Boko Haram had earlier claimed responsibility for the abduction, releasing a video clip showing some of the students who were begging to be set free.
Hundreds of parents wept openly yesterday afternoon when they reunited with their children who were abducted by gunmen at the Government Science Secondary School (GSSS) in Kankara, Katsina state.
This is even as wife of the state governor, Mrs. Hadiza Masari, called on the parents not to withdraw their children from school due to the incident.
The parents, many of whom threw decorum to the wind, could not contain their emotions after they saw their children at the state pilgrims camp, where they were lodged.
A woman, who anxiously moved around in search of her son, begun to sob quietly when she didn’t see him at first. She had almost given up in her search when she suddenly spotted him seated amongst his fellow students, looking lean and sorrowful.
The woman jumped in joy, shouting his name and hugged him tightly, and didn’t mind that most of the people there were males, including the students and parents.
However, some parents who didn’t initially see their children within the crowd became agitated, with some of them weeping openly, while a few of them wailed uncontrollably.
Mrs. Masari said it was normal for the abducted children to go through trauma due to the incident, but added that they would soon overcome the problem and continue with their normal life, adding: “I call on parents whose children were abducted not to keep them away from continuing with their education, as doing so would not augur well with their future.
“It is normal for the children to go through emotional trauma, but this is bound to pass and the children would continue with their normal lives.”
She said education is the bedrock of national development and that children deserve to be educated to prepare them for the future.
She, however, commended the quick intervention efforts of the Federal and state governments that led to the release of the students by their abductors.
The 344 students abducted by gunmen last Friday night at Government Science Secondary School (GSSS), Kankara in Katsina State, returned home yesterday morning amidst wild jubilation from government officials and family members.
Their sojourn in the wild forest of Zamfara State under the watchful eyes of their abductors ended on Thursday evening after they were set free and allowed to trace their way back home.
Some of the government officials and parents, who spoke on the students’ return, expressed happiness over the development, hoping that such never occurs again.
The students arrived the Katsina State Government House premises at 9:25am in long government-owned buses accompanied by stern-looking policemen. Most of them looked unkept and emaciated, with many limping due to days of trekking bare-foot in thorn-infested forest grounds.
They clung to same-colour-type blankets, ostensibly given them by the Zamfara State Government, which had hosted them on Thursday night and yesterday morning.
Commandant of 17th Brigade, Nigerian Army, Brig.-Gen. W.B. Idris, who led the rescue effort, ushered them before Governor Aminu Masari yesterday, explaining that the students were camped in Zamfara State before being moved to Katsina yesterday morning.
Speaking while receiving the students, Masari said Katsina State and Nigeria as a whole is one body and when one part suffers, other parts also suffer.
He, however, called on Nigerians to play their part in government’s efforts to end insecurity and related challenges in the country, adding: “The entire state or country is one body. If any part of the body is sick, the whole body is sick.
“Security should not be left to government and security agencies alone. What happened in Kankara affected many in all parts of the state, because there is no local government area that does not have a family or relation or son abducted in the school.
“Even if you cannot do anything, you can pray for the state and country, so that the security situation would come to an end and for us all to have lasting peace.”
To the students, he said: “This is part of your history and part of your journey through life. I am sure this will permanently be embedded in your minds. Some of the things that took place, you will only remember them later in life.”
Masari disclosed that the students would be taken to a secured facility, where they would have their bathe and change of clothing and taken to see doctors for medical attention.
He added that names of all the students would be documented, while parents, guardians and management of the school would be involved in identifying the students before being reunited with their loved ones.
Gunmen in their numbers had stormed the school on December 11, shooting a policeman and abducted over 344 students, some of who escaped and later narrated their harrowing experiences, including being treated like animals and made to trek for several hours without food everyday.
Masari, in an interview, insisted that no ransom was paid before the students were set free, even as he added that security would be improved in schools across the state.
Meanwhile, Zamfara State Governor Bello Mohammed Matawalle has urged Nigerians to unite against insecurity, especially banditry, kidnapping and all forms of anti-social behaviours, saying it is only by so doing that a lasting solution to the current security challenges could be found.
While describing as totally diversionary and counter-productive, the ongoing blame game over the abduction and rescue of the 334 students, Matawalle regretted the statement credited to the All Progressives Congress (APC) on the role of his government in the handling of banditry in the zone.
The governor said he had resisted temptation to join issues with those peddling unfounded allegations in the media about his contributions to the fight against banditry, noting that it is necessary at this point in time “to correct the jaundiced perception and straighten the records once and for all.”
A statement by his Special Adviser on Public Enlightenment, Media and Communication, Mr. Zailani Bappa, said the governor in the last 100 hours, had dedicated his time and efforts to ensure the release of the students.
“The governor was taken aback when immediately after the release, a statement in the media credited to the national publicity secretary of the APC accused him of harbouring bandits, who terrorise the Northwest.
“This is incidentally similar to a statement credited to Masari sometimes ago, when, in a similar effort, Matawalle rescued 26 innocent girls abducted by bandits in Faskari Council of the same Katsina State.
“It is a known fact that Zamfara State under the APC was the worst hit, in terms of banditry in the Northwest until the coming of Matawalle. His peace initiatives, which is in tandem with proven records in history across the globe as a viable and necessary option to ending guerilla warfare and similar menace of its kind, is hated and rejected by those who fail or lack the capacity to implement it with honesty, resilience and tact,” Bappa stated.
He stated that currently, Zamfara State is more peaceful than most of its neighbours, “because Matawalle has been honest in the approach, a path which could has been the final solution to the problem the region is facing.
“It is, therefore, very uncharitable to attribute the semblance of peace enjoyed in Zamfara State to criminality of harbouring the bandits to terrorise neighbouring states due to political differences. It is heart-warming to note that President Muhammadu Buhari is quite in tune with every step being taken by Matawalle and has more than once commended him for the measures he has been taking to end banditry in the state.”
While congratulating the parents and guardians of the students, Matawalle maintained that his ‘carrot and stick’ approach to dealing with the bandits has succeeded in recent past by settling with those who accepted the deal and dealt with the recalcitrant ones, leading to the elimination of over 300 bandits in only two months.
“It is, therefore, willful ignorance or mischief to attribute Zamfara forests as safe haven for criminals. It is also an unfortunate and indirect indictment of the Nigerian military, which is under the control of the Federal Government,” the statement concluded.