The Wall Street Journal has obtained testimonies from some of the abducted Kankara schoolboys were they revealed that ransom was paid before they were freed.
On Tuesday, Garba Shehu, spokesman to President Muhammadu Buhari maintained that no ransom was paid but rather it was repentant bandits who played a role in securing the release of the over 300 schoolboys.
A day later on Wednesday, WSJ published this report in which three of the 344 boys interviewed said that the kidnappers told them a ransom had been paid for their release.
It also quoted someone who was familiar with talks between the kidnappers and the government as saying a sizable sum was paid in three batches for the boys’ freedom.
On December 11, gunmen on motorcycles invaded Government Science School students in Kankara, Katsina State, and abducted over 300 students.
This occurred at a time when President Muhammadu Buhari was visiting Daura, his hometown in Katsina for a private visit.
The boys were eventually released and received by the Katsina State government after seven days in captivity.
WSJ reports that some of the boys were forced to eat raw potatoes and bitter kalgo leaves to survive.
“They threatened to release only 30 of us when the N30 million initial ransom was paid,” the report quoted 16-year-old Yinusa Idris to have said.
“They even took 30 of us away on motorcycles ready to release.”
It also quoted Imran Yakubu, a 17-year-old who was also abducted, saying that the kidnappers told them “One million naira must be paid for each student…or we will recruit or kill you”.
Narrating their ordeal, Yakuba said: “There were more than 100 armed men in the school courtyard. They were shining bright flashlights and streaming into the pastel-colored buildings”.
“The gunmen, some on foot, others on motorcycles, ordered the boys to walk in a long column, hitting anyone who walked too slowly with a whip or rifle butt.
“At one point, when the guards were looking at the sky, two students close to the back of the convoy tried to slip away. The hostages were all told to halt so they could watch their classmates being punished.
“The older one’s hands were tied to a tree and he was beaten, water was poured on his body in the early morning so that he could feel the freezing cold.”
The Nigerian military on its part claimed credit for the rescue operation. The defense ministry said the troops closed in on the abductors from four different fronts, forcing the bandits to abandon their captives without any confrontation.