The Presidency, on Tuesday, said repentant bandits played a role in securing the release of over 300 schoolboys abducted from Government Science Secondary School, Kankara, Katsina.
Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, said although no ransom was paid, there were negotiations between the major actors, adding that while the talks were on, the troops of the Nigerian Army encircled the Zamfara forest where the hostages were held.
Gunmen on motorcycles attacked the school on December 11 and abducted the students a few hours after President Muhammadu Buhari, arrived in the state for a week-long private visit.
Katsina State Governor, Aminu Masari, however, announced the release of the 344 schoolboys six days after their abduction by bandits. The governor also said the students were released in a forest in Zamfara State.
The military had since claimed victory for the release of the students. The presidency had also praised the military for the rescue of the schoolboys. But both claims by the army and the presidency contradicted Masari’s position that the release of the boys was facilitated by the leadership of Miyetti Allah/MACABAN.
Speaking Tuesday morning on the conflicting accounts surrounding the release of the schoolboys, Shehu said the most important thing was that the boys had been reunited with their parents.
He said, “In all of the things that played out, we must thank God for bringing these children out. Glory also belongs to the nation. I don’t see much conflict in all of these things.
“The security services – Army, police, intelligence agencies – showed good judgement and capacity by promptly responding to the kidnap of those students and then locating exactly where they were being held.
“Having done that, they quickly mobilised and surrounded the entire place to ensure that they do not go out, and they do not come in. So, whatever followed after that is to reap from the gains of what has been done.”
He explained that the security forces locked in on the captors of the students in the Zamfara forest, adding that no single shot was fired to avoid fatalities.
“So, the military, having identified where they were, in less than 24 hours after the kidnap, patiently waited for the process of the negotiations to be concluded. And at the end of it, everyone is happy that it ended the way it did,” Shehu said while featuring on Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily programme monitored by The PUNCH.
On whether a ransom was paid to secure the release of the students, Shehu said, “All of the leading actors said no ransom was paid. The governor of Zamfara State, who had a policy of engagement with the bandits leading to the surrender and renouncement of bandits, used reformed bandits –repentant bandits – to gain access to those that were in the forest and they had them (schoolboys) released.
“So, to the best of our knowledge, all the leading actors in Katsina and Zamfara States said no ransom was paid.”
Shehu also described as ridiculous claims that the Kankara schoolboys’ abduction was stage-managed.