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Zamfara denies paying N800m for abducted Kankara School boys’ release

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[FILES] A child wraps himself in a blanket while gathering at the Government House with other students from the Government Science Secondary school, in Kankara, in northwestern Katsina State, Nigeria upon their release on December 18, 2020. – More than 300 Nigerian schoolboys were released on Thursday after being abducted in an attack claimed by Boko Haram, officials said, although it was unclear if any more remained with their captors (Photo by Kola SULAIMON / AFP)

…negotiations working for us, says chief of staff
The Zamfara State government has denied involvement in the payment of N800m for the release of abducted schoolboys in Kankara Local Government Area of Katsina State.

The Guardian gathered that leader of the bandits, Auwalun Daudawa, who surrendered some weapons after he claimed he had repented last Monday, was paid N30m to do so.

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Auwalun Daudawa and his gang, on December 11, 2020, invaded Government Science Secondary School, Kankara around 11 pm, shooting indiscriminately to scare residents. The operation led to the disappearance of over 344 students.

Daudawa, while speaking after he took an oath of repentance in Gusau, Zamfara State capital, claimed he was not paid any ransom.

However, sources familiar with the negotiation between the top commander of the bandits and the state government, said he was paid millions of naira as compensation for some of his gang members killed by security operatives.

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The source said: “This is how Kankara schoolboys’ kidnappers got paid through a former caretaker chairman of Jibia Local Government Area of Katsina State, one Haruna Musa Mota. But it revealed that they were not fully paid, as the government withdrew over N800m from security/public treasury, while the bandits’ leader admitted receipt of only N30m.”

In a leaked telephone conversation between Daudawa and Mota, the latter admitted the group collected N30m from the state government.

When told by Mota that some government officials claimed N800m was given to the group, Daudawa exclaimed: “You said what? N800m? How many millions again? Who said that? So, they paid N30m and claimed N800m? Now, they have stopped cattle rearing.”

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Responding, the former council boss said, “I will send you the speech and I will advise you speak out so that citizens will know you did what you did for peace and what they paid you was N30m. This is not fair at all. They call us thieves, while they are the real thieves. We want peace but this governor has no integrity.”

Mota was arrested a few days later over alleged ties with the bandits.

After their release on December 17, 2020, Governor of Zamfara State, Bello Matawalle, said the schoolboys were rescued with the help of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) and that no ransom was paid.

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Katsina State governor, Aminu Bello Masari, also said insinuations that ransom was paid for the boys’ release were false.

In a phone conversation with The Guardian, the Senior Special Adviser, Public Enlightenment, Media and Communications to Zamfara State governor, Zailani Bappa, said no money was paid to the bandits to release the boys.

“If anybody gave them money, maybe it was from another state. The boys were released to Zamfara State government, and the discussion we had was that of understanding. For one and a half years, we have been getting people released without any ransom, and this is what we have continued to do with the bandits. We are not aware of any ransom, we are not aware of any money given out…”

He said Daudawa’s arrest had vindicated Matawalle over allegations that he was harbouring bandits.

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Chief of Staff to Zamfara state governor, Dr. Muhammad Bashir Maru, told The Guardian measures already put in place by the governor to tame insecurity and banditry in the state.

Noting that bandits held sway in previous administrations, he said the current administration through Governor Bello Matawalle improvised ways by which he can bring back peace to Zamfara, where he introduced kinetic and non-kinetic approach.

He said the approach and initiative, which involved negotiations had brought greater peace to the state, while issues with banditry had reduced to the barest minimum.

“Since his administration there is peace in Zamfara, though the banditry has not ended but there is peace to a greater extent.

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“A lot of them have started laying down their arms due to the negotiation the governor is carrying out. The initiative of the governor is working. But for those that do not want to repent, it is fire for fire for them,” Maru said.

He said it was unkind for the ruling party to accuse Governor Matawalle of negotiating with bandits.

He said: “Every governor has his own method and part of the defeat initiative of the governor of Zamfara state is to engage other neighbours; Kaduna and Katsina and other neighbouring states in the North West to see how they can come together to end and have a single approach to ending this issue of banditry but unfortunately, most of them are doing the otherwise.

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“For instance, Kaduna sent a message that he cannot negotiate with bandits, just few days ago, tens of people have been killed in different axis and the responsibility of this government is to protect lives and properties of the citizenry. What you do as a government is to ensure your territory is safe so that the people can sleep with their eyes closed and what works in Kaduna may not work in Zamfara.

“We in Zamfara accept the defeat initiative of the state government. The state’s assembly, the local government chairmen and Islamic preachers, among others encouraged the governor to continue with the defeat initiative. Before this administration, Zamfara was a hot den for banditry but now schools and markets have been opened.”

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