The governor of Zamfara State, Bello Matawalle, has revealed how he facilitated the release of 344 schoolboys of Government Science Secondary School, Kankara without payment of ransom.
The schoolboys were abducted by suspected bandits from their school in Kankara town last Friday.
Although Boko Haram claimed responsibility for the abduction and put the number at 524, the Katsina State Government on Thursday said only 344 students were held by the abductors.
In an exclusive interview with DAILY NIGERIAN, Mr Matawalle said he used repentant bandits and leadership of Miyetti Allah to identify the syndicate that led the abduction, and then started the negotiation process.
“When we established contact with them, I persuaded them to release them unharmed. And so they did tonight. This is not the first time we facilitated the release of our people without payment of ransom.
“Ask anybody, we don’t pay bandits a dime. What we do is to extend olive branch to them because they also want to live in peace.
“As I speak to you, they are on their way to Tsafe, from where they will come to Gusau and sleep. They will begin their journey to Katsina tomorrow morning,” the governor said.
On the belief that Boko Haram was behind the abduction, Mr Matawalle said the bandits not Boko Haram executed the abduction. “Nothing like Boko Haram in this. The bandits did it,” said the governor.
The governor noted that dialogue is the solution to banditry in the North. “If all the governors will sit to address this problem by adopting dialogue, banditry will reduce to barest minimum,” he added.
On why banditry flourishes despite military operations, Mr Matawalle identified political interference as the factor. “I can tell you security agents are really trying. When you remove political interference from their operations, you can get the results,” the governor said.