EXCLUSIVE: How families secured release of three ABU students after N5.5 million ransom payment

NIGERIA: Nigerian police force
Nigerian police force used to illustrate the story

Contrary to a statement by the police, the three abducted students of the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) Zaria, were not rescued but released by their abductors after the payment of hefty ransom.

PREMIUM TIMES gathered from family sources that the families of the three students came together to negotiate with their kids’ abductors, who agreed to a N5 million deal.

Maryam Bello, Fatima Jalingo and Umar Sagir, all final year Law students of the university were abducted along with other travellers on their way from Abuja to Zaria.

“The Command wishes to state that, on the said date, August 26, at about 18:50hrs, armed men in military uniform intercepted some commuters near Masari Village along Kaduna-Abuja Expressway, opened fire on the vehicles, in the process kidnapped six persons,” a police statement stated.

The Kaduna State police spokesperson, Yakubu Sabo, who issued a press statement on Wednesday in Kaduna, said the police reunited the victims with their families.

But the account of the incident by family members and graphic evidence show that the police had no hand in the release of the victims and their reunion with their families.

When the claim first came out, as shared by an aide of President Muhammadu Buhari, a member of one of the families, Sagir Ango, debunked it

Bashir Ahmad, Mr Buhari’s personal assistant on New Media shared a story of the police claim by The Nation newspaper Wednesday evening.

But Mr Ango replied promptly, to deny the involvement of the police.

“Lies…It took us 48 long hours of negotiation with the kidnappers to secure the release of our sister to us, NOT the police. Ransom was paid in full and negotiated with the three families involved,” he tweeted.

One of the abducted students, Ms Bello, also took to Twitter to disclaim the hands of the police in the rescue effort.

Later, Mr Ahmad took down the tweet with an apology, explaining that his earlier tweet was reliant on reports in the media from the police statement.

“I have taken down the tweet. Relatives and one of the victims confirmed that there’s no police involvement in the process that lead to their release,” he tweeted Thursday morning.

While apologising for the error, the presidential aide said it was “too bad” for the police to claim credit for the effort.

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How the release was secured

PREMIUM TIMES gathered that the abductors contacted the respective families and negotiated ransom on each of the three students.

After hours of negotiations between the kidnappers and the families, the kidnappers agreed to collect N5.5 million in total, charging N1 million, N2 million and N2.5 million from the respective families.

The money was paid at Rijana.

A member of one of the families who volunteered to pick up the kidnapped victims from the kidnappers’ den said he was picked up by one of them at an appointed spot near Rijana, on Abuja-Kaduna Road.

He said they crossed three streams before reaching the camp, deep in the forest.

PREMIUM TIMES understands that the kidnappers were circumspect and careful in ensuring that there was no attempt to set them up.

After the contact person had emerged with the victims to the roadside, police on patrol attempted to take them to the police station but they declined, opting to drive themselves to Kaduna.

The three victims and their guide arrived Kaduna late in the night, passing the night before going to their respective families.

Videos seen by a PREMIUM TIMES reporter show the fatigued victims reuniting with members of the family in both Kaduna and Abuja. There was no presence of security personnel in any of the videos.

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