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Kuriga Students Released Amid Questions about Concessions and Numbers

‘We made some concessions to terrorists’ – Presidency

By Mike Odeh James, Luka Binnyat and Ehis Agbon

(Kaduna) Kaduna Governor Uba Sani announced Sunday the release of 137 Kuriga students who had been abducted from their government primary school at the start of school on March 7.  

Parent relieved: Jibril Gwadabe Kuriga, says some parents died of heart attacks after kids were abducted. credit: Jibril Gwadabe Kuriga.
Parent relieved: Jibril Gwadabe Kuriga, says some parents died of heart attacks after kids were abducted. credit: Jibril Gwadabe Kuriga.

Parents and community leaders interviewed by TruthNigeria said the release followed unspecified concessions made to the criminals who abducted them, although the government has insisted that no ransom was paid.

Abdullaziz Abdullaziz, Special Assistant on Media (Print) to President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, told TV media from Aljazeera Sunday that 137 pupils were abducted and not 287 as widely reported.

“As you are aware, the abduction too place on March 7, 2024. It is 16 days now that the children have been taken from their school. The President gave a marching order that they must be brought back on time and good health to their parents,” he said.

“Today, they were finally released by their abductors in the early hours of this morning,” he said.

 “Of course, some back-channels engagements took place. But the president ruled that money must not be given. And as such no money was given,” he insisted.

The spokesman was asked what motivated the release of the students if not ransom?

No Ransom Paid

“The president has ruled out the payment of ransom. He said that people who commit such heinous acts must not be rewarded with money.

You know that there are all kinds of behind-the-scenes engagement which may not be money. But it is such that it will not compromise national security,” Abdullaziz said.

“In the past such things have happened, where government had to make some concession.

“So, it is not different here also. And I am not at liberty to say such things here,” he said.

On the number of students released, Abdullaziz said, “137 students were released. That was the actual number that were kidnapped. The figure of 287 always reported in the media is a creation of the media. Only 137 were kidnapped, and we have brought all of them home. No child is left behind,” he said.

Map shows route of kidnappers taking abducted school children to Dansadau forest in Zamfara. Credit: Luka Binniyat.
Map shows route of kidnappers taking abducted school children to Dansadau forest in Zamfara. Credit: Luka Binniyat.

When Fulfulde-speaking terrorists stormed the settlement of Kuriga March 7, it was widely reported that 287 students were kidnapped. The terrorists later demanded a ransom of US$690,000 dollars (N1 billion Naira) and threatened to execute the hostages. The kidnapping and ransom demand sparked outrage across the country, with Nigeria’s President, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, vowing not to pay ransom, whereas Governor Uba Sani of Kaduna State pledged to rescue the children.

The formal letter from the Office of the Governor of Kaduna credited the governor and Ribadu with “spending sleepless nights” to locate and return the student hostages.

“Special mention must also be made of our dear brother, the National Security Adviser, Mal. Nuhu Ribadu, for his exemplary leadership. I spent sleepless nights with Mal. Ribadu fine-tuning strategies and coordinating the operations of the security agencies, which eventually resulted in this successful outcome.”

The governor commended the Army “for showing that with courage, determination and commitment, criminal elements can be degraded, and security restored in our communities.”  How the outlaws in Zamfara were degraded without arrests has not been explained.

The Nigerian Military through its spokesman, Major General Edward Buba, said that 137 hostages – 76 females and 61 males – were rescued in the early hours of Sunday (March 24) in neighbouring state of Zamfara [See map].

“In the early hours of 24 March 2024, the military working with local authorities and government agencies across the country in a coordinated search and rescue operation rescued the hostages,” Buba said in a statement.

Some Parents Died Waiting for Rescue of their children

At least two parents in Kuriga suffered heart attack and died due to anxiety after the kidnapping, according to Mr. Shuaibu Kuriga.

“I know about two persons who lost their lives due to the unfortunate incident. One had two sons and a daughter held by the terrorists. Obviously, the pains of having his children in captivity gave him heart attack, said Shuaibu Kuriga.

Nuhu Shuaibu Kuriga, whose daughter was also kidnapped, told TruthNigeria Nigeria that there was jubilation. “I’m from Kuriga. We were all very happy that our children were released by the military yesterday. The mood in Kuriga is that of joy but, we are also hearing that not all the children were rescued.

Jubril Gwadabe also confirmed several persons died from trauma.

“I cannot give figures, but I know that some people died,” Gwadabe told TruthNigeria.

One of the students’ parents, Abdullahi Usman Kuriga, told TruthNigeria in a phone call that he was told that his daughter and more than 137 persons were rescued by the military.

” My daughter is 12 years, and I kept wondering how she would cope in the forest till I was contacted yesterday that she has been released,” Usman Kuriga said.

“I am hoping that my daughter, who is just 9 years, would be among those released. As of now, I don’t know how many of them were released. However, the Government said we should come to the Governor House in Kaduna Monday to receive our children,” said another parent, Jubril Gwadabe Kuriga.

According to a community leader in Kuriga, Comrade Abdullah Zabur, the school children were split in two groups, with one group taken to Zamfara and the other group transported to Katsina.

“The 137 students and pupils rescued by the military were found in a village in Dansadau county [Local Governance Area],” Zabur said. “It is not known whether the military fired on the terrorists before they were rescued. Similarly, we can’t confirm whether ransom was paid before the children were released,” he said.

However, a lot of negotiations, promises, and offers were made before the children were released, according to the theory of Zabur.

“Even if money was not given, the State Government and the Federal Government may have compensated the terrorists through other means,” Zabur said.

“As it is now, we are still uncertain about the fate of the remaining students and pupils,” he added.

Mike Odeh James, Luka Binniyat, and Ehis Agbon are conflict reporters for TruthNigeria based in the Kaduna City metropolitan area. 

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