Katsina State governor, Aminu Bello Masari, yesterday, said that the gunmen who attacked Government Science Secondary School, Kankara, and kidnapped schoolboys have been contacted and were negotiating the boys’ freedom through the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN).
About 17 of the schoolboys have escaped and returned to their families. He denied that any of the abducted students had died.
Also, security and local sources have told AFP that Boko Haram recruited three local gangs to kidnap hundreds of Government Secondary Science School, GSSS, Kankara, Katsina State.
The jihadist group had claimed responsibility for Friday’s abduction of well over 300 students.
This came as parents of students, yesterday, said thy would be coming to the school everyday until their children returned home safely.
In another development, the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), has described the students’ abduction as another tragic chapter in the history of the country occasioned by the criminal activities of some hoodlums amidst the people, who now operate, in recent times, with impunity as if our security agencies are on holiday.
Also, the leadership of the Coalition of Northern Groups, CNG, has relocated to Katsina town to push for the release of abducted students still under captivity.
Meanwhile, the Defence Headquarters, DHQ, has said there was no cause to worry over the safety of President Muhammadu Buhari in Katsina State. Coordinator of Defence Media Operations, John Enenche stated this when he featured on Arise TV, yesterday.
Also, the Military High Command disclosed yesterday that troops would not sleep until they ensure that all the abducted students were rescued.
‘We’re in talks with the abductors through Miyetti Allah’
Speaking in an interview on Channels Television’s Politics Today, yesterday, Governor Masari of Katsina State said his administration is in discussions with the suspected abductors through the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria, MACBAN.
He said: “We are discussing through the leadership of MACBAN, Miyetti Allah with those suspected to have carried out the abduction and I had a meeting with the Commissioner of Police and heads of security agencies two or three hours ago.
“There are talks. It is not about who is in charge, but what is of paramount concern to me as the chief security officer of the state is that these students return home safely and this is what we are talking about.
“It is natural for patents to be angry, but I as the state governor, I will answer for my deeds here and beyond. So, I am more concerned about the rescue of the children and safety of people of the state.”
‘Local gangster worked for Boko Haram’
Sources told AFP the kidnap of the students was carried out on Boko Haram’s orders by a notorious local gangster called Awwalu Daudawa.
The 43 year-old worked in collaboration with Idi Minorti and Dankarami, two other underworld kingpins with strong local followings, they said.
Daudawa “was an armed robber and a cattle rustler before he turned to gun-running, bringing in weapons from Libya, where he had received training, and selling them to bandits,” said a security source.
“Over time, he forged an alliance with Boko Haram and became their gunrunner, taking weapons the group seizes from Nigerian security forces in raids and ambushes and selling them to bandits for a cut.
“Awwalu Daudawa was spotted in the forest in the Kankara area where he recently relocated and there were reports that he was planning something but it was not clear what it was.”
Another source with intimate knowledge of “bandit” activities in Katsina and Zamfara states said: “From available information, Awwalu Daudawa was ordered by Abubakar Shekau to kidnap the schoolboys and he enlisted the help of Idi Minorti and Dankarami.
“After the children were taken, they went across the border into Zamfara state and split them among different gangs ‘for safe keeping’. And some of the gangs have been in touch with the authorities for the release of the boys.”
The jihadists made a claim of responsibility in a four-minute audio, sent to AFP through the same channel as previous messages from the group.
Shekau was behind the 2014 abduction of 276 schoolgirls in Chibok that sparked global outrage, but another source said that the two incidents were not immediately comparable.
“There is an ongoing peace pact between bandits and (the) Zamfara State Government which the bandits don’t want to breach. They have been under intense pressure to release the boys.
“This time, the bandits who are keeping the children hold the ace, not Shekau.”
We’ll come to Kankara school until our children return home — Parents
Although schools in the state have been closed down because of the incident, some parents and relatives of the abducted students have been visiting the school with many of them sitting outside the school’s premises from morning till evening.
Investigation revealed that many of them are from other towns outside Kankara .
One of the parents, Hajiya Binta Muhammad, whose son she simply called Muhammad, was among the abducted students, said she would not be tired of coming to the school every day until her son is rescued.
She begged Governor Masari over her plight, pleading for the rescue of her son and other students who were still in the abductors den.
Hajiya Binta who spoke in Hausa through an interpreter in Kankara, yesterday, said: “Please, help us appeal to our government and all Nigerians to assist in the rescue of our abducted children. I have been coming to Kankara since Saturday hoping that my son would be freed and returned home with me. I will be coming to the school until my son is rescued. I will not be tired of coming here.
“Since Saturday, nobody has called us to make any demand for the release of Muhammad. They have not allowed him to speak with us too. I am making passionate appeal to Governor Masari to come to our aid to help our children return home, safely.”
Another woman, Murjanatu Danja, who was also at the school, said her son, Hussaina Nasiru, was among the abducted students.
She said: “My husband and I have been coming here since Saturday, hoping that our son will be brought back. On Tuesday, my husband was here while I am here today. We are appealing to the government to ensure quick release of our children. Up till now, we have not heard anything about them.”
Calm in Kankara
Meanwhile, a delegation of the National Association of Katsina State Students, NAKATSS, led by Aliyu Usman, yesterday paid a visit to the Katsina State Commissioner of Police, Sanusi Buba, urging him not to relent in the current efforts at rescuing the abducted students.
The Police Commissioner assured the students body that all possible efforts are being made to ensure that the abducted students return home safely.
Buba said: “We are doing everything possible to ensure that the abducted students return home safely and without any harm. The Inspector-General of Police has provided us with additional logistics, essentially for this purpose and we are indeed grateful to him for this. All hands are on deck for the safe return of the students. People should exercise patience and we know that by the grace of God, the students would be back home very soon, unharmed.”
Bandits negotiating through teacher – Masari
Earlier, Governor Masari of Katsina State had said that the gunmen have made contact. According to the governor, the bandits were negotiating the boys’ freedom through a teacher.
Masari disclosed this in an interview with CNN, while explaining what the government was doing concerning insecurity and the fate of the kidnapped schoolboys.
It will be recalled that as part of measures to ensure the safety of other students, Governor Masari on Tuesday, ordered all schools in the state shut.
No abducted student is dead
Governor Masari also said that no abducted student of the school is dead.
The governor, in an interview on Channels Television’s Politics Today, said: “The children are alive and we have not received any report that anyone had fallen sick. So, we assume that all is well with the children.
“I was in touch with at least two of the students that escaped on Saturday. I was also in touch on Monday with two that came back.
“With the four that have been reunited with their families, none of them reported any of the students died.”
Asked who was responsible for the kidnap of the students, the governor said, based on security reports at his disposal, bandits were responsible for the incident.
Though Masari didn’t rule out the possibility of Boko Haram terrorists involved in the operation, he, however, explained that some bandits were making contact with some terrorists.
“The reports we have and from the information available to us, this abduction was conducted, executed by the local bandits that are known to all of us.
“I am not discountenancing any foreign (connivance), either ISWAP or Boko Haram indirectly working with the bandits.
“For over one year, there are signs that some of the elements of the bandits are making contacts with some of the elements of the Boko Haram,” he added.
Northern Coalition moves to Katsina
Officials of the Coalition of Northern Groups, CNG are joining other members from Jigawa, Kano and Katsina in the take-off of indefinite protests to compel action to rescue the abducted students fast, alive and safe.
Abdul-Azeez Suleiman, CNG spokesperson, said: “On Thursday, the exercise, hash-tagged #BringBackOurBoys which will kick off in Katsina is expected to proceed to Daura to register the current concerns with Mr President.”
Led by its Board of Trustees chairman, Nastura Ashir Shariff, the CNG said it’s already in touch with parents of the abducted school children and assured them of support through this trying moment.
Suleiman said: “It will be unreasonable to expect any Northerner and other well-meaning Nigerians to fold their arms and watch the North, a significant component of the country abandoned to the mercy of bandits and murderers and kidnappers.
“The police in Katsina is seen in a massive reinforcement around the state which calls for caution on the part of authorities against attempts at suppressing legitimate protests that will be conducted peacefully,” he said.
Buhari safe in Katsina — DHQ
Coordinator of Defence Media Operations, Major-General John Enenche, who featured on Arise TV, yesterday, said: “One of the major tasks of the Armed Forces of Nigeria is to ensure that you protect the government and the state actors and in that regard, the Commander-in-Chief is very safe in Katsina and anywhere that he is or will be at all times.”
Enenche dismissed claims by Boko Haram that it was responsible for the abduction of the students.
According to him, the insurgent group only claimed responsibility for the attack just to instill fear in people.
He, however, did not state who carried out the attack.
“On the basis of the characteristics of terrorists all over the world from the time of Al-Qaeda, Taliban, Al-Shabaab, all of them, whatever that will boost their ego or show relevance, that is what they will do.
“What did they even do? Somebody spoke on audio and said, ‘I am Shekau.’ Shekau on a secondary note is a brand. All that needs to be done is somebody using his voice. The total aim of terrorists is to instill fear into people even beyond their scope of influence.
“So, it is easy for the layman to agree that it is them (Boko Haram) because even if it is kidnappers or armed robbers, their aim is to instill fear and kill.”
Enenche said efforts are on to make sure that “the children come out unhurt with no record of loss of life.”
FG yet to learn from previous kidnappings, says CAN
The Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, on its part, said the fact that the unfortunate incident happened while the Chief Security Officer of the country, President Buhari, was in his home state means these criminals have sent a strong message to him that the security architecture of the country has been compromised under his watch.
CAN in a statement by the Special Assistant (Media and Communications) to the CAN President, Pastor Adebayo Oladeji, said: “It also means all stakeholders in the education sector have learnt nothing from the two historic tragedies despite the fact that our security agencies have failed to secure the release of the remaining Chibok schoolgirls and the only Dapchi schoolgirl, Leah Sharibu, who is still wasting in the den of the terrorists.
“From all indications, our governments are not bothered about the security of the people despite all the killings being recorded daily. The President turned down the invitation of the House of Representatives to explain and rub minds with the legislators on the way out of our deplorable security situation in the country.
“What an attitude of ‘I don’t care.’ President Buhari should remember that history is being written about him with the way he is addressing all these security challenges just as we are talking about the Chibok schoolgirls and the Jonathan administration.
“This was what CAN foresaw long before now when we were calling on the President to sack the service chiefs and by extension to overhaul the security architecture. But he was not ready to listen to the Voice of Wisdom.
“We advise President Buhari to revisit all his electioneering promises on security and compare them with what security has become under his watch. We urge the President to disregard the bad advice from the cheerleaders around him who are saying that all is well so that they might keep their jobs.
“They are enemies of the nation and of his administration. The country is almost becoming a failed nation. Kidnapping has reached unimaginable proportions, with no clues to it from the security agents. Victims’ relatives and friends are being left at the mercy of the kidnappers as they bargain for the release of their people as if they are commodities put out for sale.
“Week after week, we continue to witness major assaults or debilitating attacks on innocent citizens. Is there no government in place anymore? Is this the way other governments of the world respond to life-consuming threats as we have?”
CAN called on all relevant security agencies to rise up and liberate all the innocent students before they would be used as suicide bombers.
“Our hearts go out to the parents of those innocent students and we pray that very soon, they will reunite with their children in Jesus’ name. It is regrettable, disturbing, disheartening and unfortunate that despite the menace of insecurity and its attendant consequences, there’s no one who has the conscience to follow the path of honour.
“CAN calls for the suspension of the boarding facilities in all private and government schools in the Northern part of the country until the security situation improves.
“We equally advise the Federal Government to direct the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps to provide protection for schools and colleges nationwide especially in the areas where security appears compromised,” the statement added.
No sleep till all the students are rescued — Military
The Military High Command disclosed yesterday that troops of the Nigerian Military would not sleep until they ensure that all the students of Government Science Secondary School abducted by bandits in Kankara LGA were rescued
“Every member of the Armed Forces of Nigeria, we are all committed to getting these children back safe and sound. These are our children. They are our very own. We are not sleeping. No sleeping for anybody. We are all there (Forest) to ensure these children come out alive.”
Maj-Gen John Enenche, Coordinator, Defence Media Operations, who made this known at a briefing in Abuja, said nobody, none of the children has died.
He said: “As at today, it remains as it is; the 333 students are still missing and the 17 that were found as disclosed by the Katsina State government. Nobody is dead. Troops are on guard there. They are intact and they will be rescued alive.”
Asked if the military was partaking in the negotiation between the Katsina State government and the bandits for the release of the students, General Enenche said: “I don’t know anywhere in the world where the military go into negotiations when it come to ransom to criminals. There is nothing connecting the armed forces with negotiations.
“But whether there is negotiation or no negotiation, anything that is covered under our rules of engagement and within the law is what we will do. Most times, these people talk from both sides of the mouth. So we have to be careful.
“There is nowhere in the world where you stop kinetic action because they say negotiation is going on.”