter this night.”
The man came back later in the dead of night, woke the woman and her daughter and led them out of the camp.
She said; “My brother, we trekked in that evil forest until my strength failed me. When that man noticed I no longer had strength, he backed me. We trekked close to 30km till we got to a fenced place… from where the man said goodbye and we trekked for five days to reach Yola Adamawa State.”
The 67-year-old is not the only Boko Haram escapee to reveal details about what goes on in Boko Haram camps. A 14-year-old boy, Alaji, revealed how he was forced to partake in invasions of towns. Another escapee, a 20-year-old Christian woman narrated how she met 24 Chibok girls who she is sure are still alive.