Yusuf Idris, a spokesman for the regional governor Bello Matawalle, said Tuesday that all 279 girls had been safely returned and were all accounted for.
The girls arrived in the early hours of Tuesday morning at the Zamfara government’s state house, where they were dressed in identical pastel hijabs.
Idris said they were in a “good condition” although some of them had open sores on their feet and were given medical treatment.
Some of the girls recounted their ordeal at the hands of the kidnappers. “Most of us got injured on our feet and we could not continue trekking, so they (their captors) said they will shoot anybody who did not continue to walk,” Umma Abubakar told reporters gathered at the state house on Tuesday.
“We walked across a river and they hid us and let us sleep under shrubs in a forest.”
Officials had originally said 317 students were abducted from the Government Girls Secondary School in Jangebe, but Idris said that number was incorrect.
Kidnapping for ransom is rife in parts of Nigeria and has become a major security challenge. State governors regularly pay ransoms to secure the safety of victims but rarely admit to doing so.
Idris said that no ransom was paid for the girls’ release, telling CNN that the kidnapped girls were freed after “repentant bandits” acted as intermediaries to negotiate their release.
“They said the kidnappers treated them fairly. They were provided food but they didn’t have a place to sleep, no bed or mattress and they had to walk barefeet. They said it was their worst experience in life,” he added.
Buhari reacted to the release of the girls on Tuesday by tweeting that “the news brings overwhelming joy” and that he was “pleased their ordeal has come to a happy end without any incident.”
“We are working hard to bring an end to these grim and heartbreaking incidents of kidnapping. The Military and the Police will continue to go after kidnappers,” he said.