|Balaraba Aliyu Abacha|
On the evening of August 5, 2014, the Boko Haram militant sect, under the leadership of Abubakar Shekau, invaded Gwoza in Borno State and took over the town. In the process, Shekau declared himself the “Amir of Gwoza.’’ Recounting her ordeal to Daily Trust on Sunday, one of the victims of that attack, Balaraba Aliyu Abacha, described how the group invaded her matrimonial home (a big compound with modern facilities) and forced the occupants to leave, saying the new “Amir’’ would soon occupy the house, from where he would administer the town. They told Balaraba that the “Amir” would take over her room; hence she should not bother to return to the house, warning that whoever misbehaved would be dealt with and taken to the dreaded Sambisa Forest, otherwise called the Reserve by the sect.
She also revealed how she had survived four different attacks by the insurgents, saying that in any town or village they invaded, they would shoot the males who were up to 13 years of age. Balaraba further said that Shekau and his group stormed their compound on a convoy of at least 50 cars, with a lot of armed guards. She said they did not ask for money but rather demanded for the keys to their cars. She told them that the keys were not available as her husband and the driver went out with them. Filled with shock and confusion, she went to her father’s house, where she fell into coma for four days and only recovered when her husband came into the house to see her. While he was there, the insurgents came searching for males hiding in some compounds. My husband attempted to scale over the fence of the house to safety when he fell and had a fracture on his leg. He was assisted back to the house by Balaraba’s aged mother.
With the help of her mother, Balaraba planned to take her husband to Madagali for safety on a wheelbarrow. Madagali is about 25 kilometers from Gwoza. The fractured Aliyu Abacha had, however, instructed her to take their children to his friend in another part of the town, but before she came back, the insurgents had shot and killed her husband at a close range on August 9.
It was further gathered that when Balaraba’s mother went to the new palace of the self-acclaimed ‘Emir of Gwoza’ and told the guards that she wanted to get some white cloths to use as a shroud on the deceased, they threatened to kill her if she got near the house. It was also disclosed that the armed men wore Aliyu’s cloths. When Balaraba came back and saw that her husband had been killed, she organised about 20 women who dug a shallow grave to bury him behind her mother’s room, using kitchen utensils and hoes. They buried him and prayed for him.
Daily Trust reporter also learnt that the insurgents only spared little boys, old men and women who were poor and of no threat to them. After the burial of her husband, what occupied Balaraba’s mind was the safety of their 14-year-old daughter. This prompted her to leave Gwoza in Borno for Madagali in Adamawa State on foot with her mother. They were, however, close to Madagali Local Government Area when the mobile police gave them a lift from a village called Dumun-kara. At Madagali, she spent four days, waiting to break the news of her husband’s death to his mother. She went to Askira-Uba, where she also spent four days in a harsh atmosphere which forced her to go to Maiduguri, the Borno State capital. From there she went to Geidam, which was also ransacked by the armed group. She was forced to move to the Katarko area of Damaturu, the capital of Yobe State, which was attacked three weeks after her arrival, and many women, young girls and even pregnant women were abducted. It was at that point that she suggested to her mother that they should move to Kaduna where her sister would accommodate them until she recovered from the trauma caused by the ugly incident.
Daily Trust reporter further learnt that Balaraba visited her late husband’s senior wife who gave birth in December in Maiduguri. This visit gave her the opportunity to write her name as an internally displaced person there. She revealed that many internally displaced persons went back to their former camps and rewrote their names after General Muhammadu Buhari and Governor Kashim Shettima won elections, hoping that they would support them in rebuilding their town, houses, market and schools. She disclosed that Boko Haram members had burnt most parts of Gwoza town before federal troops flushed them out, adding that their family houses were among those razed.
Her biggest problem now is how to fully recover and assist in raising the children left behind by her late husband, even though she did not have any child for him in their nine years of marriage. Daily Trust on Sunday learnt that the five children belonging to the late Aliyu Abacha are now with his younger brother in Damboa town. Balaraba is now recuperating from complications and trauma from the attack. She has been receiving medical attention due to partial loss of hearing occasioned by gunshots, lack of sleep, which resulted to high blood pressure, as well as the death of her husband and the destruction of their family houses. The fate of other people in the unsafe environment is also an emotional burden for her.
- Daily Trust