From Romanus Ugwu, Ndubuisi Orji, Aidoghie Paulinus, Abuja, Tunde Omolehin, Sokoto
It wild jubilation last night in Kankara, Katsina State and across the country as 340 students of the Government Science Secondary School, Kankara, Katsina State regained their freedom unharmed, after six days.
The Boko Haram faction loyal to Abubakar Shekau, which claimed responsibility for the abduction, had, on Thursday afternoon, released a video of some of the students in a bush; where one boy, who was visibly distraught, called on the Federal Government to rescue them.
Sources in Katsina and Abuja confirmed “the schoolboys were released today (yesterday), after ‘rigorous’ negotiation between governments at the national and state levels, on one hand, and the abductors, on the other side.
In his reaction, President Muhammadu Buhari attributed their release to what he called the “spirit of partnership and the collaborative efforts of the government of Katsina, Zamfara and military leading to the release.’’
Buhari who described their safe return as a big relief, also commended the nation’s intelligence agencies, the military and police force for providing the environment for safe release of the hostages.
According to a statement by Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, Buhari in a brief remark shortly after their release was announced, expressed the nation’s appreciation for the steps taken by all involved to make their release possible.
“The Governor, Aminu Bello Masari, and the army worked extremely hard. As soon as I got the information I congratulated them. The Armed Forces know their job. They have been well trained and properly motivated,” he said.
On the issue of detainees held elsewhere in the country by either terrorists or bandits, President Buhari assured that his administration is aware of its responsibility to protect the life and property of the Nigerians.
He urged the citizens to be patient and fair to the administration as it deals with the problems of security, economy and corruption.
He noted that the administration was fully aware that it was elected to resolve challenges.
“When we came, we made efforts that yielded the return of the Chibok Girls. When a similar incident of school abduction happened at Dapchi, we successfully returned all but one of the more than one hundred abductees. When this latest incident happened, we put in our efforts and today we have this result to show.”
The release came as amidst protests by the Peoples Democratic Party’s (PDP) National Chairman, Uche Secondus, leaders of opposition party, as well as women, youth and Arewa groups in Abuja and Katsina.
The women and youth groups, who gathered in front of the PDP National Campaign Office in Maitiama, Abuja, said the abduction was unacceptable.
The protesters carried various placards with inscriptions such as “Buhari has failed”; “Buhari, bring back our boys”; “Buhari values his cows more than human lives,” among others.
Secondus said the opposition party was in solidarity with the protesters in their demand for the immediate rescue of the abducted school boys.
“This is a peaceful protest to make the entire country and international community to be aware of what is going on in our country.
“All we are saying is Buhari, bring back our boys from Katsina. We are in pain, the parents are in pain, the entire country is in pain, we’re in agony, we are in sorrow,” Secondus stated.
But the All Progressives Congress (APC) has warned the opposition party not to politicise the abduction of school children.
In a statement issued by the Ag. Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the party, the APC equally challenged security agencies to investigate the intelligence report linking a North-west governor to the heightened cases of banditry, abductions and other violent crimes in the zone.
While reacting to a protest organised by the leaders and women of the opposition party at its campaign headquarters in Abuja, APC accused the PDP of seeking political gains from issues of insecurity.
Nabena who did not name the North-west governor because of the sensitive nature of the intelligence report, lamented that the increased spate of banditry in the North-west was politically-motivated and not unconnected with the unnamed governor’s alleged sponsorship of banditry and other violent crimes in the zone.
Similarly, protesters marched in Katsina under a banner reading #BringBackOurBoys, as pressure mounted on the government to improve security in the region and secure the release of 333 kidnapped boys.
Dozens of people attended the march through the city of Katsina in response to the Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG), a civil society body that focuses on the welfare of northern Nigerians. Some chanted “Save northern Nigeria”.
CNG National Coordinator, Balarabe Rufai, who marched round the premises of the Katsina Hotel at the GRA with the protesters, described President Muhammadu Buhari’s leadership as “a complete failure.”
“Northern Nigeria has been abandoned at the mercy of vicious insurgents, bandits, kidnappers, armed robbers, rapists and an assortment of hardened criminals,” he said.
That was as the schoolboys appealed to government and security agencies to cooperate with their abductors to facilitate their freedom.
In a new video released by suspected Boko Haram insurgents, yesterday, one of the boys, looking harassed, appealed to the government to cooperate with their abductors, so that they can be freed.
The clip, which is six-minute-and-30-second long, showed scores of young boys behind him, all covered in dust within a forest area.
One of the boys, who spoke to the camera, urged the Nigerian government to settle amicably with their abductors and advised against the use of military force in rescuing them.
“Please, you have to dissolve any gang of vigilantes, close any kind of schools, excluding Islamiyyah (Qur’anic schools.)
“All the troops who have come here to help us, please send them back. They can’t do anything to help us. Please sir, we need your assistance,” one of the abducted schoolboys pleaded in the released video.
At the end of the video, a voice suspected to be Shekau’s claimed he was doing Allah’s work.
Sokoto orders closure of boarding schools
Sokoto Governor,,Aminu Tambuwal has ordered the immediate closure of 16 boarding schools over insecurity.
The governor’s media aide, Muhammad Bello, in a statement, yesterday, said the decision was reached at the 17th security council meeting held at the Government House.
Governor Tambuwal was quoted as saying “the schools were to be closed, temporarily, for two weeks. This followed the brief received by the Council from the State Commissioner for Basic and Secondary Education, Dr. Muhammad Bello Abubakar Guiwa, on the security situation in the affected areas and the threats this portends.
“The affected schools are: Government Girls Model Secondary School, Illela; Sultan Muhammadu Tambari Arabic Secondary School, Illela; Gamji Girls College, Rabah; Government Secondary School, Gada; Government Secondary School, Gandi and Government Secondary School, Goronyo.
“Others were: Government Secondary School, Isa, Government Secondary School Sabon Birnin Gobir, Boarding Primary School, Isa, Boarding Primary School, Balle and Boarding Primary School, Jabo.
EU, France condemn abduction of school children
The European Union (EU) and the French Republic have condemned the abduction of students of the Government Science Secondary School, Kankara, Katsina State.
The EU, in a statement by its High Representative/Vice President, Josep Borrell, described the upsurge in violence in North West Nigeria as alarming, adding that the abduction of hundreds of children in Katsina State by Boko Haram was a despicable act of violence and cowardice.
Earlier, Government of France, through the country’s Embassy in Nigeria, in a message posted on its Facebook page, also condemned the attack carried out by Boko Haram in Toumour in the Diffa region of Niger, the night before the local elections of December 13, which claimed several civilians.
US issues holiday security alert
Regardless, the United States has warned its nationals against crime in the country.
The United States Embassy in Abuja and the Consulate General in Lagos, in a holiday security alert issued on its website, warned its nationals of endemic crime in the country, particularly, petty street crime and carjacking.
“The U.S. Embassy in Abuja and Consulate General in Lagos remind U.S. citizens to exercise caution while traveling and residing in Nigeria. Crime is endemic throughout Nigeria, ranging from petty street crime to carjacking, and crime levels tend to increase during the holidays. It is prudent to exercise particular caution during the holiday season and at holiday events,” the holiday security alert read.
The United States further said demonstrations were relatively commonplace in Nigeria and generally affect traffic flow, especially, if they progressed along major thoroughfares.
“Criminal and other elements often infiltrate large gatherings. Terrorist organisations and individuals inspired by extremist ideology exist throughout Nigeria. Shopping centres, airports, hotels, clubs, restaurants, places of worship, transportation hubs, street markets, and other public venues frequented by westerners are common attack targets,” the United States also said.
Amongst other precautions, the United States advised its nationals to be aware of their surroundings, keep a low profile, carry proper identification, stay alert in public places and locations frequented by tourists/westerners.
Buhari’ll resolve Nigeria’s security challenges –APC govs
The Progressive Governors Forum (PGF) says the Federal Government under President Muhammadu Buhari will resolve Nigeria’s security challenges and restore peace in every part of the country.
The PGF, an umbrella organisation for serving governors elected on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC), said this in a statement by its chairman and Governor of Kebbi, Abubakar Bagudu, while felicitating with Buhari on his 78th birthday in Abuja, yesterday.
“Together with all Nigerians, we celebrate this special day with you and your family; we acknowledge and commend your leadership, vision and commitment to a united prosperous Nigeria.
“Recognising all the difficult period we face as a nation, we are confident that under your leadership, we will be able to resolve our national security challenges and restore peace in every part of the country.
“As we wish you a happy birthday and also say a big thank you for your selfless service to our dear country, we reaffirm our commitment to work under your leadership with the abiding faith,”Bagudu said.