From Mohammed Munirat Nasir, Gusau
Students of Government Girls Secondary School (GGSS) Jangebe, Talata Marafa Local Government Area, Zamfara State, who regained their freedom in the wee-hours of yesterday after four days have narrated how they
trekked several kilometres barefooted, ate food mixed with sand and slept in trenches littered with human faeces in the cold forest.
In spite of the harrowing experience, the girls expressed joy because they were not molested by the bandits and also reiterated their determination to go back to school if adequate security were put in place.
The students were abducted last Friday around 2a.m. A total of 279 students were received at the Government House, Gusau, contrary to earlier figure of 317 bandied by the state government and the school authorities.
The rescued students ferried to Gusau in a convoy of many buses which included two coaster buses and 18 seater buses were received at the Government House around 4am by Governor Bello Mohammed Matawalle, his wife, Hajia Aisha, Commissioner of Police Abutu Yaro, heads of security agencies and other top government functionaries and Islamic clerics.
In separate interviews with journalists, some of the girls narrated their ordeal in tears.
Hunainatu Abubakar said the abductors ridiculed, called them many bad names, threatened to kill them and then later, “they asked us to pray for them to be good citizens and that we should teach them English so that they could speak. They also threatened to rape us but their leader, Kasalle, warned them against that. They always added sand to our foods and only allowed us to dig for water with our fingers at a drying pond.”
Hunainatu said she would go back to Kaduna where she came from and continue at a day school to fulfill her dream of becoming a lawyer.
“Some of the bandits even asked if we will marry them but none of us responded and so they said they would be looking for those with big eyes and kill them.
Hunainatu said though they were taken at night through the back of their school, she could trace the location and still remember their faces if she saw any of them.
She said one of the students also saw her father who was kidnapped over three months ago but he cautioned them against showing any relationship with him to avoid being killed.
She said most of them returned with wounds and swollen legs because they were asked to leave their shoes on the day of the kidnap. She said they slept in the open while in captivity only to go into hiding along with the criminals when they heard the sounds of helicopters on search and rescue mission.
Another student, Najaatu Tasiu confirmed the bandits put sand into the foods.
“They give us food and put sand and tell us to eat the food like that, if we refuse they beat us with canes,” she said.
Hauwa Yusuf said the abductors took them out of the school and made them to trek for several kilometres barefooted.
“We trekked for many hours in the bush until we got to a place were we slept for two days and later moved further to another place. They always asked us to go into the hole to avoid being seen from above by planes hovering around.”
Hafsat Umar Anka said the bandits not only threatened to kill them but also threatened to fry their meat and eat if they refused to obey instructions and tried to be stubborn.
“When I got a fracture on my leg, the bandits said I should give them my headscarf so that they would tie my fractured leg which I refuse, so they said they would cut off my leg.”
Another student, Rabi Saleh, said they were made to sleep in a hole littered with human faeces and also not allowed to observe obligatory Salats.
“The bandits pray but never allowed us to pray.”
A jubilant Malam Akilu Abubakar Mayanchi, whose two daughters, Halimatu, JSS 3 and Aisha, JSS 2, said since the abduction last Friday, the family had not slept and have kept praying day and night for the safe return of the students.
“Today is one of the greatest day of my life because I never thought I will see my children again but we kept praying and Alhamdulillah our prayers have been answered by Allah.”
Mayanchi commended Governor Matawalle for ensuring their safe return.
Wife of the Zamfara Governor, Hajiya Aisha Matawalle, told the girls, parents and entire people of the state to consider the incident as an act of God.
“My word to the victims is that you should not discouraged over this sad incident. You must aspire to further your education.we are proud of you,” she said.
She appealed to the people to continue to offer prayers for the sustenance of peace and stability.
How we secured their freedom
Governor Matawalle described the rescue as a victory over evil and wickedness. He said no ransom was paid as repentant bandits facilitated and assisted security agencies in the operation.
“This is the result of our peace effort and putting to shame all those saying there is no security in this country.
“We have been in discussion since Friday with the abductors and reached agreement on Monday by 4pm that the girls were released.
“We are happy that all 279 have safely returned, they will undergo medical checks and given balanced diets to recuperate by the state government before they are handed back to their respective families.
“I want to appeal to parents not to remove their children from school as a result of this, we will ensure additional security in all the schools. We thank all media outlets for their support throughout these trying times,” the governor said.
Buhari: Ransom payments’ll continue to prosper kidnapping
President Muhammadu Buhari has expressed overwhelming joy over the release.
Reacting to the development in a statement by his spokesman, Malam Garba Shehu, in Abuja, the president said: “I join the families and people of Zamfara in welcoming and celebrating the release of these traumatized female students.”
President Buhari said he was excited that their ordeal came to a happy end without any incident, adding that “being held in captivity is an agonising experience not only for the victims, but also their families and all of us.”
The president called for greater vigilance by the people so that human intelligence could be collected early enough to nip the bandits’ plans in the bud.
According to him, the time has come to reverse, completely the grim and heartbreaking incidents of kidnapping.
“Ransom payments will continue to prosper kidnapping,” he warned, while urging the Police and the Military to go after these kidnappers and bring them to justice. “