Nigerian authorities have announced the release of more than 50 people kidnapped last week in the western state of Niger, the scene days after an assault on a school that resulted in the death of one pupil and 42 abductees, including 27 schoolchildren.
The governor of Niger, Abubakar Sani Bello, said Monday he was “delighted to receive” the 53 people abducted from a bus in an attack on the road connecting the towns of Minna and Zungeru, according to a message posted on his account on the social network Twitter.
Sani Bello, who blamed the incident on “bandits”, added that the Nigerian authorities “are doing everything possible to secure the release of the abducted students at the Government Science School in Kagara and their safe return to their parents”.
The school’s principal, Aliyu Isah, highlighted on February 17 that in addition to the 27 students, three teachers and 12 relatives of school workers were abducted, before confirming that the assailants reached the dormitories after breaking into his apartment and forcing him to show them the way.
Niger’s governor himself confirmed earlier in the day the authenticity of the video released by an armed group to claim responsibility for the kidnapping of the bus occupants and stressed that his government “will not pay ransom to secure the release of the abductees.”
“It is not in the government’s policy to pay ransoms, given that the bandits use the money to buy sophisticated weapons and cause more damage,” he explained, while calling on the central government to “deploy all necessary resources” to achieve the release of the hostages.
On the other hand, the spokesman of the Nigerian Air Force, Ibikunle Daramola, said that the military plane that crashed on Sunday in the outskirts of the capital, Abuja, was part of the deployment carried out to try to locate the hostages kidnapped at the school.
He said in a statement posted on the social network Facebook that the aircraft “was scheduled to carry out monitoring missions in and around Niger state in connection with the concerted efforts to free the students and staff kidnapped at the Kagara school”.
The plane, a Beechcraft KingAir B350i model, crashed while returning to the airport after reporting an engine failure during its journey to the town of Minna, according to Daramola, who confirmed the death of seven people in the incident.
The attack on the school came less than three months after the abduction of hundreds of pupils from a school in Kankara town in Katsina state (north). All of them were later released after a process of negotiations.
These incidents have brought to mind the April 2014 abduction of 276 girls from a school in Chibok, Borno state, of whom 112 still remain unaccounted for and 164 were released. The abduction provoked a wave of condemnation, not only nationally, but also internationally and generated a movement, #BringBackOurGirls, which continues to this day and supports the families of the victims.