…Says no ransom demanded yet by bandits
…Notes negotiation still on with bandits
…Niger gov announces release of abducted travellers
…Nothing wrong in dialoguing with bandits, says FG
By Wole Mosadomi
Secretary to the State Government SSG, in Niger State, Ahmed Ibrahim Matane, yesterday explained why the military cannot use force to rescue students and staff of Government Science College, Kagara, saying the bandits who abducted were dressed in the uniform of the school.
The SSG, who noted that this makes it difficult to differentiate the bandits from the students, also revealed that the abductors have not demanded any ransom from parents or relatives of the students or government. Stressing that government was not relenting in securing the release of the students and staff, the SSG said: “There is nothing much yet on their release. We are still making contacts with them and we are hoping that we will reach the end of this interface and get some positive outcome very soon.’’
On why government cannot use force to secure their release, Matane said: “It will be difficult because the bandits dressed like students to carry out the operation, so it will be difficult to differentiate the bandits from students and we don’t want to cause any collateral damage”.
On how soon the release will be effected, he said: “In matters like this, you never know how soon because we have different groups, you have many stakeholders involved.
“Government has been able to dialogue with the leader of the gang that abducted the students but there are other groups and leaders and we are still talking to all of them.
“The bandits said they are annoyed with the government because of the way the security people have been handling matters affecting them
“At the interface with the bandits, it was discovered that majority of them are from Niger State and one of them told the government negotiating team, including myself, that they have taken up arms against the state because some security men dispossessed him of his vehicle, huge sums of money and cows and that he had to return to the forest and begin to take care of himself all over again.’’
The 27 students, their teachers and family members are spending the 7th day in captivity of the bandits as at today. Also yesterday, Governor Abubakar Sani Bello announced the release of the passengers abducted aboard a Niger State Transport Authority, NSTA, last week The governor made the announcement via his twitter handle
The tweet read: “Breaking News: The Niger State Government has succeeded in securing the release of all Abducted #RescueNSTAPassengers. Details shortly.” They were said to have been handed over to the Zamfara State government in an undisclosed location in Zamfara State and are currently on their way to Minna, the state capital.
The passengers were abducted on their way back to Minna from Rijau, in Rijau local government area of the state penultimate Sunday at Kundu village, along Minna-Tegina road. Eight of the abducted passengers were freed four days later, after an unconfirmed report had it that their families had paid for their release.
The bandits were said to have demanded N500 million ransom for the release of the remaining victims but the state governor, Abubakar Sani Bello, had ruled out the possibility of paying any ransom to the bandits but promised to engage stakeholders in the negotiation for the release of the abductees. Kaduna based Islamic Cleric, Sheik Ahmed Gumi, had been in the forefront of their release and that of the Kagara students but the students are yet to be freed.
Gunmen had on February 15, ambushed the commuters who were said to be returning from a wedding in Rijau local government area (LGA) of the state. At least 21 passengers were reported to have been taken by the gunmen.
Two days later, the kidnappers put out a video of the passengers and demanded a ransom of N500 million for their release. They had threatened to kill the hostages should the government fail to meet their demands.
The state government had said it would not pay ransom for the abducted passengers and students of Government Science College (GSC), Kagara, who were abducted in the early hours of Wednesday.
Meanwhile, the federal government has said there was nothing wrong in dialoguing with bandits. Last Wednesday, gunmen suspected to be bandits stormed the Government Science College (GSC) Kagara, Rafi LGA of Niger state, and members of staff, and some members of their families. Abubakar Bello, governor of Niger, had noted that his government was doing everything to rescue the victims, including facilitating negotiations with the bandits.
Speaking on a radio programme monitored by NAN yesterday, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, flayed Nigerians who had spoken against the strategy of dialoguing with criminals, saying there was nothing wrong in doing so.as long as the ultimate objective was to make peace.
“After war, people still sit to dialogue. So if some people have taken it upon themselves to visit these people so that they can embrace peace, I don’t think there is anything wrong with that,” the minister explained.
Speaking further, he noted that the federal government would not pay any ransom to secure the release of abductees of GSC Kagara, denying also that ransom was paid to secure the release of over 300 children abducted in Kankara, Katsina State.
On the herders-farmers crisis in parts of the country, the minister said the government was taking steps to address it.
He said the steps include plans for intensive cattle-rearing to ensure that cattle rearing and crop farming don’t conflict.
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