The family of Amina Ali, the first of the Chibok girls to be found, are being kept away from her by the Nigerian military, according to her brother who added that he does not know the whereabouts of his mother, Binta, who was also taken away by the military.
Amina’s 38-year-old brother, Noah, attended the event at the State House last week Thursday, when his sister and her four-month-old baby, Safiya, were presented to President Muhammadu Buhari.
As soon as the ceremony was over, he was taken to a nearby hotel by a certain Lt. Colonel O. M. Adesayi, who assured him that he would be reunited with his mother and sister the following day.
“He told me that it is time to relax,” Noah said.
Noah, who got married in Chibok on April 12, left his new wife at home to accompany his mother, Binta, on the helicopter that took her from Chibok to Maiduguri where they picked up his sister, and then to Abuja where the entire family met with President Buhari. At first, his mother, who had never travelled by air, was afraid to get on the aircraft, but he persuaded her.
“I told her not to be afraid,” Noah said. “I encouraged her the way you talk to an old person.”
Noah is the 7th child of Binta, while the rescued Amina is the last. However, all the other 11 siblings died between the ages of four and five, leaving him and Amina as Binta’s only surviving children.
The following day, Noah kept trying to reach Lt. Colonel Adesayi, but the phone number the army officer had given to him was not going through. He finally managed to reach him on Friday night, only for Mr. Adesayi to tell him off for still being at the hotel when the military had paid for only one night.
“He told me that I had to leave the hotel,” Noah said. “He said if I continued to stay there, I would have to use my money to pay.”
Noah asked Mr. Adesayi where his mother was.
He told him upfront that he would not be able to see her. Alarmed by the situation, Noah shared his story with one of the hotel’s guests, who kindly gave him N100,000 to find another hotel.
“I left the hotel around 9.30pm,” he said. “Imagine if I am someone that doesn’t know road, if they just took him from his village and he doesn’t know anything. Do you think that person can find the way?”
He eventually spent the night at a cheap hotel in Nyanya, then left for Maiduguri first thing the following morning, where he is currently putting up with his uncle while awaiting news of his mother and sister.
He is particularly worried about his mother, who “didn’t go to school and doesn’t know any other language” except Kibaku, the local language in Chibok.
Noah is not the only member of the Chibok community who was tossed aside by the Nigerian military after their show at the state house was over.
Yakubu Nkeki, chairman of the Chibok parents association, described as guardian to Amina, served as the interpreter when Binta was asked to respond to President Buhari’s remarks during the presentation of Amina at the Aso Villa.
She spoke in Kibaku while he (Nkeki) translated to Hausa, then Hadiza Bala Usman, chief of staff to governor El-Rufai and one of the founding members of the Bring Back Our Girls group, translated his Hausa to English.
After the ceremony, Mr. Nkeki accompanied Amina and her mother to the office of the first lady, where he spent an hour chatting with the rescued girl.
Afterwards, an army officer came and took Amina and her mother away, allegedly to meet with a doctor, asking Mr. Nkeki to wait for them there as they would soon return.
Three hours later, he was still waiting. At 11pm, he finally gave up and trekked to the closest hotel, where he spent the night.
“Till now, I’ve not seen her,” Mr. Nkeki said on Monday, five days after the ceremony at the Aso Villa. “None of us knows where she is.”
“My mother doesn’t have her phone with her,” said Noah, explaining that the army personnel had turned up in Chibok around 9am last Wednesday morning, while he and his mother were still getting ready.
“They just came and hurried us,” he said, a situation which led to his mother forgetting her phone at home.
“What I want now is for them to allow me to come and see them (his mother and sister) to know that they are doing well,” Noah said, adding that he would be happy if the military at least provided his mother with a phone, so that he could talk to her.
“I don’t know where she is or how she is feeling,” he said.
When contacted, Femi Adesina, the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, said the rescued girl and her delegation were transported to the presidential villa by the Borno State government.
“It was Borno that took charge of all arrangements so I don’t know what you are talking about,” Mr. Adesina said.
Borno State Government spokesman, Isa Gusau, denied the claims to PREMIUM TIMES, saying Noah was well treated and was allowed to be a part of the delegation because the state government was interested.
“This is false,” Mr. Gusau said. “Although we have not heard from him, but if the Borno State Government was not interested in the man being a part of the delegation to the president, he wouldn’t have been allowed to join them from Borno State.”
Mr. Gusau said the state did its best to ensure that Noah was taken care of.
“We believe that we did our best to ensure their safety and well-being during the trip to see the President. So all these claims are strange to us. Unless there is something that he really wants that he hasn’t told us, we really don’t know.”
He however did not explain why authorities were concealing the whereabouts of the rescued girl and her mother from the family.
Nigerian Army spokesman, Sani Usman, did not respond to PREMIUM TIMES’ calls and text messages seeking comments for this story.
Amina, who was one of over 200 girls abducted by the militants in 2014, was rescued Tuesday after two years in Boko Haram’s captivity, and was brought to meet President Buhari on Thursday, in company with her mother, brother and guardian.
At the meeting, President Buhari said the rescued girl would have the opportunity of returning to school and live her dreams,
She will receive the best medical, psychological and emotional care that the Nigerian Government can afford, Mr. Buhari said.
He said since nothing could be done to salvage the past, the rest of her life would take a completely different course.