Gunmen who abducted 105 people in northwest Nigeria last week are not after ransom payments but negotiations with the Zamfara state government, five families of the victims who were contacted by the armed men said on Monday.

Armed gangs continue to terrorise northern Nigeria, abducting villagers, students and motorists for ransom.

The gunmen attacked the villages of Gora, Madomawa and Jambuzu in Zamfara’s Birnin-Magaji local government area on Friday night, seizing dozens of residents.

Bello Mohammed, whose wife, three children and young brother were among those taken from Gora, said he received a call on Saturday night from people who said they had carried out the attack.

“They don’t need any ransom from us, but said if we need our loved ones back, they asked me and other people to deliver (a) message to the state’s governor. The government should reach out to them for negotiations,” he told Reuters by phone.

The abductors did not state the nature of the negotiations they want but several families told Reuters they had received calls.

Wadatau Adamu’s four daughters were abducted, he said, adding that attacks by gunmen happened frequently in rural and remote villages like Gora, with little or no security forces present.

“We have passed their message to our leaders. We are looking forward to any decision that will be taken,” he said.

Three other residents said they also received such calls.

“I’m nothing on earth without my family,” said a sobbing Sanusi Musa, whose wife and two children were missing.

Zamfara’s information commissioner Mannir Kaura could not be reached for comment.

But in a statement dated May 11, Kaura criticised unnamed individuals that he said were pushing for negotiations with the kidnapping gangs.

He said Zamfara state government “has rejected the so-called peace accord initiative with bandits by these groups of individuals.”