Looking feeble, malnourished, lost, and dirty, the kidnapped pupils of Salihu Islamic school, Tegina, Rafi Local Government Area of Niger State arrived Minna, the State capital along with their teachers in the vehicles dispatched by the State Government to convey them back to freedom and to reunite them with their parents from the Birnin Gwari forest, where they sojourned against their will for 89 days.
The children were left to their fates in hostage for almost three months, where they were made to undergo various inhuman treatments, such as hunger, sicknesses, beatings among others, despite the ransoms paid by their parents.
This is also as the state government which claimed it knows where they were kept maintained its no payment of ransom posture, until two days ago.
Narrating some of their ordeals, one of the victims, Musa claimed that the day they were kidnapped, they trekked for hours without food or water to drink.
“We trekked for days without food and water. We only rested a little when the bandits noticed that we were tired and afterward continued. And it was so difficult since we had to carry the little ones on the back as they could no longer walk because they were weak and tired before we finally got to the hideouts of the bandits in the forest.”
According to them, the bandits fed them with Indomie and some times beans on their hands, which was never enough to satisfy any of them.
” Since we got kidnapped, we never took our bath. We were fed with small amount of Indomie or beans on our hands. Some days, we stayed hungry as there was nothing to eat. We were kept together in one small room in the forest. Some times, we were beaten if we try to complain of hunger or ask questions. We thank God we are alive and reunited with our families.”
Some of the parents appeared very happy with tears of joy appreciated God for the safe release of their children.
Some who spoke to DAILY POST said they thank God for the safe return of their children, “We never prayed that this should happen again or to any parent. It was a painful and traumatic experience for all of us.”
One of the parents, name withheld described the 89 days his children stayed with the bandits as the most agonizing period of his life, especially not knowing if their children were alive or dead.
“Every day we wake up then was with pain. Some of us, parents as a result of this issue became hypertensive. But we thank God that the ramsons kept our children alive until they were rescued. Even though, we sold our valuables, we are happy our children returned back home alive.”
The Proprietor of Islamic school, Mallam Idris Umar and father of a deceased abducted kid said though, he was happy with the safe return of the pupils, he is pained by the inability to give his son a proper burial.
The deceased victim whose name was withheld is said to be between 8 and 9 years of age..
Umar whose five children were among the 91 children kidnapped told journalists in Minna, ” Though, I see the death of my child as the will of God, I would have been more fulfilled if the child had died at home. This would have given me the opportunity to give him a befitting burial. I thank Allah that the other three are alive and also other children that were kidnapped. Their continued stay with the Bandits was a traumatic experience for all of us”
” But despite all that happened, today everyone is happy over the release of the entire children. We thank God that all our pains and sufferings are over.”
Sharing a similar emotion, the Head Teacher of the Islamiya, Alhassan Ahmed expressed pains as well as joy over the release of the children, after a long stay in the hands of the bandits.
Though, he stated that ransoms were paid to secure the freedom of the abductees, parents have no regrets for whatever amount they paid to the bandits that assisted towards the safe release of their children alive.
” Except for the child that we lost, we thank Allah that all of them returned alive and well.”
However, Ahmed was tactical on the issue of ramsons paid saying, “on the issue of ransoms payment, I meant the ones gathered by the parents, it doesn’t doesn’t mean the state government.”
The release of the abducted children is coming barely two weeks after the rescue of the State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Hon Mohammed Sani Idris and the zonal chairman of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Zone ‘C’ who was abducted between 8th and 9th of August, 2021 and freed five days later.
The freedom of the two politicians in the state was accompanied by outrage from people of the state, especially on their swift release.
Though, the commissioner hinged his rescue on his philanthropy and prayers by his family, while ruling away payment of ransoms as he claimed if Government had paid, he would have resigned his appointment as commissioner.
A few days later, the state police command in a press statement signed by the Police Public Relations Officer, PPRO DSP Wasiu Abiodun contradicted the commissioner, saying it was responsible for his rescue alongside the zonal APC chairman through the tactic team of the state Command.
Idris was kidnapped by heavily armed bandits in his residence at his hometown of Babban Tunga in Tafa local government area of the state during a heavy rainfall around 11 pm on Sunday night and whisked away on foot to an unknown destination.
The release of the duo led to public outrage as the state Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, concerned people, journalists, parents of the children among others called on the government to employ the same mechanism it adopted in securing the freedom the commissioner and the zonal chairman to secure that of the pupils.
The PDP in a statement issued by the state chairman, Bar. Tanko Beji then said it was good that the commissioner and the APC zonal chairman were rescued, but called on the State Governor Alh Abubakar Sani Bello to employ similar tactics to rescue pupils from the den of the daredevil terrorists.
According to him, ” the PDP values all lives as equal and wishes all persons, children, women, poor or rich, commissioner or cleaner be given maximum state protection as that is what a responsible government does”
“We were eyewitnesses to American Government sending elite forces to Nigeria, flying over 20 hours with every military might, just to rescue its citizen from the clutches of terrorists
“The same attention and alacrity should be given to not just a kidnapped commissioner but all citizens especially poor children of Tegina”.
The state Nigeria Union of Journalists, NUJ, and the Correspondents Chapel of NUJ in the state all lend their voices calling on the government to employ the mean or measures used in rescuing the abductees.
Similarly, reacting to the development, parents of the abducted children through the head teacher, Alhasan Garba Abubakar, urged the government to use the same “miracle formula” used to rescue pupils as well as prevent another attack on any school in the state.
” Accepted that they were released without paying ransom as they claimed since government said it cannot pay ransom to bandits, but we are appealing to them to use the same prayers and tactics they used for their miraculous release to release our children.”