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Bandits demand N1bn for 287 pupils, issue March 27 deadline .

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Bandits

Gift Habib, Solomon Odeniyi and Israel Bulus
• Kidnappers called on Tuesday, gave us 20 days to raise ransom, says community leader

• Hostages held in difficult location, used as human shield to prevent bombardment – DHQ

The gunmen, who kidnapped 287 students and teachers from the LEA Primary School and the Government Secondary School, Kuriga, Kaduna State last week have demanded N1bn for their release.

The hoodlums, who made the demand also gave a deadline that would elapse on March 27, 2024, for the payment of the ransom.

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Reuters reported on Wednesday that the bandits contacted a spokesman for the families of the hostages on Tuesday and demanded the ransom.

On March 7, 2024, the schoolchildren were abducted by the hoodlums who took them into the forest.

Reuters reported that a community leader, Jubril Aminu, who acted as a spokesman for the families of the hostages, said he received a call on his phone from the kidnappers on Tuesday.

Aminu stated, “They made a total of N1bn ransom demand for all the pupils, students, and staff of the school.

“They gave an ultimatum to pay the ransom within 20 days, effective from the date of the kidnap (March 7). They said they would kill all the students and the staff if the ransom demand is not met.”

According to Reuters, a councillor representing Kuriga Ward in the Chikun Local Gornment, Idris Ibrahim, confirmed the ransom demand.

“Yes, the kidnappers called the community through Jubril Aminu’s number and made the demand,” he said.

“They called from a hidden number but the authorities are working on getting the number,” Ibrahim told Reuters.

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

But a source in the Kuriga community told one of our correspondents that there was heightened tension in the area following the demand of the bandits.

“After the disclosure by a community leader, Jibril Aminu, to the Kuriga people, there has been a lot of tension in Kuriga, particularly among the parents of abducted students of that particular community. They are in a state of trauma. They need oxygen to survive, that is the stage we can describe how they are.

“Saying that the kidnappers need N1bn, honestly speaking, it is a huge amount of money and the community does not have the money to pay. One of the parents (a woman) of the abducted students is terribly sick because her main concern is her daughter who left the house without breakfast.

“There is an apprehension among Kuriga people. They said the government has abandoned them.’’

The source further stated that there was also the concern about “who kidnapped these students. It is now established that ISWAP is behind the abduction of Kuriga students and teachers. Some said that those people who abducted the train passengers are responsible for this issue.

“Honestly, there is a conspiracy of silence regarding these abducted Kuriga students. Nobody, even the politicians are not talking about the abducted school children.”

Councillor speaks

The Councillor representing Kuriga Ward, Ibrahim, said the community could not afford N1bn ransom

Idris, who disclosed this to The PUNCH on Thursday in Kaduna, said the residents were already struggling with the hard economy to feed their families before the terrorists struck.

He stated, “ We only make our appeal to the Kaduna State Government and they’ve not promised us whether they are going to pay the ransom or not. The terrorists have not yet called since they made their demand of N1bn ransom.”

He lamented that since the incident occurred, parents and their families had been having sleepless. nights

Idiris stated, “ There is tension and fear already in the community as most villagers are evacuating their families to neighboring villages.”

He added that most of the members of the community were predominantly farmers, adding the sad incident would pose a serious challenge as the rainy season draws near.

He appealed to the Kaduna State Government and military to deploy soldiers in the community so that people could regain their confidence.

The Chief Press Secretary to the Kaduna State Governor, Muhammad Lawal Shehu, said the Kaduna State Governor , Uba Sani, was committed to rescuing the children.

 

The CPS appealed to the media not jeopardize the ongoing effort toward rescuing the kidnapped victims.

Attempts to get the Kaduna State Police Command Public Relations Officer, Hassan Mansir, to get an update on the efforts to rescue the abductees did not succeed as he did not pick call to his mobile telephone nor respond to a text sent to the line.

The Minister of Information, Mohammed Idris, had told reporters on Wednesday that President Bola Tinubu’s position on the kidnappings in Kuriga was that security forces should secure the hostages’ release without any payment to the kidnappers.

“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 to safety and also in the process ensure that not a dime is paid for ransom.”

493 in captivity

The recent kidnappings in the North have led to the captivity of about 493 children and adults in Kaduna, Borno and Sokoto states.

On March 4, 2024, about 200 women were reportedly abducted by Boko Haram terrorists from the internally displaced persons camp at Gamboru-Ngala in Borno State.

Although the United Nations put the figure at about 200 females, residents said the missing women were about 102. The women were reportedly abducted when they went out of the IDP camp in search of firewood in the bush.

On March 11, The PUNCH reported that nine out of the abducted 200 women and girls had returned home. This means about 191 are still in captivity.

On March 9, it was also reported that bandits kidnapped no fewer than 15 Tsangaya students at Gidan Bakuso area of Gada Local Government Area in Sokoto State. The incident took place about 1am at the school premises.

On March 7, 2024, about 287 schoolchildren, some older students and members of the school staff were abducted in the town of Kuriga, Kaduna State.

Going by the above figures, it implies that about 493 children and adults are currently held by bandits in Kaduna, Sokoto and Borno states,

NSCDC vows rescue

The Commandant General of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, Ahmed Audi, said on Thursday that abducted students and teachers of Government Secondary School and LEA Primary School in Kuriga Chikun LGA in Kaduna would be rescued.

Audi gave this assurance in a when he visited the Kaduna State Governor, Senator Uba Sani, a statement on Thursday by the NSCDC spokesman, Babawale Afolabi, stated.

The CG said the corps was ready to work with relevant security agencies to effect the release of the students and their teachers and to ensure that the perpetrators do not go scot-free.

Audi stated, “We are ready to work in collaboration with all relevant security agencies with full mechanisms 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.”

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

Governor Sani lauded the effective collaboration of the corps with the Armed Forces, Nigeria Police, and the DSS, saying all critical stakeholders must play active roles to forestall criminal activities in the Kaduna State.

The Defence Headquarters, on Thursday, described the recent abductions in Borno and Kaduna states as a gross act of cowardice on the part of terrorists.

Speaking to journalists in Abuja, the Director, Defence Media Operations, Maj. Gen Buba Edward, said the terrorists resorted to attacking harmless citizens as a result of the military onslaught against them.

He said the terrorists and bandits were also aware of the doom that awaited them with the deployment of the newly acquired fighter jets.

Buba said the criminal groups aimed to use the abducted students and IDPs as shields to prevent the military from bombarding them.

He also said the criminal groups carried out the attacks to boost their recruitment drive, adding that the military had in past operations killed their commanders and foot soldiers.

Buba said, “The terrorists have exhibited gross cowardice. If you are following our operations you will know that we have been going after them and killed many of their commanders and foot soldiers. Troops have unleashed onslaught on them. They have made life unbearable and too hot for them. In return, they have gone for soft targets and the reason is obvious.

“I told you recently, we just received some platforms. These platforms are not for jokes. If many do not know the functions of these platforms, I tell you, the terrorists do. To protect themselves, they carried out these recent attacks to use their victims as human shields and also to surge their recruitment drive because we have depleted their ranks.

Buba noted that the hostages were being kept in a hard-to-reach location.

He said, “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. “

Buba also said the abductions could have been thwarted had the troops been promptly alerted.

He, however, said the military would not rest until the kidnapped victims were rescued.

In a related development, : the Chairman of the Northern Governors Forum, Inuwa Yahaya has said governors from the regionare concerned over the spate of insecurity in the North.

This is as he said the northern governors demanded a change in the approach to tackling insecurity in the region.

Yahaya who is also the Governor of Gombe state disclosed this on Thursday after a closed-door meeting with the National Security Adviser, Nuhu Ribdau, and the Service Chiefs led by the Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Christopher Musa.

Governors said to be present in the meeting included Sani of Kaduna State; Dauda Lawal of Zamfara, Babagana Zulum of Borno, Radda Dikko of Katsina, and Abdullahi Sule of Nasarawa state among others.

Yahaya noted that the the meeting was convened to discuss and review strategies for tackling cases of insecurity in the region.

He said, “The essence of the meeting as you can see is between the governors and the service chiefs and the NSA.

“So it relates to security and you know security is very critical, especially that there were the recent issues of kidnapping in the Northwest 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 that we can have a better result”.

Zamfara victims rescued

Meanwhile, the Nigerian Army said it had rescued seven people who were said to have been kidnapped in Marange Village, Kagara Local Government Area of Niger State.

The suspects, including two infants and five women, were said to have been in kidnappers’ dens since January 2024 before they were finally rescued from Kuyambana Forest in Zamfara State by the troops of the Hadarin Daji on Thursday.

The spokesperson for the troops, Lieutenant Suleiman Omole, said the rescue mission was largely successful after the troops stormed the forest and conducted an offensive operation in the area.

Omole said, “The successful rescue operation came as a result of the unwavering pressure exerted on the bandits by the troops, leading to the victims’ escape from the terrorists’ enclaves. The interception by the troops on March 13, 2024, marked the beginning of their journey to freedom.

“Upon their rescue, the victims underwent debriefing sessions and were promptly handed over to the relevant authorities for the necessary procedures to reunite them with their respective families.”

The General Officer Commanding 8 Division Sokoto, Major General GM Mutkut, was quoted as having commended their doggedness and tactical prowess while urging them to maintain the spirit until peace and normalcy are restored.

The troops had also rescued about 10 other victims in the Tsafe area of Zamfara State on March 13, 2024.

 

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