•Says govt won’t condone further attacks
•Kagara students, others regain freedom
•Bello: They went through hell
•PDP demands explanation for alleged military complicity
Deji Elumoye, Chuks Okocha, Alex Enumah in Abuja, Laleye Dipo in Minna and Francis Sardauna in Katsina
President Muhammadu Buhari has advised school owners across the country as well as religious organisations, to scale up security in their environments, saying this was in keeping faith with the standards laid down by the United Nations-backed Safe School Programme of his administration.
This followed the release of the kidnapped students of Government Science College, Kagara, Niger State, their teachers and some of their relations, who would soon be reunited with their families.
Niger State Governor, Alhaji Abubakar Sani Bello, who spoke after meeting with the victims yesterday evening said, the victims went through tremendous Torture in the hands of their abductors.
But in spite of these developments, Zamfara State Governor, Bello Mohammed Matawalle, has insisted that he would continue to dialogue with the criminals as part of his commitment to the ongoing disarmament process.
In another breath, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has charged the President Buhari presidency to speak out on the alleged complicity of the military and certain officials of the presidency in the abduction of the 300 in Jangebe, Zamfara.
That nonetheless, the president has warned that the nation would not continue to suffer any more attacks that threaten the growth of education, the security and lives of the future leaders at the same time putting the nation in a negative light.
The kidnapped victims were brought into Minna, the state capital in three buses at about 9.06am and accompanied by heavily armed policemen.
Reacting to the news of their freedom, Buhari, in a release Saturday morning by his Media Assistant, Garba Shehu, admonished school owners to also brace up the security of their environments.
“The President reiterated his earlier advice to school owners particularly, the state and local governments as well as religious organisations to scale up security around their schools in line with the standards laid down by the UN-backed Safe School Programme of the administration.
“He once again condemned the school abductions, with latest one at the Government Girls Secondary School, Jangebe in Zamfara State, and directed all security and intelligence agencies in the country to hunt down the culprits and bring them to justice,” the statement stated.
Buhari, who welcomed the release of the abducted students and expressed happiness over the development, also lauded the nation’s security and intelligence agencies, as well as the Niger State government for their roles in the release of the students and others.
“We are happy they have been released”, said President Buhari, who also greatly sympathised with the staff, students, their parents and friends over this ordeal.
Upon their release, the victims were, on the orders of Governor Abubakar Sani Bello, taken to the Niger State Development Company Hotel opposite the Government House for profiling, medical attention and feeding.
One of the female abductees was rushed to the general hospital for treatment because her health condition was critical.
A source said she was very fatigued and had swollen legs probably as a result of long trek from where they were kept before their release.
Pressmen and relations of the victims were however not allowed into the NSDC hotel, where they were kept but one of the parents, Mr. John Paiko, who gave his son’s name as Emma, gave glory to God for the release of his son.
“The principal called me to come to Minna that my son has been released”, Paiko, a father of three said, adding that Emma was the only child that has gone to school among his children.
He however vowed that the development would not deter him from returning his son, Emma to the same school to continue his education. Emma, a 19-year-old, is in SS2.
Another parent, Alhaji Aliyu Isah, said his wife and five children were among the victims, who regained freedom.
“I just want to thank God for the safe return of my wife and children. I went through sleepless nights, because I didn’t know the condition they were in,” said.
Alhaji Abubakar Musa, also a parent, whose six children were among the released, was happy, stressing that, “Six of my children are among the victims, even though I am yet to meet with them. I am optimistic that I will meet them in good health.
“I want to thank God for the safe return of the children. I am happy and glad that they have been released,” he said.
Bello: Victims Went Through Tremendous Torture
Niger State Governor, Alhaji Abubakar Sani Bello has said the rescued kidnapped victims of the Government Science College Kagara went through tremendous Torture in the hands of their abductors.
Bello stated this when he received the victims at the Government House Minna, at about 4 am Saturday, saying they would undergo series of medical checks before they would be reunited with their family members.
“All the rescued victims are here with us, however, one of them is in the hospital for excessive exhaustion. Thank God they are back here with us peacefully. They have been medically checked and I believe the medical team will monitor them for a few more days,” Bello said.
He explained that the rescue operation was a joint effort of “the government, security agencies, traditional rulers and other major stakeholders” saying “There is still a lot of work before us.
“Going forward, we are putting in place a system to look at the causes of these events” Bello said, pointing out that the solutions to the “dastardly acts” would be found in ” the next few days”.
Thirty-eight persons were rescued from the kidnappers according to Governor Bello though earlier figure released by government put the number of those abducted at 42.
During the early morning raid on February 17, one of the students Benjamin B Habila was killed while trying to escape from the bandits.
Matawalle Reiterates Commitment to Disarmament
Meanwhile, Matawalle, in a statewide broadcast on Friday evening, described the abduction of the schoolgirls as a setback but assured the people that his administration would remained determined and committed to the ongoing disarmament process in the state.
The governor reiterated that the state government remained wholly committed to ensuring a speedy rescue of the teenage captives and reuniting them with their families.
“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.
“Despite this seeming setback, my administration will ever remain focused on its strategy of disarmament. A single bullet in the hands of the non-state rogue elements could result in severe harm to the innocent.
“I am of the conviction that the large cache of assorted weapons recovered through the disarmament process has made Zamfara State safer despite the recent unfortunate incidents. The type of dangerous weapons recovered through the disarmament process would make the heart of any person of conscience to cringe,” he stated.
While calling for the adoption of a uniform strategy across all the states facing security challenges orchestrated by bandits and insurgents, the governor said only united response devoid of political differences would ward off insecurity bedeviling the country.
He, therefore, admonished residents of the state to remain calm and resist what he termed the evil machinations of those, who would want to exploit the current situation to achieve political ends.
His words: “I also call on people to be more security conscious and report any suspicious individuals or activities to the relevant authorities.
“As we are making efforts to strengthen security around our schools, I have directed the immediate closure of all boarding secondary schools across the State”.
PDP Demands Explanation for Alleged Military Complicity
The PDP has asked President Muhammadu Buhari presidency to speak out on the alleged complicity of the military and certain officials of the government in the abduction of 300 students of Government Girls Secondary School, Jangebe in Zamfara State by terrorists.
The party described as alarming, the allegations in the public space especially, by the Northern Youth Movement (NYM), of compromises by the military, which paved the way for the invasion of the school reportedly located less than 100 meters to a military check point to abduct over 300 schoolgirls.
National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Kola Ologbondiyan, stated: “Our party demands explanations to reports that soldiers stormed the community two hours earlier and ordered residents to clear the streets and retire to their houses, only for the bandits to invade the town, assaulted the school and carted away 300 innocent girls without any impediments.”
Moreover, the PDP said there were already insinuations in the public space that the abduction was plotted by unscrupulous high-level officials of the Buhari Presidency, who were allegedly benefitting from the insurgency, terrorism and banditry going on in the country.
In tasking the Buhari Presidency, the PDP demanded that the National Security Adviser (NSA), Gen. Babagana Mongunu, should come clean on the allegations that the escalation of acts of terrorism including the rampant kidnapping of students, were masterminded to heat up the situation and justify the demand for huge allocations for the anti-terrorism effort.
“Our party and indeed, all well-meaning Nigerians, insist that the Buhari Presidency must not keep quiet in the face of these huge allegations but immediately clear the air and restore confidence in the hearts of Nigerians, before it is too late,” the PDP spokesperson said.
NHRC Worries over Kidnapping of School Children
The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has expressed deep concern over the rising cases of kidnapping particularly, in boarding schools in the northern part of Nigeria, where young boys and girls have unfortunately been abused and violated by some unscrupulous elements in the society with a high level of impunity.
The Commission, while expressing worry over the development, also charged the Nigeria Police Force and its sister security agency, the Department of State Service (DSS) to evolve new tactics and strategy to immediately reduce the menace of kidnapping.
Executive Secretary of the Commission, Mr. Tony Ojukwu gave the charge in Abuja over the weekend, while reacting to recent reports of abduction of over 300 students at Government Girls Science Secondary School Janjebe, Zamfara State.
A statement by the Deputy Director, Public Affairs, NHRC, Fatima Agwai Mohammed, stated that Ojukwu described the incident as another wake up call for the law enforcement agencies to up their game in protecting people’s lives and properties.
“The level of insecurity in Nigeria is getting worse by the day and as such poses additional challenge to all the security agencies, particularly the Police, Department of State Service (DSS) and Nigerian Security and Civil Defense Corps (NSCDC) to do the needful to restore citizens’ confidence in government to protect them”, the statement said.
Ojukwu urged security agencies to do all in their capacity to rescue the innocent school children so as not to adversely affect school enrollment in the state, thereby jeopardising their right to education.
“The Commission is also using this opportunity to call on the Zamfara State government to reconsider its concept of repentant bandits so that the state government does not elevate criminality to a level, where bandits will be dictating conditions for negotiations with government,” the statement added.
Also, Ojukwu appealed to the abductors to remember that the schoolgirls in their custody were innocent and therefore do not deserve any form of violations or mistreatment, imploring them to ensure their immediate and unconditional release.
The NHRC boss also appealed to the parents and guardians of the distressed schoolgirls not to lose hope in reuniting with their children and wards, as the relevant agencies of government both at the federal and state level are expectedly doing the needful to address the unfortunate incident.
The NHRC however reiterated the need for all the stakeholders to ensure the implementation of the Child’s Rights Act 2003, particularly, rights to free and compulsory education at least up to Senior Secondary School level.
“This cannot be realised where the school environment is not safe and secure for a continuous learning”, the Executive Secretary added.