Did Boko Haram abduct 319 IDPs in Gamborun Ngala?


By Zagazola Makama 


There were contradicting reports that were widely circulating in the media claiming that 319 female IDPs were abducted by Boko Haram terrorists in Gamborun Ngala, Borno State when they went to fetch firewood. The report said three girls who escaped the attack arrived at Gamborun Ngala, after spending two days tracking from the BHT enclave. 


The Fact


On 3 Mar 2024, some  Internally Displaced Persons(IDPs) , mostly women and children aged between 12 and 14 years old, left the ISS camp at dawn in search of firewood in Garal village and had not returned to the camp. 


It was gathered that they were intercepted and abducted by two insurgents holding rifles, and that thereafter, they were forced to proceed to WULGE village, an area located about 25 kilometers from Gamborun Ngala. Three of the victims managed to escape from the insurgents enclaves and arrived at Gamborun Ngala to relate the story.


Response of Security and SEMA 


On 3 Mar 24, troops received information from Coordinator Borno State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) Gamboru Ngala that an unconfirmed number of IDPs were suspected to have been abducted. It was confirmed that the IDPs indeed left the ISS camp at dawn in search of firewood in Garal Village and had not returned to- the camp. 


The Coordinator SEMA also reported that the IDPs did not inform the camp officials of their intention to proceed outside the community for firewood. Additionally, there was no report of the incident from the IDPs or the Camp management until around 2030hrs when they did not return. 


It is pertinent to state that the approved distance for fetching of firewood is between 5-7km radius from the camp while Garal village is about 24km from Gamboru. 


On receipt of the information, troops immediately activated sources to confirm the incident as well as locate the kidnapped victims. The troops were dispatched to track the route described by the sources but there was no trace of the victims. There was also no confirmation of the actual number of those missing. “How can 319 girls fetch firewood all at the same time. Who counted them?


SEMA DG says report was exaggerated 


SEMA Director General, Alhaji Muhammed Barkindo, faulted the report saying that the number was exaggerated and does not represent the true situation on ground. He said neither the security agencies, officials of the camp, Chairman Local Government or the parents at the camp came  forward to claim such massive  figures of abduction. 


Barkindo said that they had interviewed the three girls who returned and said that initially they usually go about 25 kilometers but decided to move ahead to about 70 kilometers ahead of Gamborun Ngala to engage in fetching firewood. The girls did not also report that 319 girls and boys were abducted.  


The SEMA DG said he believed that the IDPs may have missed their way along the line as a result  fell prey in the hands of their abductors. 


“We must therefore endeavor to confirm any figure we are using before going to the press. We are here as SEMA, most of these media are not calling us to confirm some of these reports. I believe that the report is not objective. 


“As it stands, neither we at SEMA, nor the Chairman of Ngala who is here with me will tell you that we received any such figures of people abducted. The Boko Haram terrorists did not also come out to claim such figures. Honestly, this report is already causing panic”, he said.


“Even those who carried the report, have now changed their headline after speaking with us this morning. They initially said it was 319, but now they turned it to dozens. This is because they are not sure of their reports. 


“I'm currently going to Gamborun along with the Chairman and  other stakeholders for a fact finding mission. I will revert back as soon as possible,”he said.


Hunger Made us to Go Beyond 5km distance in Search of Firewood


Meanwhile, at meeting with the IDPs on 5 March 2024, they complained of hunger as the reason for leaving the agreed 5-7km distance to fend for firewood as the palliative from the government does not last. As such, they go to fetch firewood to enable them to feed. 


They also complained that deforestation has also limited the areas in which they can get firewood which necessitated the long distance traveled. 


While efforts are ongoing to effect the

release of the abducted persons, there is the need for the government to improve the welfare of the IDPS especially those at the newly resettled communities. 


Recently, some IDPs in Dikwa and Mafa staged a protest that they were returning to Boko Haram due to what they described as hardship living conditions.

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