Ten months after fleeing Boko Haram, who seized her along with 275 other schoolgirls in an attack on a Chibok school, an 18-year-old Nigerian girl recounted her escape to FRANCE 24’s Marc Perelman and blasted the government’s failure to tackle the threats of reprisal against her family.
[Click here to see the original interview]
On the night of April 14, 2014, Saa, whose name has been changed to protect her identity, was sleeping in the Chibok school dormitory when a barrage of gunshots woke her up.
“We came out of our rooms wondering what to do,” she told FRANCE 24. “The Boko Haram people came to the school and the hostel where we were living and they asked us to stay together.”
It was the start of a nightmare that would see the teenage girl escape in the dead of night and hide in a dense forest before she could get help. The girls were rounded up and made to board a truck, Saa recounted. “They said they were going to kill us if we didn’t do what they wanted. We were very afraid.” Boko Haram militants had lined up a number of vehicles to transport the girls and Saa’s truck was in the middle. The vehicles took off towards the Sambisa forest.
That’s when the young woman made a split-second decision that would change the course of her life.
“Some of us decided to jump off the truck,” she explained. “Two girls jumped and I decided to jump too. I told my friend, ‘I’d rather die and my parents will have my coffin than go with the Boko Haram because I don’t know where I’m going.’”
Saa jumped off the truck and her friend immediately followed. Unfortunately, Saa’s friend hurt her leg while jumping, so the two terrified teenagers spent the night hiding in the forest before Saa could set off the next morning to seek help. Help came in the form of a shepherd who initially refused to help the teenager, but later yielded. He pushed her injured friend on his bicycle and together they made their way to a nearby village.
Saa was one of the lucky few. Despite a massive international outcry centred around the “Bring Back Our Girls” campaign, which has drawn political leaders, celebrities and activists from across the world, little is known about the abducted Chibok schoolgirls. Speaking to FRANCE 24 from Geneva, where she is attending a human rights summit, Saa explained that she fled Nigeria for the US, where she is currently attending high school. “The Boko Haram said if we escaped, they would kill us and our families,” said Saa, wearing dark glasses to protect her identity since she fears reprisals against her family. Ten months after her miraculous escape, with Nigeria heading for a landmark election next month, Saa said she is frustrated by the government’s inaction and failure to address the Boko Haram threat.
The Nigerian government has “already forgotten” about the kidnapped girls’ plight, she said helplessly.
“Now, people are not even talking about the Chibok girls anymore. They have forgotten about them.”
By Marc Perelman