From Agaju Madugba, Katsina and Molly Kilete, Abuja
Controversy, yesterday, dogged the reported fresh abduction in Katsina State as the military and the police gave contradictory account of the number of persons rescued and how the operations were undertaken.
While the police authorities pegged the number at 84, the Defence Headquarters (DHQ) said 39.
Both, however, agreed that the incident took place in Mahuta village, Dandume Local Government Area.
The onslaught came barely two days after kidnappers released 343 students of Government Secondary School in Kankara who they held for six days.
A statement by the Police Public Relations Officer, Gambo Isah, yesterday, explained that on Friday, December 19 at about 10 pm, a distress call was received by DPO Dandume that some Islamiyya students of Hizburrahim Islamiyya numbering about 80 returning from Maulud occasion celebrated at Unguwan Alkasim village, Dandume to Mahuta village, were accosted by bandits who had already kidnapped four persons and rustled 12 cows from Danbaure village, Funtua Local Government Area.
On receipt of the report, the DPO led Operation Puff Adder, Sharan Daji and the vigilance group to the area and engaged the bandits in a gun battle.
“Subsequently, the teams succeeded in dislodging the bandits and rescued all the 84 kidnapped victims and recovered the 12 rustled cows.
“Search parties are still combing the area with a view to arresting the injured bandits and recovery of their dead bodies.”
In its own account, the military, in a statement by Coordinator, Defence Media Operations, Major General John Enenche, said: “Troops of Operation HADARIN DAJI in conjunction with police and local vigilante deployed at Dandume LGA of Katsina State received a distress call at about 11:30 PM on 19 December 2020 from locals at Mahuta village that suspected bandits were moving with unconfirmed numbers of Islamiya children mostly girls and rustled cattle. The children were returning from Maulud programme at Unguwar Al-Kasim village at Dandume. In reaction to the distress call, troops quickly mobilised to the scene, laid ambush and blocked bandits’ route along Daudawa-Kadisau and road Sheme Mairuwa and Unguwar Audu village.
“While patiently waiting for the bandits at the ambush and blocking position, troops established contact with bandits and engaged them. During the fierce battle, troops superior fire power forced bandits to abandon the children and the rustled cattle thereby forcing the bandits to flee in disarray into the forest.
“Troops, thereafter, searched the general area and rescued the 39 kidnapped girls in addition to the recovery of eight rustled cattle. The victims have been reunited with their families while the recovered cattle handed to the owners.
“Troops has dominated the general area with aggressive patrol to forestall further occurrence.”
Regardless, Archbishop of Abuja Catholic Archdiocese, Most Rev. Ignatius Kaigama, has expressed fear over rising insecurity, describing the situation as perplexing.
He was particularly concerned that measures being adopted by government are not working, thus reawakening the consciousness of the Federal Government to their constitutional responsibility of security and welfare of the citizens.
Archbishop Kaigama, in his Homily, at Our Lady, Queen of Nigeria Pro-Cathedral, Abuja, challenged the government to show more closeness to the people and a keen sensitivity to issues of security and welfare, while the Church continued in its responsibilities of fervent prayers.
He urged Nigerians, particularly those traveling for Christmas celebration to be cautious and careful with their movements, with strong reminder to rising insecurity across Nigeria.
“Dear friends, traveling during this holy and festive period should be done withmaximum vigilance and great caution.
“Apart from the bad roads and the actions of reckless drivers, criminals heighten their diabolic activities to make life unbearable for people this period. Also, remember that COVID-19 is still like the roaring lion, looking for people to devour. Let us collectively take appropriate measures to curb its spread.”
Meanwhile, the Federal Government has flagged-off construction of 600 housing units for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Katsina State.
National Commissioner, National Commission for Refugees, Migrants And Internally Displaced Persons (NCFRML), Basheer Garba Mohammed, performed the ground-breaking ceremony at Batagarawa, near the Katsina city centre at the weekend.
He said the “Resettlement City” would also have a number of facilities including, primary healthcare and education centres, security outposts, worship houses, skill acquisition centres, markets and adjoining farmlands for use by the occupants.
With the development, the well over 60,000 identified IDPs in Katsina State may have to scramble for the 600 two-bedroom spaces when the projected is completed towards the end of 2021.
Similar projects, according to the Commission, are also being executed in Zamfara, Edo and Borno states.
“Based on displacement data available to us at the Commission, displacement figures for Katsina State as at October 2020 was 61,418 persons.
“The president has released funds for the take-off of this project and construction has started in some states.
“In Katsina State, despite efforts by the state government and Federal Government to reduce the hardship faced by Internally Displaced Persons, there still remains a growing demand for accommodation given the recurring nature of displacement, which has placed thousands of IDPs living in host communities around the state.
“Without fear of any contradiction, Katsina State has witnessed extreme violence which has led to tragic displacement of thousands of people and the destruction of property worth hundreds of millions of Naira.
“Attacks on communities have led not only to the displacement of individuals but also the dislocation of civil authorities and other components of daily life, like schools, hospitals, and agricultural activities.”
Mohammed had earlier at Batsari, in Batsari Local Government Area launched the Project Reliance, a programme being executed by the Commission in collaboration with the CBN.
“Project Reliance is a programme geared towards establishing everyone who has lost their home, their livelihood and those who have sought refuge outside their homes in Nigeria.
“Every selected beneficiary of Project Reliance will have the opportunity to choose from more than 50 various skills.
“The applicant will also receive training, a starter pack and start-up capital to become self-reliant.”