No fewer than 344 students kidnapped from Government Science Secondary School, Kankara in Katsina State by Boko Haram last Friday have been released.
Abdul Labaran, Director-General, Media to the Katsina State governor, Aminu Masari confirmed the release of the students to Vanguard, last night.
Labaran said the children were being transported from the bush where the bandits released them.
Recall that the students were kidnapped by Boko Haram, which attacked the school last Friday.
Before the students were freed, a distraught teenager and a student of the school in Kankara, had earlier day in a video by Boko Haram called on Governor Aminu Masari of the state to disband the local vigilante groups, withdraw troops and cancel formal schools in the state.
Speaking in English and Hausa in the video seen by AFP, the boy said he was among 520 students taken by “the gang of Abu Shekau.”
BokoHaram in two separate videos, showed the schoolboys seized in a mass kidnap in Kankara, and had claimed responsibility for the abduction.
The last Friday attack on the rural school in Kankara, was initially blamed on criminals, known as bandits, who have terrorised the region for years.
This came as the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, accused an unnamed governor in one of the North-West states of being behind the increased wave of banditry in the region.
Meanwhile, National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Prince Uche Secondus, yesterday, teamed up with hundreds of women and youths to demand the immediate and safe rescue of the abducted students.
In another development, Coalition of Northern Groups, CNG, yesterday, shelved its planned #BringBackOurBoys street protest to demand action for the immediate rescue of the school children.
Why we abducted schoolchildren — Terror gang leaders
The first video showed a gathering of schoolboys. The video, which lasted four minutes and eight seconds, had Abu Muhammed, Abubakar Bin Muhammed Shekar, the leader of Jamatu Ahlis Sunnah Lid Da’wah Wul Jihad, took responsibility for the school invasion and abduction of students.
His statement contradicted the submission of the Katsina State governor, Aminu Masari, who on Wednesday, opined that the perpetrators were local bandits roaming the forests of Zamfara and Katsina, and not Boko Haram.
However, Abu Muhammed speaking further in the video, gave reason for the abduction. He said that the act was carried out so that “our religion will rise and disbelief will fall.”
He noted that Western education was not for the sake of Allah and His Messenger and what was taught is not for the sake of Allah and his Messenger.
He noted that they have not killed anyone, but whoever they will kill must have rejected their religion.
‘I’m among 520 students taken by Shekau’
In the second video, a distraught teenager, speaking in English and Hausa in the video seen by AFP, said he was among 520 students taken by “the gang of Abu Shekau.”
The teenager was surrounded by a large group of boys, some looking very young, who were clustered under a tree, appearing grubby and exhausted.
The older student appealed to Governor Masari to disband the local vigilante groups, withdraw the troops and cancel formal schools.
The video was released with a recording of a voice resembling that of the group’s elusive leader, Abubakar Shekau, behind the 2014 abduction of 276 schoolgirls in Chibok that sparked global outrage.
It reiterated Boko Haram’s claim of responsibility.
“I earlier released an audio confirming our people did God’s work, but people denied it,” the voice said. “Here are my men, and your children have spoken.”
The video was sent to AFP via the same channel as previous messages by Boko Haram.
The Federal Government has not reacted to the group’s claims, nor confirmed the exact number of children missing.
Two accounts by different officials have put the number of schoolboys at 320 or 333.
Security sources told AFP on Wednesday that the operation was carried out on Boko Haram’s orders by a notorious local gangster called Awwalun Daudawa, in collaboration with Idi Minorti and Dankarami, two other crime kingpins with strong local followings.
Experts recently warned of attempts by jihadists to forge an alliance with criminal gangs in the North-West.
We’ve long feared an attack — Parents
Many parents of the missing students in Kankara said they had long feared an attack, given escalating violence in the region.
“Our children told us armed men would come up to the school fence but they never breached the fence until last Friday,” Hauwa’u Isah, mother of an abducted child said.
Around 8,000 people have been killed in the North-West since 2011, according to the International Crisis Group (ICG) think tank.
#BringBackOurBoys started trending on social media, in reference to a similar hashtag after the Chibok kidnappings.
A peaceful protest to push for the boys’ release took place in Katsina, yesterday, as President Muhammadu Buhari was visiting the state.
Protest in Katsina
“Why we are here today (yesterday) is because we want to tell the Federal Government that what they are doing is not enough,” protester Jamilu Aliyu Turanci said, adding “Mr President has failed us.”
Governor Masari said late Monday that the abductors “have made contacts with the government.”
“Talks are ongoing to ensure their safety and return to their respective families,” he said on Twitter.
Parents have been gathering at the school daily since the abduction, desperate for any information about the children’s fate.
“I was about to leave yesterday evening when a boy who escaped was brought here,” said one mother, Murja Goma.
“He said they had no food to eat, that they live on leaves and acacia fruits that their captors pluck from the trees for them.
“We have shed so much tears, our hearts are grieving and we don’t even know what to do,” the woman said, appealing to the government to rescue the children.”
North-West Gov behind banditry -APC
In a dramatic twist, the ruling APC in a statement yesterday in Abuja by its Acting National Publicity, Mr Yekini Nabena, “challenged security agencies to investigate an intelligence report linking a Northwest governor to the heightened cases of banditry, abductions and other violent crimes in the zone.”
Nabena who did not name the governor because of the security implications, said the increased spate of banditry in the North-West was politically-motivated and not unconnected to the unnamed governor’s alleged sponsorship of banditry and other violent crimes in the zone.
“Our security agencies have intelligence reports linking one of the North West governors of colluding and sponsoring the violent and criminal activities of bandits in the zone. I won’t give details because of the sensitive and security nature of the issue. However, relevant security agencies must as a matter of urgency investigate the report and determine its veracity. Human life is not what we should play political chess games with.
“We must shun enemies of the country including the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, who seek political gains from issues of insecurity.
“Our security agencies must also be alert to plots to further destabilise the North-West region and frustrate the quick and safe release of students abducted from GSSS Kankara, Katsina State.”
The party also warned the opposition PDP from politicising the abduction of the Kankara schoolboys, accusing it of seeking political gains from issues of insecurity.
APC was reacting to a protest organised by the PDP and its women wing at its campaign headquarters in Abuja.
Secondus, women, others demand rescue of Kankara abducted boys
The women and youths who stormed the Presidential campaign headquarters of the PDP in Maitama, Abuja, displayed sundry placards bearing such inscriptions as “Buhari has failed,” “Buhari, bring back our boys,” “Buhari values his cows more than human lives,” among others, said time has come for the President to throw in the towel, saying his inability to secure the nation is now glaring for all to see.
Secondus, who stood in solidarity with the peaceful protesters, also noted that the situation in the country has become too dangerous for silence even as he called on the President to immediately bring the abducted students back and unhurt.
Addressing newsmen, the PDP boss urged President Buhari to remember that the parents of the abducted students were passing through a trauma of the unusual kind, adding, “this is a peaceful protest to make the entire country and international community aware of what is going on in our country.
“All we are saying is Buhari, bring back our boys from Katsina. We are in pains, the parents are in pains, the entire country is in pains, we’re in agony, we are in sorrow. It is high time the government of the day, the APC government took action to bring back our boys from Katsina. That is the bold statement by PDP today with this peaceful protest,” he said.
CNG shelves #BringBackOurBoys street protest
On its own part, the Coalition of Northern Groups, CNG, in place of its planned street protest held a press briefing and symbolic protest within a confined area.
Reading a statement, National Coordinator of the group, Balarabe Rufai said with heightened insecurity, especially the recent kidnap of students running into hundreds, President Buhari and his government were apparently “helpless, incompetent, incapable or unwilling” to act to rescue these 300 schoolboys currently in captivity, thereby exposing them to harsh weather conditions, torture, hostile unfamiliar environment, malnutrition, the trauma of forced separation and threat of imminent death.
He said the security challenges in the country, particularly in the North which risks complete human, economic, and educational emasculation, have escalated beyond the former state of affairs before the coming of the Buhari administration in 2015.
He said further: “Against the backdrop of this heightened insecurity, especially the recent kidnap of over 300 students in Katsina, the CNG has inadvertently observed that President Buhari and his government are apparently helpless, incompetent, incapable or unwilling to act to rescue these 300 kids currently in captivity, exposed to harsh weather conditions, torture, hostile unfamiliar environment, malnutrition, the trauma of forced separation and threat of imminent death.
“The audacity with which the over 300 school children were abducted right under the nose of the President, who was a few kilometres away in Katsina at that time, confirms fears that government has completely lost the prerogative of providing security and therefore no longer reliable.
“That President Buhari has ultimately reneged on the pledge he made in Chatham House, London in 2015, to tackle insecurity head-on across the country, including paying special attention to the welfare of our soldiers in and out of service, and giving them adequate and modern arms and ammunition to work with.
“That instead, the security challenges in the country, particularly in the North which risks complete human, economic, and educational emasculation, have escalated beyond the former state of affairs before the coming of the Buhari administration in 2015.
“The powerful interests in government, pursuing pecuniary personal benefits, are not willing to see an end to this multiple and intersecting challenges that are making life difficult for our people.
“These powerful interests have ultimately resorted to the indiscriminate deployment of bands of non-state actors against any legitimate attempt at expressing citizens concerns over the situation. This was confirmed by the recent widely-publicized violent attack by hired armed thugs on a summit organised by the CNG at Arewa House, Kaduna, to address insecurity plaguing the North and fashion out ways of restoring peace to the region.
“This growing trend of forceful suppression of citizens’ rights to peaceful assembly and expression that manifested during the #EndInsecurityNow protests in Kano and replicated in other places on #EndSARS protesters, portends a grave danger to the future of democracy in Nigeria.”
Rufai also said the group would mobilise communities for coordinated self protection, and called for mass and prolonged struggle hash-tagged #BringgBackOurBoys “in solidarity with the deprived parents of the kidnapped Katsina students across all the Northern region.”
He gave reasons for shelving the street protest to the prevailing tensed atmosphere and on the other hand that the Katsina State government had given assurances that having developed contact with the abductors, it would within the shortest possible time secure the release of the children, an effort that should not be jeopardized.
After the symbolic protest, the group presented a letter to the state government, to make known their displeasure over the security situation, especially kidnap of the over 300 students in the state.
Responding after receiving the letter on behalf of Governor Masari, the Special Adviser on Security, Ibrahim Katsina, said additional security personnel had been deployed to the forest to ensure speedy rescue of the abducted students.
The group had planned to stage the protest within Katsina metropolis, before going to Daura to stage similar protest and meet with President Buhari to demand the immediate rescue of the abducted students and an end to insecurity in the North.
Vanguard News Nigeria