*Our abductors flogged us, shot into air to scare us
*Fed us with cassava, raw potatoes, dirty water
*We trekked long hours in the bush in cold night
*No ransom paid to secure their release—Gov Masari
*Put your experience behind you— Buhari tells them
By Kingsley Omonobi; Dapo Akinrefon; Ibrahim HassanWuyo; Bashir Bello & Charly Agwam
After spending six days in the bandits’ enclave under dehumanising conditions, 344 students of Government Science Secondary School, Kankara, Katsina State yesterday relived their traumatic experience moments after they regained freedom.
Looking unkempt and emaciated, many of the students were barefooted and limping. Their parents expressed relief from six agonising days. Governor Aminu Masari said while some parents cried for a missing child, he cried for 344 missing children.
The abducted students were released in Zamfara state on Thursday before being transported to Katsina where they were handed over to Gov Masari on Friday morning. Brig.-Gen. WB Idris, Commandant, 17th Brigade, Nigerian Army, who led the security men to receive the boys led them to the government in seven buses. The boys accompanied by stern-looking policemen who wielded their guns as if they waging war against the bandits in government house there.
The Coordinator, Defence Media Operations, Maj.-Gen. John Enenche, said in a statement on Friday in Abuja that “the students were rescued on the heels of credible intelligence by the gallant troops, with high degree of professionalism to ensure they were all rescued alive. The Military High Command commends troops of Operation Hadarin Daji including all security agencies for their dexterity. The members of general public who volunteered information are also appreciated.
Recounting their ordeals however, the students said shortly after their abduction on Friday December 11, they were divided into batches before being led through thorny bushes and trekked in the cold night for several hours. Those of them who could not keep pace with the rest were flogged as the bandits shot into the air to warn them against trying to escape.
We were forced to walk throughout the night —Farouq Aminu
One of the rescued students, Farouq Aminu, in his account said, said, “I am not feeling well now because of my terrible experience. Our abductors forced us to walk throughout the night, and they flogged those of us who could not keep pace with the others. They also fed us with Donkali ( potatoes) and cassava but the feeding was not every day while some of us were able to get some fruits to eat. I did not hear that anybody died among us. I thank God for coming back home. After our rescue, we were first taken to somewhere in Zamfara state before we were taken to Tsafe and eventually brought to Katsina.”
The bandits exposed us to dehumanising conditions —Abubakar Sodiq
Another rescued student, Abubakar Sodiq said,”the bandits exposed us to every dehumanising conditions. Our ordeals began right from the night we were abducted from school. They kept on shooting into the air to scare us and to warn us against making any attempt to escape. They gave us food when they felt like and allowed us to drink very dirty water and this made some of us to fall sick but they still recovered without being attended to. As I am talking to you, I am not feeling well and I want to go home.”
I want transfer to another school —Yusuf Suleiman
Recounting his own ordeal, Yusuf Sulaiman, an SS1 student said, “I thank God for bringing us back home. The bandits took advantage of the weak security in our school. I will want my parents to seek my transfer to another school. I did not see any of us who died while we were in the bush but I can also speak for my group as they divided us into batches when we were moved to the forest.”
The bandits overpowered our security —Abdulmajid Umar
In his own account, Abdulmajid Umar said, “the location of our school made us vulnerable. When the bandits came, the policemen could do little or nothing because of their large numbers and the weapons they were carrying. Let us just thank God that the government has rescued us. I will not be surprised if many of us will seek transfer to another school when schools resume. But we thank the government for our rescue. “
Some of the parents of the rescued students have also expressed their joy to be reunited with their children.
One of the parents, Mallam Aminu Dayyabu said the days that his 12 year old son, Farouq spent in the den of the bandits were the most traumatic in his life. According to him, “the horror of waiting endlessly for an abducted or missing child really affected my family throughout the seven days of waiting and harbouring the fears of what could have happened to Farouq. It was therefore a big relief for us when we received a call at exactly 11 p.m on Thursday night, informing us that Farouq and the rest of the abducted students had been rescued and were due to arrive Katsina on Friday.
Dayyabu declared: “Let me first show gratitude to Almighty Allah for the safe rescue of Farouq and his colleagues. I am also grateful to the state government as well as the federal government. It was a terrible experience for me and my entire household throughout the period that Farouq was abducted.
‘Since last Friday when the students were abducted, I have been going to the school, hoping to hear the news concerning my son and other students. I am very happy on the rescue of the students but I will appeal to the governor to beef up security in the school and in the entire community. “
Another affected parent, Hajiya Murjanatu Danja whose son, Hussaina Nasiru was also among the rescued students, said she remained eternally grateful to God and the government for the students’ release. She said, “I am happy over the rescue of the students. I thank God and will ever remain grateful to him for bringing Hussaina back safely. But let me see him first, then I will talk more. But I thank the state government for the rescue of the boys.”
On her part, Hajiya Binta Muhammad who also said her son was among those rescued expressed gratitude to both the state and federal governments on the development. According to her, “I understand the medical team has begun to attend to them and we need to wait a little bit before meeting them. But I thank God for their return. As a mother,I knew what I passed through when the boys were in the custody of the bandits.”
No ransom paid to secure students’ release —Gov Masari
Meanwhile, Governor Masari has said that no ransom was paid to secure the release of the students.
Speaking when he received the freed schoolboys at the government house on Friday, the governor said his administration did not offer a penny to the abductors of the boys for their release.
He said security agencies and members of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) were instrumental in the release of the schoolboys.
“Those involved in the negotiation include my adviser, some top military and police operatives, members of Miyetti Allah; (they) were all involved in the negotiation,” Masari said.
The governor said the schoolboys “have suffered physically and psychologically”. He assured them that they would be properly taken care of before they are reunited with their parents.
The governor said the released students would be reunited with their parents after they must have rested from the fatigue and would also undergo medical check-up, in addition to being given proper clothing and feeding.
According to him, “the released students will be carefully reunited with their parents after the state authorities in collaboration with local government officials confirm that those that come forward are the real parents, guardian. The principal of the school cannot know all the 344 parents and guardians of the released boys which is why the government has to engage local officials. Also, the released boys are to identify their relations before we hand over any child.
“The Executive Secretary, Science and Technical Education Board, will list all the names of the students and their parents because we are not going to release a child to anyone until we are sure they are the parents or guardians.
“We will continue to discharge our responsibilities as government and leaders in the state. I am more disturbed about the abduction than any other parents. This is because while parents cried for a missing child, I cried for 344 missing children.”
Masari, who later addressed newsmen, urged Nigerians to continue to pray until normalcy returned to the state and the country in general. He stressed that ensuring security was a responsibility of all.
He said: “this incident happened in Kankara, but the whole state is affected; every local government has students in the school, some are even from other states. We are all involved; the entire state and the country are like one body. If one part of the body is sick, the whole body is sick.
“For students, this should be part of your history and part of journey to adulthood. I’m sure this should permanently be in your mind; some of the things that took place, you will only understand them later in life. As leaders, we will continue to discharge our responsibility as government in the state.
“You suffered physically, mentally and psychologically, but let me assure you that we have suffered more. Your parents have suffered; whatever you do, you should thank Allah and your parents and pray that this incident will never happen to anybody again,”
Put your experience behind you — Buhari tells freed students
President Muhammadu Buhari who met with the freed 344 students on Friday evening in Katsina, has urged them to put their abduction behind them and focus on their studies.
Speaking in Hausa language, the President who met the students at Government house, Katsina said, “you’re lucky, your school focuses on the sciences, and sciences are part of modernisation, which allows you to secure good jobs. The future is not for those that read English language or History, but for those that read the sciences. I hope you will forget what happened to you and focus on your education instead.”
The president said he too had gone through boarding school like the students, as a young boy, pointing out that education was what made him what he is today. He described the students as being lucky for going through such harrowing experience in the hands of gunmen, and coming out unharmed.
He told them that some of his relations who didn’t acquire formal education are paying the price now. “I have relations that are not educated, and their cows have finished while their lands are not as productive as before. It is because I acquired education, that is why I am where I am today. Therefore, try your best to acquire both western and religious education so that you can become what you want in life.”
The president then called on security agencies to weed out the bad eggs among them and to remember that they would give account of their actions to God. He said ‘I call on all security agencies, the military, police, DSS, to continue to do their work in the fear of God, by rooting out the bad eggs amongst us. You should not forget that we would all face justice at the end of the day, whether we like it or not.”
Release of Kankara school children, cheering news—CAN
The chairman of Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN,in Kaduna state, Rev John Joseph Hayab, has said that the news of the release of the Kankara school children was cheering.
He said the spirit and tempo that government and security agencies employed to get the children back home should be sustained and engaged to get others who are still in captivity to return home.
“One can imagine the joy, peace, and excitement of the parents and all well-wishers on the news of the children’s return. To make many more homes, families and communities happy, we appeal to the government to double her effort to rescue many more Nigerians that are in the dens of bandits, criminals and terrorists. Moreover, the government should not sleep or allow the criminals to regroup or re-strategise.
“Without a doubt, Nigerians have suffered untold tragedy and many are still suffering in the hands of bandits. Therefore, we pray to see that the evil stops and a new lease of life of peace and hope take over the country. CAN equally appeal that the same tactics engaged to get 300 students released should be urgently deployed in getting Leah Sharibu and others out of captivity.”
The Defence Headquarters said the troops of Operation Hadarin Daji successfully rescued all 344 abducted students of Government Science Secondary School Kankara, Katsina State on Thursday following credible intelligence.