The freed students of Government Girls Secondary School (GGSS), Jangebe on Tuesday narrated their traumatic ordeal in the hands of bandits at the Zamfara Government House, Gusau where they were received by Governor Bello Matawalle, his wife, A’isha, and their parents.
While one of the pupils said they spent some days and nights in tunnels, another disclosed that the bandits threatened to kill, fry, and eat them if they misbehaved.
The abduction of the students last Friday generated public outcry across the world, with many calling on the federal and state government as well as security agencies to ensure their safe return.
Reports had earlier put the number of the abductees at 317 but Mattawale, who broke the news of their freedom said they were 279 in all.
One of the girls whose ages range between nine and 15, told The Nation that their near four-day stay in bandits’ camp was hellish.
The pupil, who declined to give her name said: “They (abductors) made us to stay in tunnels for some days and nights during the period. It was traumatic, I mean like being in hell.
“On the day they took us, we trekked long distance on foot through thorny paths without shoes or even slippers. On our way back, it was the same. This resulted in some of us sustaining injuries.”
Hafsatu Anka, an SS II student, who spoke in tears, said they were laid in trenches littered with human feces.
Her words: “There was no clean water or good food, and we felt we had already spent years during our first day in their camp. The bandits kept firing into the air to scare us.
“They were very young boys with one elder they called Kasalle or Yaya, who gave them instructions. He was the one that stopped them from touching any of us.”
“We saw other people, including women and children and father of one of our school mates, who had been in the den for three months.
“They walked us on foot but some of us got dislocated. They (bandits) would pray as Muslims but never allowed us to pray. They fed us with rice in which they put sand after cooking.”
According to her, the bandits, who wore military uniforms, claimed they defeated security officials by invading their school and successfully whisking them away.
Hafsat, who said she was happy being rescued, pointed out that she would continue her studies but as a day student.
Another pupil, Hunainatu Abubakar said the abductors asked them to pray for them to be good citizens.
“They ridiculed us, called us many bad names threatened to kill us and then later, they asked us to pray for them to be good citizens. They also asked us to teach them English so that they could speak the language..
“Some of the bandits even asked if we will marry them but none of us responded and so they said they would be looking for those with big eyes and kill them.
“They also threatened to rape us but their leader warned them against that, they always added sand to our food and only allowed us to dig for water with our fingers at a drying pond.”
Like Hafsat, Hunainatu said she would go back to Kaduna State where she came from and continue at a day school to fulfill her dream of becoming a lawyer.
Hunainatu said she could still remember the faces of the abductors if she saw any of them.
She said the student whose father was kidnapped over three months ago cautioned them against showing any relationship with him to avoid being killed.
The Nation reported that some of the schoolchildren looked famished and sick when they arrived at the government house at 6 am on Tuesday.
They were however fed and given medical attention by a team of doctors.
Some parents, who witnessed the arrival of the pupils wept but thanked God for their safe release.
They urged the government to provide adequate security in communities in the state.
Governor Matawalle said 30 repentant bandits assisted security operatives said the release of the pupils.
Matawale, who received the girls in company with his wife, A’isha, was quick to add that no ransom was paid.
He said: “This is the result of our peace effort and putting to shame all those saying there is no security in this country.
“We have been in discussion since Friday with the abductors and reached an agreement on Monday by 4 pm that the girls were released.
“We are happy that all 279 have safely returned, they will be given balanced diets by the government to recuperate before they are handed back to their respective families.”
The governor, who promised additional security in all schools in the state, appealed to the parents “not to remove your children from school as a result of the incident.
“My word to the victims is that you should not be discouraged over this sad incident. You must aspire to further your education. we are proud of you,” she said.
President happy about girls release
President Muhammadu Buhari has expressed “overwhelming joy” over the release of the pupils of Government Girls’ Science Secondary School (GGSSS), Jangebe, Zamfara State.
He however, warned in a statement by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, that kidnapping would persist if compensation is paid to the perpetrators instead of punishment.
“I join the families and people of Zamfara State in welcoming and celebrating the release of these traumatised female students,” the President said
Buhari said he was excited that the ordeal of the pupils came to a happy end, adding that “being held in captivity is an agonising experience not only for the victims, but also their families and all of us.”
“Ransom payments will continue to prosper kidnapping,” he said.
The All Progressives Congress (APC) urged security agencies to unmask the sponsors and enemies of Nigeria behind targeted attacks on educational institutions in the country.