From John Adams, Minna
Over 130 pupils abducted from Salihu Tanko Isilamiya School in Tegina, Rafi Local Government area of Niger State who were released by their abductors on Thursday night after almost three months in captivity have recounted their ordeals in the hands of their abductors.
The children said they were made to trek for three days without water or food while being escorted to the kidnappers’ den.
The children, who were looking very sickly and jittery on arrival at the Government House in Minna, where they were received by the state governor, Alhaji Abubakar Sani Bello, also recounted how they were fed with only noodles in the mornings and evenings.
They said throughout their almost three months in captivity, they did not bathe. They also said they slept under trees in the bush for almost one month before some shelter was improvised for them.
Speaking in Hausa, ten-year-old Umar told our correspondent that they slept on the ground in the bush for many days before they were moved to a different location where they were given mats. Three of them shared a mat, he said.
Said he: “They kept the girls separate from us when it was time to sleep but we always ate together. They gave two of us one sachet of water to share during meals, which was two times a day, and they did not give us water to bathe.
“They did not beat us, they only told us that we would soon go back home, and that we should not be afraid. They told us that anybody who ran would die in the bush.”
The children were abducted in broad daylight at about 11:00am on May 30, 2021 by heavily armed bandits.
But while briefing newsmen in Minna on Friday when he received the children, the governor said only 92 were abducted.
But only 91 returned, as the bandits could not account for the missing one, fueling speculation that he may have died.
After 89 days in captivity, with series of negotiations between the parents and the bandits, and the payment of unspecified sums paid as ransom, the children walked into their freedom on Thursday night with mixed feelings from their parents.
While some of the parents could not hide their joy and happiness over the release of their children, others could not hold back their tears over the dehumanising condition the children were subjected to in the last three months.
“We believed that it is a will of God and we cannot question it. We thank God that the children came back at the end of the day, and life continues,” one of the parents who identified herself as Hauwa said.
But Hajiya Hamza could not hold back her tears due to her daughter’s condition. She said: “I can’t believe that this is my daughter. No, this is a wicked act.
“This people don’t know God. I don’t think they have children. It is only God that will judge them and their generations yet unborn,” she submitted.
Receiving the children at the Government House in Minna, Governor Abubakar Sani Bello, described as wicked the abduction of minors who were also subjected to inhuman treatment in the name of money, adding that nothing can be more wicked than kidnapping innocent children.
“ I wonder how you can abduct a-year-old innocent child and keep him or her for over 80 days. We need to do whatever it takes to bring those that did that to justice.
“This has affected the morale and confidence of people from sending their children to school. We are making more efforts to secure our schools and, I think that is working. Schools in the areas where we cannot provide adequate security, those schools we have already shut them down temporarily.”
On the health of the victims, the governor explained: “I have received information from the medical team that all our children, about 92 ,including two other ones that were kidnapped by bandits, are doing fine except four whose condition is critical. But we are going to release them to their parents.”
He thanked the chairman of Rafi Local Government area and the Commissioner for Local Government for the roles they played in the return of the children.