Parents of abducted Dapchi schoolgirls who were released on Wednesay by Boko Haram said the terrorists took their time to preach sermons to them before leaving the community.
They said no soldier or security operative was present in the community to confront the insurgents for the almost one hour they spent in the community.
Dapchi village burst into joyous mood as residents chorused Baba Oyoyo, Baba Oyoyo, in apparent appreciation of President Muhammadu Buhari, whom they felt engineered the negotiation of the girls as he promised them when he visited last week.
PREMIUM TIMES earlier published an amateur video which showed the residents praising and praying for the Boko Haram members as they left the community.
“It was a thing of joy for us in Dapchi when suddenly we began to see trucks moving into the town at about 8:00 a.m in the morning”, said Ibrahim Husseini, a resident of Dapchi.
“They brought the girls and then they were telling the general public that they should not go back to Western education schools; that what they did was not terrorism but rather the propagation of Islamic knowledge,” said Mr. Husseini who said his sister was among the released girls.
Kachalla Bukar, who is the secretary of the abducted Dapchi schoolgirls’ parents’ group, said he received a phone call from relatives in Gumsa town that they saw Boko Haram gunmen coming towards Dapchi with the girls.
He said when he broke the news to the villagers, the people became scared and began to flee in fear.
Mr. Kachalla said he and other parents of the missing girls stood and watched as Boko Haram drove into the village in the same kind of vehicles that they used to take the girls away about 30 days ago.
He said he did not only wait to receive the girls, but also exchanged pleasantries with them and even took a selfie using the insurgents’ camera phones.
“But we, the parents of the missing girls, did not run as other villagers did, because we cannot run and leave our girls in the hands of the Boko Haram.
“When they came, they told us that they were returning the girls not because somebody gave them money, but out of their freewill. We thanked them. Then they told us that we must never return our girls to western school again; we said we will do as said. They preached to us for some time, and we said we will heed to their sermons.
“They shook our hands and asked us to forgive them for whatever pains that they might have caused us; then we shook hands and they asked us to snap photos with them using their mobile phone which we all did.”
Sources in Dapchi said the Boko Haram gunmen began to leave the town at about 9:00 a.m., but stopped midway out of the town to fix their deflated tires.
Haruna Driver, a resident of Dapchi and father to one of the abducted girsl, Amina Haruna, said he could not believe that his daughter could return to him so early.
“When the news came to me, it was like a dream. But when I saw my daughter, I and her mother shed tears of joy,” he said.
“Sadly, we could not spend much time with her before she was taken to the hospital and then to Abuja. We thank God for His kindness and mercy on us. We thank the president and all those that worked hard to see that our daughters return to us safely.”
Security Operatives Stood Down
Sources within the Nigeria military in Yobe State told PREMIUM TIMES that they were told beforehand that the girls would be released on Wednesday morning.
A middle-rank soldier in Dapchi who spoke to journalists on condition of anonymity said all security operatives around the Dapchi community were on “red alert” that the girls would be returned by the Boko Haram gunmen and all soldiers were asked to pull out.
The soldiers had to withdraw to the extreme flanks of the village where “they pinned down” and waited on alert to respond accordingly ”should the insurgents change their minds and begin to attack.”
The soldiers at the outskirts of the village who prevented travelers, including journalists, from accessing the community, later had to withdraw from their position as they saw the Boko Haram gunmen driving into the community.
“We have no option than to obey instruction from above,” said the soldier.
“All we did was to pull out to allow them carry out what they negotiated with the government; and no one can question such instruction especially as it has to do with the lives of these young women.”
They Treated Us Well – Schoolgirl
One of the freed schoolgirls, Khadija Grema, who spoke with journalists in Dapchi, gave a detailed account of their journey after Boko Haram insurgents abducted them on February 19.
Clad in hijab (overall gown) that was uniformly sewn for the abducted girls by the Boko Haram, she said their journey to captivity was a harrowing experience that caused the death of some of her school mates.
“We were at the school, about to break our usual Monday voluntary fast, when the gunmen arrived. Everyone was confused and people were screaming; one of them said we should come close to him. They were shooting and everyone was confused. So we ran towards the school gate.
“When we got there, they called on one Babangida to bring vehicles. They brought the vehicles and began to drive us away. Outside Dapchi, they asked that who amongst us were fasting. And some of us that were fasting were asked to come down from the vehicle. They gave us Maltina, meat, groundnut cake and pure water.
“We had our prayers after breaking the fast. Then we continued our journey until we got to a place with a big tree, they stopped and we were asked to cook food, it was dark, so they put on lamps.
“After eating, then we continued the journey for a long time until we got to a place where there is river, we came down from the trucks and they asked us to enter some canoes that took us across the river.
“Across the river, they took us to a house in one village that I don’t know; we stayed there for sometime. The next day, they came to ask us to come out and we were taken to the river and continued the journey until we got to where a thick forest area. That was where they kept us; and they have not changed our location since then.
“They have been feeding us very well, they treated us very well. They did not beat us; they did not molest us.
“The people that took us away were all speaking Kanuri and Arabic. They didn’t tell us any meaningful reason why we were freed and returned. They just said we are Muslims and they felt it was right for them to free us so that we will not suffer.”
She said some of the girls, apparently the very young ones, who were trampled upon while they were packed in the vehicles that took them out of Dapchi, died on the way.
“Five girls died while we were on the way to the bush; most of them died because they were trampled upon inside the vehicles,” Khadija said.
She added that their abductors did not molest them sexually.
“They did not molest or sexually harass us,” she said. “They even said it was wrong for women and men to sit in the same place.
One Girl Was Not Freed
Khadija added that all of them were promised that they would one day be allowed to go home except one of the girls, Leah Sherubu, who was a Christian and who refused to put on the Hijab or accept Islam.
“They freed all of us except one girl, Leah whom they said would not go because she was a Christian.”
Mr. Bukar, said “it was sad, when we heard that Leah was not released.”
“We were told by the Boko Haram that she was not released because she refused to put on Hijab,” he said.
Chibok Parents Present in Dapchi
It was a coincidence that the parents of the abducted Chibok schoolgirls who were taken by Boko Haram about four years ago were in the village of Dapchi when Boko Haram gunmen returned the 105 girls.
The Chibok parents led by Yakubu Nkeki arrived Dapchi on Tuesday evening to pay a courtesy call on the leaders of the community and solidarise with the parents of the then missing Dapchi girls.
Journalists who went to Dapchi early Wednesday morning were in the community on the invitation of the visitors who wanted their meeting with their counterpart covered.
But it turned out that their mission was over shadowed by the release of the Dapchi girls. About 100 of the Chibok girls, kidnapped in 2014, are yet to be released by terror group.