From John Adams, Minna
The Niger State Governor Alhaji Abubakar has said that the 28 students of Government Science College, Kagara, their four teachers and six family members of the staff were released through the joints efforts of security agencies, the traditional rulers and other stakeholders after an extensive dialogue with the bandits.
Speaking while receiving the victims at the government house in Minna, yesterday, the governor cleared the air that no ransom was paid for their release but added however that a lot of resources were put into the rescue because “we have to involve so many groups, our local vigilantes, security agencies and traditional rulers.
“So it was a difficult task, very demanding but at the end of the day it yielded results and we thank God. The children were released exactly 4:00am this morning (yesterday),” the governor said.
He said that the abductees went through a lot of torture in the hands of their abductors and therefore directed that “they should be put through thorough medical examination for the next two days before they will be reunited with their family.”
The governor pointed out though the government has secured the release of the victims, there is still a lot of work to be done, stressing: “Going forward, we have to put in place, a system, look at the causes of the criminal activities, and I hope we will find solution to this dastardly acts.”
The circumstances surrounding the release of the former abductees still remain unclear but Sunday Sun gathered however that “serious dialogue” between the bandits and government took place for almost six days which yielded result with the release of the victims.
According to source the release of the victims was made possible because the government team was able to reach out to the kingpins of all the bandits in the Allawa forests, where the children were kept for 12 days.
A source told Sunday Sun on condition of anonymity: “We are still working on the trajectory, they agreed they will drive the agreement reached as long as government will continue to reassure them; it is an element of trust on both sides.”
It was gathered that the release of the victims almost ran into a hitch as another set of bandits in the bush reportedly waylaid the victims on their way to Kagara and held them for some hours, demanding their own share of ransom if any was paid.
It was the intervention of a government official and one of the kingpins of the bandits that was responsible for the freedom of the schoolboys and others.
Under heavy security they were brought to Minna and lodged at the Niger State Development Company (NSDC) hotel opposite the government house, where they were profiled and made to undergo medical checks, feeding and debriefing.
Meanwhile, some of the boys who recounted their experiences told the ugly story of how they were fed with only beans for 11 days. The only source of drinking water for the victims was water from shallow stream from which the cattle also drank.
One of the students, Ezekiel Danladi, told the pathetic story of how they were made to trek for over 10 hours on the day they were kidnapped before arriving at their destination without water of food.
His words: “We slept in the open field without blankets or any covering cloths despite the chilling harmattan winds. Some of us were beaten but they didn’t touch the girls among us. They threatened us with guns, and warned us that if our parents didn’t bring money they would kill us all.
“In the night we were separated from the girls when it was time to sleep. The girls were the ones cooking for us while we went to look for firewood for the cooking.”
Also, Mr John Paiko, father of Emma, one of the victims, gave glory to God for the release of his son, saying: “The principal called me to come to Minna that my son has been released; in fact I couldn’t believe until I arrived here.” Paiko who is a father of three said adding that Emma is the only child that has gone to school among his children.
He, however, vowed that the development would not stop him from returning his son, a 19-year-old in SS2, to the same school to continue his education.
Another parent Alhaji Aliyu Isah, said his wife and five children were among the victims who regained freedom yesterday, saying that the past 11 days were traumatizing for him as father.
“I just want to thank God for the safe return of my wife and children, I went through sleepless nights because I didn’t know the condition they were in,” Isah said.
Another parent Alhaji Abubakar Musa whose six children were among those abducted, expressed happiness over the release of the victims.