Presidency: How we forced the bandits to release the abducted Katsina students

Garba Shehu

• He says that the outlaws who repented helped in the rescue operations
• Allegations of phase-controlled FG kidnapping errors

Written by Dike Onwuamaeze

The presidency shed more light yesterday on how the governments of Katsina and Zamfara states, in cooperation with the federal government, managed to secure the release of 344 students of the Government Scientific Kankara High School, a week after their abduction.

Presidential spokesman Mallam Garba Shehu said on a breakfast television program that penitent bandits helped secure the release of the students.

He also dismissed allegations that the federal government managed the abduction of students to give the impression that the Bukhari administration was up to the task of protecting the lives and property of Nigerians.

The students were abducted on December 11, the day President Muhammad Bukhari arrived in Daur, his hometown, to begin a one-day private visit and were rescued ahead of his departure for Abuja.

The abduction sparked global outrage by calls on the federal government to ensure they were rescued in time so their case would not be like the case of some 270 schoolgirls abducted from Chibok, Borno state, many of whom were not found, nearly six years after their abduction.

Shehu said that although no ransom was provided for the bandits who abducted the schoolchildren, negotiations were held with them.

“All the leading actors who took part in the release of the children said that the ransom had not been paid.

“The governor of the state of Zamfara, who pursued a policy of cooperation with bandits that led to the surrender and renunciation of bandits, used repentant bandits to gain access to those who were in the forest and let them (schoolchildren). “All the leading actors in the states of Zamfara and Katsina said that the ransom was not paid,” he said.

He explained that the rescue operation was a joint effort of security agencies, including the army and police.

He said there were negotiations with the kidnappers after the troops surrounded the Zamfara forest where the hostages were.

“The security services, the army, the police, the intelligence agencies showed good judgment and ability by reacting quickly to the abduction of those students and then locating them exactly where they were being held.”

“Having done that, they quickly mobilized and surrounded the whole place to ensure that they did not go in and out. So all that followed was to draw the profit that was made.

“The military identified where they were less than 24 hours after the abduction and waited for the negotiation process and in the end everyone is happy that it ended the way it ended,” he said.

On claims that the federal government was managing the abduction, Shehu said only an insensitive person would stage the abduction of innocent children.

He added that from the accounts of the released boys, they were subjected to inhumane treatment while they were in the bushes and no one should say that such an incident was staged.

“It’s just ridiculous. How can anyone do that? Then people have to be callous if they are supposed to do that and subject these young people to it.

“You heard the bills. These young people were kept in the woods. Once they were fed raw potatoes and drops of water for seven days.

“Look at the suffering they were exposed to. I don’t think any decent human being will subject innocent young people to things like this. “No one should say this,” he said.

The presidential spokesman also stressed the need for Nigeria to prevent livestock farmers from wandering across the country to prevent clashes with farmers.

Responding to allegations that Bukhari is grabbing land to distribute to livestock farmers, Shehu blamed the shepherd’s actions for drying up grazing areas in the north.

“This country has problems with grazing because the cattle breeders are mostly Fulanis. The challenge is from these places that they practiced, you know, invading the desert which has led to the drying up of many pastures in the northernmost parts of the country.

“This put pressure on the cattle breeders who were looking towards the southwestern green grass, so that their cattle will eat, and they will also have drinking water. This is the global climate situation, which is sad given what happened along the Lake Chad basin.

“I am glad that the northern governors are gathering and saying that we should solve this grazing problem because we have to stop these cattle breeders from wandering and eating our crops all over the country.

“They drive cattle to agricultural lands and eat crops. Farmers retaliate and follow the killings. The country cannot continue in this way, “he added.

As for insecurity in the Northeast, Shehu said progress has been made, adding that “a lot” has been done and that Yobe, Bauchi, Gombe, Taraba and Adamawa have all “crossed over” from the issue of insecurity.

“And we hope and pray for our brothers in the state of Borno that they, with the support of the army and communities, get rid of Boko Haram.

“The president has said countless times that his expectations still have to be met, which means we are not exactly where we want to be. “However, the fair judgment that can be made about the ongoing efforts of the administration is that it is judged according to the answers it makes when security challenges arise.

“In all countries of the world, there is always one form of security challenge, and the question is, how to respond? The current administration has responded within its capabilities, competencies using available resources and manpower and all the limitations that arise with that. Well, can we be better? We hope that we will continue to improve, “he said.