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ZAMFARA SCHOOL KIDNAPPING: FEAR OF CASUALTIES STOPPING FG FROM CRUSHING BANDITS –BUHARI

President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday issued a stern warning that the armed forces have the capacity to crush the bandits in their hideouts but were hamstrung by rules of engagements. He also hinted that fear of heavy casualties was stopping the Federal Government from crushing the bandits, who reportedly abducted over 300 schoolgirls of Government Girls Secondary School, Jangebe, Zamfara State.

The President’s position came on the heels of reports last night that seven of the schoolgirls kidnapped at Government Girls Secondary School, Jangebe, Zamfara State have escaped from their abductors On February 17, armed bandits attacked Government Science College, Kagara, in Rafi local government area of Niger state, where they abducted 41 persons who were mostly students and staff members of the school. Reacting to the kidnap in a statement issued by his spokesman, Malam Garba Shehu, the President warned that his administration would not succumb to blackmail by bandits who target innocent school students in the expectations of huge ransom payments.

Buhari, who warned the state governors against negotiating with bandits or rewarding them with money and vehicles, said: “No criminal group can be too strong to be defeated by the government. The only thing standing between our security forces and the bandits are the rules of engagement.”

“We have the capacity to deploy massive force against the bandits in the villages where they operate, but our limitation is the fear of heavy casualties of innocent villagers and hostages who might be used as human shields by the bandits.” President Buhari added that: “Our primary objective is to get the hostages safe, alive and unharmed.

A hostage crisis is a complex situation that requires maximum patience in order to protect the victims from physical harm or even brutal death at the hands of their captors.” “Let them not entertain any illusions that they are more powerful than the government. They shouldn’t mistake our restraint for the humanitarian goals of protecting innocent lives as a weakness or a sign of fear or irresolution.”

Seven schoolgirls escape

However, Saturday Telegraph gathered late yesterday that seven of the schoolgirls kidnapped at Government Girls Secondary School, Jangebe, Zamfara State have escaped from their abductors. The number, from hundreds of girls abducted in the early hours of yesterday from their school, said they escaped from the bandits, who plucked them from their boarding school around 1am yesterday and embarked on the long journey home through the forest. According to a source quoted by Channels TV, the girls said more of their peers had also escaped and are expected to make it home soon.

Enough is Enough – Northern govs

The Northern States Governors’ Forum (NSGF), yesterday condemned another attack on Government Secondary School, Jangebe in Zamfara State, where hundreds of schoolgirls were abducted. Chairman of the Forum and Governor of Plateau State, Mr. Simon Bako Lalong, said the trend was unacceptable and strong measures must be taken to put an end to it before it escalates into a monster that will consume educational pursuit and national aspirations. Speaking through a statement issued by his Director of Press and Public Affairs Dr. Makut Simon Macham, Lalong said the development, which is coming on the heels of the abduction of school children in Kagara, Niger State still being addressed, calls for serious concerns among all Nigerians.

He said: “A Northern Governors, we are deeply saddened by this embarrassing and unfortunate attack on our children who are in schools to seek knowledge and build capacity to impact the nation and create a better society. “The assault on schools where innocent and harmless students are targeted should not be condoned in any way because it has the tendency to set the nation back to ignorance and more poverty.”

Matawalle orders schools’ closure

Governor Bello Muhammad Matawalle of Zamfara State yesterday ordered the immediate closure of all boarding secondary schools to avoid reoccurrence of the abduction of over 300 female students by the merciless gunmen. Speaking at a press briefing yesterday, Matawalle said his administration had embarked on security measures with a view to secure the release of the abducted students. He said: “I wish to assure everyone that we are wholly committed to ensuring a speedy rescue of our dear schoolgirls and reuniting them with their families.

Since when I received the sad news, I have been making contacts with the security agencies and other relevant individuals and groups towards rescuing these girls. “Currently, Police helicopters and other search and rescue operatives have been deployed to the area.

Members of the public, and most especially the parents and guardians, would be kept informed of developments with regard to this all-important mission. “As a father, I feel the pains of the parents and guardians of the abductees. My heart is with you at this moment and will always be with you throughout the rescue mission. I also want to use this opportunity to appeal to the parents and guardians to exercise more patience and continue to pray for the success of the ongoing rescue mission.”

Surveillance helicopters deployed by IGP

The Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, has ordered the immediate deployment of two operational surveillance helicopters to Zamfara State. This was disclosed in a statement issued by the Force titled “Police Commence Coordinated Search and Rescue Operations For Abducted Zamfara School Girls.” The statement read: “Operatives of the Nigeria Police Force have commenced a coordinated search and rescue operation, involving the deployment of both ground and aerial assets, aimed at locating and rescuing the students of Government Girls Secondary School, Jangebe, Zamfara State, abducted in the early hours of Friday, 25th February 2021.”

Residents protests, parents threaten to withdraw wards

Meanwhile, residents of Jangebe in Talata-Mafara Local Government Area of Zamfara State, who were disturbed by the abduction of over 300 female boarding secondary school students, have taken to the streets in hundreds stoning visitors and destroying their vehicles. Some members of journalists, including the state’s Secretary of NUJ Zamfara Council, Abubakar Ahmed, who led a team of members of Correspondents’ chapel, escaped being lynched by aggrieved residents of the affected town. Speaking to journalists in Gusau, Ahmed said: “The protesters had attacked two vehicles carrying journalists from various media houses including TCV, Channels TV’s, AIT, NAN and an online media ‘Thunder Blowers’ which it’s cameraman was seriously wounded on his forehead and was subsequently rushed to Gusau for treatment.” In a phone interview with a father of two of the abducted students identified as Aminu Mai Rakumi, said he decided to withdraw his daughters from the school immediately after the rescue mission embarked by the state government and the security agencies.

Police, Army in joint military search-Zamfara CP

The Zamfara State Police Command yesterday said the command in collaboration with the military have commenced a joint search and rescue operations with a view to rescuing the 317 students kidnapped by the armed bandits in Government Girls Science Secondary School Jangebe in Talata Mafara Local Government Area yesterday. A statement issued by the Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO),SP Mohammed Shehu, said the team comprised the Commissioner of Police, CP Abutu Yaro; the Force Commander Operations, Hadarin Daji, Major General Aminu Bande; Brigade Commander, 1 Brigade, Nigeria Army Gusau and other state government officials.

Splinter group abducted schoolgirls-Gumi

A prominent Islamic cleric, Sheikh Ahmad Gumi, yesterday said the abduction of schoolgirls in Zamfara State was not carried out by bandits he met with recently. Gumi, who is known to have access to bandits, said the attack was carried out by another group. “They are not the ones that abducted the girls. It is a splinter group,” Gumi reportedly said. When the Islamic cleric was asked if he would be willing to meet with the bandits to secure the release of the students, he reportedly answered “maybe”.

Lawan condemns schoolgirls’ abduction

President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, has condemned the abduction of over 300 schoolgirls at Government Secondary School, Jangebe, Zamfara State. The schoolgirls were said to had been abducted by armed bandits who stormed the school’s dormitory at about midnight, shooting sporadically to scare everyone and herding their captives to an unknown destination. Lawan expressed sadness and outrage that the incident happened while efforts were still being made to rescue those abducted last week, from Government Secondary School in Kagara, Niger State. The Senate President said the recurrent attacks on schools and other acts of banditry call for intense soul searching on how the nation arrived at this sorry pass and how to cage the monster of violent crimes in Nigeria.

APC has run out of ideas – PDP

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) said the All Progressives Congress (APC) has run out of ideas of how to tackle the spate of abduction and terrorism in the country. PDP in a statement by the National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, also called full investigation into the abduction of over 300 students of Girls’ Science Secondary School, Jangebe in Zamfara State, by suspected gunmen. The expressed concern that bandits have turned the kidnapping of innocent school children and other vulnerable citizens for ransom, into a lucrative business, and blamed this on,” the lethargic approach and compromises under the (President Muhammadu) Buhari administration in the fight against terrorism in our country.”

Atiku to FG, NASS: Empower states to provide internal security

Former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar has called on the Federal Government and the National Assembly to empower state governors to provide internal security for protection of lives and property at state level. Atiku in a statement, said there was no way state governors would be expected to provide security of lives and property in their domain, without giving them control over internal security. Atiku said: “I call on the National and state Assemblies to begin the process of constitutional and legal reforms that will make this a reality. The legislature must take the lead, as it seems the executive may not be able to provide the needed leadership on this issue. “I have previously made recommendations on how our beloved nation can defeat enemies of the state and win the war on terror, and I stand by those suggestions.”

UNICEF decries abduction of schoolgirls

The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund, (UNICEF) has expressed concern over yesterday abduction of school girls in Jangebe, Talata Mafara Local Government Area of Zamfara State. The Nigeria Representative of the UNICEF, Mr Peter Hawkins, expressed regret that abduction of school children have become regular occurrence in the Northwest geopolitical zone of the country. In a statement made available to reporters through electronic mail, Hawkins expressed concern at reports of an overnight attack at the Government Girls Secondary School in Jangebe, Talata Mafara Local Government Area of Zamfara State. Hawkins said: “We are angered and saddened and by yet another brutal attack on schoolchildren in Nigeria.”

Abductions, breach of UN Charter-SERAP

Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has sent an open letter to the UN Security Council and its members urging them to “urgently hold a special session on Nigeria and to visit the country to press the authorities to end continuing abductions of students and the increasing level of insecurity across the country.” The organization is also urging “the Council and members to treat the failure of Nigerian authorities to prevent and prosecute attacks on students, and to end the growing insecurity in the country as a fundamental breach of the UN Charter and Nigeria’s international human rights obligations.” In the letter dated 26 February 2021 and signed by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, the organization said: “Attacks on schools and abductions of students are a violation of children’s rights. Nigeria has legal obligations to ensure the immediate release of the abducted students, teachers and family members, provide the necessary counselling following the traumatic experience, and bring the perpetrators to justice.”

Aisha Yesufu faults security strategy

Rights activist and coconvener of BBOG, Aisha Yesufu has tasked the Federal Government and the nation’s security agencies on the need to intensify the protection of schools in the northern part of the country. Speaking on Channels Television: ‘Politics Today’, Yesufu, who spoke via zoom, faulted the method of operation of the nation’s security agencies in dealing with the constant abduction of school children in the North East and North West.

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