Wednesday, the 27th of January, was like any other day in the town of Chibok, a small town in the north-eastern state of Borno, Nigeria. People went about their daily businesses like they had done every other day, hopeful, that it would be better than the last and that there would be no sudden alarm of impending danger. But there was danger; without warning an explosion erupted in the heart of the Chibok market. Sudden panic. Then another explosion.
Almost two years ago, in April 2014, Chibok witnessed an unimaginable incident where over 200 female students were abducted from a secondary school by Boko Haram, a sect that has terrorised northern Nigeria for about six years now.
Two months ago, I had the privilege of meeting Grace, a young woman from Chibok. She was there on the night of the abduction. She and her husband had joined the rest of the town in fleeing to the top of the mountains where they laid low and watched from afar as the Government Girls Secondary School was set ablaze by Boko Haram after they must have loaded the girls into trucks to be taken away.
A good number of people have left the town since then, but Grace is one of many others who decided to stay back. “Where do we go to? This is our home,” she said. On how they live day to day knowing that these terrorists are still at large? “We live by faith,” she told me. “But we are always alert, always vigilant.”
Grace was not in Chibok this past Wednesday, when the explosions occurred, she was on a visit to a neighbouring town. However a middle-aged man, named Daniel was in Chibok, he was right there in the market when the bombs went off. “The first was detonated three steps away from me,” he told Ventures Africa. Daniel was speaking to us from his hospital bed in the General Hospital, Chibok, one of his hands and legs fractured, and his collarbone broken.
Daniel, a computer analyst, was at the Chibok market to charge his phone at a local shop. He was sitting there with four of his friends when a girl aged 20 or 21, covered in a hijab walked up to them asking if they sold boiled eggs, “We said no. we don’t sell such things here.” Then she proceeded to buy something else, but Daniel noticed that her hands were hidden even as she collected her change. “… And as she stepped outside, three steps away from me, the next thing I heard was a very loud sound. Then everywhere was risen with dust. People were running here and there. I saw so many people dead around me…”
He saw the girl who had just left the shop, but this time she lay there lifeless. And then it hit him; the suicide bomber was the same person who had come to ask for boiled eggs earlier. “When she was alive we didn’t know she was carrying dangerous explosives on her. It was after she detonated the explosives and she was dead, lying near me, that I started thinking, ‘Oh! So this woman was a suicide bomber.’ But by then I was in pain, looking for somebody to help me, but I saw her lying dead, scattered,” he narrated.
Daniel had a close shave with death and thankfully, he is alive to tell the story. Others were not so lucky; so far, 16 people have been reported dead. The middle-aged computer analyst and father of four is just one of the 52 survivors of the bomb blasts who were admitted in the General Hospital, Chibok. With a broken hand, leg and collar bone, his injuries are considered minor, in comparison to other critically injured survivors who had been transported to neighbouring hospitals in Gombe and Yola due to the lack of adequate medical resources in Chibok.
Muhammed, a nurse at the hospital told Ventures Africa that the hospital lacks both human and medical resources. “We don’t have any doctors here, only nurses,” said Muhammed. “That is why we are referring them (critically wounded survivors) to better hospitals, all we can give is first aid.”
Before the April attack in 2014, Chibok was an obscure town in the north-eastern part of Nigeria, but the kidnappings of the school girls made the town a focal point for the media. One would expect that with all the attention it gets, it would have been adequately equipped to handle such attacks when, or if they ever occurred. “We need care,” said Muhammed, “Let them care about us.” When Ventures Africa spoke to Muhammed and to Daniel, it had been over a day since the attack, yet the government had not reached out to them, only a call to say that they were on their way. And when we contacted Daniel today to find out whether or not the government had been there to at least visit the injured, he said, “No. But we were told that they are on their way.” He said only soldiers had been there to visit them, “the Commanding Officer of the military in Chibok came to see us, he brought some medications,” he explained.
Muhammed told us that the hospital needed more staff, especially doctors and an ambulance for emergencies. The ambulance at the hospital is broken and, though they had informed the government over a year ago, nothing has been done about it. Hence, they are forced to resort to the use of commercial vehicles to transport patients during emergencies.
The rest of Nigeria can never truly understand the plight of those residing in the north-east. What is ‘news’ to many is reality for the people of Chibok.
To listen to the rest of Daniel and Muhammed’s story, listen to the podcast below: