Report: Despite FG denial, released Katsin schoolchildren say ransom paid

They claim that the bandits demanded N1m for each of the 344 students

Emmanuel Addeh from Abuja, with a report from the agency

The schoolchildren who were abducted by the suspected bandits from the Government High School for Science in Kankar in the state of Katsina on December 11 gave more insight into the development of the events that led to their release by the kidnappers.

Speaking to the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), based in the United States, some of the boys said they were thoroughly beaten by bandits, adding that the kidnappers were paid a ransom before they were released.

Their narration contradicted a statement by the federal government that said no ransom had been paid.

Senior Special Assistant to the President for Media and Promotion, Malam Garba Shehu, said Tuesday that rescuing 344 schoolchildren from their kidnappers who took them to a forest in Zamfara state was facilitated by repentant bandits. He also reiterated an earlier statement by Information and Culture Minister Alhaji Lai Mohammed that the federal government had not bought freedom for students.

In yesterday’s report, the WSJ quoted three of the 344 boys who said in interviews that the kidnappers had told them a ransom had been paid for their release, while a person familiar with the kidnappers ’negotiations with the government said they had paid a substantial sum for the boys’ freedom.

Eight released students, 13-year-old boys, were reportedly forced to eat raw potatoes and bitter kalga leaves to survive. They were seldom allowed rest and slept on rocky ground.

“Government officials refused to pay the ransom and said that the kidnappers released the schoolchildren because the army surrounded them.

“However, three boys said that the kidnappers told them that they were initially paid 30 million naira, which is about 76,000 dollars, but they decided not to release the boys because they asked for 344 million naira-1 per head.

“They threatened to let us go only 30 when 30 million initial ransoms were paid,” said 16-year-old Yinusa Idris. They even took us 30 motorcycles ready for release into traffic “, stated the media.

He quoted another abducted student, Imran Yakubu, a 17-year-old, who said the kidnappers told them, “One student must be paid a million naira … either we will recruit you or kill you.”

The paper also noted that a person familiar with the negotiations said that the ransom was transferred in three series.

The boys were further told, according to the WSJ, on December 16, that if they returned to school, they would be kidnapped again.

“There were more than 100 armed men in the school yard. They shone with bright flashlights and poured into buildings of pastel colors. ‘Gather here. We are soldiers, ‘they said.

The WSJ added: “Armed assailants, some on foot, others on motorcycles, ordered the boys to walk in a long column hitting the whip or butt of anyone who walked too slowly.

“At one point, when the guards were looking at the sky, two students near the back of the convoy tried to get away. All the hostages were told to stop so they could watch the punishment of their schoolmates.

“They tied the hands of an older man to a tree and beat him. The water poured down his body early in the morning, so he could feel the icy cold, ”said one of the students.

However, the Nigerian military said “kinetic and non-kinetic approaches were used to ensure that all the boys were rescued unharmed,” saying the kidnappers had resistance that they ambushed the troops.

The coordinator, Defense Media Operations, John Enenche and Ahmed Jibrin, a former director of military intelligence, who spoke when they were guests on the NTA program “Good Morning Nigeria”, insisted that no ransom was paid.

“Following the directive, troops were locked up in hijackers on four different fronts, including reinforcements derived from other divisions to ensure the entire site was closed.

“All the bandits were under siege and were fully aware of it, feeling the effects of the presence of troops both from the air and from the ground,” the military said.