Jihadist group Boko Haram released a video on Thursday claiming to show the schoolboys who were kidnapped in the country’s northwest.
A distraught teenager in the video said he was among 520 students taken in by the Abubakar Shekau gang.
He was surrounded by a large group of boys, clustered under a tree, looking exhausted.
Boko Haram claimed responsibility for the kidnapping of the boys last Friday at a rural school in Kankara, Katsina State.
The video was sent via the same channel as previous messages by Boko Haram. Security sources said that the operation was carried out on Boko Haram’s orders by a notorious local gangster called Awwalun Daudawa, in collaboration with Idi Minorti and Dankarami, two other crime chiefs with strong local followings.
The government did not immediately react to Boko Haram’s claims, nor did they confirm the exact number of boys missing.
Protesters began to march condemning the government’s handling of the school kidnapping crisis in Nigeria’s northwest on Thursday. The protesters in Katsina State joined the Coalition of Northern Groups, a Non-Governmental Organization, to demand accountability from government officials.
The group later held a press conference and handed a letter of demands to a representative of the Katsina State Governor.
“Mr. President has failed us, Mr. President shows no sympathy over this matter, Mr. President shows no concern over this matter, Mr. President doesn’t even show humanitarian feeling, he doesn’t even have a human feeling, the concept of human feeling, the God-fearing, the attitude of showing care and concern over these children”, Jamilu Aliyu Turanci, Northwest coordinator of the Coalition of Northern Groups said.
A representative of the Governor of Katsina State, Ibrahim Ahmed said the incident ‘’affects all of us’’. “It affects all of us, leadership is responsible. We feel the pain, it affects all of us, they are our children”, he said.
The group used the hashtag #BringBackOurBoysNow to pile pressure on the government to act.
Meanwhile, the government had been silently working to rescue the kidnapped schoolboys who were handed over to government security, the Katsina state governor said in a televised interview later on Thursday.
Governor Aminu Bello Masari told state channel NTA that a total of 344 boys had been freed.
“We have recovered most of the boys. It’s not all of them,” he said.
President Muhammadu Buhari was delighted to hear the news via a telephone call and his assistant Bashir Ahmad tweeted about the developments.