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Bello Matawalle, governor of Zamfara, says the 344 schoolboys who were abducted from Katsina and taken to a forest in the state were released with no ransom paid to their kidnappers.
The governor told Daily Nigerian that the state was able to secure their release through the help of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) and repentant bandits.
The students were kidnapped after gunmen attacked Government Science Secondary School in Kankara, Katsina state, on December 11.
Although the Boko Haram insurgent group claimed responsibility for the attack, Matawalle told Daily Nigerian that “nothing like Boko Haram in this (the abduction); the bandits did it.”
He was also quoted as saying the state government employed the help of repentant bandits and leadership of Miyetti Allah to establish contact with the abductors of the students before pleading for their release.
“When we established contact with them, I persuaded them to release them unharmed. And so they did tonight,” the governor reportedly said.
“This is not the first time we facilitated the release of our people without payment of ransom. Ask anybody, we don’t pay bandits a dime. What we do is to extend olive branch to them because they also want to live in peace.
“As I speak to you, they are on their way to Tsafe, from where they will come to Gusau and sleep. They will begin their journey to Katsina tomorrow morning.”
NewsWireNGR recalls that Governor Aminu Bello Masari of Katsina State, had also on Wednesday, said that the gunmen who attacked Government Science Secondary School in Kankara Local Government Area of the state and kidnapped schoolboys have been contacted.
He added that the government was negotiating the boys’ freedom through the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN).
Also, an aide to the Katsina State Governor, Aminu Masari, on Thursday, told SaharaReporters that gunmen who attacked Government Science Secondary School in Kankara Local Government Area of the state and kidnapped over 300 schoolboys are “truly” members of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN).
Gunmen had on December 11 invaded the school, shooting into the air to scare away people in the area.
He said, “We are discussing through the leadership of MACBAN, Miyetti Allah with those suspected to have carried out the abduction. I had a meeting with the Commissioner of Police and heads of security agencies two or three hours ago.
“There are talks. It is not about who is in charge, but what is of paramount concern to me as the chief security officer of the state is that these students return home safely. This is what we are talking about.”
However, the National Secretary of Miyetti Allah, Alhassan Saleh, dissociated the group from any discussion with the gunmen.
“I’m not aware of any discussion with any group; you are the second person I will hear this from. A colleague of yours called me in the morning, and I told him the same thing. I have spoken to the state chairman, and he said he wasn’t aware of any discussion or negotiation with the schoolboy’s abductors,” Saleh said.
Masari’s aide, however, told SaharaReporters to ignore the National Secretary of Miyetti Allah group.
“That’s his business, but I can assure you we are in discussion with the local chapter of Miyetti Allah, the government is in discussion with them. The chairman of the local Miyetti Allah is a civil servant with the state government.
“What the governor said( because I was there) was that they are talking with the bandits, not negotiation. They are talking through Miyetti Allah; the government is talking through Miyetti Allah.
“The military in the theatre of the operation are now talking directly to the bandits, but the government is talking through Miyetti Allah.
“Miyetti Allah is umbrella body of Fulani, so they are talking with some of the leaders for them to persuade their members.”