Katsina School Attack: We’re Negotiating With Abductors – Masari Tells Buhari

December 15, 2020
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  • No contact with kidnappers yet – Parents
  • How to rescue students – Expert
  • ‘16 more Kankara students back’
  • It’s one tragedy, too many – JNI, Soyinka, northern group

The Katsina State government is discussing with the abductors of hundreds of students kidnapped from Government Science Secondary School, Kankara, on Friday.

Governor Aminu Bello Masari of Katsina yesterday briefed President Muhammadu Buhari on the matter, saying they were discussing with the kidnappers.

It is, however, not clear if the discussion revolves around ransom or the abductors made a different demand.

Hundreds of children were shepherded into the bush by dozens of gun-wielding bandits who stormed their hostels at night on Friday.

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There have been conflicting figures in respect of the actual number of students taken away.

After studying the school register, Daily Trust had exclusively reported yesterday that 668 students were still missing; while Governor Masari had told a federal government delegation that 333 students were missing.

What Masari told Buhari

Masari in the company of his deputy, Manir Yakubu, yesterday visited Buhari who was holidaying at his country home, Daura.

In a statement yesterday, presidential spokesman Garba Shehu said  the Katsina governor had told the president that steady progress was being recorded to bring back the abducted schoolboys unharmed.

Masari, who said security agencies had located the position of the children, added that the president was fully committed to the rescue of the school children.

It was learnt that the students are being kept in clusters in the forests that stretch parts of Katsina, Zamfara and Kaduna states

Daily Trust reports that there have been conflicting narratives about the abduction of the schoolboys.

On Saturday, military authorities said they were engaging the bandits, while the Minister of Defence, Bashir Magashi, said on Sunday that the students would be rescued within hours.

A source with knowledge of what is happening said the federal government was trying to avoid bloodshed, which would be inevitable when force is deployed.

“Of course, a contact (with the kidnappers) has been established and Katsina and Zamfara are taking these lines,” he said.

Asked if they know exactly where the students are being kept, he said, “Of course, we have intelligence and even in situation of conflicting intelligence, all the suspected areas have been surrounded and are being closely monitored. But the security operatives are not firing to avoid civilian casualty.”

And when asked if there was a communication channel with the parents to assuage their feelings and calm them down, the source said Governor Masari was already doing that.

“They are also trying to ascertain the exact number of students, especially parents who have taken their children home or children who found their way back home from the bushes. These are some of the efforts because the audit would not be complete without knowing who has moved where.”

On the timeline given by the minister of defence, the source said, “I will not talk about timelines and as you have seen, even the governor spoke about the progress and I think you should just leave it at that.”

We’ve no contact with kidnappers yet

There was palpable anxiety by parents of the abducted children yesterday when one of the missing children was brought back to Kankara and 15 others found but kept at ‘Yar Dinya village.

A parent who was anxiously waiting at the gate of the school said he was about leaving when one of the boys was returned.

“I can’t go anywhere now; I have to wait for the police to come back with the recovered children to see if my son is among. They told us they are going back to bring them from Yar Dinya village,” he said.

Another parent, Malam Mukhtar Sani Bakori, told our reporter that, “We are here this evening when one of the boys was returned by the police and they told us that 15 more were recovered and they will be brought back.

“They told us that the boy is from Daudawa village and we are hoping that our children are among those recovered,” he said.

He, however, said they have not heard from the kidnappers. “Not a single parent was contacted by the kidnappers; we don’t know what they want to do with our children yet.

On the whereabouts of the children, Malam Sani said, “The boy that returned told us that the boys are no longer at the same location. He said they now live in clusters in different locations.”

Also speaking, Malam Rufa’i Usman from Danmusa Local Government Area, said the recovered boy, who was seen in a better condition of health than the previously recovered two, told the parents that a helicopter was hovering over them on Sunday and the kidnappers asked the children to lay low which they did.

“The boy told us that they couldn’t get food to eat except for some wild fruits and leaves. But he said a sizeable number of the children have dispersed to other locations when the helicopter came. He called on the authorities to put more effort in their rescue mission. A resident of Kankara said about 113 children were estimated to have gone missing from the town alone.

“We are angry with one of the government officials who said only 10 students were taken away. I don’t know why they are playing politics with the lives of our children,” he said.

On whether any of the parents were contacted by the kidnappers, he said “none of us was contacted so far for either ransom or any other thing. Those who came yesterday told us that the government will contact the bandits; that is all we know.”

How I escaped from gunmen – Student

One of the students abducted by unknown gunmen in Kankara Secondary school, Katsina, has said that he escaped from the bandits by crawling after they were dragged to the bush with his colleagues. The escaped student, whose father did not want his name published, narrated his story to the BBC Hausa Service on Monday.

“After they (bandits) took us the bush, they asked one of us to count us and he came up with 520 students,” he said. On how he escaped from the bandits, the student said only God knows how it happened and that he was lucky to hide behind a tree and later crawled out of the bush.

“When they asked us to sit down, I hide behind a tree and after they moved with my colleagues, I then started crawling to the main road and thereafter trekked to the nearby town,” he said.

How to rescue students – Expert

Major Mohammed Bashir Shuaibu Galma (retd) said security forces must be careful while trying to rescue the students.

According to him, “If the number of students abducted is as high as they are saying, there is the need for proper planning because the bandits might be using the students as a human shield.

“Negotiation is the best option though it is a bitter pill. Another way is for the authorities to go into the bush in case there are some of the students hiding but afraid to come out,” he said.

He also said there was no need to seek foreign intervention to rescue the students.

“This is not the first school that has been attacked, it happened in Chibok, Dapchi, Kaduna and other places including Lagos and anytime the media ask for our suggestions, we give suggestions but they (government) are not taking them seriously.

“Many schools are not properly fenced…What amazes me is what type of school is it that they have up to 900 students and if it is true, what security measures were put in place by the school to secure its students?”

He wondered how possible it was to abduct such a large number of students in a small village like Kankara.

It’s one tragedy, too many- JNI

The Jama’atu Nasril Islam (JNI) yesterday decried the Kankara abduction.

JNI in a statement by its Secretary-General, Dr Khalid Abubakar Aliyu described the abduction as one tragedy too many coming on the heels of the Zabarmari massacre.

“This indeed is a sad reminder of the abductions of schoolgirls in Chibok and Dapchi of Borno and Yobe States of North-East Nigeria, and it is an indicator that the powers that be don’t read the present through the spectacle of the past; this wouldn’t have happened.”

According to him, “For the umpteenth time, we will continue to ask: for how long shall the masses continue to live in fear? For how long shall the federal and state governments continue to issue empty condemnations whenever tragedies stroke?  Are the government and the security agencies so overwhelmed and thus cannot secure the citizens? Are there insurmountable challenges or acts of sabotage that the government is hiding from the public? These and many more questions continue to bedevil every discerning mind within and outside Nigeria.

“The Kankara abduction was so belligerently orchestrated that it happened the day Mr President arrives at Katsina State on a private visit. Are the bandits this bold as to further test the resolve of the government or smite the face of the commander-in-chief by bringing it up to his doorstep in his presence? This further proves what we once said that the bandits rule in many communities and do as they wish with impunity,” the JNI said.

Nobel laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, has also condemned the abduction of school children, calling on President Buhari to urgently put a machinery in motion to overhaul the nation’s structural existence.

Soyinka, in a statement, titled: ‘INFRADIG – A Presidential Comeuppance,’ lamented that the latest kidnap was yet another slap in the face of the nation.

“It is merely the latest in the serial stinging slaps across the face of the nation, and it draws blood from every sensing citizen. Over five years since Chibok, we have yet to anticipate, and to guard against a repeat. We continue to hand over innocent wards cheaply, en masse, to the agents of darkness and despair.

“A government refuses to accept that, as indicated several times over, the nation is at war. At war within itself, and that it requires drastic measures, away from spasmodic responses after the dread deed, if there is any will left over to salvage what is left of nationhood,” Soyinka said.

Service chiefs not in charge -Northern elders

The Coalition of Northern Elders for Peace and Development (CNEPD) said yesterday that the North is at the mercy of terrorists, bandits and kidnappers.

National Coordinator of the group, Engr. Zana Goni and National Women Leader, Hajiya Mairo Bichi, respectively, condemned the Kankara school attack saying the development that came a few days after the murder of over 46 rice farmers in Zabarmari Village in Borno State was disturbing.

They reiterated their call on President Buhari to seek foreign help, saying further delay by the president might lead to more woes for the northern region.

“We are asking the president to sack the service chiefs and reorganise the entire security architecture. The firm positions of the two chambers of the National Assembly to this effect should be respected by the president,” the statement said.

‘We won’t stop operation despite talks’

The Defence Headquarters said yesterday that despite Katsina government’s talks with the bandits, it will continue its ongoing rescue operations.

The Coordinator, Defence Media Operations, Maj. Gen. John Enenche while appearing on Channel Television’s programme ‘Politics Today’  expressed optimism that the abducted schoolboys would return home safely.

“You don’t stop whatever efforts you are putting up militarily for what we call the non-kinetic (or) the other approach. No, you don’t stop, all of them go concurrently.

“For instance, if they (the students) are kept in a place that is known, if you relax, they will slip out. So, all actions are on the table to ensure that we come to a meeting point and the meeting point is to ensure that we don’t get collateral damage in our efforts to get them (the students) out,” he said.

Source: https://dailytrust.com/katsina-school-attack-were-negotiating-with-abductors-masari-tells-buhari

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