“We felt we had already spent years, even though it was our first day,” said Anka, as she bitterly rued the harrowing journey she experienced, together with 278 other girls, in the den of kidnappers in Nigeria’s northwest region last week.
Anka and the other girls — all students of the Government Girls Science Secondary School in Talata Mafara local government area of the northern state of Zamfara — were released on Tuesday, after spending three unforgettable days in the forest with gunmen.
“There was no clean water or good food… And our kidnappers threatened to kill, fry, and eat us,” she recalled, sobbing heavily while narrating the harrowing experience to reporters.
On the morning of Feb. 26, the gunmen in their hundreds rode into the town of Jangebe where the school is located, ordering the schoolgirls, hundreds of them, to march along a forest path.
That morning, they trekked over a long distance from the school, had a stopover for some hours, before they reached their destination, Anka said.
The abductors, who, according to her, were young boys and wore military uniforms, kept firing into the air to scare the schoolgirls.
“They were very young boys with one elder they called Kasali or Yahaya, who gave them instructions. And he was the one that stopped them from touching any of us,” the girl said.
While in the kidnappers’ den, she said they were laid in trenches littered with human feces.
“We saw other people, including women and children, and the father of one of our schoolmates, who had been in the kidnappers’ den for three months,” Anka further narrated in tears.
“They walked us on foot where some of us got dislocated on their foot. They fed us with rice, in which they put sand after cooking.”
Another girl, Abubakar, said they slept in the open while in captivity. Occasionally, they would go into hiding along with the criminals when they heard the sounds of helicopters on a search and rescue mission.
“They ridiculed us, called us with many bad names, threatened to kill us, and then later, they asked us to pray for them to be good citizens. They also begged us to teach them the English language so that they could speak it,” Abubakar said.
Governor Bello Matawalle of Zamfara, where the kidnapping occurred, said on Tuesday that the girls were released through negotiations.
“Following a series of dialogue and mediation with repentant bandits and scaling hurdles of those who want to scuttle our effort to secure the release of Jangebe schoolgirls, I am happy to announce that, the students have been released,” Matawalle said.
The governor insisted no ransom was paid for the release of the schoolgirls by kidnappers, adding it was a positive result of the peace accord he initiated.
“No ransom was paid to anyone. I insisted that we were not going to give anything to any of them,” he said.
Matawalle said that the number of the students abducted was 279, but the Nigerian police said earlier that a total of 317 students were abducted from the all-girls secondary school in Zamfara.
The attack on the school, and the mass abduction of the girls, was the third in recent school-related kidnappings in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, over the past three months.
In December, some 344 schoolboys were abducted from an all-boys secondary school in Kankara town of the northwestern state of Katsina. They regained their freedom six days later.
On Feb. 17, some gunmen also abducted 27 students and 15 others at a government secondary school in the town of Kagara located in north-central Niger State. They, too, regained their freedom about 10 days later.
Yet again, the schoolgirls’ abduction has further questioned the safety of schools in the northern part of Nigeria, said Kunle Adaranijo, a security expert.
Some state governments in the northern part of the country have so far ordered the closure of boarding schools, as part of measures to nip the ugly trend in the bud.
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday said the time has come to reverse, completely, the grim and heartbreaking incidents of kidnapping in the country.
“Being held in captivity is an agonizing experience, not only for the victims but also their families and all of us,” the Nigerian leader said in a statement.
“Ransom payments will continue to prosper kidnapping,” he added while urging the police and the military to go after the kidnappers and bring them to justice. Enditem
2 policemen shot dead by gunmen in south Nigeria
ABUJA, March 3 (Xinhua) — Two policemen were shot dead by unknown gunmen who attacked two checkpoints in Nigeria’s southern state of Cross River on Wednesday, said police authorities.
Another police officer was injured during the attacks in the Obubra local government area of the state, said Irene Ugbo, a spokesperson for the police.
The gunmen suddenly opened fire upon reaching the checkpoints, said Ugbo who declined to give more details of the attacks.
An investigation has been launched into the attacks by the police, said the spokesperson. Enditem