Some students of Government Science Secondary School, Kankara, Katsina State, who were abducted by bandits a few days ago say ransom was paid to secure their release.
The testimonies by the schoolboys contradict federal government’s claim that no ransom was paid to free the 334 kidnapped students.
The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) in a report on Wednesday, quoted three of the 344 boys interviewed as saying that the kidnappers told them a ransom had been paid for their release.
It also quoted someone who was familiar with talks between the kidnappers and the government as saying a sizable sum was paid in three batches for the boys’ freedom.
The students were kidnapped from Government Science Secondary School, Kankara, in Katsina state, by suspected bandits on December 11, 2020.
After their release on December 17, 2020, Garba Shehu, senior special assistant to the president on media and publicity, said the rescue operation was facilitated by repentant bandits.
Bello Matawalle, governor of Zamfara, also said the state was able to secure the release of the abducted schoolboys through the help of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) and repentant bandits.
WSJ reports that one of the boys were forced to eat raw potatoes and bitter kalgo leaves to survive.
“They threatened to release only 30 of us when the N30 million initial ransom was paid,” the report quoted 16-year-old Yinusa Idris to have said.
“They even took 30 of us away on motorcycles ready to release.”
It also quoted Imran Yakubu, a 17-year-old who was also abducted, as saying that the kidnappers told them “One million naira must be paid per each student…or we will recruit or kill you”.
Narrating the ordeal, WSJ wrote: “There were more than 100 armed men in the school courtyard. They were shining bright flashlights and streaming into the pastel-coloured buildings”.
“The gunmen, some on foot, others on motorcycles, ordered the boys to walk in a long column, hitting anyone who walked too slowly with a whip or rifle butt.
“At one point, when the guards were looking at the sky, two students close to the back of the convoy tried to slip away. The hostages were all told to halt so they could watch their classmates being punished.
“The older one’s hands were tied to a tree and he was beaten. Water was poured on his body in the early morning so that he could feel the freezing cold.”
While narrating the role of the military in the rescue operation, the defence ministry said the troops closed in on the abductors from four different fronts.