•Freed Kagara school boys
We were fed with only beans and drank same water with cows – school children
Niger State Governor Abubakar Bello has said that the 28 students of Government Science College Kagara, four teachers and six family members of the staff were released through joint efforts of security agencies, traditional rulers and other stakeholders after an extensive dialogue with the bandits.
Speaking while receiving the victims Government House, Minna, on Saturday, the governor cleared the air that no ransom was paid for their release but added 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 (Saturday),’ the governor said.
He said that the abductees went through torture at the hands of their abductors and directed that ‘they should be put thorough medical examination for the next two days before they will be reunited with their families.’
The governor pointed out that though the government has secured the release of the victims, there is still a lot of work to be done, stressing that ‘going forward, we have to put in place, a system to look at the causes of the criminal activities, and I hope we will find solution to these dastardly acts.’
The circumstances surrounding the release of the former abductees still remain unclear but our correspondent has learned that ‘serious dialogue’ between the bandits and government took place for almost six days which yielded results with the release of the victims.
According to sources, 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 are said to have been held for 12 days.
According to a source who is a top government official involved in the negotiation, the government agreed that the bandits will drive the agreement reached while the administration will provide all the enablements.
‘We are still working on the trajectory, they agreed they will drive the agreement reached as long as government will continue to assure them; it is an element of trust on both sides,’ the source said.
It was also learned that the release of the victims almost ran into hitches 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 bandit leaders that was responsible for the freedom of the school boys and others.
Under heavy security they were brought to Minna and lodged at the Niger State Development Company NSDC hotel, opposite Government House, where they were profiled and made to undergo medical checks, feeding and debriefing.
Meanwhile, some of the boys who recounted their experiences to our correspondent under serious resistance from security agencies told the ugly story of how they were fed with only beans for 11 days.
The only source of drinking water, the victims said, was water from a shallow stream, the same waiter that the cows drink.
One of the students who gave his name as Ezekiel Danladi gave a pathetic account of how they were made to walk for over 10 hours on the day they were kidnapped before arriving at their destination without water or food.
According to him: ‘We slept in the open field without blankets or any covering cloths, despite the chilly harmattan winds.
‘Some of us were beaten, but they didn’t touch the girls among us, and we were threatened with guns, warning us that if our parents didn’t bring money they will 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 out to look for firewood for the cooking,’ he said.
Also speaking, a relation of one the victims, Mr John Paiko, who gave his son’s name as Emma, thanked God for the release of his son.
‘The Principal called me to come to Minna that my son has been released. In fact, I couldn’t believe it 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 vowed that the development will not stop him from returning him (Emma) to the same school to continue his education. 19-year-old Emma is currently in a Senior Secondary II (SSII) student.
Another parent, Alhaji Aliyu Isah, said his wife and five children were among the victims who regained their freedom on Saturday, saying that the past 11 days has been traumatising 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, saying, ‘six of my children are among the victims, even though I am yet to meet with them, I am optimistic that I will meet them in good health.
“I want to thank God for the safe return of the children, I am happy and glad that they have been released,’ the father said. (THE SUN)
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