By Abdulkareem Haruna
A total of 90 students who were abducted three months ago at a school in Northwest Nigeria have so far been freed even as one of them died while in captivity, officials said.
On Friday the bandits freed 32 more abducted school kids, mostly teenagers after collecting a part ransom of N24 million, according to some relatives of the children familiar with the matter.
A total of 121 students were on July 5, 2021 abducted from their school dormitory by armed bandits. Unnamed bandits in Northwest Nigeria have become notorious for abducting children in exchange for ransom.
The latest batch of children had spent 88 days in captivity before their parents managed to negotiate for their release.
Officials said 31 more school boys and girls are still being held in captivity until their parents sort out their ransom.
The government has made it a matter of policy not to pay ransom to abductors. That situation leaves parents with the trouble of sorting out the negotiations for their kidnapped children.
A total of 40 kids were released in the first batch after the parents paid a collective ransom of N50 million.
Reliable family sources said the latest money paid to the abductors was N24 million.
However, one of the abducted kids didn’t make it out alive as the child, who was said to be in his or her early teens, died while in captivity.
All the kids were from a Christian school located in Kaduna.
“All the students released so far are junior students who are weak and vulnerable. None of the senior school students kidnapped has been released,” said Mr Johnson Hayab, an official of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN)”
Using a single negotiator that was engaged by the church officials, the officials pleaded for financial support from members of the public to enable them to secure the release of the remaining children.
“CAN Kaduna State is simply crying out to spirited Nigerians to come to our rescue in whatever way to help get our children back home” Mr Hayab said.
“The trauma parents of these children are going through is not good for their physical and mental health.
“The worst is how the children are faring in this rainy season. Those who were released came back home very sick and weak, suggesting that that not backmaybee in a more severe situation.”
The United Nations Children Fund had in a statement confirming the death of one of the abducted kids lamented the increasing risks school children face in their genuine quest for learning.
“UNICEF said it was however relieved that 91 students of Salihu Tanko Islamiya School Tegina, in Niger State, abducted three months ago, have been freed from captivity.
The organization condemned the death of one child who died while held by his abductors.
“Children who went in search of knowledge were abducted at their school – which is supposed to be a safe place for them – while exercising their fundamental right to an education,” said Peter Hawkins, UNICEF Representative in Nigeria.
“They spent 88 days in the hands of their abductors before being freed yesterday. It is a tragedy and utterly unacceptable that one of these children died in captivity.”
Hayatu Hashimu was just 6 years old at the time of his death.
“We rejoice with the families whose children have been freed – and express our deepest condolences to little Hayatu’s family, who have just suffered the worst loss on top of the tragedy they have gone through for the last 88 days,” said Peter Hawkins.
“No family should lose a child just because it took the right decision to send that child to school. Schools should not be a target. Children should not be a target. Education is a fundamental right of every child and any attack on an educational institution is a violation of that right.”
“We reiterate our call to authorities take all necessary measures to ensure schools are safe for all children.”
UNICEF said it will work with partners to provide mental health, psychosocial support and counselling services to both the freed learners and their parents.
An estimated 200 Nigerian students are believed to still be held after school abductions that have plagued the country since December 2020. More than 1,000 have been abducted in these attacks from December 2020 to date.