•Urges release of kidnapped Greenfield university scholars
By Deji Elumoye in Abuja and John Shiklam in Kaduna
President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday expressed excitement at the news of the release of the remaining 29 students of the Federal College of Forestry, Afaka, Kaduna abducted from their school 55 days ago.
Chairman of the Forum of Parents of the 39 Abducted Students, Mr. Abdullahi Usman, confirmed the release of the students to THISDAY.
“Yes, they have been released. They did not sleep in the (bandits) camp yesterday. They were taken to the residence of one of the mediators to sleep. We have already sent our people with vehicles and ambulances to go and bring them. We are expecting them any moment from now,” Usman said.
The bandits had invaded the school on March 11 and abducted 39 of the students.
They later freed 10 of them in two batches of five after the parents had reportedly paid N17 million ransoms.
Usman described the release of the students as “a big relief to parents,” who have been emotionally traumatised since the incident.
The parents had on Tuesday protested at the National Assembly in Abuja.
However, attempts to confirm the release of the students from the police were unsuccessful as Mr. Mohammad Jalige, spokesman of the Kaduna State Police Command was unreachable on the telephone.
However, it was learnt that the release of the students was nearly frustrated following a claim by one of the parents during their protest in Abuja on Tuesday that they paid N800, 000 to one of the mediators.
A source among the parents told THISDAY that the claim by the woman that they paid N800, 000 to an associate of Sheikh Ahmad Gumi nearly stalled the negotiation process.
He said the allegation angered Gumi and others helping to ensure the release of the students and they were not taking their calls.
According to him, the woman was not part of the meeting with Gumi and wondered how she got such unfounded information.
The woman had said that the parents were taken to Gumi, who directed them to a Fulani man named Ahmed.
She said the parents paid N800, 000 to the man but the man said the money was for transportation and insisted that they should pay an additional N500 million.
However, the source who said he was part of the negotiations, stated that the woman made her comments out of ignorance.
“That woman made that unfortunate comment out of ignorance. It is just side talks. She was not at the meeting with Gumi; so, she didn’t know what happened at the meeting. She just heard what some people are talking about at the corner,” he said.
The parents of the 39 students later issued a statement dismissing the claims that they gave out N800, 000 to the Fulani man, who was recommended by Gumi.
In the statement issued in Kaduna, the parents said: “The claim has no basis.”
The statement jointly signed Mr. Abdullahi Usman and Ms. Catherine Saleh, Chairman and Secretary respectively of the parents’ union, also apologised to Gumi, “for any personal injury the statement might have caused him.”
However, the statement said though the woman in the said video has a child in captivity, “her claim is untrue,”, as she was not a member of the (negotiation) committee representing the parents and did not speak on behalf of the parents.”
Meanwhile, Buhari expressed happiness with the release of the students yesterday.
He also pleaded with the kidnappers to effect the release of the abducted students of Greenfield University also in Kaduna and other Nigerians being held in captivity.
The president, in a statement issued yesterday by his spokesman, Malam Garba Shehu, congratulated the released students’ friends, families and the government and people of Kaduna State following the happy end to the saga.
He said: “We are happy they have been released,” while also expressing deep appreciation to all the actors who contributed one way or the other to the happy outcome, “in particular the defence and security agencies, the officials of the Ministry of Environment and the government of Kaduna State. We thank Nigerians for their prayers.”
He called for steadfastness and security awareness on the part of citizens and the law enforcement agencies and deplored the increasing politicization of security in the country by opportunistic politicians.
He appealed for the release of the students of Greenfield University and all other citizens held in captivity, expressing the strong determination of his administration to ensure that Nigerians lived in a country where everyone can move where they want, when they want without the fear of kidnapping and banditry.