They were 121, all pupils of the Bethel Baptist High School, Kaduna. The school was attacked on July 5. Six were earlier released in three batches. Twenty-eight of them were released on Sunday after spending 20 days in the bandits’ den. Their parents shed tears of joy. Not even their kids’ frail looks could stop them from thanking God. Some of the pupils were limping and had to be lifted and backed by their joyous parents.
One of the parents, Mrs Esther Joseph, who had thought her only child was not among the 28 freed students, fainted, but was resuscitated.
Baptist Church leadership, parents and the school management kept mum on the ransom payment, which a source said was N100 million.
Speaking while handing over the pupils to their parents at the school premises, Nigeria Baptist Convention President Rev. Dr. Israel Akanji said the bandits promised that the pupils would be released in batches.
“We just received an anonymous call who told us to go and pick our children in so, so place, 28 of them were released. 87 pupils are left with the bandits; six of them were released earlier.”
On whether ransom was paid, Rev. Akanji said: “As a group, we don’t believe in ransom payment, but we believe God will bring them back and that is what happened.
“What we said when we came here earlier is that we as a church do not believe in ransom payment and we will not pay any ransom as a church because it is not right to go and pay people who have done what is wrong in order to release the children.
“Although, we are not the only ones concerned about the children, we have the parents, well-wishers and neighbours and all that are struggling for their release. Therefore, we cannot restrict people from their action in getting the children out.”
Speaking on the role played by the Kaduna State government in the release of the pupils, Rev. Akanji said: “We spoke with the governor of the state and he promised to assist us in securing the release of the students. He told me some of the things they are putting together to assist us and he said in security, you don’t divulge what you are doing.
“We believe whatever he was doing should have ensured the release of the students before now. We came in agitated, we have been praying for their release and God did it.”
He said the church’s prayer “is that they continue to drop our children somewhere for us to pick them. An unknown caller just called that our children are in so and so place.”
The President of the Kaduna Baptist Conference and Proprietor of the Bethel Baptist High School, Rev Ishaya Adamu Jangado, commended the parents and well-wishes for their prayers and perseverance.
“I speak with abductors of our children now and then and they have assured me that they will release them in batches. We thank God today we have 28 of them. Others will also be released. Let us be encouraged and continue to pray for the safe release of the rest of them,” he said.
The Chairman, Kaduna State Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Rev John Joseph Hayab, appealed to parents not to be discouraged.
“We will not relent in our efforts towards securing their release untill all of them are released unhurt. Be strong. God will not disappoint us, he will give us victory,” he said.
Narrating his traumatic experience during the 20 days of his daughter’s stay in the bandit’s captivity, Mr. Danboyi Bege said he almost lost his life.
Bege said: “I almost died when my daughter was away. I was dead alive because I thought I will never see my daughter again. My daughter was kidnapped the day she was to start her Neco examination. She celebrated her 16th birthday on July 23rd in the bush with kidnappers.”
Another parent, Hosea Garba Maisamari, said: “It has not been easy since we received the report, even for a day. The issue of ransom it is only the school management that can answer that but for us God has done it. He would continue his education in the school because this thing (kidnapping) happen everywhere even in the house. Government should take precaution and address the issue.”