Around 279 abducted Nigerian schoolgirls have been liberated by kidnappers, said Zamfara state governor Bello Matawalle this Tuesday. On hearing this news, President Muhammadu Buhari conveyed his thoughts stating, “overwhelming joy”.
On tuesday, Matawalle informed that all the girls who were abducted from a Girls’ Boarding school in Nigeria last Friday, have been freed. He added that all the girls are safe and no payouts are given for their liberation.
He told a news agency, “Today, we have received the children who were under captivity since Friday. I initiated a peace accord which yielded a positive result. No ransom was paid to anyone. I insisted that we were not going to give anything to any of them.”
This was one of the recent mass abductions of students in Nigeria, where about 100 gunmen kidnapped schoolgirls in a midnight attack on a Girls’ school in the Jangebe town on February 26. According to Matawalle, total abductees number to 279.
Originally, Police had told that around 317 girls were kidnapped (which differs from the current figure), from the Government Girls Junior Secondary School in Jangebe town last Friday.
Sulaiman Tanau Anka, Zamfara state spokesperson told that during the raid, some missing students had hid into the bushes, verifying the number of abductees to be 279.
Hundreds of barefoot schoolgirls dressed in sky blue hijabs were seen sitting at the Zamfara state Government House office in Gusau, by a journalist.
Following the meeting, the officials guided the girls and they were taken away in vans to a health facility for medical check-ups.
Matawalle wrote on his twitter handle:
A resident told the news agency that the bandits thwarted the troops from taking any action against the mass abduction at the school, by attacking a nearby military base camp and checkpoint.
A girl among the released abductees told their kidnapping story to a news agency. She said, “We were sleeping at night when suddenly we started hearing gun shots. They were shooting endlessly. We got out of our beds and people said we should run, that they are thieves.”
She further added, “Everybody fled and there were just two of us left in the room. The other girl is from my town. I told her ‘get up!’ so we can run away, she said ‘I swear to God, I will not leave the bed’. At that stage they were pointing guns at our heads. I was really afraid of being shot.”
‘Overwhelming joy’ all around:
On hearing the news of release of 279 abductees, President Buhari wrote on his twitter handle:
Several negotiations were held up between the Govt officials and the bandits, after the third school attack in Nigeria since December.
The peace policies of Nigerian Govt have ensued the safe release of Nigerian schoolgirls said Abutu Yaro, Police Commissioner of Zamfara.
He stated, “The Zamfara peace accord remains the backbone of the success we have recorded so far. These children were recovered through dialogue.” Further adding that the police statement and other details regarding the incident would be declared later on.
A report stated, “There was a huge amount of relief for the parents, students and the state government. Authorities told us it was difficult to secure the release. It took days of negotiations with what the government calls repentant bandits to bring the girls back. Some of the girls are less than 11 years old.”
Being easier targets, schools are more often attacked by bandits, said Ovigwe Eguegu, a geopolitical and security analyst at Afripolitika, a non-partisan security think-tank.
Eguegu stated, “We have seen far too many cases in such a short time. It is very concerning. The cases are opportunistic. These kidnappings are low risk and high reward for the kidnappers. Some of these schools are not even fenced and they are close to bushes where criminal elements operate from.”
The worldwide indignation caused due to mass abductions from Nigerian schools had accelerated the joint search-and-rescue operations of the police and military to save the lives of the students.
Over the past few years, Nigeria has witnessed several raids and mass abductions on schools by armed criminal gangs, who aim at raping, plundering and receiving Govt payoffs in return of student hostages.
Last Saturday, 24 students, six staff members and eight relatives were liberated after being kidnapped from the Government Science College Kagara in Niger state on Feb 17.
Around 300 students were abducted from a secondary school in Kangara in December, and were released later on. Govt declared that no ransom was paid in return of students’ release.
Earlier, in 2014 some 276 schoolgirls were abducted in the north-eastern town of Chikbok by Islamist militants Boko Haram. This incident drew global attention towards menace of raids on Nigerian schools.
According to the Experts, if these ‘bandits’ aren’t punished, these abductions would continue for long.
Last week President Buhari said, The Nigerian Government won’t “succumb to blackmail by bandits and criminals who target innocent school students in expectation of huge ransom payments.”
He had also asked the state governments not to give any such payouts or vehicles to the criminals because such policies may misfire.