ABUJA, 2 March 2021 – Two hundred and seventy-nine schoolgirls who were kidnapped last week in northwestern Nigerian state of Zamfara were released Tuesday.
The number of 279 released is 38 students fewer than the 317 students initially said to have been kidnapped.
Zamfara state officials explained that some of the schooolgirls escaped shortly after being abducted and have been safe since then.
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari spoke of experiencing “overwhelming joy” at the news of the girls’ release.
The Nigerian leader explained that he was pleased that the ordeal of the students “has come to a happy end without any incident”.
The release follows negotiations between government officials and the abductors, Zamfara state officials told reporters Tuesday.
It “gladdens my hear to announce the release of the abducted students,” Bello Matawalle, the governor of Zamfara state said in a tweet.
Most kidnappings in Nigeria’s northwestern states, where the crime is most recurrent, are carried out by armed bandits looking to make a quick buck in the form of ransom payments.
The release of the students “follows the scaling of several hurdles laid against our efforts,” said Matawalle, encouraging Nigerians to join him and the families of the students in rejoicing that “our daughters are now safe”.
Matawalle denied paying ransom for the girls’ release.
However, President Buhari last week admitted that state governments had paid kidnappers “with money and vehicles” in the past and urged them to review such policy.
Some of the students shared stories of their detention with reporters Tuesday.
“Most of us got injured” trekking through the forest wito which we were led by the kidnappers, said one of the released students.
Some of the students found trekking through the forest difficult ,prompting gunmen who wanted them to walk faster, to issue the threats.
The gunmen threatened to shoot us, one of the 279 released schoolgirls told reporters.
“We walked across a river and they hid us and let us sleep under shrubs in a forest,” one of the students said of their nighttime trek through the forest.
Meantime, the United Nations on Tuesday said it was outraged by an attack on a hospital and the premises of aid agencies suspected to have been carried out by Islamists in north-eastern Nigeria.
Several aid agencies were set on fire during the attack.
Nearly 100,000 people who depend on the agencies attacked are now without the food and other assistance they depend on to survive.