The schoolchildren who were kidnapped by the suspected bandits from the Government High School of Science in Kankar in the state of Katsina on December 11, gave a better insight into the development of events that led to their release.
According to the Wall Street Journal, 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 the stories of the governments of Zamfara and Katsina who said no ransom had been paid.
The three boys said the kidnappers told them they were initially paid 30 million naira, which is about $ 76,000, but decided not to let them go because they were asking for 344 million naira-1 per head.
“They threatened to let us go only 30 when 30 million of the initial ransoms were paid,” the paper quoted 16-year-old Yinus Idris as saying.
“They took us as many as 30 motorcycles ready to release.”
Another abducted student, Imran Yakubu, 17, said the kidnappers told them, “Each student must be paid a million naira … either we will recruit you or kill you.”
The WSJ also noted that a person familiar with the negotiations said the ransom had been shifted into three series.
The boys were further told, 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 were shining with bright flashlights and pouring into pastel-colored buildings. ‘Gather here. We are soldiers,'” they said.
Some on foot, armed assailants, others on motorcycles, ordered the boys to walk in a long column, striking with a whip or butt 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. We were all told to stop so we could watch them punish our schoolmates.
“The older man’s hands were tied to a tree and he was beaten. Early in the morning, water was poured on his body so that he could feel the cold,” said one of the students.
Senior Special Assistant to the President for Media and Promotion, Malam Garba Shehu, had on Tuesday, said the rescue of 344 schoolchildren from their kidnappers who took them to the Zamfara state forest was facilitated by the bandits ’repentance.
He also reiterated an earlier statement by Information and Culture Minister Alhaji Lai Mohammed that the Nigerian government had not bought freedom for students.
The Nigerian military also said kinetic and non-kinetic approaches were used to ensure all the boys were rescued unharmed, saying the kidnappers had resistance by setting up an ambush against the troops.
“Following the directive, troops locked themselves in hijackers with four different fronts, including reinforcements made 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,” said Defense Media Operations Coordinator John Enenche.