The 27 students of the Federal College of Forestry Mechanisation, Afaka, Kaduna State, who were recently released by their abductors said they “saw hell” in the jungle throughout their 56 days in captivity.
The students narrated their experience to journalists after they were reunited with their families and fellow students at the college on Friday.
On 11 March, 37 students of the school were kidnapped by bandits in the state. Out of the 37 students, 10 were released in two batches, leaving the remaining 27 at the mercy of their abductors until Wednesday when they were freed.
Recalling their ordeal in the over two months of captivity, one of the students, Sarah Sunday, said she and her colleagues were subjected to all sorts of dehumanising conditions, including not being allowed to take a bath while in the bandits’ den, left hungry and exposed to harsh weather conditions.
She, however, said the students have forgiven the bandits, noting that the criminals need prayers in order for them to transform their lives.
“A lot of things happened while we were there. We were subjected to hunger. We were subjected to trekking and all sorts of dehumanising experiences. We were insulted but thankfully, they did not molest or kill any of us. They only beat us on the first day when they did a video of us.
“The boys used to go and fetch water for us to cook. We cooked tuwo with miyan kuka, and tuwo with dry okra. We only cooked rice once, and we cooked spaghetti once too.
“Our living condition in the jungle was very bad. We never had a bath. We were exposed to the rain. Although there was a hut that we always ran to hide whenever it was raining, still there was no escaping the rain because the hut was poorly built. But we have forgiven our kidnappers. And we pray that God will give them the chance to change for the better.”
When asked whether the abductors used to leave them to go out for other operations, Sarah said: “Yes, they used to go out, but they always left some of their armed members to stay with us.
“Even our male colleagues who used to go and fetch water were always escorted to the stream by gang members bearing AK-47 rifles.”
Also speaking, Zakariya Magaji, said he will never wish the experience for his enemies, but insisted that he has forgiven the bandits for their actions.
“The bandits need prayers. All that we have to do is to pray for them for God to touch their hearts. As for me, I have forgiven them for whatever we went through in their hands. The experience was hell,” he said.
Another freed student, Pamela Ibrahim, said the bandits noted that the abduction was done for them to demand social essentials such as housing, education and employment from the government.
Ibrahim said the bandits vowed to unleash hell on Kaduna State if “the government doesn’t settle with them”.
“Before they released us, the kidnappers told us that they didn’t have anything against us (students). They said they kidnapped us because they needed the government to settle things with them and that they also wanted to be educated like other Nigerians. They need work and houses too.
“They said if the government doesn’t settle with them, they would continue to make sure that Kaduna State is unsafe. They said they meant it. Some of them are Nigerians, others are foreigners. They spoke mainly Fulani (language) and Hausa.
“There was an old man among them who prevented others from harassing us and anytime he was not around, we were beaten and insulted,” Ibrahim said.