Fifty-five days after they were abducted from the Federal College of Forestry Mechanisation, Afaka in Igabi Local Government Area of Kaduna State, 27 students of the 37 abducted from their school dormitories have also regained freedom yesterday.
Sources told Daily Trust that the students were received around Kidandan in Giwa Local Government Area of the state after a ransom of about N15 million was paid to the bandits and a convict was released.
Daily Trust gathered reliably that the release of the students was delayed even after payment of ransom last month because the bandits insisted on the release of one of their own arrested by the police.
The identified bandit, whose name was given simply as Laulu, was moved to Kaduna from a police facility in Kano on Tuesday ahead of the prisoner swap.
The negotiations suffered setbacks after the abductor, known as Buderu, reneged on his promise even after payment of the agreed sum.
Daily Trust learnt that father of one Buhari, alias General, who is also a fierce bandit had to be brought in to use his son in forcing Baderu to agree on the deal.
But Buderu, it was learned, insisted that even if no more money would be given to him, a relative of his arrested at Falgore Forest in Kano State must be released.
The students were released yesterday to intermediaries who served as a go-between between negotiators and the group, which masterminded the kidnapping on March 11, 2021.
27 Afaka students arrive Kaduna police command yesterday
The negotiations were facilitated by the Sheikh Ahmed Gumi dialogue committee with support from former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
Obasanjo and Gumi have had at least two meetings over banditry ravaging northern part of the country and spate of abductions in recent past.
Gumi had led a team to Obasanjo’s residence in Abeokuta in April and the former leader hosted Gumi and his team to an iftar (breaking of fast) dinner in Abuja, last month.
The negotiators, it was learned, reached out to federal government to approve the release of Laulu, identified as a “repentant cattle rustler who was lured and arrested by vigilantes”.
However, contrary to information earlier that 39 students were abducted, it was revealed yesterday that 38 students had been abducted before one escaped a day after while the bandits later released 10 of the victims on April 5 and 8 after about N17 million was paid.
Intermediaries played key role
Security sources told one of our correspondents that intermediaries that were involved in the negotiations were relatives and in-laws of the bandits but never took part in the criminal activity.
“We were actually expecting them last night (Tuesday) and waited till midnight with a medical team but they did not arrive. However, the intermediaries called Wednesday morning and asked us to be on standby to receive 27 students,” a security source said.
On arrival in Kaduna, the students were taken to the state’s police command headquarters where they were received by the Kaduna State Police Commissioner, Umar Muri.
Our reporter who witnessed their arrival reports that the students appeared sickly and weak with many of them limping.
The chairman of the student’s union, Abdullahi Usman thanked all those who assisted the families during their trial moment saying as parents they were aware of the support rendered by clerics and past leaders including security agencies in ensuring the release of the students.
One of the parents of the students who was in the know of the security operation, said: “They slept in the home of a Fulani leader somewhere in the outskirt of Kaduna. We had earlier sent vehicles to evacuate them but something happened so they passed the night there. We commend all those that supported us to see to their release including Sheikh Ahmad Gumi, former President Olusegun Obasanjo and the security agencies. We pray such a nightmare never happens to anyone of us.”
Kaduna govt happy
Kaduna State Government while rejoicing the release of the students charged the students to view their ordeal as a motivator to put the past behind and work hard towards a happier and successful future ahead.
The government in a statement issued by the Commissioner of Internal Security and Home Affairs, Samuel Aruwan, stated that the state government rejoices with the freed students, their families and the management of the institution over the development.
Speaking with Daily Trust last night, Sheik Gumi said negotiation with the bandits led to the released of the abducted students.
The cleric said he and former President Obasanjo took part in the negotiations, adding that the students will be taken for a medical check-up by the police before reuniting with their family.