“Papa!! Papa!!! Papa!!!” screamed Halima, on that dark, cold evening. Another bomb had just blasted in the outskirts of Maiduguri. It hit so hard, that the ground shook. It sounded as if a nuclear bomb had been dropped. The shrapnel hit Mustapha, her father, just as the market set ablaze. Those who came in groups were still in shock and couldn’t even stand up to check if their partners were safe. Noone other than the Boko Haram militants were responsible for this recent attack. There had been constant bombing and killing in that part of Borno State for quite a long time. The residents lived in constant fear. One did not know if it was his last day, hour or minute – there was constant terror, trepidation and loss of life and property.
“All the young girls, line up here, as you get slowly into the truck”, hollered one of the terrorists. That particular market; “Gwandu Market” *, was where young girls aged 13 to 19, sold onions and salad veggies. It was a specialist market and the nearby residents usually flooded there. Usually, the Boko Haram militants were accustomed to attacking crowded areas. On that fateful Wednesday, when Mustapha lost his life to a bomb blast, they had a field day – an estimate of 307 people was the death toll.
Helpless and unconscious, Halima and the 19 other girls were paraded to the rusty, rickety, 1972 Bedford lorry. One of the terrorists yelled in Hausa, “Are you deaf, you sinful, dirty daughter of a peasant?” “Get into the f***ing(I’m sure that was what it meant in English) lorry, you dirty pig”, he yelled further. Those terrorists had absolutely no regard for women. To them, women were objects of sex and exploitation. With so much fear gripping the girls, they increased the pace with which they entered the truck.
It was then, a thick dark cloud of reality befell them, that they were going to be raped, or forcefully married. Zainab, who was just preparing to sit for JAMB, thought to herself; “what if we are being sold to slavery?” She’s always been a very smart girl. She would often watch NTA Newsline every Sunday Night, with her mother and father. They, like every other civil servant trusted NTA for reliable news. They would often listen to inverviews of Boko Haram victims and most times it looked like half-hearted, pretentious, investigative journalism. At that moment, in the truck, it seemed as if she would be a candidate for making an appearance on national TV, now, as an ex-victim. “Bang! Click! Click!” And the doors were shut. The hoodlums zoomed off, as the girls were caged in the concealed truck.
That night, it looked as if hellfire had come closer to the earth. The atmosphere was mournful, there was maximum wailing across Maiduguri and across the nation. The state government, idiosyncratically, procrastinated on the issue. It took a whole two days before the state commissioner of police took action. One would think that he had sent a troop of policemen to investigate or even combat the hoodlums, instead, he issued a mere clichéd statement, reassuring the families that justice would be served soon.
Girls like Halima and Zainab were promising, eventhough, they came from humble backgrounds. These were the girls who you knew would assume leadership positions in government, the corporate world and their surrounding communities. As they got to a community lying on the border between Borno and Yobe, everybody was forced down the lorry. Five other fierce looking men, who looked like they hadn’t bathed for a week brought out shackles. Now there were eight terrorists altogether. One of them, who was tall and big, joked to the other, saying: “now we have bought ourselves some sex slaves, whom we shall subdue and control. The power to control lies in our hands”. Imagine how myopic and shallow-minded these guys are.
Days had gone by and the girls, including Zainab and Halima had been “shared” amongst the men. They men would often have sex with the girls, turn by turn. One man slept with five different girls on a daily basis. Being foolish and uneducated, they often didn’t use condoms during their intercourse. The innocent girls were exposed to STDs and HIV/AIDS and other bacterial infections from who knows where. Was it not how one of the girls, aged 15, was told to give fellatio to a man triple her age? I mean, these criminals had no conscience. That’s like a father abusing his daughter sexually. These immoral orgies went on for several days, and the hopeless girls could only hope that the government security operators would intervene and salvage their already-devaluing and deteriorating lives. They were in despair, pain and suffering. Imagine Halima who was in a double-shock. Her father died in a bomb blast, right in front of her, and she was kidnapped. How would her mother cope? She must be having sucidal thoughts. She must be losing faith. Her promising future seems to be in smokes, even before it started. She may never get to go to ABU, Zaria to study Medicine and Surgery, instead she may be fighting to survive AIDS or nurse an unwanted child. As the sun set at about 6:44 PM, clouds began gathering, trees shook their heads violently, soon, the rain of despair poured down the forest while the police and military officials were yet to trace the hoodlums. An air of hopelessness surrounded the abducted girls as the night became increasingly cold.