Bandits free 340 students abducted in Katsina State
• Northern groups opt for self-defence
• Security operatives restrict Katsina rally, halt Daura march
• Insecurity now unbearable, coalition declares
• Obasanjo, Ortom blame crisis on failed leadership
Katsina State Governor, Aminu Masari, yesterday, confirmed release of 340 students of Government Science Secondary School (GSSS) Kankara, who were abducted by gunmen a week ago.
Masari, in an interview aired on the Nigeria Television Network (NTA) 9 p.m. news, said the students initially held hostage in a forest in Zamfara State were released after negotiations with their abductors. He said they were on their way to Katsina on Thursday night.
According to him, it was agreed that military operatives should not use force to rescue the students to avoid casualties. The Director-General, Media to the Governor, Mr. Abdul Labaran, in a phone interview, also corroborated Masari’s claim.
“Yes, the students have been released by their abductors. 340 of them are currently being transported from Zamfara forest to Katsina State Government House this night (Thursday). The governor’s spokesman was, however, silent on whether ransom was paid for the release of the schoolboys.
Meanwhile, Governor Aminu Bello Masari is expected to address a world press conference as soon as the freed students arrive Government House.
At the time of compiling this report, top government officials, including security agencies, were heading to Kankara to receive the children.
EARLIER, a coalition of northern groups, yesterday, vowed to mobilise communities in the region for self-defence.
The groups, under the aegis of Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG), made the declaration at a protest it held in Katsina to demand rescue of over 300 students of Kankara Science Secondary School from abductors.
CNG, at the protest, said insecurity in the country had escalated under President Muhammadu Buhari beyond the levels ever imagined. National Coordinator of the coalition, Balarabe Rufai, who made the declaration at a press conference to commemorate the protest, also accused Buhari of reneging on the promise he made at Chatham House, London in 2015, that hewould tackle insecurity head-on across the country. He accused the government of being “helpless, incompetent, incapable or unwilling” to rescue the more than 300 students abducted by gunmen in Kankara.
Rufai also alleged that some powerful politicians in Buhari’s government were unwilling to see the end of security problems in the country, probably because it served their selfish interests.
Another sore point in the administration’s record, according to the CNG, is the resort to incessant suppression of peaceful protests by government.
President Buhari and his government, he stated, “are apparently helpless,” arguing that the audacity with which the over 300 schoolchildren were abducted while the President was in Katsina, confirmed fears government had completely lost the prerogative of providing security and therefore no longer reliable.
He added: “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 modern arms and ammunitions to work with.
“The security challenges in the country, particularly in the North, which faces complete human, economic, and educational emasculation, have escalated beyond the former state of affairs before the coming of the Buhari administration in 2015.”
While he announced the group’s plan to “mobilise communities for coordinated self protection,” he called for mass and prolonged #BringgBackOurBoys campaign “in solidarity with the deprived parents of the kidnapped Katsina students across all the northern region.”
Checkmated by security operatives to frustrate the rally, the group staged “a short symbolic protest” within the premises of the conference venue. They sang anti-insecurity songs and displayed Bringbackourboys placards.
It was gathered the protest was restricted to the venue of the press conference following meetings security operatives had with the coalition. The group was dissuaded from holding public protest by painting a grim picture of likely outcome.
The group presented a letter to the state government, detailing their displeasure at the security situation, especially the kidnap of the over 300 students in the state.
Receiving the letter on behalf of Governor Aminu Masari, his Special Adviser on Security, Ibrahim Katsina, said more security operatives had been deployed to rescue abducted students. The group had planned to stage the protest within the Katsina metropolis, before marching to Daura.
Meanwhile, there was a mild drama in the social media yesterday after the Chairman/CEO of Nigerian Diaspora commission, Abike Dabiri Erewa, put out a tweet suggesting that the boys had been released. She later pulled down the post claiming that her twitter handle was hijacked.
PEACEFUL protest, however, held in Kankara town, where the over 300 students were abducted. Although details of the incident were sketchy at press time, it was learnt the protest was organised by sympathisers and some parents of missing children.
A similar protest had held a day after the attack. A woman, an indigene of the state resident in Kaduna, had organised friends and youths for the protest.
IN the meantime, former President Olusegun Obasanjo and the Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom, yesterday, blamed recent abduction of Katsina students and other major abductions in the country on failed leadership in the country.
Obasanjo said Nigeria needed a leader who could provide leadership and coordinate efforts at tackling myriad of the problems bedeviling the country.
Obasanjo stated this while fielding questions from journalists after a courtesy call on Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State.
The former President, who paid a condolence visit to the governor on the demise of his mother, said: “There are many challenges in Nigeria today. There are challenges of security, economy, and political stability, among others. These challenges are not really new, except that they have taken a different dimension.
“I believe the most important aspect of dealing with all the challenges we have is: one, leadership; and two, coming together, that is, all hands being on deck. We all have to come together. But then, there must be leadership to get everybody to work.”
Ortom, who spoke with journalists during his visit to a correctional centre in Makurdi, noted that if such an incident could happen in the President’s country home while he was there, then no part of the country is safe.
He said he had ordered the state Commissioner for Education, Dennis Ityavyar, to immediately close boarding schools in the state to avert attacks. President Buhari and service chiefs, he said, must wake up to their responsibilities by confronting security challenges.