Freedom finally came yesterday for the 14 remaining students and three members of staff of Greenfield University, Kaduna, after about 40 days in kidnappers’ den.
They were released after the parents met the demand of the kidnappers for an N180m ransom.
Although the parents and other relations were relieved that they got their children back alive, they were furious with the federal and Kaduna State governments for the alleged levity with which they handled the abduction case.
So angry were the parents that they snatched the students from the police who had allegedly wanted to take the glory for securing their release.
The parents spoke of the physical and mental torture they went through to get the abductees released without any help from government.
They told of how they sold their property to raise the N180million ransom paid to the gunmen who invaded the university campus early on April 20 and carried off 18 students and three members of staff of the institution.
One of the students was killed during the raid while five others were shot dead by the kidnappers in their den to drive home the point that they would kill all of then except a ransom of N800million was paid.
The abductees were let off last night close to Ollam Farms on the Kaduna – Abuja highway.
Soon afterward, some security men around the scene picked them up to hand them over to the police, but the parents of the students would have none of that.
They forced open the gate of the farms to have access to the students before snatching them away.
They branded the government insensitive, uncaring and leaving them to their fate all this while.
They recalled repeated pleas to the state government and the security agencies to help secure the release of the abductees and how they resorted to selling their assets to raise money for the ransom.
The students and staff themselves looked gaunt and traumatised.
Parents and students broke down in tears as they embraced.
One of the parents, (name withheld) said: “we paid N180 million; that is what they collected from us without the help of any government.
“We, the parents, paid. The government did not send a single policeman to go after our children’s kidnappers.”
A crying mother said they also gave motorcycles to the bandits as part of the ransom.
One of the abducted but freed staff, Mrs. Chukwuemeka, expressed appreciation to God that they were able to reunite with their families.
She however said that the bandits did not maltreat them and they gave them normal food. “I gave God all the glory that we returned safely.”
Speaking on what the release of his daughter meant to him and his family, one of the parents, Mr. Bassey, said it was a day of joy and happiness for them.
His words: “After 40 days of trauma, trouble, confusion, disappointment that the future of Nigeria, children of Nigeria were kidnapped, we are very happy that we see them again alive.
“But it is disappointing that the government of Nigeria, both state and federal, could not lift a finger to secure their release. No government showed any intention to help. It was the parents that rallied round to ensure that the students were released.
“We paid a huge amount of money to secure their release; the people collected a number of motorbikes which we had to give because our destiny was tied up.
“There was no effort, no fight by government or security agencies to get them freed. We suffered, sold our properties to rescue our children. No government, no security agencies came to help us. It is shameful that those who did not contribute anything came out to take the glory.’
But he said it was no time yet to decide whether the students would return to the university.
“Now is not a time to take that decision of returning our children to that school. The school authorities tried well. We will take that decision later.”
Also speaking, Mr. Chukwuemeka Lawrence, husband to one of the freed staff said: “we paid ransom before they were released. After the kidnappers called us and told us that government was behind them, that government knew what they were doing, and that we shouldn’t tell government what we were doing that we should look for more money.
“We begged them but they refused to listen to our pleas. We sold houses, two people went to pay N10 million each as they were demanding for more money, government promised that they would help us but deserted us.”
Meanwhile, Kaduna Governor, Nasir El-Rufai, expressed delight at the students’ release, praying that the bitterness of the last few weeks, would set the backdrop for positive achievements in their lives
Governor El-Rufai according to a statement by the State Commissioner for Internal Security and Home Affairs, Samuel Aruwan, conveyed solace and encouragement to the students following their harrowing ordeal.