Wednesday, 17 August 2016


For many victims of the Boko Haram insurgency in north-eastern Nigeria, the tragedy never seems to end. It simply takes on new dimensions.
Take the case of 32-year-old Maria David Zaya, whose two-year-old daughter, Precious, was kidnapped by militants of the Islamist group in September 2014, while she was visiting her in-laws in Madagali in Adamawa state.
Precious was taken captive along with six other children and two women who lived in the same neighbourhood.
Two weeks later, one of the women escaped.
She told Mrs Zaya that Precious had been quite favoured in captivity because of her light skin and pretty face, and given to one of the wives of an "amir", a Boko Haram commander, who did not have any children of her own.
Distressed about the thought of not seeing her daughter ever again, Mrs Zaya returned to Port Harcourt, in the southern state of Rivers, where her husband, David, works as a security man.
Shortly after, she gave birth to her second child, a boy named Emma.
Seven months after she returned, Mrs Zaya received some unexpected good news: the Nigerian military had rescued a number of Boko Haram captives from the Sambisa forest, and taken them to the Malkohi camp for displaced people in Yola, the main city in Adamawa.
"One of my neighbours in the village saw my daughter and some of the other six missing children there and called me to come quickly," said Mrs Zaya.
But by the time she arrived, Precious had disappeared.

'I recognised her'

After three months of shuttling between various government, military and NGO offices, with the assistance of a Red Cross official, Mrs Zaya finally located her daughter at the Nigerian Defence Academy in Kaduna, where legitimate wives of Boko Haram members (not those forcefully married) were being held with their children for a debriefing process.
"When I saw Precious, she was wearing a headscarf but I recognised her," Mrs Zaya said.
"She continued following me and staring at me."
Mrs Zaya soon learned that the girl she believed to be Precious had a new name, Yagana, and was in the custody of a Boko Haram wife called Asabe.
She said Asabe became furious when Mrs Zaya presented herself as the girl's mother, insisting that Yagana was her younger sister.
Following the ensuing fracas, the military officials asked Mrs Zaya to return with her husband and with any other proof she might have of the child's parentage.
A month later, in September 2015, the couple came with photos of Precious and the girl's birth certificate, but they were denied access to the camp because of an unauthorised official was accompanying them.

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