The 11 days spent with armed bandits have been described as “hell” by students, teachers and relatives of Kagara Government Science College in Rafi Local Government of Niger State, as they lamented that they were fed with beans during their stay with their abductors.
Some of the students and teachers looked weak and feeble and could not walk nor speak as they were supported by health workers who profiled them.
At a few minutes past 5pm on Saturday, after the state Governor, Alhaji Abubakar Sani Bello, addressed journalists and family members in the Government House, Minna, some of the students, said what happened was traumatic and like a dream.
According to Suleiman Lawal, a SS3 student: “We suffered so much in the hands of the kidnappers, I have never experienced such in my life. In fact, I thought I was dreaming because the torture was too much for us. I am happy now that we have been freed.
“They fed us with beans once daily and they gave five people one sachet of water to share and drink and that made us very weak. I don’t think I will like to go to that school anymore except if there is enough security.” Another student, who gave his name as Abdullahi Adamu, told our Correspondent: “We suffered a lot, no food, no water. Even when we were served, they gave us food in our hands without plates.
And after eating we continued to trek again non stop. He added: “At night and in the early hours of the day, we are always cold. We slept outside and didn’t know where we were going. Once they come to us, they just beat us up to start walking if we don’t want to die.”
Another student, 20-yearold Abubakar Sindi, while narrating his ordeal said: “The day we were kidnapped, we walked through the forest from 2:30pm till around 7pm.
Unfortunately, all through our trekking, there was no time we rested, drank water or even ate anything because they tortured us to move fast or they would kill us. I was scared because the forest was thick.
“All through this time, we didn’t eat until they stopped us and asked us to sit on the ground.
They gave us beans to eat after which they grouped us and asked that if any of us have parents who are either in the Police or Military, that was how they flogged us mercilessly so much that I thought I was going to die. In fact, I am not sure I can ever see any bush or forest and not remember this incident. I was so scared.”
One of the parents, Halima Sanda, who could not hold her tears when she saw her son, said the trauma she had was indescribable because she could not eat, sleep nor think right.
“I was just like a mad person because even if I try to sleep, it’s as if I’m hearing his voice calling on me,” she said. Another parent, Ibrahim Abati Erena from Shiroro Local government and father of Abdulsalam Erena, who expressed his happiness for his son’s release, told our Correspondent that the experience knowing that your child is kidnapped is very traumatic and can lead to one’s death.
Beaming with smiles, Musa Labaran, father of 18-year-old SS2 student, Umar Labran, expressed joy of reuniting with his son, but urged the kidnappers to have a change of heart and return to their former trade. “Kidnapping is not a business. I am advising them to go back to what they were doing before.”
While journalists tried to gain entrance into the NSDC Suite, one of the victims, a woman, was seen being rushed out in an ambulance to the Minna General Hospital. Findings have it that her legs were swollen due to the long hours of trekking while in the hands of their captors in the bush.
In his remarks, the Governor of Niger State, Alhaji Abubakar Sani Bello said he has received the 38 students, teachers and their relatives. Bello, who received abductees at the Government House, Minna, said the victims regained their freedom on Saturday at about 4am. He stated that their release was secured as a result of a collective effort between the state, security agencies, traditional leaders and stakeholders.
Accordingly, he said: “I can confirm that all of them have been rescued even, though one of them is in hospital suffering from exhaustion.” Bello further revealed that the victims have all medically been examined and the state of their health have been carefully checked and for the next few days they will be monitored before releasing them to their relatives.
He added that despite rescuing all the victims unhurt, the state government still had a lot of work to do.
Against this backdrop, the governor explained that the state government would soon organise a meeting with relevant stakeholders in the state in order to find lasting solutions to the security challenges facing the state.
Speaking also on whether the state will temporarily close down boarding schools, the Commissioner for Education, Hajia Hannatu Jibrin Salihu, said: “We are still discussing but we have closed schools in border areas where bandits can easily operate. But for now, we are still discussing.”