Freed Students Recount Ordeal as President Buhari Celebrates Development.
It has now been ascertained that 286 students were indeed abducted from the Government Girls Secondary School, GGSS Jangebe, Zamfara State last Friday against the 317 figure that had been bandied since the abduction. The picture became clear following the release in the early hours of Tuesday, of 279 girls by their captors. Seven of the abductees had earlier escaped from their kidnappers. Meanwhile, the freed girls have been recounting their experiences in the hands of their captors. The girls were whisked away from their dormitories around 2 am on Friday and herded into the bush by some gun men suspected to be members of the Boko Haram insurgent group.
An elated Zamfara State governor, Bello Matawalle who shared the good news on twitter, wrote: “Alhamdudullah! It gladdens my heart to announce the release of the abducted students of GGSS Jangebe from captivity. This follows the scaling of several hurdles laid against our efforts. I enjoin all well-meaning Nigerians to rejoice with us as our daughters are now safe”.
Sharing the tale of their ordeal, one of the students told the British Broadcasting Corporation, BBC that “Most of us got injured… and we could not carry on walking. They said they [would] shoot anybody who did not continue to walk. We walked across a river and they hid us and let us sleep under shrubs in a forest”.
Her account was corroborated by Hafsat Anka, who told the News Agency of Nigeria, NAN at the Government House, Gusau, shortly after regaining freedom, that they trekked over a long distance from the school, had a stopover for some hours before they arrived their destination. Anka said “There was no clean water or good food, and we felt we had already spent years even though it was our first day and the bandits kept firing into the air to scare us. They were very young boys with one elder they called Kasalle or Yaya who gave them instructions, and he was the one that stopped them from touching any of us”.
According to her, the bandits wore military uniforms and claimed they defeated the security officials by invading the school and successfully whisking the girls away.
Anka who said she was happy being rescued, however insisted that she would continue her studies, but as a day student.
In his reaction to the development, President Muhammadu Buhari expressed “overwhelming joy” stating that he was excited that their ordeal came to a happy end.
In a statement by his senior special assistant on media and publicity, Garba Shehu, in Abuja Tuesday morning, President Buhari said “I join the families and people of Zamfara in welcoming and celebrating the release of these traumatized female students”.
He noted that “Being held in captivity is an agonizing experience not only for the victims but also their families and all of us” stressing that “the time has come to reverse, completely, the grim and heartbreaking incidents of kidnapping”.
Warning that “ransom payments will continue to prosper kidnapping” the president tasked the police and the military to go after the kidnappers and bring them to justice.
Recall that President Buhari had a few days ago warned that his administration would not “succumb to blackmail by bandits who target innocent school students in the expectations of huge ransom payments”.
In his words, “Let them not entertain any illusions that they are more powerful than the government. They shouldn’t mistake our restraint for the humanitarian goals of protecting innocent lives as a weakness or a sign of fear or irresolution”.
But the Zamfara State government insisted that no ransom was paid to secure the release of the students who were yet to be handed over to their excited parents as they were taken away from the government house to an undisclosed government facility where they would be given medical attention. Some of the girls were looking frail and showed signs of fatigue due to the agony of long hours of trekking in the bush, lack of sleep, and adequate feeding.
The Zamfara State police commissioner, Abutu Yaro, told journalists that a government-led peace process had resulted in the girls’ release. According to him, “The Zamfara peace accord remains the backbone of the success we have recorded so far. These children were recovered through dialogue,” adding that more details of the incident and police response would be released later.
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