Six Christian schoolgirls, others abducted in Nigeria released after torture: 'God brought us help'

Protesters gather during a demonstration against Fulani herdsmen killings, in Abuja, Nigeria March 16, 2017.
Protesters gather during a demonstration against Fulani herdsmen killings, in Abuja, Nigeria March 16, 2017. | (Photo: REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde)

Muslim Fulani herdsmen have released six girls and two staff members kidnapped from a Christian-run high school in north-central Nigeria after torture and payment of a ransom.

Nearly a month after abducting the girls and staff members at gunpoint from Engravers’ College in Kakau Daji village, Chikun County near Kaduna city, their Muslim captors released them late last month, one of the girls’ parents told Morning Star News, a nonprofit persecution watchdog outlet.

“Several people prayed in churches and mosques,” Ohemu Fredrick said. “Through their prayers, God brought us help. God used a former governor of Kaduna state to assist us.”

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Fredrick did not disclose the former governor’s name or the ransom amount but revealed the former official offered the children and staff members free medical treatment. According to another parent whose identity was withheld, the hostages were reportedly tortured each time the kidnappers called the parents so they could hear their screams.

“They were torturing them each time they called us (parents) so that we could hear them,” the parent told The Punch Newspaper. “They said they were being fed rice mixed with palm oil while in captivity.”

The parent said after the kidnappers set them free, police picked them up and dropped them off near a toll gate near the city center.

The State Commissioner for Internal Security and Home Affairs, Mr. Samuel Aruwan, confirmed the news in a statement: “We are relieved that this criminal violation of the right to liberty is over and that they are all back safely. The victims, most of whom are minors, and their families will now be focusing on recovering from this undeserved trauma. We appeal for considerate reporting of their ordeal and respect for their privacy," Aruwan said, according to The Punch. 

“As we continue to combat banditry, kidnapping and other crimes, the Kaduna State Government urges all our communities not to give comfort to criminals. The state government calls for vigilance in all our communities and continued cooperation with the security agencies in this battle to secure our state and all who live in it.”

Shunom Giwa, vice principal of Engravers’ College, previously revealed that the eight individuals were kidnapped early October when armed herdsmen appeared at the door of his house and spoke with each other in the Fulani language. Others with the school’s vice principal arrived shortly after they told him to lie down, and Giwa escaped, he said.

The school of about 100 students has a secular curriculum but includes a Christian perspective, and students take Christian Religious Knowledge as a subject, Giwa said.

Thousands have been killed in the last few years as a result of Fulani attacks against predominantly Christian farming communities in the Middle Belt and southern Nigeria. 

According to Human Rights Watch, an estimated 11,000 people have been killed in conflicts involving Fulani militia since 2011. The death toll is said to be six times higher than the murders committed by Boko Haram terrorists.

In September, Fulani herdsmen abducted and executed the wife of an evangelical pastor after collecting a ransom of 250,000 naira ($690) from the woman’s family.

Also in September, suspected Muslim Fulani herdsmen shot and killed Baptist pastor Alhamdu Mangadus of Nasara Baptist Church in Asso as he worked on his farm.

In August, it was reported that suspected Fulani radicals killed Catholic priest Paul Offu in Enugu.

Kaduna Gov. Nasir el-Rufai told media that with the latest spate of kidnappings and murders, Fulani “bandits” are likely working alongside elements of Islamic extremist group Boko Haram.

“We have been receiving intelligence some three months ago that the bandits have connected with some elements of Boko Haram, and they will be targeting schools to kidnap children because they know that that is what makes the news,” El-Rufai said.

Persecution watchdog Open Door USA ranks Nigeria 12th on its 2019 World Watch List of countries where Christians suffer the most persecution.

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