By Olalekan Adetayo, John Alechenu, Adelani Adepegba, Olaide Oyelude, John Charles, Adeniyi Olugbemi and Maiharaji Altine
GOVERNOR Aminu Masari Thursday night confirmed the release of the abducted students of Government Science Secondary School, Kankara.
The governor said the boys were at Tsafe, Zamfara State, and would be transported to Kankara on Friday.
According to him, the release of the boys was facilitated by the leadership of MACABAN/Miyetti Allah.
The governor’s Special Adviser on Security, Mallam Ibrahim Katsina, also confirmed the development.
He told The PUNCH on Thursday night that “Allihamdulillahi, the boys have been rescued and are now at Tsafe, Zamfara State. But, we shall be moving them to Kankara tomorrow (Friday).”
We didn’t pay any ransom
However, Masari in an interview with DWTV Hausa at 10pm on Thursday, said no ransom was paid before the boys were released.
When asked if ransom was paid before the release of the boys, he said, “We did not pay ransom to the kidnappers, it was purely negotiation.”
Explaning how the boys were released, “One hour ago, Nigerian soldiers and government officials that were involved in the negotiation for the release of the kidnapped schoolboys have told us that the whole school children have been released, 344 of them.
“Those involved in the negotiation include my adviser, some top military and police operatives, members of Miyetti Allah; (they) where all involved in the negotiation.”
He also said those who kidnapped the boys were not Boko Haram.“They are bandits who kidnapped the schoolboys, not Boko Haram.”
Recall that the gunmen suspected to be bandits abducted the students last Friday night from their school’s hostel in a Gestapo-like action.
Police confirm release of Kankara schoolchildren
Speaking with The PUNCH, the Zamfara State Police Commissioner, Usman Nagogo, said the boys would be handed over to Katsina state Government as soon as investigation into their health condition was concluded.
Nagogo maintained that all the schoolchildren were looking healthy, adding that none of them complained of any ailment.
“The boys are healthy but looking very tired; we will hand them over to their state as soon as possible.”
The CP, however, did not mention whether any ransom was paid before their release.
Earlier, before the students’ release from captivity on Thursday, the Boko Haram sect had claimed that it released a video showing the kidnapped students of GSS, Kankara in Katsina.
The video showing some students inside a forest was released barely 24 hours after the Katsina State Governor, Aminu Bello Masari, insisted that the terrorist group was not responsible for the abduction of over 344 students of GSS Kankara.
But one of the terrorists, who spoke in the background, was heard saying “This is to show the Governor of Katsina State that the boys are in good health. Look at them, look at them; by merely looking at them, you will see that they are in good health.”
The over six-minute long video was released by the sect to ostensibly dismiss claims by Masari and the Nigerian Army that it (Boko Haram) was not responsible for the mass abduction.
However, following prompting from some of the terrorists, a boy in the video with several of his captured colleagues in the background, who spoke intermittently in Hausa and passable English language said, “Please dissolve any kind of school, excluding Islamiyah.
“We are pleading with the authorities to please recall the soldiers and the airplanes; they cannot do anything to these people (Boko Haram members); please.”
Buhari welcomes abducted Kankara students’ release
Reacting to the latest development, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, quoted the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), as welcoming the release of the kidnapped students of GSS, Kankara, Katsina State.
Shehu in a statement quoted the President as describing their safe return as a big relief to their families, the entire country and international community.
Parents deny knowing students in B’Haram video
But some parents of the abducted students of GSS Kankara and residents have dismissed the video purportedly posted by the Boko Haram sect on Thursday morning, showing some youths in captivity in a forest.
A father of one of the students, MallamAminu Dayyabu, said none of the youths showed in the video was a student of the school.
Dayyabu, whose 12-year-old son, Farouq Aminu, was among the abducted students, however, prayed that the bandits did not kill the students in retaliation for any other steps taken by the government apart from negotiation, to secure the release of the students.
“None of the students shown in the video, including the older one, who spoke in Hausa, was a student of the school.
“I will appeal to the government not to use violence to get the students freed. The bandits and members of the Boko Haram sect are parents too and would not want to harm the students. But Almighty Allah knows the best.”
Another woman, Murjanatu Danja, who is a mother of another abducted student, Hussaina Nasiru, said the faces in the Boko Haram video were not that of abducted students.
She said, “The faces in that video are not that of the abducted students. Even if I cannot identify other faces, I should be able to identify Hussaina’s face. But the faces are strange.
“I appeal again that government should secure the release of our children before their abductors take them far from home.”
Crime endemic in Nigeria, US cautions citizens
Meanwhile, the United States Embassy in Nigeria has again asked American citizens to exercise caution while travelling and residing in Nigeria.
In a security alert published on the Embassy’s website on Wednesday, the mission said, “Crime was endemic throughout Nigeria, ranging from petty street crime to carjacking, and crime levels tend to increase during the holidays.”
It noted, “Terrorist organisations and individuals inspired by extremist ideology exist throughout Nigeria.
“Shopping centres, airports, hotels, clubs, restaurants, places of worship, transportation hubs, street markets, and other public venues frequented by Westerners are common attack targets.”
The statement titled, ‘Holiday security alert’, further said that criminal and other elements often infiltrated large gatherings.
It noted that public demonstrations, which it said, were common, could inhibit flow of traffic.
The mission advised Americans to be aware of their surroundings, keep a low profile and carry proper identification.
The advisory directed them to “stay alert in public places and locations frequented by tourists/Westerners; review your personal security plans and use caution when driving at night and avoid walking after dark.”
Sokoto orders closure of boarding schools in border areas
In another development, the Sokoto State Government has ordered the immediate closure of 16 boarding schools along its borderlines.
This is the outcome of its 17th Security Council meeting held at the Government House that dragged into the late hours of Wednesday.
This followed the brief received by the Council from the state Commissioner for Basic and Secondary Education, Dr Muhammad Guiwa, on the security situation in the affected areas and the threats this portends.
The affected schools are Government Girls Model Secondary School, Illela, Sultan Muhammadu Tambari Arabic Secondary School, Illela, Gamji Girls College, Rabah, Government Secondary School, Gada, Government Secondary School, Gandi and Government Secondary School, Goronyo
Others are Government Secondary School, Isa, Government Secondary School Sabon Birnin Gobir, Boarding Primary School, Isa, Boarding Primary School, Balle and Boarding Primary School, Jabo.
The remaining are UBE Junior Secondary School, Sabon Birni, Government Secondary School, Kebbe, Government Secondary School, Tureta, Government Technical College, Binji and Olusegun Obasanjo Technical College, Bafarawa.
Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal disclosed that “the schools were to be closed temporarily for two weeks.”
The governor directed the Ministries of Basic and Secondary Education and that of Science and Technology to temporarily merge the students of the affected schools with those of other schools for the continuation of their studies pending the improvement in the security situation of the affected areas
Buhari must sit up –Ortom
Reacting to the abduction of over 300 students by terrorist in Kankara, the Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom, described the development as an indication of a failed leadership.
Ortom told journalists during his visit to the Correctional Centre in Makurdi, called on the President, Major General Muhammad Buhari (retd.), to sit up and ensure the safety of Nigerians.
While considering how the GSS Kankara students were abducted in the President’s home country while he (Buhari) was on vacation, the governor noted that no part of the country was currently safe,
Ortom said, “The abduction of school students in Katsina State is disheartening. President Buhari must sit up; the service chiefs must sit up because the primary duty of government is to protect citizens and property.
“That brings to the fore what I have been saying that leadership has failed; that is why we are experiencing this. I have reiterated the dire need to reposition the country. We must sit down and dialogue as a people.”
The governor said that following the incident in Kankara in Katsina State, he had ordered the State Commissioner for Education, Dennis Ityavyar, to ensure the immediate closure of all boarding schools in the state to avert a repeat of such incident.
CNG protest in Katsina
Earlier, the Coalition of Northern Groups staged a peaceful protest in Katsina over the abduction of students of GSS Kankara.
The protest was carried out on Thursday morning within the premises of a hotel in Katsina, owing to what the leadership of the coalition attributed to security reasons and assurances from the state government over the safety of the abducted students.
Members of the group carried placards with inscriptions like ‘Rebuild the North and not destroy it’, ‘Nobody is safe in the North’, ‘End banditry now’ and ‘Bring back our boys’.
The group had earlier addressed a press conference in the hotel during which it criticised the Federal Government over its failure to provide security for Nigerians as enshrined in the constitution.
The CNG in a statement at the press conference by its National Coordinator, Balarabe Rufai, said, “It gives no one any pleasure to see that northern Nigeria has today been abandoned at the mercy of vicious insurgents, bandits, kidnappers, armed robbers, rapists and an assortment of hardened criminals, who roam about and operate with ease.
“Sensing a huge vacuum in the political will and capacity of government to challenge them, these criminal gangs have spread their activities and made life miserable for millions of people across states like Borno, Yobe, Zamfara, Kaduna, Katsina, Sokoto, Kebbi, Niger, Plateau, Adamawa, Benue and literally prohibited the use of major highways in northern Nigeria.
“The insecurity along the northern highways is so high that people are afraid of travelling 50 miles from Funtua to Zaria; or 80 kilometers from Zaria to Kaduna, not to talk of from Sokoto to Abuja or Kano.
This frightening state of insecurity has in the last couple of weeks, escalated with the massacre of 43 rice farmers and the disappearance of 80 others in the hands insurgents in Zabarmari, Borno State.
“The situation deteriorated to the current unacceptable level with the abduction of hundreds of students of Government Science Secondary School, Kankara in Katsina State by armed gangs that rode in and out freely without any security presence.
“President Buhari has ultimately reneged on the pledge he made in Chatham House, London in 2015, to tackle insecurity head on across the country, including paying special attention to the welfare of our soldiers in and out of service, and giving them adequate and modern arms and ammunition to work with.
“Consequent upon the forgone observations, the CNG has lined up a set of actions to force President Buhari and his government to act on the grave situation in the country.”
Also, another round of protest later rocked Kankara in connection with the students’ abduction.
In response to the abduction of over 300 GSS Kankara students, supporters of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, on Thursday staged a peaceful protest in front of the party’s Legacy House, Maitama, Abuja, to demand the safe return of the children.
National Chairman of the PDP, Chief Uche Secondus, who led the protesters, said the party, like most Nigerians, was traumatised by the callous action of the criminals, who abducted the children.
The party, however, demanded that the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), and the ruling All Progressives Congress should do more than issue statements condemning the act by going all out to reunite the children with their parents.
Secondus said, “This is a peaceful protest to make the entire country and international community to be aware of what is going on in our country.