FG rules out force to free abducted Kagara students

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  • Govt won’t pay ransom for abductees –Lai Mohammed
  • Negotiations with bandits unacceptable, say CAN, Onaiyekan
  • Bandits insist on amnesty; attack Niger community again
  • 15 drown as they flee fresh attacks in Niger

The Federal Government is not disposed to applying force to rescue the 27 students and staff of Government Science College, Kagara in Niger State, who were abducted by bandits on Wednesday.

Government will also not pay any ransom to get them released.

The abductees spent their third day in captivity yesterday, with the Christians Association of Nigeria (CAN) and former Catholic Archbishio off Abuja, John Cardinal Onaiyekan, kicking against government’s negotiation with the bandits.

The association said the move was unacceptable while Onayekan said government got it wrong sitting down with the gunmen.

The Nation gathered yesterday that the security agencies have discovered the exact location where the bandits are keeping the students and other abductees.

The gunmen are insisting on amnesty for them by the Federal Government.

They want safe passage after realising that all access routes to their enclave have been blocked.

It was learnt that the bandits now find it difficult to move away from their camp or relocate the students.

A top security source, who spoke in confidence, said government has restrained troops and security forces from “storming” the bandits’ camp to avoid collateral damage.

The source also claimed that some bandits have swapped their dresses with the abducted boys’ school uniforms in anticipation of a military raid.

It was gathered that from air surveillance, it was difficult to distinguish the students from the bandits after swapping their dresses.

The source said: “The military, the police and security agencies have recorded a breakthrough in locating the camp where the students and other abductees are being kept in inhuman conditions.

“With air surveillance, everything going on in the camp is known to the military and other agencies.

“There are two options available to the government. The first is a massive air raid and war-like storming (military action) of the bandits’ enclave. This may result in heavy casualties.

“What makes aerial bombardment or storming the enclave difficult is that the bandits have exchanged their banditry camouflage with the boys’ school uniforms.

“The troops may end up killing the students during raid rather than the bandits, who are feeling the close up on them by forces.

“The other alternative is to allow political intervention through the ongoing negotiation /understanding with the bandits by the government and elders like Sheikh Abubakar Gumi.

“So far, the bandits have not asked for payment of ransom for the students. They only demanded N500 million ransom for the release of the passengers kidnapped from the bus of Niger State Transport Authority.

“As at 6pm on Saturday, the Federal Government ruled out the use of force by the military and security forces because it might defeat the overall aim of rescuing the students and other abductees alive.

“The government has dissected all intelligence reports and opted for constructive engagement instead of outright military action.

“Despite the ongoing talks, the military and security forces have blocked all access routes to the camp where the students and others are being held hostage.”

Responding to a question, the source added: “The bandits’ condition for amnesty has remained a major issue in the ongoing negotiation.

“The bandits are aware that all access routes to their camp have been blocked by the military and security forces. For safe passage, they are asking the government for amnesty.

“That is beyond military or security purview, only the political authority can manage this.

“Left to the military and other agencies, they will prefer a fight- to-the-finish to put an end to banditry.”

We won’t pay ransom for Kagara abductees, FG declares

Information and Culture Minister Lai Mohammed said on Channels Television yesterday that the federal government would not pay a dime as ransom to anyone for the purpose of getting the abducted students and other released.

He dismissed suggestions that government had already paid the gunmen.

However, he said government would not turn down opportunities to engage bandits in talks.

“We employ kinetic and non-kinetic (measures); you don’t throw away invitations to engage, but the overall strategy you keep to your chest,” he said.

Continuing, he said: “Bandits all over the world work with the psychology of people. Deliberately, they target women and children because this is what will attract a lot of global outcry.

“That is exactly what bandits do all over the world.

“The government has put in place, all along, various strategies to contain banditry, to fight insurgency, to fight kidnapping. Some of these measures are kinetic, some are not kinetic. We didn’t get here overnight and that is why it is difficult to get out one day.

“And that’s what happened during the Dapchi girls abduction and the Kangara school boys abduction. But the question is what does government do?

“When I say we didn’t get here overnight, what I meant is that be it farmer-herders crisis, be it banditry, be it kidnapping, it crept up gradually over many years, and there are certain factors which are beyond the human capacity that led us here.

“Criminality in any form will not be tolerated by the government. At the same time, the government has a duty to look at the underlying causes of some of these criminalities in order to address them.

“I was in Minna with my colleagues, the Ministers of Interior and Police Affairs, the IG, and the National Security Adviser on Wednesday to get firsthand information on the abduction of these Kagara schoolboys. I can tell you that as of today, the government is on top of the matter.”

He refuted insinuations that government paid ransom to secure the release of the Kankara, and the Dapchi schoolgirls in Yobe State.

“All these stories about ransom are conspiracy theories,” he said.

Negotiation with bandits unacceptable, says CAN

Reacting yesterday to negotiation between government and the abductors of the Kagara students and their teachers, the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) labeled the talks unacceptable.

It said the development was capable of laying the foundation for anarchy in the country.

The association in a statement in Abuja said it was “unhappy with the menace of banditry in the Northern part of the country, especially the culture of abducting innocent students in public schools.”

It said only God knows which school is the next target of bandits after Government Secondary School, Kankara in Katsina State and Government Science School, Kagara, Niger State.

It added: “Our security agencies are pretending as if these criminals are invincible but the intervention of Sheik Gumi in negotiating with them in the forest has put a question mark on the roles of the security agencies in the security challenges.

“We have said it and we are still saying it again that the security architecture of our country has collapsed and a total overhauling is imperative before it will be too late.

“This was what CAN foresaw long before now when we were calling on the President to sack the service chiefs and by extension overhaul the security architecture.

“As much as the government does not want us to talk about religion, that’s okay. But when the heads of security agencies are drawn from the same faith in a multi-ethnic and multi-religious state like ours, those who are left out cannot but cry out.

“And again, when those who are threatening the security of the country and our security chiefs share same faith, culture and traditions, that makes it a messy situation.

“The carrots and stick approach is not working. This is a sad commentary.

“As observed by Senator Shehu Sani, these bandits move about in their 20’s and 50’s. They are abducting students in their hundreds with impunity and disappear into the forest as if our security agencies are on holiday.

“This is unprecedented, unjustifiable, unfortunate and unacceptable. It is totally reprehensible. We cannot but agree with a serving Senator from Niger State who said, ‘This government is incompetent in handling the security.’

“It is unfortunate that we have a government that is not ready to take counsel from the people.”

The association also took on Governor Bala Muhammed of Bauchi State over his recent statement that herders are justified to carry AK 47 rifles because they need to protect themselves and their cattle from rustlers.

It said: “A governor who recently justified the carrying of guns by herdsmen has forgotten that his advocacy is an open invitation to anarchy simply because if the herdsmen should carry guns, their victims too have same equal rights.

“History will not forget what the security architecture has become under the watch of President Muhammadu Buhari. This is why he must rise up to live up to the expectations of the people who voted for him because of his military background.”

Onaiyekan: It’s wrong for government to dialogue with bandits

Former Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, John Cardinal Onaiyekan, also faulted government’s decision to negotiate with the bandits.

Speaking with newsmen in Minna after the ordination or the Auxillary Bishop of Minna Diocese, Onaiyekan said that government should stop pretending that it is in power when, indeed non-state actors have taken over the country.

Government, according to him, has no excuse for the continued insecurity in parts of the country.

His words: “The fact remains that we are not where we should be.

“We should not be living in a country where we are always with our heart in our mouth when we are moving from one place to another.

“We should not be living in a country where the children cannot study in schools and where bandits can come and cart away students and their teachers into the bush and sit there and boast for dialogue.

“And government agencies are talking about reaching out to them. It is not the right thing to do. It is about time we have a government that takes care of its people.

“Sadly, we have people who claim to be our leaders, who during elections forced us, begged us and cajoled us to put them in power. Now that they are in power, do your work for goodness sake.

“This has nothing to do with APC or PDP. It is not political and we have also seen that it has nothing to do with Islam or Christianity, not even with our ethnic differences. We have a gang of criminals that are almost taking over our country and the government should either do it or allow others to do it.

“If the government cannot secure the lives of the people, they should call for a kind of national cohesion. They should stop pretending that they are the ones ruling.

“In some countries, when these incidents happen, it gets to a stage where the government will call for national unity where everyone comes on board to proffer solutions.

“If the government continues this way, it will get to a stage where non-state actors will take over.”

We need to go spiritual – Niger Speaker tells Gov. Sani-Bello

The Speaker of the Niger State House of Assembly, Hon. Abdullahi Bawa Wuse, asked Governor Abubakar Sani-Bello to adopt a different approach to resolving the security challenge in the state: go spiritual.

Wuse, who led a delegation of the Assembly to the governor on a solidarity visit, said: “We need to go spiritual. We need to pray for the state. We need prayers so that God will see us through.”

Responding, Sani-Bello said the state was doing its best to ensure the safe return of the abductees.

“I believe that they will be released soon. We will get good news very soon because we are doing everything to ensure their safe return,” he said.

The Governor said government was working towards making a lot of reconciliation, adding that recent happenings have shown that time has come to look at the concerns being raised by herdsmen.

In a related development, the Secretary to the Niger State Government, Alhaji Ibrahim Matane, said that the government was still discussing and dialoguing with the bandits to see how the victims could be released unhurt.

“We can’t rush them even if we have time, and we can’t dictate to them. I believe they are taking their time. But at the appropriate time, when we have other information, the public will know,” he said.

He said that no money had been paid for the release of the Kagara School students and teachers.

15 drown as they flee fresh bandits attack in Niger

No fewer than 15 people may have drowned in Gurmana Ward of Shiroro Local Government area of Niger State while trying to escape an attack on their community by bandits.

The victims,according to sources,had fled to the banks of  nearby River Kaduna only to end up inside the river.

Many of those who dived into the river did not survive.

Sources said the bandits struck at about 5pm in the latest attack by bandits who have held the state to ransom for some time now.

The gunmen reportedly shot sporadically as they stormed the community.

“Right now, we don’t know how many drowned. We are suspect that the bandits are still around. We cannot confirm the number of casualties now,” one source said.

The Co-convener, Concerned Shiroro Youths, Sani Abubakar Kokki confirmed the attack.

The Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Abiodun Wasiu, did not  pick his phone when The Nation tried to reach him for confirmation.

Students’ abduction attack on nation’s development —Obi

The vice presidential candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2019 elections, Mr Peter Obi, has condemned the abduction of students of Government Science College, Kagara, Niger State by bandits, describing it as an attack on Nigeria’s fundamental development.

Speaking through his Media Office, Obi said any attack on students is an attack on education which in turn falls back on national development, as education remains a critical contributor to national development.

Lamenting the security situation in the country, Obi regretted that the government was yet to rescue the kidnapped students.

He said that the various security threats in the country posed great danger to the nation’s economy.

“The incessant cases of security challenges in the country have continued to discourage not just the inflow of foreign direct investment but local investors from moving the economy forward,” Obi said.

He asked government to always ensure the security of lives and property in every part of the nation.

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