“Like Walking Corpses” kidnappers release 29 Afaka students

Kidnappers release 29 Afaka students
Charles Nwoke, Kaduna, Nigeria.
May 6, 2021 

Above image courtesy of local sources, fair use

The 29 remaining kidnapped students of the Federal College of Forestry Mechanisation, Afaka, Kaduna State, have been released. This is even as Nigeria former President, Olusegun Obasanjo, on Wednesday, cautioned the Federal Government against paying ransom to kidnappers and hoodlums, saying it is capable of encouraging criminals in their nefarious activities.

Recall that 39 students of the institution of higher learning were abducted 57 days ago by bandits who swooped into the school and demanded payment of N500 million ransom to fast track their release.

But 10 of the students had earlier been freed in batches of five after their parents paid the ransom.

The husband of one of the abducted students who spoke on condition of anonymity confirmed the release of the students.

We gathered that release of the students was facilitated by the Sheikh Ahmad Gumi Dialogue committee, with the collaboration of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, the Nigerian former president.

Abdullahi Usman, chairman of the Forum of Parents of the Abducted Students, while confirming the report, said, “Yes, they have been released. They did not sleep in the (bandits’) camp yesterday. They were taken to the residence of one of the mediators to sleep.

“We have already sent our people with vehicles and ambulance to go and bring them. We are expecting them any moment from now.”

Exactly March 12 this year, gunmen invaded the school located along Airport Road in Kaduna and kidnapped 39 of the students.

Ten of them were released in two batches of five after the parents reportedly paid a ransom of N17 million.

While reacting to the release of the students, Usman stated that it is “a big relief to parents”, who have been “emotionally traumatized” since the unfortunate incident occurred.

The parents had, on Tuesday, protested at the National Assembly Complex in Abuja.

Every attempt to reach the Police Public Relations Officer Kaduna State Command, Mohammad Jalige, for comments on the students’ release at press time yesterday proved abortive.

Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, had on Tuesday in Abuja, said the federal and Kaduna State governments were working assiduously to ensure the release of the students. Efforts also made to get the state government’s reaction last night were unsuccessful.

The government had always insisted that it will not negotiate with bandits or kidnappers and also threatened to prosecute anyone who does so.

Meanwhile, negotiations for the release of the remaining 29 students before they regained freedom yesterday were fraught with controversies, as parents of the students churned out conflicting details of the ordeals they suffered in the negotiation process.

While a mother of one of the abducted students told a television platform, Roots TV, that a negotiator, popular Islamic cleric, Sheikh Ahmad Gumi, linked them with the abductors collected N800,000 as transportation fare to help, other parents dissociated themselves from the claim and apologized to Gumi for the claim.

Earlier, 10 students were released in two batches of five, after their parents negotiated their way out, leaving 29 in the custody of abductors.

This came as the Presidency stated late Tuesday night that it shared in the anguish of parents of abducted students of Greenfield University, Kaduna, who were kidnapped by bandits on April 20.

About 23 students were kidnapped from the university by bandits who demanded N800 million to release the students, while five had been killed, with one other released after the parents reportedly paid N20 million to secure the release of their ward.

Speaking with Roots TV, the woman whose identity was shielded for security reasons, said they had been trying to secure the release of the abducted students to no avail.

She said the parents had attended several meetings and were taken to Ahmad Gumi, a prominent Islamic cleric, who directed them to a Fulani man, named Ahmed.

She said the parents paid N800,000 to the man who said the money was for transportation while insisting that the parents pay an additional N500 million.

The woman, who claimed to be a widow,
“We kept going for meetings. They took us to Gumi’s house who said we should meet one Fulani man. We contributed almost N800,000 to him but he said the money was just for transportation.

“Then I started crying and pleaded with him that I am a widow, training my boy to become my helper in the future but he said that was not his concern.”

Noting that the unidentified Fulani man was invited to an office in Kaduna to meet the parents, she said: “We kept begging him but he insisted that we must pay N500 million.

Another parent, who said the trauma was too much to handle, said they had become “walking corpses”.