Survivors of last week’s attack on Mubi, one of the biggest towns in Adamawa State have given chilling accounts of how many children died in the bush from exhaustion, while they were fleeing insurgents who attacked the town.
This is just as several families whose children got missing are still searching for them. According to the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), 6000 children are among the internally displaced persons in camps in the state.
A displaced resident of Mubi, Musa Sadi who relocated to Yola, told LEADERSHIP Weekend while some children managed to wade through to safety, many others were not so lucky as they either died in the process, are ensnared in the bush or are among the thousands of displaced persons currently trapped at the border between Nigeria and Cameroon Republic.
Sadi said hundreds of children had to grapple with the inclement condition of the bush which included sleeping in the mosquito infested environment, staying for long hours without food or water and trekking long distances and the overbearing heat occasioned by intense sunshine during the afternoon hours which usually resulted in dehydration. He said some of the children who were not strong enough to endure the tortuous journey to safety gave up the ghost just as other who fell ill had to be carried or were left with their parents in the bush.
“About five children aged between two to five years died while we were wading through the thick bush path and mountains on our way to freedom. Due to sympathy, I helped carry a two-year-old child belonging to one pregnant woman for many hours in the bush. But circumstances made me to drop the child when his heavily pregnant mother was forced by the stormy and rough journey to make an impromptu delivery,” he said.
“Some of the children died of hunger while others got dehydrated.
“Since we set out into the bush, one of the children yearned endlessly for food and water and up till the time he died, the child was yearning for water and food. When we stopped to rest following long hours of trekking, the boy suddenly stopped talking and we thought that he had fallen asleep only to realise that he has given up the ghost as thirst and hunger overwhelmed him.
“Even as an adult, I never thought I would come out of that predicament alive as I never felt so close to death,” Sadi added.
Another survivor, Mustapha Ahmed who said he had earlier fled to the Cameroonian border lamented the plight of women and children with whom they fled, saying up till now many of his cousins whose ages range between five to 14 were still trapped in the bush and every effort to locate them had proved futile.
“In our community alone, about 50 children were feared trapped as their parents said up till now they could not trace them or even get the slightest information of their where about. The father of some of the trapped children who could not locate his children is currently lying ill in a hospital in Gombe as he was said to have fainted when information filtered to him that eight of his children and two wives could not be accounted for,” he said.
Another displaced person from Gwoza, Mr. Simon Joshua said since the town was overrun, for almost three months he has lost touch with his wife and five children. Joshua whose narration was intermittently disrupted by his sobs and wailings said he was lucky not to be in town when the insurgents struck as his children and wife dispersed into the bush.
“I have tried my wife’s number several times without luck and I have not heard from any of my children. I deemed it fit to approach you the journalist so that you can tell the world that my wife by the name Rebecca is missing as well as her children.
“Help me to tell them that I am in Yola and if they or anyone who is close to them hear this message, it should be communicated to them that they should meet me in Yola at the Internally Displaced Persons Camp,” he said.
Similarly, another displaced person Mallam Tanimu Bello told LEADERSHIP Weekend that about 20 members of his family including eight children could not be accounted for since the Insurgents struck Mubi town adding that from information reaching him, some might have been trapped at Nigeria’s border with Cameroon Republic, even as he appealed to Nigerian authorities to intensify efforts at taking all the displaced people trapped in the border back home in order to reunite them with their family members.
“I have been living with sorrow and trepidation since Wednesday’s attack on Mubi. I could not see many of my family members who scampered in different directions for safety,” he said.
A displaced woman Hajiya Mairo Abdullahi was seen holding the picture of her seven-year-old child whom she claimed got missing after the insurgents struck the town.
“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 lamented.
Another parent Hajiya 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. In the same vein, another parent, Mr. Solomon Kabila said about eight of his children similarly got missing while the commotion that greeted the coming of the insurgents lasted.
“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, I cannot even eat because whenever I try to, thoughts that my little children may be starving in the bush always make me cringe with exasperation,” he said.
Another victim, who told our correspondent that he had lost contact with his three wives and 15 children, said his life had been completely shattered by the development adding that he has been trying to get across to them without success.
“I tried to no avail to get across to them. I reached my contacts in Cameroon and Yola without success. Right now I don’t know whether they are alive or dead,” he said.
Many children were similarly stranded in Yola as they said they could not locate their parents.
One of such children who was seen wandering in Yola, who identified himself as Sulaiman, said he hailed from Uba town and had to run for dear life when the insurgents struck his home, killed his father, two brothers and abducted his mother alongside her sister.
“When the insurgents entered into 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 walking till I got to this place,” Sulaiman narrated.