The bandits who kidnapped scores of Islamic school pupils in Niger State beat them daily and threatened to kill them if their families did not pay the ransom demanded, some of the students have said.
The kidnap of over 90 pupils on May 30 at the Salihu Tanko Islamiyya School in Tegina, Rafi Local Government Area of Niger State.
One of the pupils died in custody while the remaining 90 were freed on Friday after spending about 88 days in the custody of the kidnappers.
Some of the pupils spoke about their ordeal in interviews Sunday with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).
One of the released pupils, Zuwaira Isa, said they trekked for almost four days in the forest before reaching a final destination.
“The little ones amongst us were lifted on the bandits’ motorcycles throughout the movement.
“We were fed with rice though not enough to satisfy us. We were subjected to severe beatings both in the morning and evening and they threatened to kill us if our parents did not pay our ransom,” Miss Isa said.
Another one, Hauwa Musa, said: “They usually beat us and threatened to kill us and dump our bodies in the bush if our parents did not pay the ransom.”
Miss Musa also said the bandits were giving them a small food ration and one pure water sachet for two abductees.
She, however, said that the incident would not deter her from continuing with her educational pursuit, adding, ”I am so much eager to go back to school.”
How I secured their release – Headteacher
Also speaking, the Head Teacher of the school, Alhassan Garba, who also spoke to NAN and other journalists in Minna, the state capital, said all the released pupils have been reunited with their parents.
“I personally supervised the handover of the pupils to their parents on Friday and Saturday.
“All the parents were happy to have their children back and willing to allow them to continue to acquire their education in the same school,” Mr Garba said.
He said that the management of the school would soon meet with the community to work out the modalities for the reopening of the institution which had been closed for three months now.
He said the Chairman of Rafi Local Government Area, Ismail Modibi, councilors and other stakeholders would soon deliberate on various forms of security measures to be adopted if the school resumed normal academic activities.
Niger governor receives freed school pupils [Photo : Mary Noel-Berje media aide to the governor]
The headteacher said that he personally went to pick the pupils at a village called Gwaska in Birnin Gwari Local Government Area of Kaduna State.
He said the abductors of the pupils after collecting ransom insisted that he must personally go there and pick the children.
“I had to take a bike from Birnin Gwari town to a particular destination where I picked the children for onward journey back to Minna,” he said.
Meanwhile, one of the mothers of the released children, Rabi Abubakar, said she was happy to have her two kids back.
Mrs Abubakar said she paid an undisclosed amount of money to get her children back, but vowed to allow them to continue with their Islamiyya education in the school.
She said that the incident would not affect the educational pursuit of the children.
“Islamic and western education is the only legacy any responsible family will leave behind for their children and I am determined to do that to enable them to be responsible citizens.
“We have suffered too much in the hands of the bandits but our Allah will surely punish any person or group of people that had a hand in the incident and for causing untold hardships to us and the innocent kids,” she said.
Habiba Aliyu, whose five children are among the freed pupils, was full of praises to God.
“When we learnt that the abducted children have regained freedom from their kidnappers, we were all happy and full of praises to God.
“We prayed and fasted, seeking God’s intervention for the safe return of our kids,” Mrs Aliyu said.
Idris Umar, another parent of some of the released pupils, also stated that the incident would not discourage them from sending their children to Islamic schools in the town.
Mr Umar said they had already planned to secure the school and other schools in the community.
“We have put in place sensitive security measures that will prevent future occurrences of the incident as our children resume normal academic activities in the school.
“We, the parents, have collectively agreed not to be discouraged by the recent activities of the bandits in preventing our children to acquire Islamic and western education.
“We will allow and encourage the children to realise that seeking knowledge is the best thing to happen in this world and the hereafter,” he said.