A Boko Haram escapee, Lami John has recounted how she experienced the fury of Boko Haram first-hand.
She narrated how after two weeks in in captivity, she was given N10,000 which was supposed to be for her bride price but she managed to escape before the supposed husband came her.
Speaking with Daily Trust, Lami said on a Friday in April, 2014, the insurgents came to their village, Gwoshi in Gwoza local government area of Borno state, made some observations and left to reinforce.
Lami, who was 24 at that time said: “We got scared and some of us ran up hill. A few hours later they came back. We saw them from our hiding places and knew immediately that our village would be under attack. We joined six other women already hiding in a cave, from where we could see the killings. People were slaughtered like goats. I witnessed them kill three women and several men. The women killed were those whose relatives were Muslims.
“After that the insurgents came right up to us on the hill top and ordered us to come out or they would shoot us. It was a terrifying moment for us.”
The mother of two said she and two others decided to come out leaving behind the six others and that was how the six others were saved.
“As we came out, they said to us, ‘you pagans, you all must be Muslims today.’ They took us to Sambisa Forest. They kept us in a place they call ‘Reserve’ inside Sambisa Forest. We were fed one ladle of food daily. The older of my two sons who was six years old at the time, was already on the hilltop with some of the neighbours before I was abducted. At the time I was captured, I had only my second son with me. I didn’t know where my husband was or if he was still alive,” she narrated.
According to her, they asked her to convert to Islam but she refused saying: “Those who refused were tagged ‘slaves’ and kept in an enclosure secured with a big padlock and placed on the watch that they may likely to escape”
She said there were no houses in Sambisa, just open spaces with fences, making camps and enclosures and the insurgents used stolen cars as their homes.
Recounting how she escaped, she said the padlock was left open one day and they waited patiently until about 3 a.m. when they sneaked out. She first headed to pick her son.
“There was no going back, I told myself. I tell you, inside Sambisa, you have no idea where you are going, but you have to maneuver your way through to get out of it. They came looking for me on the hills because they had already given me my bride price. If I were caught, I would have been killed. So I hid myself in a cave. It was only after I entered it with my son that I saw a big snake tucked in a corner.”
After hours of navigating Sambisa Forest, Lami arrived Dutse village in Borno state, where she picked her older son and told her relations there she was leaving either to Cameroon or Abuja.
After many challenges, she got to Abuja and a good Samaritan helped her to Area 1 where she met people from Gwoza who took her to this Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp in Kuchigoro.
On the mysterious Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau, Lami said she never saw him at Sambisa, but saw his second in command, Yakubu Musa.
She stated that she never saw the abducted Chibok girls too but she was told they were taken to a different camp in Sambisa.
One year after her escape from Sambisa Forest, her trauma still continues as she is yet to know the whereabouts of her husband.
Since the outbreak of Boko Haram insurgency in the North-east in 2009 which spread to other parts of the country, various people have one tale or the other about their experiences with the terrorist sect and how they managed to escape.