Sahura Haruna, 25, was one of the 20 kidnapped victims who escaped from Rugu forest where they were held for five months by the bandits. During their stay there, Sahura gave birth to a baby girl. She told 21st CENTURY CHRONICLE how she struggled with her four-month pregnancy at the time of the abduction and the struggle of giving birth in a bandits’ enclave. Excerpts:
21st CENTURY CHRONICLE: What happened on the day you were kidnapped?
Sahura: I was in my room when I heard people started running helter skelter. From our house, people started running out too. By then, the sound of the guns has not reached our area, but people had been informed that the bandits had entered the village.
But how did they kidnap you?
Even when I heard people running, I was still confused because while some people were going outside some were still coming into our house. But by the time we decided to run, the sounds of guns were everywhere and before we knew it, they started entering houses. They entered our house some minutes after 10 in the night and took us away. I didn’t know those who were taken along with me until a day after the kidnap.
How did they take you into the bush?
They were many of them all carrying guns and shouting. When they asked me to follow one of them, I obliged. We were many. They made us walked for more than an hour in the bush before we reached where their friends were waiting for them with motorcycles. We were ordered to climb the motorcycles, and the journey into the bush began. I didn’t know where my husband was at the time. But I saw some of my relatives and friends while we were being taken away but we couldn’t protest because they had guns and majority of us were women.
Do you know where they took you to?
We were taken into the Katsina part of the Rugu forest that night and we spent about 35 days there. We were many but some people were released even before we were brought into the bush while others escaped. Some had their families paid ransom for them and finally we were reduced to 20.
After the first 35 days, they moved us to the Zamfara part of the forest. We were not kept in one place even in the Zamfara forest because they kept changing places for us. We were left outside their shades. In the night, they left us with their juniors who watched over us while they go to sleep. Only the male among us were tied with two padlocks.
Did you tell them you were pregnant when they kidnapped you?
No. They were always shouting at us and saying they would kill us if our family didn’t bring money. So, I didn’t tell them I was pregnant because even when I was frequently sick, they didn’t even bother to ask or help me, it was some older women we were with who took care of me.
And again, we were not being given food frequently. They were merciless. We ate twice in the first month of our abduction before they reduced it to once daily. They would just bring raw Guinea corn and ask us to prepare meal for everyone in the camp. They left to us to our own devices on how to grind it and prepare the food.
How did you give birth, did the bandits help you?
I was sick and in serious labour for two days before the older women told some of the bandits. The boys among them were a bit nice to us. So, when they told them I was sick, one of the boys called the senior bandits, who said their Oga said he would come himself. When the Oga came, he told me to stand, but I couldn’t. He forced me to stand and when I did, I started feeling dizzy and I nearly collapse if not for this woman (points at an elderly woman sitting beside her). He said I didn’t have blood and that I needed to see a doctor.
When some of us pleaded that they should help and take me out of the bush so that I could go home, they threatened to kill them. They said our family should bring money. They said N100 million Naira should be the ransom for us. But by then they had even stopped discussing with our families back home.
They didn’t even know that I had delivered because it was in the night and only the boys were there with us. I thought I would die because of the pain and trauma of giving birth in the forest. For the five days that she was born only once they gave us water to bath her. The elderly woman here helped and took care of the baby when I fainted.
The baby is wearing new cloth; how did you get them for her?
They gave us in Zamfara state. Even this one that I’m wearing, they gave it to us in Zamfara. They also called a doctor who took the baby and myself to hospital before we were brought back to Katsina.
How did you escape?
When the aircraft (the Air force jet) came, they first asked us to lie down on our stomach because that was how they used to do. But the plane returned and passed. When it returned the third time, those kept to watch over us took their guns and started running because they thought the plane was targeting them. As soon as they start running, Malam Rabiu (another victim) started struggling to lose his padlock and that was how we all got up and started running.
We ran for hours without looking back. Most of us were in the state of half nudity because all our clothes have worn out. We ran and finally reached a village under Birnin Magaji in Zamfara state. They took us in and gave us food to eat. We had our bath for the first time in five months. In the morning, the village head said officials from the local government were coming to take us and that was how we were taken to Gusau where we were medically examined and brought back to Katsina state.