By our Correspondents |
A crack team of security operatives comprising the military and police yesterday sprang into action in a joint search and rescue operations to rescue the 317 students abducted by gunmen suspected to be bandits in Government Girls Science Secondary School, Jangebe, in Talata Mafara local government area of the Zamfara state.
The schoolgirls were kidnapped by the bandits in a raid early yesterday morning at about 1am from the town.
LEADERSHIP Weekend gathered that the gunmen who came with vehicles shot sporadically before taking the schoolgirls away, moving some of the girls on foot.
A witness who did not want his name in print said the abductors broke the school gate and fired gunshots at the security man, and moved into the hostels where they woke up the girls, telling them it was time for prayers.
“After assembling all the girls who were crying, they took them away to the forest. They were also shooting in the air as they were marching to the forest”, the witness who did want his name print told our correspondents.
Yesterday’s abduction is the latest in several attacks on schools in the country by armed groups in recent times.
The Zamfara State commissioner of Police, Abutu Yaro; the Force Commander Operations of Hadarin Daji, Major General Aminu Bande; Brigade Commander 1 Brigade, Nigeria Army Gusau and other state government officials led a heavily armed Re – enforcement team to Jangebe to complement the ongoing rescue operation in the locations where the students were believed to be taken to.
The police commissioner also confirmed that 317 students were kidnapped from the school.
The CP, while interfacing with the Principal of the school and the parents, appealed for calm, assuring that joint efforts of the police and other security agencies will lead to the rescue of the students.
A source also told our correspondents that a group of vigilantes, popularly known as Yansakai, formed a strong team and went into the forest in search of the abducted students.
Meanwhile, the inspector-general of police, IGP Mohammed Adamu, has deployed two helicopters and other logistics in search of the abducted Zamfara school girls.
Force PRO, CP Frank Mba said, “Operatives of the Nigeria Police Force have commenced a coordinated search and rescue operation, involving the deployment of both ground and aerial assets, aimed at locating and rescuing the students of Government Girls Secondary School, Jangebe, Zamfara State abducted in the early hours of Friday, 25th February, 2021. “To ensure the success of the ongoing operation, the inspector-general of police, has ordered the immediate deployment of two operational surveillance helicopters to Zamfara State. This is in addition to the personnel of Operation Puff Adder II earlier deployed to the state to support efforts by the command to combat banditry, kidnapping and other related crimes.
“The IGP, while condemning the barbaric and callous abduction of the innocent female students, has assured that the police and other security forces will not relent until the abducted students are successfully rescued and reunited with their families. The joint rescue operation is being carried out by the police, the military and other members of the law enforcement community with support from the state government and other stakeholders.”
Mba said the IGP called for calm and enjoined members of the public, particularly the people of Zamfara State, not to hesitate in availing the police and the law enforcement community with useful information that can assist in the rescue of the abducted school girls.
Matawalle Shuts Down All Boarding Schools
Zamfara state governor, Bello Mohammed Matawalle, yesterday ordered the closure of all boarding secondary schools across the state.
The decision, he said, was to forestall any possible attack in other schools.
The governor restated the determination of the state government to ensure the rescue of the abducted female students.
In a broadcast to the state, Matawalle expressed his sympathy and worry to the families of the abducted girls and called for prayers for the safe rescue of the girls.
He said already, police helicopters were deployed to the state for the search and rescue mission.
He stressed that the government was doing its best to end the current security challenge.
According to him, all hands must be on deck to rescue the abductees.
PDP Chairman Kidnapped In Sokoto, 15 In Niger, 2 In FCT
Meanwhile, suspected bandits in the early hours of Friday kidnapped a Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) local government chairman, Him Nasiru Isah, in Gwadabawa local governmentarea of Sokoto State.
Gwadabawa local government is a few kilometers away from the state capital.
Leading a delegation of police, the state commissioner of police, Kamaldeen Okunlola, who visited the village, said they had commenced intensive investigation into the development with a view to bringing the perpetrators to book.
A statement by the Police Command’s spokesperson, ASP Sanusi Abubakar, yesterday noted that the incident occurred in the early hours of Friday.
Said ASP Sanusi, “Following the unfortunate armed banditry attack and kidnapping at Gwadabawa local government area of Sokoto on 26/02/2021 at about 01:00am, one Nasiru Isah, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, chairman of the said local government was kidnapped.
“On arrival, the residents of the community led the CP’s delegations on intensive inspection on how the perpetrators laid the attack,”
ASP Nasiru however assured that the CP has directed full-fledged investigation into the kidnap with a view to arresting the abductors.
Also, barely 24 hours after several people were kidnapped in Gurmana, bandits yesterday attacked Kusheriki community in Rafi local government area of Niger State, killing six people and abducting 15 others.
LEADERSHI Weekend gathered that a young man who graduated from the Federal College of Education Kontagora Dauda Daniel was among those killed by the bandits.
It was learnt that no fewer than 100 of the bandits invaded the community in motorbikes and started the attack at Angwar Mahogi in the Kusherki district and Rafingora before spreading to other parts of the community.
The Bandits were said to have shot sporadically to scare the villagers and in the process live bullets hit those reportedly killed.
It was also learnt that several cattle were rustled from the communities during the attacks which lasted for close to three hours without any resistance from security agencies.
Eye witness accounts revealed that a helicopter was seen hovering in the sky throughout the period of the attack without help coming from anywhere for the community.
The Police Public Relations Officer of Niger State Command, Wasiu Abiodun, could not be reached at the time of filing this report, but a top government official from Ravi local government area confirmed the attack.
Similarly, gunmen in the early hours yesterday invaded the residence of a man identified as Peter at Gbazango extension, Kubwa, Abuja and kidnapped him with his brother-in-law.
The five gang armed men also shot three vigilante members who attempted to disrupt their operation.
Peter’s neighbour, Desmond disclosed that the gunmen fired gunshots for a long time before gaining access to Peter’s house, adding that police response to distress calls was slow.
Desmond added that police operatives from Byazhin police station showed up long after the kidnappers had taken away their victims.
He said, “Our boys (vigilante members) were lucky because they could have been killed. The kidnappers shot three of them and also took away Peter and his brother in-law. They also went away with two phones’; we have been calling Peter’s line but the phone was switched off.”
It was gathered that police officers from Kubwa division visited the crime scene and spoke with the residents of the area and the community association members on the incident.
Bandits Can’t Blackmail Us To Pay Them Ransom – PMB
Meanwhile, President Muhammadu Buhari has described the latest abduction of hundreds of students of Government Girls Secondary School Jangebe, Zamfara State, as inhumane and totally unacceptable.
Sending out a strong warning to the bandits and their sponsors, Buhari said his administration will not succumb to blackmail by bandits who target innocent schoolchildren with a view to getting ransom.
Reacting to the incident yesterday, President Buhari, in a statement by presidential spokesman, Garba Shehu, said, “This administration will not succumb to blackmail by bandits who target innocent school students in the expectations of huge ransom payments.
“No criminal group can be too strong to be defeated by the government. The only thing standing between our security forces and the bandits are the rules of engagement.
“We have the capacity to deploy massive force against the bandits in the villages where they operate, but our limitation is the fear of heavy casualties of innocent villagers and hostages who might be used as human shields by the bandits. Our primary objective is to get the hostages safe, alive and unharmed.
“A hostage crisis is a complex situation that requires maximum patience in order to protect the victims from physical harm or even brutal death at the hands of their captors.
“Let them not entertain any illusions that they are more powerful than the government. They shouldn’t mistake our restraint for the humanitarian goals of protecting innocent lives as a weakness or a sign of fear or irresolution.
The President appealed to state governments “to review their policy of rewarding bandits with money and vehicles, warning that the policy might boomerang disastrously.”
He also advised states and local governments to be more proactive by improving security around schools and their surroundings.
We Can’t Afford These Disruptions – Northern Govs
On their part, the Northern States Governors Forum yesterday condemned the attack on Government Secondary School Jangebe in Zamfara State where the 317 schoolgirls were abducted.
Chairman of the forum and governor of Plateau State, Simon Lalong, said while the trend is unacceptable, strong measures must be taken to put an end to it before it escalates into a monster that will consume educational pursuit and national aspirations.
A statement issued by his director of press and public affairs Simon Makut Macham, Governor Lalong said the development which is coming on the heels of the abduction of schoolchildren in Kagara, Niger State, which is still being addressed, calls for serious concern among all Nigerians.
He said, “As northern governors, we are deeply saddened by this embarrassing and unfortunate attack on our children who are in schools to seek knowledge and build capacity to impact the nation and create a better society.
“The assault on schools where innocent and harmless students are targeted should not be condoned in any way because it has the tendency to set the nation back to ignorance and more poverty. The Northern part of the country in particular is more educationally disadvantaged and cannot afford to have these disruptions. Enough is enough”.
The northern governors therefore urged security agencies to use every asset at their disposal to rescue the children and bring to justice those behind the act.
They also implored Nigerians to support the security agencies and government with credible information that will lead to swift resolution of the situation.
They sympathised with the families of the abducted school children, the people and Government of Zamfara State, assuring them of the support of the Forum in tackling the problem.
The Northern Governors Forum had rose from their meeting in Kaduna on Thursday where they resolved to take far reaching measures to address insecurity and other challenges of the region and the nation at large.