April 15, 2024

Kidnapped Students

Nine of the 21 kidnapped students of the Federal University Gusau, Zamfara state, have been released by their abductors.

One of the negotiators who asked for anonymity said the release of the nine students followed about four months of intense negotiations and lobbying.

The students spent 178 days in the terrorists’ camp following their abduction last September.

The students were abducted when terrorists stormed an off-campus hostel in Sabon Gida, a community opposite the university in the Zamfara State capital in September last year and abducted students and other residents of the community.

A few hours later, some of the victims were rescued by security officials.

The negotiator told Premium Times that the terrorists made it clear after the abduction that their aim was not money.

“We began discussing with them immediately after the students were taken. They were reluctant in the beginning but when we insisted, they listened to us,” he said.

He said Ali Kawaje, the leader of the terror group that carried out the abduction, was angry with both the federal and Zamfara state governments for arresting his brother.

“He insisted that we must make amends,” the negotiator said, asking not to be named for safety reasons.

The captors clarified that their demands were not financial but focused on obstructing the apprehension of Ali Kawaje by security forces, whom they intended to render powerless.

The negotiator said after Kawaje was killed in an air raid by the Nigeria Air Force, the negotiations started afresh as the new group commander insisted the students would not be released.

“It took us weeks to convince him, with the help of some Fulani leaders. When we resumed the discussion, they insisted that the reason for the abduction was not for money but to have some of their relatives released by security agents.

“These nine students were released as part of commitments by some of the Fulani leaders we involved in the negotiations,” he said.

When asked if money was involved, the negotiator said the terrorists themselves were “clear from the beginning” that no money should be involved.

“Even the people they’re saying the federal government should release, we’re yet to know who and who they’re talking about. So, we didn’t talk to the government about money and secondly, there was no prisoner swap. That’s what I can tell you,” he said.

The students were held by the terrorists in Babbar Doka forest near Kaduna state. They were released late evening on Friday and handed over to the negotiators.

“This is part of the commitment and we believe that by the grace of God, they’ll release more. We’re hopeful that with the involvement of the National Security Adviser, we’ll do more. The most important thing is that no money is involved in the process,” he said.

It was gathered the students have been handed over to security agencies who are expected to hand them over to the state government later today.

When contacted, the university spokesperson, Usman Umar, said he had not been officially briefed about the release of the students.

“I’ve also seen information about the release of the students like you said but I’ve not been officially briefed by the management.”

The group that carried out the abduction is one of several terror groups operating in northern Nigeria.

The terror groups have been unleashing mayhem on residents for over a decade leading to the death or displacement of hundreds of thousands of people.

The terror groups, locally called bandits, are separate from the Boko Haram terror group which operates mainly in north-eastern Nigeria and has caused the deaths of tens of thousands of people.

The mass abduction of students in north-west and north-central Nigeria has been rife since 2020. Apart from the kidnap of over 300 students in Katsina, terrorists have abducted students twice in Niger, thrice in Kaduna, four times in Zamfara and once in Sokoto.

The latest mass abduction of students was in Kuriga, Kaduna state, north-west Nigeria. The over 200 students are yet to be released.

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