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Despair as hoodlums sack security meeting in Kaduna

By Kanayo Umeh (Abuja), Saxone Akhaine, Abdulganiyu Alabi (Kaduna), Danjuma Michael (Katsina) and Sunday Aikulola (Lagos)
15 December 2020   |   4:31 am
Hopelessness, yesterday, enveloped efforts at stopping bandits in the North as suspected thugs attacked and disrupted a security meeting at Arewa House in Kaduna, inflicting injuries on participants.

President Muhammadu Buhari (left) and Katsina State Governor, Aminu Bello Masari during the governor’s visit to brief the President on the Kankara school abductions, at the President’s House in Daura, Katsina State…yesterday. 

• Attackers injure participants, cart away valuables • Masari briefs President on Kankara abduction • Sultan queries FG’s political will
• Northern elders restate calls for sack of service chiefs, foreign help • Abduction of students, a slap on Buhari’s face, says JNI
• Northern youths call for restructuring, arms for citizens • UN laments kidnap of students

Hopelessness, yesterday, enveloped efforts at stopping bandits in the North as suspected thugs attacked and disrupted a security meeting at Arewa House in Kaduna, inflicting injuries on participants.

The attackers, brandishing dangerous weapons, stormed the House at about 11 a.m., carting away valuables such as mobile phones and destroying properties worth millions of naira.

The attack made Nigerians slip into despair as they lamented the development. The meeting was organised by the Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG) following the abduction of over 300 students in Katsina State, to adopt common strategies against the criminals.

Retired military officers, retired police officers, religious leaders, traditional rulers, women, youths and trade associations were in attendance.
Addressing newsmen after the assault, Chairman of the Coalition, Balarabe Rufai, described it as unfortunate, alleging that enemies of the North and Nigeria sponsored it.

Rufai explained that just as the meeting was commencing, armed men stormed the auditorium after subduing civil guards at the gate. Majority of the participants, according to him, had to escape through windows He however said that “this objective we have of reviewing security situation in the north where people are being killed on daily” won’t be stopped.

“This attack won’t deter us; we are going to have another meeting in another place and discuss how to complement government’s effort in bringing out security outfit that is multi-sectoral, where all people will come in and have what we intend to call Arewa Security Marshall,” he said.

Similarly, the spokesman for the group, Abdulaziz Suleiman, in a statement, narrated how hoodlums overturned tables, shattered glasses, attacked guests and officials, injuring many and destroying vehicles on the premises.

He lamented that “a battalion of armed thugs could stroll free across the streets of central Kaduna, wielding dangerous weapons without the intervention of the security.”

Security operatives, according to him, only arrived hours after the thugs had left. He expressed fear that some powerful forces could be benefiting from the current security situation and would do everything for it to ensure it continued. Suleiman however pledged the committment of his group to ensuring the safety and security of the North and its people.

This came as President Buhari, on Monday, in Daura, Katsina State, received more briefing on the kidnapped Kankara students with an assurance from Governor Aminu Masari of steady progress to rescue them unharmed.

This is contained in a statement by the Senior Special Assistant to the President (Media & Publicity), Mr. Garba Shehu.

“We are making progress and the outlook is positive,’’ the governor told newsmen after an hour meeting with the President, which started at 2pm. The governor, who was accompanied by his deputy, Manir Yakubu, said the kidnappers had made contact and discussions were on pertaining the safety and return to their homes.

Governor Masari also noted that security agencies had located the position of the children and the President was committed to the rescue of the schoolchildren, adding that it was only appropriate to visit the President and give him more details of the rescue efforts.

EARLIER in the day, northern elders, under the aegis of Coalition of Northern Elders for Peace and Development, expressed concerns on the worsening security situation in the region, saying Friday’s attack on Government Science Secondary School, Kankara, in Katsina State, had further confirmed their position that the region was only now at the mercy of terrorists, bandits and other criminal elements.

They renewed their argument that the continued stay in office of the service chiefs was emboldening the adversaries in their actions against the country. In a statement yesterday signed by their National Coordinator, Zana Goni, and National Women Leader, Mario Bichi, the elders condemned the attack on the school children, saying the fact that development came few days after the decapitation of over 46 rice farmers in Zabarmari Village in Borno State, was disturbing.

They reiterated their earlier call on the President to seek foreign help, saying any further delay by the President might lead to extinction of the region.

“The latest attack on Government Science Secondary School, Kankara, in Katsina State, where over 333 children are reportedly missing has further confirmed our position that our region is now at the mercy of terrorists, bandits and other criminal elements.

“And as a result of this, we strongly believe that time has come for our President to bring in fresh hope and clear directions on how best the country will strategise to overcome the present insecurity situation in the country in general.” The statement read.

They reminded the President that in democracy, the voice of the majority prevails, they said the recent resolution by both chambers of the National Assembly that he replaced the services chiefs, was the view of the majority of Nigerians given that the parliament is a representation of the people.

SIMILARLY, the Sultan of Sokoto and President General of the Jama’atu Nasril Islam (JNI), Alhaji Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar, said, yesterday, that the kidnap of hundreds of schoolchildren in Katsina showed the current insurgency had overwhelmed the Federal Government.

In a statement issued and signed by the General Secretary of JNI, Dr. Khalid Aliyu, on behalf of the Sultan yesterday, the monarch said that Nigerians had been disappointed by the government they elected into office with the hope of securing their lives against insurgency.

The read: “The Sultan of Sokoto received with absolute shock the most unfortunate story of the abduction of students from Government Science Secondary School (GSSS), Kankara, Katsina State, after shooting the security guard on the spot, at about 10:45pm on Friday”, stressing that “this abduction in commando style is one tragedy too many coming on the heels of the infamous Zabarmari massacre just not long ago.”

He also queried the political will in the fight against insecurity, asking: “Is it that the political will isn’t there? What really is the challenge or Nigerians don’t deserve to know from the government they elected?” He asked government to spare no effort at rescuing all abducted students of GSSS Kankara and punish perpetrators.”

JOINT Action Committee of Northern Youth Associations, (JACOM) has declared that the President has failed in his primary duty of providing security and welfare for the people.

The committee made the declaration while condemning the kidnapping of Kankara students. It urged government to rescue the students urgently and avoid a repeat of the Chibok Girls experience.

In a communiqué signed by Muhammed Murtala Abubakar, the convener of JACOM and Kumaga Rapheal Terkula, the Chairman, called for restructuring of the country to pave way for community policing. The committee also urged the Inspector General of Police to lift ban on arms acquisition by citizens to enable them protect themselves from killers.

“We recognise the need to restructure Nigeria and review the requirements and allow responsible Nigerians and communities the right to apply for fire arms to protect themselves.”

UNITED Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres, yesterday, strongly condemned the attack and abduction of students in Katsina State.
According to spokesman for the Secretary-General, Stéphane Dujarric, the UN chief has called for the immediate and unconditional release of the abducted children and for their safe return to their families. He said attacks on schools and other educational facilities constituted a grave violation of human rights. He urged Nigerian authorities to bring the abductors to justice.

The Secretary-General reaffirmed the solidarity and support of the United Nations to the Government and people of Nigeria in their fight against terrorism, violent extremism and organised crime.

MEANWHILE, controversy surrounds the number of students abducted by gunmen in Katsina
The controversy followed interview granted by spokesperson for the Presidency, Garba Shehu, who maintained that only 10 of the students were still in the hands of their captors.

In a BBC Hausa Service bulletin on Sunday, Shehu was quoted as saying security forces had surrounded where gunmen kept the schoolchildren, and that only ten boys are with them.

“Spokesman for the President, Mallam Garba Shehu told the BBC only ten children were remaining in the hands of the gunmen according to their colleagues who escaped from the gunmen.”

But Governor Aminu Masari, who hosted the Service Chiefs at the Government House same day, said as far government record showed, 333 of the students were yet to be accounted for.

Masari had, however, said some of the students that escaped might have managed to reach their homes, even as he called on parents with handsets to let government know their sons had returned.

The governor said the school has a “population of 839 and so far we are yet to account for 333 students and we are still counting because more are still coming out of the forest.

“We are also calling on parents, those parents that have phone numbers to find out whether their children have gone back home, because we have discovered that in so many local governments the children have gone back.

“But based on the records that we have, we are still searching for 333 children through parents and forests in order to ascertain the actual number that have been kidnapped.”

While in Katsina, the Minister of Defence, Maj.-Gen Bashir Magashi (rtd) said the security operatives would use their various units to confront the bandits with the view to rescuing the abducted students.

Magashi said the abducted students, most of whom are teenagers would be rescued within hours. He, however, called for prayers so that there would be no collateral damage during confrontation with the students’ abductors, to the people of the state.

An earlier report two days ago, had indicated that 54 of the students were unaccounted for following the incident, but same had been overtaken by recent events.

Sources who spoke on the issue said the discrepancy may have been due to information gap between the Presidential spokesperson and the state government.

They also said the recent events may have resulted in the rescue of additional number of students between time both men had spoken on the issue. Masari, while speaking with newsmen late Sunday night, had assured he would personally update on developments as they come, as regards the abducted students.

Meanwhile, normalcy has returned to Kankara town and its environs following attack Friday night at the government-owned secondary school. A source who spoke with The Guardian said the school is located close to a footpath often used by bandits, when they go in and out of a close-by forest. He, however, said security presence had increased in the area, and that parents of some of the abducted students often came to the school in the hope they’ll get good news about them.