Some of the Kankara schoolboys, who were abducted by bandits but later released, have said they were informed by their captors that N30m was paid as an initial ransom, while the total demand for their release was N344m or N1m per schoolboy.
This comes barely a week after the military, the Presidency, the Zamfara State Governor, Bello Mattawale; and his Katsina State counterpart, Aminu Masari; all claimed the bandits released the schoolboys without the payment of any ransom.
In an interview with United States publication, Wall Street Journal, three of the schoolboys claimed that over N30m was paid, adding that the figure could be more.
They also narrated to the newspaper how they were beaten and dehumanised.
A person familiar with the negotiations also told the newspaper that a large sum of money was paid as ransom.
One of the schoolboys, identified as 16-year-old Yinusa Idris, told the WSJ that kidnappers told them that they were initially paid N30m, but decided not to release the boys because they demanded N344m.
“They threatened to release only 30 of us when the N30m initial ransom was paid. They even took 30 of us away on motorcycles ready to release us,” Idris said.
According to the newspaper, eight of the freed students, boys as young as 13, were forced to eat raw potatoes and bitter kalgo leaves to survive. They were seldom allowed rest and slept on rocky ground.
Another pupil, Imran Yakubu, who is 17, said one of the kidnappers said, “N1m must be paid for each student…or we will recruit or kill you.”
The paper also noted that persons familiar with the negotiations said a ransom was transferred in three tranches.
According to the WSJ, on December 16, the bandits threatened to abduct the boys again if they returned to school.
“There were more than 100 armed men in the school courtyard. They were shining bright flashlights and streaming into the pastel-coloured buildings. ‘Gather here. We are soldiers,’ they said.
WSJ added, “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,” one of the students narrated.