Five officials of a Borno State government ministry abducted last month by members of the Islamic State West African Province (ISWAP) have been freed, officials confirmed.
The five civil servants who work with the state ministry for reconstruction, rehabilitation and resettlement (RRR) were seized by the insurgents while travelling between Maiduguri and Monguno.
The five officials had appeared in a video released by their abductors a fortnight ago, begging the state government to come to their rescue.
The insurgents had earlier threatened to attack staff of international and local nongovernmental organisations for working for “the enemies of Islam.”
The insurgents had made the threat before they carried out the execution of five abducted security personnel and staff of some international organisations in August.
A source who was familiar with the release of the five government officials said the insurgents had mistaken the civil servants for NGO workers.
“They initially thought the five abductees were staff of some NGOs,” the source said.
“But they had to change their minds when they realised that they were only junior staffers – mostly labourers engaged by the ministry of RRR.”
PREMIUM TIMES learnt that the five regained their freedom with the help of Ummul-Kalthum Abdurrahman, the chief executive officer of Kalthum Foundation for Peace (KFP).
KFP is a non-governmental organisation based in Maiduguri.
Ms Abdurrahman also confirmed the development to PREMIUM TIMES in an interview late Sunday evening.
She said she was contacted by the state government and families of the abductees to intervene as requested by the insurgents.
The Kalthum Foundation for Peace has facilitated the release of many people by the insurgents.
“All I know was that both the state government as well as the families of the abductees contacted us to assist,” she said.
“Later, we got a communication from the insurgents through some contacts, and they threatened to take their lives should we not act on time to save them. They informed us that they had agreed to spare their lives but that the amnesty would only last for some days.
“So, with the support of the state government, the DSS and the military, we were able to mobilise and move to the location they cited for us to meet them. They gave a strong warning never to allow any security personnel to come close to the point of receiving the freed abductee.”
Miss Kalthum said they met with the insurgents at a village called Kareto, after Gubio, where the insurgents handed over the five abductees.
“I do not know about where the insurgents had been keeping the abductees, but the Kareto area was just where they agreed to hand over the abductees,” she said.
“When we asked the abductees, they said they had travelled for several hours to get to that location. One of them said they took them far beyond the shores of Lake Chad.”
The Borno State Chairperson of SEMA, Yabawa Kolo, confirmed the development to PREMIUM TIMES.
“Yes, they have released them, and we have just reunited them with their families. But you can follow up with the ministry of RRR for other details about the positive development,” she said.
Efforts to reach the Commissioner for RRR, Mustafa Gubio, did not yield any result as his phone kept ringing out without him answering.
Ms Kalthum also explained that on their way back to Maiduguri, some soldiers, who claimed not to be aware of what happened, arrested them on the ground that they were not aware of what was going on.
But they were later released when the 7-Division headquarters was contacted.
(PREMIUM TIMES )