The bandits who abducted 287 school children at Kuriga in Chikun Local Government Area of Kaduna State have demanded a N1billion ransom to set their captives free. They also threatened to kill the victims if the ransom was not paid in 20 days.

But the military vowed yesterday to rescue the school children to their parents unhurt, explaining that bandits now embark on mass abduction to use their victims as human shields, in view of the clearance operations by its officers and men.

Recall that on Thursday, March 7, 2024, the bandits invaded the school, shot one of the pupils and escaped into the bush with over 200 others, including some secondary school students they marched into the primary school premises.

The bandit’s demand for ransom came barely 24 hours after President Bola Tinubu warned against payment of ransom to criminal elements, including bandits.

“The President has directed that security agencies must, as a matter of urgency, ensure that these children and all those who have been kidnapped are brought back in safety and also in the process, to ensure that not a dime is paid as ransom”.  The Minister of Information and National Orientation, Alhaji Muhammed Idris, had quoted the President as saying after Wednesday’s Federal Executive Council, FEC, meeting.

According to Reuters, the bandits contacted a spokesman for the families of the school children, demanding a total of 1 billion naira ($620,432) for their release. It’s also said the kidnappers vowed to kill the students and staff in 20 days, if their demand was not met.

A leader of the community, Jubril Aminu, who acts as spokesman for the families of the hostages, said: “They (kidnappers) made a total of a N1 billion ransom demand for all the pupils, students and staff of the school.

“They gave a request to pay the ransom within 20 days, effective from the date of the kidnap. They said they will kill all the students and the staff if the ransom demand is not met.”

Idris Ibrahim, an elected official from Kuriga Ward municipal council, who also confirmed the ransom demand and the amount, said: “Yes, the kidnappers called the community through Jubril Aminu’s number and made the demand.

“They called from a hidden number but the authorities are working on getting the number.’’

He added that the security forces were taking “adequate measures” to secure the release of the students.

Military vows to rescue school children

Meanwhile, the military vowed yesterday to rescue the schoolchildren and return them unhurt to their families. The Director of Defence Media Operations, Major General Edward Buba, who made the vow at a briefing in Abuja yesterday, said the military is committed to rescuing all kidnapped victims unhurt.

He, however, blamed the school owners for failing to report cases of abduction to security agencies on time, while also blaming the recent kidnapping of some internally displaced persons in Gamboru-Ngala, Borno State, on their disobedience to instructions as they left the camp in search of firewood without informing camp officials.

Major-General Buba said the kidnap was a ploy by the bandits to use them as human shields, following the onslaught that had led to the elimination of their leaders and foot soldiers in recent weeks.

He noted that the terrorists/bandits might also be planning on recruiting new foot soldiers, hence the abduction of young students and children

“We have depleted their ranks, and neutralized many of their commanders and foot soldiers. The terrorists exhibited gross cowardice by going after children.

“We have taken their commanders out. We recently acquired new air platforms to further decimate them. They know we mean business. It is to protect themselves that they went after the students. But we will not rest until all the kidnapped victims are rescued.”

Gen Buba, however, stated that it took more than six hours after the students were abducted for the information to get to security agencies before machinery was commenced for the rescue efforts.

He said: “As in every war, there are complexities and ours is no exception. Recently, cases of citizens being abducted in the North-East, North-West and North-Central theatres of operations were recorded.

“These citizens were abducted by a brutal and blood-thirsty group that should only be addressed as terrorists, not bandits. I repeat these are terrorists and not bandits.

“They are holding these citizens against their will and all norms of human behaviour, and the laws of armed conflict and any good measure in the world.

“Several of their leaders and commanders have been neutralised as a result of troops onslaught. They want to use these hostages as human shields for their survival. Nevertheless, be assured that we will not rest until the hostages are returned.

“No doubt, this is a difficult situation, but not one that is insurmountable. The hostage situation is an extremely sensitive one which unfortunately is not unprecedented in the history of the ongoing war.

“These hostages are being held in locations that are difficult to get to, but not out of reach. The situation is, however, indicative of the desperation of these terrorists to avoid troops’ onslaught by all means.

“Recall that in recent times, troops have decimated several of the terrorist’s leaders, commanders and foot soldiers and fast closing in on several others.

“These terrorists have exhibited cowardice by going for such soft targets to impede troops’ advances. I assure you that we will not rest until they are returned.

“Given the hostage situation, it can be deduced that the search and rescue effort was grossly affected by the non-notification of troops of the incident on time. Nevertheless, I can assure you that we will not rest until these hostages are returned.

“However, because of the sensitivity of the matter, I cannot go into further details as to signs of life, location, and the different options we have to get these hostages back.

“Let me further assure you that getting these hostages back is very clearly at the top of our priorities. It is for this reason we have leveraged our international partners for support.

“Accordingly, they are providing the necessary support, including intelligence that is giving us the advantage in dealing with the ugly situation.’’

NSCDC working with others to secure the release of Kaduna students — CG

Also yesterday, the Commandant-General of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps NSCDC, Dr Ahmed Abubakar Audi, assured the government and people of Kaduna State that with the collaborative efforts of security agencies, there would be speedy recovery of school children and students recently abducted in the state.

Spokesman of the Corps, Babawale Afolabi, said in a statement in Abuja that the CG gave the assurances when he visited Kaduna State governor, Senator Uba Sani.

“Your Excellency Sir, as a matter of concern, let me on behalf of the NSCDC management and personnel across the nation, say that we are ready to work in collaboration with all relevant security agencies with full mechanism and security apparatus put in place to see that the perpetrators of this heinous crime do not go scot-free.

“The NSCDC remains a key actor in the nation’s internal security and the lead agency in the Safe Schools Initiative.

“Currently, we are in strong synergy with the Nigerian Army, the Police and others for the quick and safe return of the abducted students,” the CG said.

The NSCDC boss commended the governor for providing the necessary logistics for the state command to function effectively while also praying for the allocation of a befitting command permanent site and operational vehicles that will enhance the discharge of the Corps’ statutory mandate in safeguarding all critical national assets and infrastructure across the state.

He also appealed to various communities in Kaduna State to work closely with security agencies by providing actionable intelligence and information to achieve the desired success and results afterwards.

On his part, Governor Sani lauded the good gesture exhibited by the CG and the effective collaboration of the Corps with the Armed Forces, Nigeria Police, and the DSS, among others.

He said all critical stakeholders must play active roles to forestall criminalities and frustrate the evil men whose delight was to disrupt the peace and stability of the state.

FCT to use drones to track kidnappers — Wike

Meanwhile, the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Nyesom Wike, said his Administration has secured presidential approval to provide drones and other surveillance equipment to track kidnappers.

Wike, who stated this in a television interview monitored in Abuja, also recalled his earlier disclosure in a media chat that security agencies in the territory lacked digital tracking tools.

He said; “It is unfortunate to say this, that mostly the security agencies, in particular I will say, the Police here, are not adequately equipped. You cannot believe that the police command of the FCT does not even have an ordinary tracking device.

‘’Not only them, even the FCT command of the Department of State Services, DSS, do not even have. And the only one they have is at the headquarters. So, if there are things to do, they have to go to the headquarters, which is not supposed to be.

‘’Luckily, I told Mr President that look, we have to do something, and there must be the emergency procurement of this equipment.

“That is one of the approvals Mr President gave to us that we said look, we are going to purchase our drones to help in surveillance and operations, particularly within these boundaries that the topography is so bad, so hilly, and where you have the forests.

“We have made sure that it is provided for in the 2024 statutory budget. I briefed the National Assembly yesterday (Wednesday) on this and they were highly elated.

According to him, the FCT Administration has consequently applied to the Bureau of Public Procurement, BPP, for emergency procurement but which was denied until the presidential intervention in January.

19 Northern Govs, NSA, service chiefs meet on possible review of security architecture

Meanwhile, the National Security Adviser, NSA, Nuhu Ribadu, governors of the 19 northern states and service chiefs also had a marathon meeting yesterday to review the security situation in the north, to profer a lasting solution to the insecurity in the region.

The meeting, which held behind closed doors, started at 1:30 pm and ended at about 6pm.

The chairman, Northern Governors Forum and governor of Gombe State, Inuwa Yahaya, said the meeting was convened to discuss and review strategies towards tackling cases of insecurity in the north.

“The essence of the meeting, as you can see, is between the governors and the service chiefs and the national security adviser, NSA.

“So it relates to security and you know security is very typical, especially the recent issues of kidnapping in the North-West and we are becoming so concerned that we need to discuss, review and possibly take alternative options to what we have been doing before, so we can have a better result.”

The governor added that the need for a collaborative approach to tackling insecurity in the region necessitated the meeting.

He stressed the need for non-kinetic and kinetic approaches to address the remote causes of insecurity.

Governor Inuwa said the security agencies were doing their best, but noted that there was the need for a non-kinetic approach to addressing the root causes of the problem.

“In fact, that’s the best way to go because the issue is until we join the two (approaches) and already the service chiefs and all other security agencies have been doing their best trying to cover all ground.

“So what we need to do is to change the style, especially in addition to the non-kinetic approach, so that when we join the two, we’ll have a better security situation in the country at the ebnd of the day,” he stated.

Recall that aside from 287 school children, students and their teachers kidnapped at LEA Primary and Junior Secondary School, Kuriga in Chikun local government area of Kaduna State, 112 were abducted at internally displaced persons, IDPs, camp in Gamboru Ngala Local Government Area of Borno State, while 16 Tsangaya Almagiri students were also abducted in Sokoto State last Saturday.

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