From Adetutu Folasade-Koyi, Abuja

The Federal Government has dismissed Boko  Haram’s claims that the group kidnapped 344 students of Government Science Secondary School, Kankara, Katsina State, on Friday, December  11, 2020, even as it explained why President Muhammadu Buhari didn’t visit the school where the incident happened.

Rather, government insisted that bandits abducted the boys and were released after negotiations were brokered by patriotic Nigerians and ‘friends of Nigeria.’

Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, reiterated government’s position at a press conference in Abuja, yesterday, that Boko Haram is only seeking relevance with the abduction saga.

The Boko Haram faction loyal to Abubakar Shekau had claimed responsibility for the abduction on Wednesday, December 16. On Thursday, December 17, the insurgents released an undated video of some students in a bush, where one visibly distraught boy called on the federal government to rescue them without the involvement of the country’s security agencies.

Some hours after, they were released in Tsafe, Zamafara State and arrived Katsina State yesterday, where they met with Governor Aminu Bello Masari.

Regardless, government insisted that bandits kidnapped the schoolboys and not Boko Haram.

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On insinuations that government paid $4 million to secure the release of the school children, the minister insisted no “money changed hands. They were released unconditionally. Money did not change hands.”

On Miyetti Allah’s mediatory role in the negotiation process for the release of the school children, Mohammed said: “I was not in the negotiation to know who participated or not. We appreciate the contributions of all patriotic Nigerians. That’s as far as I’m ready to go.”

Asked why President Muhammadu Buhari didn’t visit the school as well as show sympathy with distraught parents while the kidnap ordeal lasted, Mohammed replied: “…Even as he was on vacation, he coordinated the entire operation. He did the needful and ensured the safe release of these children within the fastest time possible…”

The minister also reiterated that force was not deployed in rescuing the school children before Thursday’s release. “Our intelligence forces are on top of the matter. There’s no where in the world where governments don’t negotiate, especially where the lives of children are involved…

“Let me state here that the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari will do everything possible to prevent a recurrence of these school abductions. But, we also make bold to say that we have moved with speed and determination each time we have faced the challenge of school abductions, and the results attest to this.

“Each time this has happened, we have always accepted responsibility, rather than being in denial. And that has made all the difference in whether or not the abducted school children have been recovered. We will not relent until all those who remain missing in Chibok and Dapchi are reunited with their families…” the minister said.