From Noah Ebije, Kaduna

Following the release of school children kidnapped over two weeks ago by bandits in Kuriga town in Chikun Local Government Area of Kaduna State, some parents and community leaders arrived the Kaduna Government Hous, yesterday morning, to be reunited with their children.

The embattled school children were freed yesterday after 17 days in captivity, following a threat by bandits to kill them after 20 days deadline for payment of ransom.

They were said to have been freed from bandits den, somewhere in Zamfara State, by the Defence Headquarters. It was not clear whether a ransom was paid or not as the 20 days deadline did not expire before the abductees were released. The deadline was expected to expire today.

However, at about 4pm yesterday, leaders from Kuriga community were told by government officials to return today, to collect the children who were yet to arrive of yesterday.

Journalists who went to the Government House as early as 8am waited in vain without the arrival of the freed hostages.

Early yesterday morning, the state governor, Uba Sani, in a statement, announced the release of the school children and thanked President Bola Tinubu and security agencies. He, however, did not make any official statement regarding the reception of the students as of the time of filing this report.

Meanwhile, some parents and concerned citizens have expressed happiness over the release of the school children.

The Vice Chairman, Chikun local government area, Tala Musa Kuriga, said: “We are very grateful that our school children have been released today (yesterday). We are particularly grateful to God, the federal and state governments. We have all worked tirelessly and our children are back. 

“I cannot tell how many of them that have been released, but we are happy. However, we thank the federal government and the state government. We thank governor Uba Sani for every thing he did to make this possible”.

One of the parents, who is also the Spokesman of the community, Jubril Gwadabe Kuriga (Tafida Kuriga) said: “I have a child by name Aisha (9). She was among those kidnapped. Government called us and informed us that the children are with them. That is the true story, but we have not seen them yet.

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“They promised us that by tomorrow (today), they will handover the children to us. Each student or child will be handed over to the parents.

“We are feeling happy because it is not easy missing your child for this long period of time, so we need to be happy. With the presence of security now in our area, our children can go back to school.

“We were traumatised throughout the period of the absence of our children. Our children were away in the bush, no food, no good water.

“There is a woman whose four children were among the kidnapped pupils. She could not eat nor sleep. Some parents died within the period the children were with the kidnappers. I cannot tell you the number of those that died”.

Gwadabe added: “Let me tell you, sometimes, 12 o’clock to 1 o’clock in the night, I would wake up and just be crying, thinking how is she? Has she eaten? I am always playing with her at home, but with her absence I’ve been feeling very bad. They said all the children are back, but seeing is believing”.

Also, the Arewa Youth Consultative Forum (AYCF) described the news of the release of the children of Kuriga school as a welcomed development.

The President General of the forum, Alhaji Yerima Shettima, said the abduction of the children and some of their teachers was a devastating one because the children were subjected to a traumatic experience when the bandits stormed their school in the early hours of March 7, 2024 and marched them into the forest in Kaduna State, only to be rescued in Zamfara State.

Shettima had, upon the abduction of the school children, expressed deep concern over the escalating security crisis in the North, stressing that the worsening state of security in the nation highlighted by the alarming increase in school abductions called for concern.

He lamented that the fact that the abduction of school children has now become a common occurrence in Northern Nigeria, and that it poses a serious threat to education in the region.

He prayed against reoccurrence of such traumatic experience on, “our children and for Allah to deliver us as a country from all forms of enemies of the state”.