Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday expressed his happiness over the release of 29 abducted students who had spent 55 days in captivity. He said he is hopeful that the other 17 university students and other hostages would also be released.
The released hostages, students at the Federal College of Forestry Mechanisation, Afaka in Kaduna State, northwest Nigeria, were abducted on March 11, 2021 by bandits who placed a ransom of more than $2 million.
The release of the students on May 5, 2021 came a day after their parents protested at the National Assembly complex in Abuja.
The emaciated and unkempt students were received in Kaduna by the Commissioner for Internal Security and Home Affairs, Mr Samuel Aruwan, and Police Commissioner Umar Muri.
“We are happy they have been released,” President Buhari said on Thursday as he called for the release of Greenfield University students and other abducted citizens.
The 17 remaining students, from Greenfield University, Kasarami in Kaduna, were abducted on April 20, 2021 and are believed to still be in captivity.
The fate of the remaining hostages remains unknown after the kidnappers threatened to kill them unless a ransom of $250,000 was paid.
The bandits have recently turned their focus to schools where they kidnap students for ransom.
Mass kidnappings in the northwest are complicating security matters for security agencies who have been battling Islamist insurgency in the northeast for almost a decade.
The northwest area is notorious for banditry and armed robbery, especially along the highway linking the city with the airport.
The gangs are largely driven by financial motives and have no known ideological leanings. Victims are often released shortly after negotiations though officials usually deny any ransom payments.
On February 27, gunmen abducted 279 schoolgirls in nearby Zamfara state; and a week earlier, gunmen seized 42 people, including 27 students, from an all-boys boarding school in central Niger state.
In December 2020 hundreds of schoolboys were seized in Katsina, Buhari's home state, while he was visiting the area.
More than 1,850 students have been abducted by bandits since 2020.