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Payment of N32 million ransom, release of bandit facilitated Federal College of Forestry Mechanisation, Kaduna students’ freedom

  • N17 million paid for release of first set of 10 students released April 5 & 8. N15 million paid for 27 released on Wednesday
  • Obasanjo says Presidents Buhari, Jonathan’s government paid ransom to kidnappers

The 27 students of Federal College of Forestry Mechanisation, Afaka, Igabi Local Government Area (LGA) of Kaduna State regained their freedom after a ransom payment of N15 million and a bandit arrested by the Nigeria Police in Kano State was released.

On March 11, 2021, the bandits invaded the school, abducting 38 students.  But one of the students escaped a day after their abduction.

After a ransom payment of N17 million, the bandits released 10 of the victims on April 5 and 8.

The students were first released to intermediaries who served as go-between between negotiators and the bandits and were received around Kidandan, Giwa LGA of the State after the ransom payment and release of the bandit identified as Laulu.

The leader of the bandit abductors, Buderu, insisted that Laulu, his relative who was earlier arrested at Falgore Forest in Kano State must be released to him if the students must have their freedom.

Sources said that the negotiators reached out to the federal government for approval on the release of Laulu, identified as a “repentant cattle rustler who was lured and arrested by vigilantes.”

The negotiations were facilitated by the Sheikh Ahmed Gumi dialogue committee with support from former President Olusegun Obasanjo.

Obasanjo and Gumi had at least two meetings over the banditry ravaging Northern Nigeria the 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.

On arrival in Kaduna, the students, who appeared sickly and weak with many of them limping, were taken to the State’s Police Command headquarters where they were received by the Kaduna State Police Commissioner, Umar Muri.

The chairman of the Federal College of Forestry Mechanisation Students’ 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.”

The release came just as former President, Olusegun Obasanjo, accused President Muhammadu Buhari of paying ransoms to kidnappers.

Obasanjo, an advocate of non-payment of ransom to kidnappers, warned that any of such payment is direct endorsement of kidnapping, warning State Governors against it.

The former President, who spoke when he hosted members of Tiv Professionals Group (TPG) at the Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library (OOPL), Abeokuta, Ogun State, on Wednesday, said the government of former President, Goodluck Jonathan, negotiated with kidnappers just like Buhari, though they deny doing so.

According to Obasanjo, “government has always paid ransom. Not only this government, even during Jonathan (administration). They paid ransom, but they deny it.”

Obasanjo, however, asked the government to develop a means to deal with kidnappers and bandits as against ransom payment, insisting that fighting insecurity to a standstill requires a “carrot and stick” approach.

“Some people are still reaching out, and hoping that lives can still be saved. But a situation whereby anybody thinks paying ransom is the way out, that person is folly. He is a folly. This is because when you pay ransom, you encourage. But if you are not going to pay ransom, you must have the means to deal heavily with it. You must have the stick to deal with it,” he said.

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