In his reaction to the release of over 344 schoolboys abducted by bandits from a Government Secondary School, Kankara on Thursday evening, President Muhammadu Buhari commended Governors Aminu Masari and Bello Matawalle of Katsina and Zamfara states respectively for working with the security operatives to free the students from their abductors.
Government Secondary School Kankara where the students were abducted 11 December is in Katsina State.
But the bandits who abducted the students operate across the vast forests of Northwest Nigeria, hence it was not a surprise when Governor Masari said he had information that the students have been relocated to a forest in Zamfara some days after they were abducted.
Indeed, the schoolboys were released at Tsafe near Zamfara on Thursday, according to reports.
Following the release of the students, the Governors of Zamfara and Katsina states have also been talking on the process that led to their freedom.
While Governor Masari spoke to the Hausa service of a German radio station, Radio Deutche Welle, the Zamfara State Governor spoke in an interview with Daily Nigerian.
For one, the two governors were emphatic that no ransom was paid to secure the release of the students.
They also agree that contrary to the claim of the insurgent group in a video releases hours before the students were freed, Boko Haram was not behind the abduction of the students, but bandits.
According to them, Miyyeti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria, MACBAN played a key role in securing freedom for the students.
Specifically, Masari told Radio Deutsche Welle, DW that MACABAN negotiated with the bandits to get the schoolboys released and no single Kobo was paid as ransom.
He also insisted that the schoolboys were not abducted by Boko Haram, but bandits.
He said, “Some hours ago, those assisting us in talks with the bandits said they have released all children in captivity. About 344 of them. And we have sent vehicles to transport them to Katsina.
“We will direct our doctors to carry out medical examination on the children tomorrow morning. They have spent six-day in the forest. We will change their clothes and we will hand them over to their parents,” Masari said.
Speaking in the same vein, Zamfara Governor said he facilitated the release of the 344 schoolboys without payment of ransom.
Governor Matawalle told DAILY NIGERIAN, that he used repentant bandits and leadership of Miyetti Allah to identify those behind the abduction, and then started the negotiation process.
“When we established contact with them, I persuaded them to release them unharmed. And so they did tonight. This is not the first time we facilitated the release of our people without payment of ransom.
“Ask anybody, we don’t pay bandits a dime. What we do is to extend olive branch to them because they also want to live in peace.
“As I speak to you, they are still on their way to Tsafe, from where they will come to Gusau and sleep. They will begin their journey to Katsina tomorrow morning,” the governor said.
“Nothing like Boko Haram in this. The bandits did it,” the governor said while disputing the claim of Boko Haram that it was behind the abduction.
The two governors did not speak on the video that circulated Thursday, in which the students pleaded for their freedom.
Abubakar Shekau also spoke in the video and claimed that his men abducted the schoolboys.