Surviving Gwoza: 2 gunshot wounds, 15 days in the jungle with 2 kids

By Post Nigeria May 11, 2015 09:42

Surviving Gwoza: 2 gunshot wounds, 15 days in the jungle with 2 kids

Lami, as she is fondly called is a 25-year-old resident of Gwoza with two kids 3 and 7 years old, they all inhabit a house barely held together by sticks and worn out sacks situated in one of the settlements for Internally Displaced Persons at Kuchingoro, Abuja.

Lami was on the verge of tears narrating her travails to Post Nigeria. For two years she has wrestled depression and anguish while insurgents ravaged her homeland in Gwoza, Borno State.

This otherwise bright town was informally tagged the headquarters of the extremist sect, but that was before the Nigerian Army swooped in to liberate it.

IDP settlement

IDP settlement

The IDP settlement in Kuchingoro looks like the set for a documentary on Discovery Channel, unkempt and inadequate as its inhabitants are left at the mercy of the scorching sun and ruthless rain. This is where Lami has made a “home” in the aftermath of two straight years of the Boko Haram siege which saw her suffer on the run till she got to Kuchingoro.

Lami also goes by Blessing John and she reflects on the harrowing period after the initial attack on her village in 2013. She barely escaped with her children alive but at the price of separation from her husband after the insurgents attacked Goshe killing and burning everything in their wake.

Lami says the people of Goshe were left in disarray, as women, men and children all fled the village without shoes and with just the clothing items on their backs. She still does not know where her husband is, “I cannot tell if he is dead or alive or even in the hands of those evil men.”

She now has a little drugstore which barely provides her and the kids a livelihood as the N85,000 she once had was taken away from her in the midst of the chaos.

“When our village was attacked, babies within the ages of 1-2 years, old women, lepers and even the blind people were carried away by the insurgents.

“I ran into the bush for 15 days with the two kids on my shoulder and back. My children went 3 good days without food and were very hungry. They cried all day and night as I watched them helplessly.

“When I could not find anything for them to eat, I had to pluck unripe mango and guavas for them to eat even though it was not good for their health.

“After some days, I found myself and some other villagers on the mountain, where we lived for another 2 weeks without food or water to drink before we were kidnapped by the Boko Haram and taken to one of their camps in Borno State.”

Like that was not horrific enough she was peddled about for marriage amongst the insurgents.

“I was forced to marry one of the men but I refused. They asked me why, I told them that because I am a Christian and I have been baptized I can’t marry a Muslim.

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Scar of the bullet wound

They got angry, shot my right leg and left me without treatment.

“After about a week, they came back again and asked if I would accept the marriage proposition, I insisted on no. They got angry and shot the same leg.

“I was left in pain before I discovered that my 3 year old child was kidnapped and taken away to another place within the same camp.”

That was when her motherly instincts inevitably kicked in and she did the craziest thing.

“I managed to run away and succeeded in stealing one of their guns in order to protect myself. After some days, I decided to go back to the terrorist camp because of my son and thank God, I succeeded in escaping again with my son to Cameroon.

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Lami’s sons

“When we got to Cameroon, we couldn’t stay there because we could not afford to buy their food and maintain life there. The Cameroonians hiked the price of their foods and other items.”

A month later she got some reprieve as the opportunity to return to Nigeria presented itself. She was desperate and made a bold choice.

“After a month, I happened to get to Mubi, Adamawa State where I sat there crying all day long before I heard a bus heading to Abuja.

“Without thinking twice, I entered the bus knowing fully well that I could not pay because I had no money on me. They told me the fare was N4,500 and I said no problem.

“Luckily for me, we arrived at Mararaba, where I was harassed by the transport owners to pay my fare. I cried the whole day and they seized my bag and asked me to go get their money before my belongings would be returned to me.

“That was how I found my way to this place with my two kids without their father.”

She has however not returned her belongings. After all, she says, she has a place to stay, clothes to wear and she and her children are alive. She insists there are bigger things to be concerned about including making sure she can provide for them.

“I have been left to be the father and mother of these children at the same time which has not been easy for me.”