Despite claims by the federal government and the military that no ransom was paid to release the abducted Kankara schoolboys, fresh revelations from the Wall Street Journal has said ransom was paid.
The WSJ through a report published on Wednesday said testimonies from the schoolboys confirmed suspicion that ransom was indeed paid.
The over 300 schoolboys of Government Science Secondary School Kankara, Katsina State were kidnapped by bandits (Boko Haram claimed responsibility) on December 11, 2020.
They were released on December 17 after negotiation between the kidnapping bandits and the government.
The government at different times denied they paid ransom. Recall that NewswireNGR reported that Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed said at a world conference that the government did not pay ransom.
Garba Shehu, senior special assistant to the president on media and publicity said repentant bandits helped in the negotiation process. Bello Matawalle, governor of Zamfara said the government negotiated with the abductors with the help of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) and repentant bandits.
Also, the Coordinator, Defence Media Operations, John Enenche, and Ahmed Jibrin, former Director, Military Intelligence, who spoke when they featured on an NTA programme, “Good Morning Nigeria”, insisted that no ransom was paid.
However, the WSJ says they were told by three abducted students that the government paid ransom.
The WSJ report says the kidnappers told the students that the government initially paid 30 million naira, equivalent to around $76,000, but they (the kidnappers) decided not to release the boys because they had demanded 344 million naira.
“They threatened to release only 30 of us when the 30 million initial ransom was paid, said 16-year-old Yinusa Idris. They even took 30 of us away on motorcycles ready to release,” WSJ said.
The report also quotes Imran Yakubu, a 17-year-old, as saying that the kidnappers told them: “One million naira must be paid per each student…or we will recruit or kill you.”
WSJ reveals a source familiar to the negotiation as saying a ransom were transferred in three batches.
The boys also said the kidnappers threatened them that they would be kidnapped again if they return 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.