At least 350 children have been reported missing during the fight between Nigerian troops and members of the dreaded Boko Haram insurgents in Mubi town, Adamawa State.
Residents displaced from Mubi, who are taking refuge in Yola, the state capital, lamented that as at the time the insurgents overran the town last Wednesday, their children were still in school and got missing in the melee that followed the fall of the town into the hands of the insurgents. Most parents who were scared stiff by the terror unleashed on the town scampered in different directions to avoid being caught in the crossfire.
A displaced parent from Mubi, Mr. Solomon Kabila, lamented that eight of his children were missing since they fled from the bullets of the terror gang.
“When the insurgents struck Mubi, my wife called to inform me that she and the children were in the midst of the insurgents who were firing gun shots sporadically and immediately, the line went off.
“Since then, I could neither communicate with her nor any of the children. My life has no more value as I could not even eat because whenever I tried to put anything into my mouth, the thought that my little children may be starving in the bush always made me cringe with exasperation,” he said.
Another parent, Binta Musa, said she could not locate three of her children who got missing in the melee that ensued when the insurgents struck the town.
Yet another displaced person, Mallam Habibu, complained that his three wives and 15 children were missing, adding that his life has been completely shattered by the development.
He said he had sent a search team to bushes near Mubi but they had returned without any news of their whereabouts.
“I even tried my contacts in Cameroun, still no success has been recorded. Right now, I don’t know whether they are alive or dead,” he said.
Also, a displaced woman, Hajiya Mairo, was seen holding the picture of her seven-year-old child whom she said was also missing after the insurgents overran the town.
Mairo told journalists in Yola that she had been searching for her missing child to no avail.
“Since morning, I have been going from one street to another asking people whether they have seen Farouk, my last child.
“I have been making calls since the day he got missing but up till now I have not heard any positive response,” she said.
Sulaiman, who was seen roaming the streets of Yola, said he was from Uba town and had to run for his dear life when the insurgents struck his home, killed his father, two brothers and abducted his mother alongside her sister.
“When the insurgents entered our compound, they slaughtered my father, killed my two brothers, and abducted my mother and her sister.
“I escaped the house through the fence and ran into the bush and since then I have been trekking till I got to this place,” Sulaiman narrated.
However, checks revealed that many children were similarly stranded in Yola as they said they could not locate their parents.
The battle for the soul of Mubi, which started last Wednesday, continued on Sunday as the military fighter jets have been bombarding the ancient town with the aim of recapturing it from the insurgents who have been in control of the town with their flag hoisted in strategic positions.
A security source, who briefed THISDAY, expressed confidence that given the current zeal demonstrated by the soldiers and the jet fighters, he was sure that the military would soon recover the city from the insurgents.
Meanwhile, thousands of Muslims and Christians across Adamawa State on Sunday converged for special prayers, beseeching God to bring peace and end the activities of insurgents in the state and the sub region.
The prayer session which held at Yola praying ground for the Muslims, had Imam Abubakar Hussaini, who led the prayer and urged Muslims to remain calm and prayerful.
“You should not be intimidated and don’t allow anyone to force you to flee your homes. “We must be united and have the firm belief that with God on our side we have nothing to fear,” Hussaini said.
While speaking during a sermon, Uztaz Adam Usman cautioned against rumour-mongering, which has been generating fears among the people and urged those contemplating running away from Yola as a solution to have a change of mind.
“Stay and face the challenge; you must not allow them to continue pushing you until you reach the Atlantic. Death is once and you only die when God decrees it. If God said you will die, death will catch up with you anywhere,” Usman said.
He also called for sustained prayers and unity against Boko Haram. The state branch chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Rev Fr Moses Taparki, said special prayers had been going on since the insurgency started and would be sustained.
He said Christians needed to pray fervently against the insurgents, adding that only God can deliver the country from the current insecurity bedevilling it.
The renewed attacks by the insurgents have called to question the genuineness of the reported peace deal between the Nigerian military and the insurgents, which was said to be co-ordinated by the Chadian President Idris Derby.
The Boko Haram leadership had, over the weekend, declared that there was no peace deal with the federal government, announcing casually that the over 200 abducted Chibok girls had been married off.
The controversy whether or not there was indeed a ceasefire deal has prompted the All Progressives Congress (APC) to call for an independent inquiry to unravel the circumstances surrounding the fake ceasefire deal announced by the Goodluck Jonathan administration on October 17th, since the sect’s leadership has described as an impostor the man with whom the phantom deal was negotiated.
The opposition party’s concern came as the number of Mubi residents fleeing from the conflict to a camp at Damare in Yola, Adamawa State is said to have risen to 9,000.
In a statement issued on Sunday by its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the party said Nigerians would like to know how the Jonathan Administration got swindled by an impostor to accept a phantom peace deal.
The party said enquiry will also enable Nigerians to know who the major players were and what the government plans to do to address what has now become a monumental national and international embarrassment.
”President Jonathan owes Nigerians an explanation on what has now turned to be an unprecedented global faux pas. Engaging in cheap damage control by insisting on the genuineness of the deal will only amount to taking Nigerians for a ride,” it said.
APC said the saddest part of what has now turned out to be a fake deal is that it gave false hopes to the parents of the 218 school girls who remained in Boko Haram captivity that their children’s release was imminent, especially as the government even announced a specific date for the release of the girls.
”Now the parents and indeed all Nigerians have been victimised for the umpteenth time by the same government that has failed in its main reason for existence, which is the security and welfare of the citizenry,” the party said, recalling its earlier warning to the Jonathan administration not to use the girls as pawns on its political chess board.
It wondered whether the government sought to buy time and gain political mileage by knowingly negotiating with a man who has no authority to do so on behalf of Boko Haram, as claimed by the sect’s leadership, adding that the current debacle has reinforced the perception of federal government as being blatantly incompetent.
”The ceasefire deal with Boko Haram was announced at the highest level of the military and supported by the political authority on October 17th. Now that it has been described as a fluke, there is every indication that the Jonathan administration was swindled by someone masquerading as a Boko Haram negotiator, while the administration itself went ahead to fool Nigerians as well as the international community. Whatever happens, the sole responsibility falls on the administration.
”When Boko Haram continued to carry out deadly attacks and annex territories, despite the so-called ceasefire, we waited for the government to tell Nigerians what was happening, but there was no convincing explanation. When the date announced for the release of the girls passed, we waited for the government to tell Nigerians what the problem was, but all we got from the easily excitable and trifling presidential spokesmen was platitude.
”Now that the deal is said to be a fluke and everything points to that, the Jonathan administration must be contrite enough to own up to its gaffe, if indeed it is one, or its contrived deceit, and also face the possible consequences from a stupefied citizenry. It cannot and must not just be another forgotten instance in a series of gaffes by a serial bumbling government,” APC said.
Indeed, the beleaguered Chibok parents, over the weekend bemoaned their fates as their hopes have been once again, dashed by the federal government.
The Chairman of Chibok community in Abuja, Tsambido Hosea Abana said the federal government had not done enough to raise the hopes of parents whose wards were abducted by members of the Boko Haram sect over six months ago.
Abana in a telephone conversation with THISDAY on Sunday stated that the government was more concerned about the 2015 elections, than the rescue of their daughters .
He also said the sect, after being dislodged from some communities in Borno State, may be targeting Yola.
“The government is killing our morals, they are not doing enough, all they talk about is the 2015 elections, and if care is not taken, the security situation will be worse before the elections,” he said.
Abana said: “If care is not taken, the insurgents will take over Yola, and it will be dangerous because they can have access to every part of the country through the Yola airport.”
Speaking on the claim that the girls have been married out, as stated in the latest footage by Boko Haram leader, Abubakar Shekau, Abana said the claim was not new but could not be confirmed.
“It is not new, but we cannot fully believe or dispute the claim, we are just looking on to God.
Remember somebody called a serving senator to inform him about his marriage to one of the girls. We don’t know if this is real or propaganda,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Internally Displaced Persons’ (IDPs) camp in Yola is already overflowing causing the opening of another camp at Damare which now has over 9,000 persons.
Speaking to journalists who were on a fact- finding tour of the camps at the weekend, one of the camp officials explained that the continued influx of the IDPs was giving them serious concern as the facilities in the camp were gradually being overstreched.
Rebecca Teri said she escaped from her village, Mararraban Mubi, and fled to Yola after spending some days on the road with some of her children.
She however said she does not presently know the whereabouts of her seven-year-old daughter and her husband.
Another IDP, Gift Ugo, who is a student, said they escaped to the bush after the attacks and later managed to get to Yola.
She said part of their school was burnt down, adding that many students were trapped in the town and might have been killed or injured.
Efforts to get the North-east Zonal Coordinator of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), Muhammad Kanar, to comment on the humanitarian efforts to cushion the plight of the victims proved abortive as he could not be contacted by telephone