It was another moment of tears of joy yesterday following the release of another set of 28 students of Bethel Baptist High School, Kaduna.
His eyes brimming with tears, one of the parents, Mr Danboyi Bege, said he was more of a dead man while his daughter was in captivity of the abductors.
However, while the parents of the released 28 students were shedding tears of joy, others whose children are yet regain their freedom could not help as they also shed tears uncontrollably, praying for the safe release of their children, too.
It would be recalled that 140 of the students were abducted on the 5th July, 2021 before about 28 of the students escaped from their captors after which some of the students were earlier released on health grounds before the release of this set of 28.
For Mr Bege, “while my daughter was in the hands of the bandits, I could not sleep, always thinking about what she was passing through, I was a living dead man, but I thank God that she is among those that are released today, I pray that others will also be released too and soon.
“I am very happy today, I never thought I would see her alive, but I thank God for everything,” he said.
Another parent Mrs Esther Joseph who had fainted severally not knowing whether or not her only child was among the released students before she was revived said, ” I am happy and I thank God, I don’t know what would have become of me without her, I have lived a traumatised life for the past 20 days since they were abducted but I thank God and I pray that the rest will also be released too”.
Meanwhile, the management of the school disclosed that of the 121 students in the hands of the bandits, 34 have so far been released while 87 of the students are still in the hands of the abductors.
President, Nigerian Baptist Convention Rev. Dr. Israel Akanji while appreciating God for the release of the students, said, “We spoke to the security agents, we spoke to the governor of the state and he said he will do his best to ensure that the students were out. It is three weeks now and finally we are grateful we have this batch that was released. So, we all together now have 34 out of the 121 students released, we are still expecting 87 of them to come back.
“Finally, the children of today were just released by the people who abducted them. They kept them in a place and we went there and found the children there and picked them in our vehicles and brought them back, our prayer is that they continue to drop our children somewhere for us to pick them”.
When asked how much was paid as ransom, following the rumor that N100 million was paid, he said, “I don’t know from where you got your information. Some even said we paid N60 million and even after now, I don’t know what they will say. What we said originally is that, as a church we do not believe in ransom payment and we will not pay any ransom as a church because it is not right to go and pay people who have done what is wrong in order to release the children.
“Although we are not the only ones concerned about the children; there are parents, well-wishers and neighbours and all that, struggling for the release of the children; therefore, we cannot really restrict people from taking action to get the children out.”
When asked whether the government played any role in the release of the students, Rev Akanji said, “Governor el-Rufai promised to assist us, he said he cannot divulge all security affairs, that some of his plans need to be kept secret. The governor said if he tells us his plan, he is simply telling the criminals his plans; whatever he was doing should have resulted in the release of the children before now, but they were not released.
“Right now, I cannot say this is exactly what the governor did because we approached him to give us details he refused. But thank God for the release because we have been praying and God is answering our prayers,” he said.
On his part, the president, Kaduna Baptist Conference and proprietor of the Bethel Baptist High School, Rev Ishaya Adamu Jangado, commended all the parents and well wishes for their prayers and perseverance.
“I speak with abductors of our children every now and then and they have assured me that they will release them in batches. We thank God today we have 28 of them, others will also be released. Let us be encouraged and continue to pray for the safe release of the rest of them,” he said.
Chairman, Kaduna State Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Rev John Joseph Hayab, appealed to all parents, particularly those whose children are yet to be released, not to be discouraged but to remain steadfast in prayers, stressing that “just like the 28 that have been released today and we are rejoicing, so will the rest be released and we shall all gather again and rejoice with the children and you parents.
“We will not relent in our efforts towards securing their release until all of them are released unhurt. Be strong, God will not disappoint us; he will give us victory.”
Although the leadership of the church said no ransom was paid by the church for the release of the students, a competent source, who will not want his name mentioned, said millions of naira was paid as ransom, but expressed surprise that only 28 of them were released.
Banditry Will Consume The North, Matawalle Warns
Meanwhile, the governor of Zamfara State, Muhammed Matawalle has warned that if the banditry presently ravaging the north western states is not urgently and holistically addressed, it is capable of consuming the entire northern region and the country as a whole.
This is just as he averred that banditry activities in the North is orchestrated by age-long injustice and leadership failure, adding that lack of support from a section of politicians that wish to take advantage of the situation to achieve political ends is also a major factor why there has been no positive solution to insecurity in the region.
Matawalle made these comments in Kaduna while presenting a lead paper entitled, “The Fight Against Banditry in Northwest Nigeria: Challenges and Solutions” during the inauguration of the new executives of Arewa Media Writers Association which was held at Kabir Gymnasium.
Represented by the Commissioner for Information, Zamfara State, Alh Ibrahim Magaji, the governor said, his administration had put a lot of efforts in place to rid the state of bandits and that he will not relent in checking mating activities of bandits in his State.
According to the governor, “Unless we all wake up to the situation, the war against banditry in the north west will remain a significant security challenge that has the potential to swallow the region and the country. The destruction that banditry is wreaking on the region’s people and economy is unfathomable.
He also clarified that the much talked-about mining in Zamfara was not responsible for banditry as many were made to believe, saying bandit’s activities in Shinkafi and Zurmi local government areas remain the hotbed even when there are no mining activities in these local councils.
According to him, “When I took office on May 29, 2019, Zamfara State had already been mired in a serious security crisis for over a decade, marked by banditry, livestock rustling, kidnapping, and a host of other crimes. On an almost daily basis, the state was in the news for bloodletting, pillage, and significant displacement of people, particularly those living in rural areas.
“The historical economic, social and cultural ties between the dominant communities of Fulani and Hausa were ruptured; farming activities across the state were halted, and commercial activities were crippled.
“With poverty on the increase and food security seriously affected by the crisis, the state was on the verge of a catastrophic social eruption capable of destabilising our communities and the northwest subregion.”
The governor stated that rural banditry in Zamfara and other parts of the North is the result of the progressive degradation of moral standards and a culture of greed fed by an unfettered need for material goods.
“It is evident, therefore, that we the leaders are responsible for the plight of the North. The North lacks responsible leadership to steer it through our time’s uncharted waters.
He decried the reluctance by the affected states to embrace peace and dialogue, which would have deprived the recalcitrant bandits currently tormenting people of safe corridors in the region.
“Our ruling elite has no vision for the region beyond gaining political power. We have all seen how the elite in the Southeast and Southwest respond in unison to all matters concerning their regions’ development.
“We have seen how they have a defined agenda and are relentless in their pursuit of regional development,” the Zamfara governor said.
He therefore appealed to leaders of the region to wake up from their lethargy and unite in combating this grave challenge of banditry.”
“We need to get to the roots of the situation; stop politicising it and act decisively”, he stressed.
Investments In Youths Will Check Insecurity – Masari
On his part, the governor of Katsina State, Aminu Bello Masari has called for massive investment in youth education and development as a way of tackling insecurity in the country.
Masari made the call yesterday in a statement issued by the press secretary to the state deputy governor, Ibrahim Musa-Kalla, in Katsina.
According to the governor, such investment will provide opportunities for youths to be meaningfully engaged instead of indulging in violence and crime.
“We all have a stake toward ensuring that our society is safe, we need stakeholders to invest in the people.
“Corporate entities, wealthy individuals and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) are urged to key into this,” he said.
Masari said that only sincere investment in youth development and education would help the teeming youths to follow the right track.
“By educating our youths, we will reduce banditry. Pick up somebody in your community and see them through school to help the society.
Similarly, Maj-Gen. Ibrahim Haruna (retd.) has called for programmes that will help steer youths away from immoral behaviour and impact the society with desirable sustainable culture.
Haruna, a former Federal Commissioner for Information and Culture, called on governments at all levels to collaborate with non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and the private sector to drive the campaign.
He made the call during his investiture as the Grand Patron of the Centre for Ethical Rebirth among Nigerian Youths (CERANY), an NGO championing the campaign against drug abuse and other social vices among the youths.
Haruna, who used the occasion to celebrate his 81st birthday, added that the campaign is necessary to eradicate the root causes of political instability and other problems bedevilling the country such as insecurity and corruption.
According to him, high immorality has led the youths to violent demonstrations, drug abuse and various forms of indiscretions capable of tarnishing the image of the country and endangering the future generations.
“One of the major threats emerging from these frustrations is the failure to assuage the pains of inability to provide for the well-being, security and progress of the people.
“This is because expectations are heightened and are unmet for the youth, who expect to survive in a climate of high expectations of entitlements from government and society in general.
“The imperative is to restore morals, ethics, rules of engagement in a democratic society and free and fair election, and good governance with peace, security and well-being of the citizens,” he said.