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KIDNAPPING SPREE: Bandits rubbish FG threats, kidnap another 15 students in fresh attack

The threats of clampdown on bandits and terrorists abducting schoolchildren seem to have little or no effect on the terrorists as 15 pupils of an Islamiya school in Sokoto State were kidnapped in the early hours of Saturday.

This comes after Thursday’s abduction of 287 schoolchildren in Kaduna State. On Wednesday, over 200 Internally Displaced Persons were kidnapped from their camp in Borno State.

Reacting to the incidents, President Bola Tinubu ordered security agents to secure the immediate rescue of all the abducted people.

The Sokoto State Police Command has confirmed the abduction of 15 Almajiri students in the Gada Local Government Area of the state.

The spokesman for the command, ASP Ahmed Rufai, while confirming the incident in a telephone conversation with one of our correspondents, said suspected bandits invaded the community around midnight.

Rufai said, “They (bandits) reportedly invaded the community in the middle of the night and abducted 15 students of the Islamiya School.

“They also abducted one woman, who is a resident of the community.”

He, however, disclosed that the state Commissioner of Police, Ali Kaigama, mandated the Divisional Police Officer in the community to work with the special team from the state capital to ensure that the abducted students were rescued unhurt.

Also confirming the incident, the proprietor of the school, Mallam Liman Abubakar, said, “So far, 15 students are unaccounted for, but we are still counting.

“They (bandits) invaded the town around 1am, shot one person, and abducted a woman in the process.

“As they were leaving the town, they sighted our students rushing into their rooms, and they kidnapped many of them.

“We have so far counted 15 who are missing, and we are still searching for more.

“This is not the first time the village has been attacked by bandits but they never kidnapped any of the students until now.”

A resident of the affected community, Mansur Ahmadu, told Sunday PUNCH and other people around that the bandits invaded the community in the middle of the night.

He narrated, “It was a serious situation as they killed a woman in the process before they abducted those students.”

Also confirming the incident, the member representing the Gada-East Constituency at the state House of Assembly, Kabiru Dauda, said he received a call from the village around 2 am that the community was under attack by bandits.

“I reached out to the local government authorities and security agencies, and I am sure that they are doing something about it,” he said.

Efforts to speak with the Special Adviser on Security Matters to the Governor, Col Ahmed Usman (retd.), were not successful as his phone indicated that it was not reachable as of the time of filing this report.

However, a top government official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, also confirmed the attack and gave an assurance that the government would do everything possible to ensure the safe return of the abducted students.

Meanwhile, the Federal Government has condemned the abduction of Internally Displaced Persons at the Wurge Community in the Ngala Local Government Area of Borno State by a group of ISWAP terrorists, and the abduction of school-age children at the Government Secondary School, Kuriga, Gwagwada District, Chikun Local Government Area of Kaduna State by a group of bandits.

In a statement on Saturday, the Minister of Information and National Orientation, Mohammed Idris, said the abductions were unacceptable and against all the fundamental values of humanity.

He said, “The government stands resolutely against any form of violence or coercion targeted at innocent civilians, especially the most vulnerable among us. Our children deserve to seek education in conditions devoid of harm or threat of harm, and any threat to their security is a direct attack on the future of our country.

“While extending heartfelt sympathies to the families and communities affected by this distressing event, the President has directed security agencies to swiftly ensure the safe return of all abducted persons and the arrest of the perpetrators.

“The government will spare no effort in our pursuit of justice for the victims and in our determination to hold the perpetrators of such heinous acts accountable to the full extent of the law.

“The public is urged to remain calm but vigilant and to provide any relevant information that may assist the security agencies. Collective action and solidarity are essential if we are to effectively combat the menace of banditry, insurgency, and insecurity in our country.

“Furthermore, the government reaffirms its unwavering commitment to protecting the lives and property of citizens, and will continue to work very hard to ensure that the capacity of criminals to launch these attacks is constantly and irreversibly degraded.”

Vice-President Senator Kashim Shettima disclosed the President’s marching order to the security agencies on Saturday when he paid a sympathy visit to Kaduna State over Thursday’s abduction of 287 schoolchildren at Kuriga in the Chikun Local Government Area of the state.

He said the President had ordered the security agencies to leave no stone unturned until the abducted schoolchildren were returned to their parents unhurt.

The Vice-President, who held a closed-door meeting with the Kuriga community leaders, parents of the abducted schoolchildren, security chiefs as well as state government officials, also cautioned the media to be selective in their style of reporting in the interest of the security of the abducted children.

He noted that the essence of the existence of the government was to secure the lives and property of the citizens, adding that the Tinubu was equal to the task on his hands.

Shettima said, “I am here on the behest of His Excellency, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, to empathise with the government and people of Kaduna State over the sad incident of the kidnapping of our school kids.“The President is personally pained by what happened and he has instructed the security agencies to leave no stone unturned until we return our kids to their parents. The President has spoken with the governor of Kaduna State four times; he has spoken with me three times about how far the rescue of the kids is going.

“As rightly captured by the governor, the situation is pathetic. I will align with His Excellency and impress on our friends in the media; we are all stakeholders in the Nigerian project, therefore we should be more circumspect; let us be more selective in our choice of reporting on the Internet of our kids who are not currently with us. I want to commend you and solicit your continuous support.

“Once again, on behalf of my principal, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, please, accept our heartfelt sympathy over the incident that has befallen our people.

“Rest assured that the President is equal to the task. The very essence of the existence of the government is to secure the lives and property of the citizens. He has tasked the entire security architecture in the country to get our kids back safely.”

Governor Uba Sani, while expressing appreciation to the vice-president for the visit, expressed optimism about efforts to rescue the abducted schoolchildren.

He, however, cautioned the media to be careful in their reportage to avoid risking the lives of the kids in captivity.

Sani stated, “We have been working with the community as well as the leadership of the Chikun Local Government Area to ensure that we collaborate with relevant security agencies to ensure that all the children return home safely.

“At this juncture, I would like to caution the media to be very careful with the way they make their reports because, at this critical time, we have to avoid politicising this very unfortunate incident.

“What is important to us is the safe return of the children. The Kaduna State Government cannot allow anyone to jeopardise the safety of the children, who were kidnapped.”

‘No private negotiator’

The Kaduna State Government had on Saturday denied hiring a private negotiator to secure the release of the schoolchildren.

A statement by the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Muhammad Shehu, said the state government had neither hired a negotiator nor contemplated making such a move.

He described a story on the hiring of the private negotiator as mischievous, adding that it was capable of jeopardising efforts being made by the state and security operatives to ensure the safe return of the kidnapped children.

Shehu urged media organisations to always validate the information from the state government before publication.

The statement read in part, “The attention of the Kaduna State Government has been drawn to an outright mischievous and false report on March 9, 2024, stating that the Kaduna State Government has hired a private negotiator to facilitate the safe return of schoolchildren abducted in Kuriga community, Chikun Local Government of Kaduna State.

“We wish to state categorically that the Kaduna State Government did not hire any private negotiator, nor are we contemplating making such a move.

“The Kaduna State Government has a clear policy of non-negotiation with terrorists, bandits, and other criminal elements.

“We urge members of the press to be cautious in the way they craft and publicise their stories on security in order not to jeopardise the efforts of the government and security agencies in degrading criminal elements laying siege to our communities.”

Sokoto community guards

Meanwhile, the state governor, Ahmed Sokoto, on Saturday unveiled the Sokoto State Community Guards Corps.

Speaking at the unveiling of the corps at the Gingiya Memorial Stadium following three months’ training, the governor charged them to ensure that the safety of their various communities was guaranteed.

He said the corps members were selected on merit devoid of any political affiliation and to complement the federal and other conventional security operatives.

The governor called on the guards to justify the huge amount invested in them and gave an assurance of fulfilling all his campaign promises, including security, education, and agriculture, among others.

Sokoto expressed dismay over the displacement of thousands of people from their communities, which he described as the destruction of peace, and unity, and a great threat to the economy of the country.

The Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammad Saad Abubakar, said the fight against insecurity should be handled with all seriousness and commitment, not only by the government but also by the citizens.

He gave an assurance that the traditional rulers would continue to support the governors in their efforts to bring lasting peace to the country.

The Sultan stated, “It is one thing to look at insecurity and another thing to look at what is causing the insecurity.

“A programme like this is in line with the government’s efforts to tackle the problems facing the people.”

The Chairman of the North-West Governors’ Forum and Governor of Katsina State, Dr Dikko Rada, appealed to the residents of the state to rally around the security agents to bring an end to the issue of banditry in the region.

He said, “I want to assure you here that what you see today is the commitment of the governors that we intend to bring peace back to the entire region of the North.

“You can see governors from Kebbi, Zamfara, Katsina, Benue, Plateau, Bauchi, and Kano, among others; this is to tell you that it’s not just about the North-West but peace in the entire northern region”

Radda stated that the governors in the region had resolved to work together as a force to clear the region of terrorists.

“We have resolved to work together as a team despite our political differences to save our people from the menace of insecurity,” he added.


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