The Niger State government has announced the release of 38 people abducted from the Government Science College, Kagara in Rafi local government area of the state.
The figure is lower than the 42 persons reported to have been kidnapped from the school last week.
Before their release, the government stated that 27 students, three staff and 12 members of their family were abducted by bandits who attacked the school from Tuesday evening until Wednesday morning.
The state authorities had also released 27 names of the students missing.
But in a statement by the Chief Press Secretary to Governor Sani Bello, Mary Noel Berje, the government stated that “only 24 students, six staff and eight staff relatives were rescued”.
PREMIUM TIMES had reported the release of the victims earlier on Saturday.
The governor’s spokesperson added that one of the abductees was hospitalised due to exhaustion.
Mrs Noel-Berje said Governor Bello received the abductees at the Government House in Minna, the state capital.
“Addressing the kidnapped victims in a solemn mood, Governor Sani Bello thanked Allah for their safe return, and enjoined them to see their experience as one of the lessons of life and should not be discouraged in their educational pursuit.
“The governor said beyond the release, the state government will put up a system to look at the root causes of kidnapping with the view to finding solutions.”
According to the spokesperson, “the released victims arrived Minna earlier in the morning and were taken to a government-owned facility for clean-up and medical examinations due to the state of their physical appearances”.
She said the victims will remain under medical examinations for a few days before they will be reunited with their families.
Asked to explain the disparity in figures, Mrs Noel-Berje did not respond to PREMIUM TIMES’ enquiries.
But an official in the state house who does not want his name mentioned as he is not authorised to speak, said “the figures were muddled up because of the tension”.
“In fact, we asked the students and everyone and they said only 38 people were abducted. We also confirmed it ourselves,” the source said.
While Mr Bello insisted he would not pay ransom for the release of the schoolboys last week, he did not mention anything about it on Saturday.
Rather, he said the release “was a joint effort between the state government, security agents and traditional leaders as well as other relevant stakeholders”.
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The governor, said during the attack, the gunmen killed one student, Benjamin Habila, in the school before abducting his colleagues.
Buhari welcomes release
Meanwhile, President Muhammadu Buhari has welcomed the release of the abducted students in a statement by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu.
The president applauded the efforts of the Niger State Government and the nation’s security and intelligence agencies for their efforts in securing the release. He also sympathised with the kidnapped victims and their family members.
“We are happy they have been released,” President Buhari said.
Kidnapping for ransom has become rampant in many parts of Nigeria.
A report published in May by SB Morgen (SBM) Intelligence said between 2011 and 2020, Nigerians paid at least $18.34 million (₦7 billion) as ransom to kidnappers.
In Niger and many other states in North-central and North-west Nigeria, armed bandits kill and kidnap at will despite the efforts of security agencies.