…We’re working with repentant bandits—Gov Matawalle
…Says schoolgirls’ll be released soon
…Pope condemns ‘vile’ abduction of Zamfara schoolgirls
…School abductions designed to cripple education in Northern region, says CNG
…Those whose parents are in the military were beaten mercilessly, say Kagara students
…Editors condemn incessant abductions, blast Gumi
By Ibrahim Hassan
President Muhammadu Buhari has assured Nigerians that last Friday’s abduction of female students from Government Girls Science Secondary School, Jangebe, will be the last to happen.
The President’s statement was relayed yesterday, through Minister of Aviation, Sen. Hadi Sirika, who led a high-powered Federal Government delegation to sympathise with the people and government of Zamfara.
He said new measures had been developed by the Federal Government which would bring complete end to all forms of criminality in the nation.
“The President is saddened by the abduction of the students from Jangebe and reassures you that the government has all the resources and wherewithal to contain these criminals.
“Buhari also commended Governor Bello Matawalle of Zamfara’s efforts against armed banditry and promised a continued support to bringing lasting peace.
“The Federal Government will continue its partnership with Zamfara government and its citizens in resolving the security challenges facing the state,” Buhari said.
In his response, Governor Matawalle appreciated Buhari and the federal government’s concern, noting that very soon the abductees would regain their freedom.
“I strongly believe in the president and his effort in fighting all forms of insurgence and urge him to improve on the nation’s security.
“This is by ensuring synergy among the security agencies so that confrontations with criminals can be coordinated on ground and air simultaneously,” the governor said.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that other members of the delegation were the Minister of Police Affairs, Alhaji Maigari Dingyadi, Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management, Hajiya Sa’adiya Umar-Faruk and Minister of Women Affairs, Mrs. Pauline Tallen.
Zamfara emirs blame FG
In a related development, the Zamfara Council of Traditional Rulers has blamed the Federal Government for the abduction of students of Government Girls Secondary School, Jangebe, last Friday by bandits, saying the situation could have been averted, if Governor Bello Matawalle was in control of the security architecture of the state.
Sparking when he led 16 other emirs in the state to commiserate with the governor on the abduction of the schoolgirls, chairman of the council and Emir of Anka, Alhaji Attahiru Mohammed, said: “We note that just as you are doing your best, others elsewhere are doing their worst. We also know that you do not control the security architecture. If you did have their total control, we know such a thing will never happen in the state.”
The traditional rulers described the Jangebe incident in the state as an irony, considering the tremendous successes of the peace accord.
They appreciated the commitment and sincerity of Governor Matawalle as well as his success in the last one and half years in curbing the menace of banditry in the state.
“As true representatives of our subjects, we are here to register our sympathy with you and to promise you that we are solidly behind you in your bid to secure our communities,’’ the Emirs said.
They called on the governor to relieve his mind of heavy worry over what happened and prayed that God returned the girls home safely.
“We urge you to continue with your good work which we note is the best approach that is yielding results to our communities,’’ the monarchs said.
In his remarks, Governor Matawalle assured the emirs that in spite of everything, he would never stop the peace process, saying it was still the best option for peace in the process of finding lasting peace in the state.
“Any sabotage to the efforts we are making in the state is a sabotage to the efforts of the Federal Government. The world knows our boundaries and the world knows our successes,” Matawalle said.
He thanked the Emirs for their concern and promised that his administration will do everything within its powers to rescue the innocent girls and return them to the warm embrace of their respective families.
‘We’re working with repented bandits’
He said the state government was working with repentant bandits to facilitate the safe rescue of the schoolgirls.
“We are using the leaders of the repentant bandits to rescue the schoolgirls from the kidnappers. Very soon, we are going to witness the release of the abductees,” NAN quoted him to have said.
Matawalle added that his administration “is going to continue with peace process with bandits, considering its impact in addressing security challenges facing the state.”
He commended President Muhammadu Buhari for sending the delegation to symphathise with the state over what he described as an “ugly act”.
On the rumoured release of the students, Zamfara State Government said the students have not been released, saying such rumours might endanger release of the girls.
Press Secretary, Office of Zamfara State Governor, Gusau, Jamilu Illiyasu Birnin Magaji, who stated that the state government will be excited to announce to the world news of the girls’ release, said: Some online media outlets have claimed the release of the female students of Govt. Girls Science Secondary School, Jangebe, from unsubstantiated sources.
Governor Bello Mohammed, Matawallen Maradun and his aides have since Friday, when the girls were abducted by gunmen, not rested but have been working round the clock, making frantic efforts that will lead to the safe release of the girls.
We are not happy that someone who does not know the details of the situation will try to further hurt the victims’ parents, government and the security by ridiculing the effort with falsehood.
Zamfara abduction, a vile act — Pope Francis
In his reaction to the kidnap of the 317 students, Pope Francis described it as “vile” in a post via his official Twitter handle yesterday.
The Pope added that he was praying for the safety of the girls, so they could return home soon.
“I join my voice to that of the Bishops of Nigeria to condemn the vile kidnapping of the 317 girls, taken away from their school in Jangebe. I am praying for these girls so they might return home soon. I am near to their families,” he wrote.
Northern leaders should interrogate federal levity — CNG
Reacting to the spate of kidnapping in schools in the north, the CNG in a statement signed by the spokesman, Abdul-Azeez Suleiman, said: We call on northern leaders to interrogate the extent of levity of the federal authorities in not being able to anticipate and checkmate the manoeuvres of marauding bands of criminals that roam Northern communities and operate at will, targeting such soft spots as schools.
“We see the recent escalation of kidnap of school children as a grand design to cripple the educational viability of the northern region after having messed up its economy and mutual cohesion.”
Noting its excitement over the return of staff and students of Government Science College Kagara, Niger State, the group warned that it is not yet celebration time, adding that President Muhammadu Buhari owes it a duty to explain why there is high level of insecurity in the northern part of Nigeria.
It noted that the past few days would have been difficult for the kidnap victims, their families and the people of Niger State.
“The situation is also difficult for absolutely everyone as we wonder about the future and worry about each other, our neighbours, our friends, our families and ourselves.
“The CNG, which has been on the ground in Minna and addressed a press conference Friday afternoon, calling for urgent action to rescue the captives, feels proud today that it has once again played a major role in getting authorities to act.
“While we’re still on the ground waiting to verify the release and the condition of the captives, we share in the joy of the parents and the Kagara community and Niger State generally.”
‘Children of military personnel beaten mercilessly’
Meanwhile, students of Government Science College, Kagara, Niger State, who were released last weekend by bandits, have continued to recount their ordeals in the hands of their kidnappers.
Recounting his ordeal, one of the students, Abubakar Sidi, said the bandits inquired about the occupation of their parents, adding that those whose parents were military personnel were beaten mercilessly.
“We didn’t get food to eat till night on the first day but they later fed us, and after feeding us, they asked us about our parents’ occupation.
“If you father is a policeman, come here;” “If your father is a soldier, come here.” They beat us seriously but the beating was based on the occupation of our fathers. I wished I could die because the beating was too much. It was really tough in the forest.”
Another student identified as Suleiman Lawal said given the kind of suffering he experienced in captivity, it was unlikely he would return to the same school.
“We suffered so much. I had never faced this kind of situation in all my life. I don’t think I will like to go back to that school again,” Lawal said.
Editors condemn incessant abductions, blast Gumi
The Nigerian Guild of Editors, NGE, has condemned the incessant abduction of students by bandits in parts of the country.
Rising from a meeting in Lagos weekend, the NGE in a statement signed by the President, Mustapha Isah, and General Secretary, Mary Atolagbe, said: “The Guild is worried that the spate of abductions, if not checked, could discourage parents from sending their children to school and thereby lead to a further increase in the number of out-of-school children in Nigeria.
“We strongly believe that children have the right to education and schools should be made safe for them to learn. Therefore, a comprehensive security plan should be put in place by all levels of government to prevent further abductions of students. Going to school to acquire knowledge is not a crime.
“In the same vein, the Guild calls on the Nigerian government to urgently revisit the Safe Schools Initiative, with a view to implementing it for the benefit of Nigerian children.
“The body of editors believes that dialogue and amnesty for bandits have not been positively impactful and therefore, it should be discouraged.
“The Guild aligns with the advice of President Muhammadu Buhari to state governors, to stop giving cash and other materials, such as vehicles to bandits, because such overtures could empower them to carry out more abductions.
“The Guild condemns a statement credited to an Islamic scholar, Sheikh Abubakar Gumi, describing journalists as criminals. Sheikh Gumi had accused media professionals of adding to insecurity in the country by the names used in describing bandits.
“He levelled the accusation when he featured on Arise Television station, suggesting that ‘nice’ words should be used to describe bandits, if the nation desired that they surrender.
“Sheikh Gumi and others of like minds are hereby reminded that journalists don’t create events, they merely report them. Also, journalists should not be expected to eulogise a group of people that abducts innocent children and others at will.
“The Guild also denounces the choice of words by some governors who commented on the state of insecurity in the country. They are reminded that holding a public office comes with enormous responsibilities. Those who do not have solutions to the current security situation should not aggravate it with irresponsible public comments. This is no time to play to the gallery.
“The Guild calls on the government to live up to its fundamental responsibility of securing the lives and property of Nigerians. The new service chiefs should devise a new strategy to rid the nation’s forests of bandits and other criminal elements.
“The Guild also believes that the anti-corruption fight of the Federal Government should be sustained in a credible manner. The new Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Abdulrasheed Bawa, should ensure that investigations are well-conducted before arrests are made.
“The practice of arresting suspects, parading them for corruption-related offences and then looking for evidence to nail them should be discarded.”