One of the five students who recently regained their freedom from the captivity of terrorists who abducted them from Federal College of Forestry Mechanization, Afaka, Kaduna State, Northwest Nigeria, said their abductors released them on their own accord, contrary to the claim by the Nigerian Army that its soldiers rescued them.
HumAngle reported that terrorists abducted the 39 students —23 females and 16 males— on March 12, when they invaded the school located in Igabi Local Government Area of the state.
After 25 days in captivity, the Nigerian Army claimed its troops had “recovered” five of the students.
A statement by Mohammed Yerima, Brigadier-General and Director of Army Public Relations, listed the names of the rescued students as Abubakar Yakubu, Francis Paul, Obadiya Habakkuk, Amina Yusuf, and Maryam Danladi, adding that they were receiving medical attention in a military facility in Kaduna.
“The GOC 1 Division, Maj Gen DH Ali-Keffi has commended the troops for their effort and charged them not to rest on their oars until all kidnap victims are rescued and returned to their families,” Yerima said in the statement.
The statement failed to detail how the students were rescued and how the rest would be rescued.
Also, Samuel Aruwan, Kaduna State Commissioner for Internal Security and Home Affairs, who first announced the students’ return on Tuesday, April 6 also did not give further information about the rescue mission.
But contrary to the claims by both the army and the state government, Francis Paul, one of the just-released students in an interview with Daily Trust claimed the abductors carefully selected them and released them out of their own will.
“One afternoon, they [the terrorists] came and started selecting us … I was very ill that day. So, they asked me to sit aside and they added some girls and put us on motorbikes. They dropped us at a village close to the main road and said we should walk towards the road and we did,” Paul, a 200 Level Student of Agriculture Technology told the newspaper after reuniting with his family.
Paul’s revelation comes two days after some aggrieved parents of the abducted students had threatened to negotiate with the abductors on the release of their children, condemning the government’s handling of the kidnap case.
It was not clear whether or not ransom was paid for the release of the five students.
When contacted for comments on the twist to the rescue claim, Mohammed Yerima, the Army Spokesperson did not answer calls to his telephone and also did not reply to a text message requesting for comment.
Nasir El-Rufai, Governor of Kaduna State, has repeatedly said his administration would not negotiate with the terrorists, describing them as “persons without hearts.”
“We will not engage with bandits or kidnappers. Private citizens like clerics and clergymen can do so in their individual capacities. We also want them to repent but it is not our job to ask them to do so,” El-Rufai reiterated his no-negotiation stance on Channels Television Sunday evening.
Kidnap for ransom has gained ground in the Northwest and North-central regions of the country, where terror groups have been wreaking havoc. They have been described as being largely motivated by money.
Analysts say the terrorists have turned on kidnapping as a lucrative source of income, a pattern different from the operations of Boko Haram insurgents who first carried out a mass abduction in Chibok, Borno State in 2014, as a protest against western education.
Several reports stated the government paid a ransom to secure some of the Chibok schoolgirls released in 2014 and the Dapchi schoolgirls in 2018.
Similarly, in Dec. 2020, over 300 schoolboys abducted in Kankara, Katsina State, were reportedly released after a ransom was paid.
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari who has often come under criticism for his ineptness to squash insecurity, has repeatedly warned that “ransom payments will continue to prosper kidnapping.”