Military Mulls Seeking Help from US AFRICOM to Rescue Abducted Pupils

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•Dismisses Boko Haram’s claim as propaganda
•17 schoolboys escaped, says Masari
•Jigawa, Zamfara close schools
•Senate summons defence minister, service chiefs, others

Kingsley Nwezeh, Chuks Okocha, Adedayo Akinwale, in Abuja, John Shiklam in Kaduna and Francis Sardauna in Katsina

The military is considering many options, including seeking external help, to rescue over 300 schoolboys of Government Science Secondary School (GSSS) Kankara, Katsina State.
A top military officer confided in THISDAY yesterday that one of the options being considered is for the federal government to seek assistance from the United States Africa Command (AFRICOM) to launch a rescue bid leveraging on its sophisticated technology for such operation.

Besides, the military also dismissed claims by Boko Haram that it masterminded the abduction of the pupils last Friday.
It described the claim of the terror organisation, made yesterday by its acclaimed leader, Mr. Abubakar Shekau, as mere propaganda.

Amidst efforts to rescue the pupils, Katsina State Governor, Hon. Aminu Masari, said 17 pupils, out of the 333 schoolboys he had earlier said could not be accounted for had escaped from their captors.

Another report, however, claimed that two of the abductees might have been killed.
The Senate has, however, summoned the defence minister and security chiefs over the abduction of the Katsina pupils.

THISDAY gathered that in addition to the ongoing joint operation launched by the military and other security agencies, rescuing the pupils would be faster with help from AFRICOM.

AFRICOM had recently alerted Nigeria and other West African nations that ISIS, al-Qaeda and other terror groups were making inroads into the West African sub-region, exploiting local differences and collaborating with affiliates.

The United States Special Forces recently rescued an American kidnapped from a farm in Niger Republic in Sokoto State.
During the operations, the Special Forces killed six of the kidnappers, four from Niger and two from Nigeria.

THISDAY gathered that the federal government may be reaching out to the US government (AFRICOM) in view of its recent intelligence alert on the movement of terror groups to the sub-region.
“At many levels, strategic levels there is a flurry of activities to rescue the children safely and keep the peace of the nation,” the source added.

The source said the military was looking at many options irrespective of ongoing negotiations with the kidnappers.
The source also dismissed claims by Boko Haram that it staged the kidnap of the Katsina students as propaganda.
He said: “We have our constitutional mandate, which we are pursuing. We are not discouraging other options, be it negotiations or any other thing.

“We are focused on the rescue of the children, having established location. The issue of collateral damage is also being looked at. The safety of the children is paramount.”

On the claim by Boko Haram that it kidnapped the pupils, the source, who asked not to be named, said: “It is in their character to make such bogus claims in situations like this. It is part of their propaganda. Anything that happens in Nigeria is linked to Boko Haram.
“The fact that they have collaborators is not in doubt but this is propaganda.”

Boko Haram Claims Responsibility for Abduction

Earlier, the terror group, in an audio message released yesterday, had said it was behind last week’s kidnapping of hundreds of schoolboys in Katsina State.
So far, more than 300 pupils are unaccounted for, but others managed to escape.
The government had previously blamed “bandits” for the attack.

In a four-minute audio message trending on social media, the leader of the deadly Islamic sect, Mr. Abubakar Shekau, claimed his members kidnapped the schoolboys because Western education is against the tenets of Islam.

In the Arabic audio message he translated in Hausa, Shekau said: “What happened in Katsina was done to promote Islam and discourage un-Islamic practices as Western education is not the type of education permitted by Allah and his Holy Prophet.

“They are also not teaching what Allah and his Holy Prophet commanded. They are rather destructing Islam. It may be subtly, but Allah the Lord of the Skies and Earths knows whatever is hidden.
“In a nutshell, we are behind what happened in Katsina. The speaker is Abubakar Shekau, leader of Jama’atu Ahlussunna Lid-Da’awati wal Jihad.”
But Shekau did not give details of the attack, the number of the abducted schoolboys or mentioned entering into negotiation with the Katsina State Government

17 Students Escaped from Captivity, Says Masari

Katsina State Governor, Hon. Aminu Masari, in an interview with journalists late on Monday after he briefed President Muhammadu Buhari in Daura on efforts made to rescue the students, said 17 out of the 333 abducted schoolchildren had returned home.

Masari had earlier told the Minister of Defence, Maj. Gen. Salihi Magashi (rtd), who on Sunday led security chiefs on a sympathy visit to the people of the state that 333 pupils were missing after the invasion of the school.

The governor, who said frantic efforts were ongoing to rescue the remaining captives, added that the 17 freed students were released “unconditionally” and had since been reunited with their family members.

He said: “As at today (Monday), information available to me shows that 17 of the missing children have been found. Fifteen of them were found around Dinya in Danmusa. I was informed by the DPO. One other was found through them and the last, the father called that his son has returned home.

“All these missing children who have been found have been reunited with their families since we have shut down the schools. Majority of the missing children are in the forest in Zamfara. But God willing, the children will be returned safely.

“I was told that they spoke with a teacher whose son was also kidnapped that the bandits said the helicopter should stop roving and that they will collect ransom but they didn’t specify. And so they ended the call.”

Masari explained that one of the abducted children’s fathers, who is also a teacher at the school, was contacted by the bandits who warned that security forces should stop aerial patrol of their hideouts.

He added that the bandits demanded that adequate money should be set aside pending the completion of the ongoing rescue mission.
However, two of the abducted students have been reportedly killed by their abductors.

A parent, whose son is among those kidnapped by the bandits, told THISDAY yesterday on condition of anonymity that one of the students who escaped from the kidnappers’ den said the hoodlums killed two of the schoolboys in his presence.

He said the student told them that while in captivity, they were made to go through inhumane experiences, including being flogged like animals and fed with wild flora.

Senate Invites Defence Minister, Service Chiefs, Others

The Senate yesterday invited the Minister of Defence, Maj. Gen. Salihi Magashi (rtd), the service chiefs and heads of the Nigerian Police Force and the Department of State Service (DSS) over the unending insecurity situation in the country.
The Senate took the decision after debating a motion on the abduction of the schoolboys.

The motion, sponsored by Senator Mandiya Bello (Katsina South), also urged the president to implement the report of the Senate Committee on Security Challenges without further delay. It resolved to invite the chiefs to brief the Senate on measures being taken to rescue the pupils.

The Senate urged the president to implement the recommendations of the Senate Ad Hoc Committee on Nigeria’s Security Challenges dated March 17, 2020, and Senate resolutions there from, as a holistic response to the mounting security challenges across the country.

Arguing the motion, Bello said: “Aware that the recent attack and abduction of schoolchildren at Government Science Secondary School, Kankara, Katsina State, is coming on the heels of yet-to-be resolved abduction of 270 girls, which took place at Government Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State in 2014, and abduction of about 100 schoolgirls at Government Girls Science and Technical School, Dapchi, Yobe State in 2018; and
“Concerned that like the other incidents of schoolchildren abduction that took place in Chibok and Dapchi, several years back, if no immediate action is taken to rescue the Kankara schoolboys, their fate may be sealed in the hands of terrorists.”

Other senators, in their various contributions reiterated the calls for the sacking of the service chiefs and passed a vote of no confidence in the various heads of security agencies in the country over their inability to prevent the abduction of schoolchildren.
The senators also expressed concerns about Buhari’s persistent disregard for all resolutions passed by the Senate on insecurity.

Ensure Safe Return of Abducted School Girls, House Tells FG

The House of Representatives yesterday called on the federal government to expedite action on the safe return of all abducted schoolchildren, from Chibok to the most recent one at Kankara.

The House also called on the federal government to urgently implement the Safe Schools Declaration to protect children and teachers from attacks in schools and ensure that their education continues without hindrances.
It urged the federal government to forward the Safe Schools Declaration to the National Assembly for ratification and domestication.

It further called on the federal government to review the security architecture of the country because it is no longer effective.
These resolutions were a sequel to the unanimous adoption of a motion on urgent public importance, titled, “Call on the Federal Government To Urgently Bring Total Control, The Attacks On Educational Institutions, Insurgency, Banditry And Kidnappings Across the Country,’ sponsored by Hon. Musa Sarkin Adar and 75 other lawmakers.

Moving the motion, Adar said that the security challenges in the country, particularly in the North, are backsliding into the former state of affairs before the coming of the Buhari administration in 2015.
He expressed concerns that the attacks and kidnappings have taken such a dangerous dimension that the security agencies seem to be overwhelmed.

He lamented that to date, about 112 Chibok schoolgirls are still missing; and that two years after, one of the Dapchi girls, Leah Sharibu, is still in captivity.

APC Charges Security Agencies to Apprehend Criminals

Following the abduction of the Katsina pupils, the All Progressives Congress (APC) has called on the nation’s security agencies to demonstrate their commitment by going after criminals and denying them the space to operate.

The Chairman, APC Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee and Governor of Yobe State, Mai Mala Buni, in a statement yesterday in Abuja, said the abduction brought back memories of similar incidents in Chibok and Dapchi.

Buni said the APC believed that the security agencies have the will, commitment and training to restore public confidence in their ability to secure the lives and property of Nigerians.
According to him, they should demonstrate this commitment more by going after criminals and denying them space to perpetrate crime

“Buhari administration works harder to improve the security situation in the country, the APC calls on the nation’s security agencies to dig deeper and do better by ensuring that our students can go to school safely and learn all across the country. There is no greater harm that insecurity can do to a nation than to destroy its education and the future of its youths,” he said.

PDP Blames APC for Buhari’s Perceived Lethargy over Insecurity

However, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) yesterday accused the All Progressives Congress (APC) of complicity in the president’s seeming lukewarm attitude towards combating insecurity in the country.
It urged the ruling party to speak out on the several cases of killings and kidnappings in the country, stating that the silence of the ruling party amounts to conspiracy.

The PDP said the APC had displayed its insensitivity and anti-people stance by encouraging the president to visit his cattle ranch instead of Kankara in his home Katsina State.

The PDP, in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, said by not impressing it on Buhari to cut short his private visit to Daura and make efforts to rescue the pupils, the APC has again shown that it is a party of ‘political bandits,’ which has no iota of concern for the wellbeing of Nigerians.

It said: “Indeed, the preference for the welfare of Mr. President’s cattle over the safety of our young students, who are now languishing in their abductors’ den, foregrounds APC’s disdain for Nigerians, for which it should never be entrusted with governance at any level in future.

“Our party and, indeed, discerning Nigerians are not surprised that the APC, as a party, has not forcefully condemned the kidnapping of the students even as it has not raised any strong voice against the recent gruesome killing of 43 farmers in Borno State by terrorists.
“Rather, the APC has tacitly supported the insensitive comment by the Buhari presidency, which blamed the slain farmers instead of taking steps to apprehend the assailants.”

ACF: We’re Tired of Complaining about Insecurity

The Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) yesterday said it was tired of complaining about worsening insecurity in the country because the government appears not serious about taking proactive measures to remedy the situation.

Speaking with journalists shortly after a meeting of the ACF Board of Trustees (BOT) in Kaduna, spokesman of the forum, Mr. Emmanuel Yawe, lamented that for the umpteenth time, the federal government has failed to take advice from ACF and other Nigerians on how to tackle insecurity, particularly in the North.

He said: “The ACF complained about this insecurity in its October meeting, nothing was done. We are in December with the same complaint, nothing is being done.
“We are even tired of complaining because the government does not appear to be serious about taking proactive measures to end the ugly situation.

“It is even ridiculing the country in the eyes of the international community as both the police and the army seem to have been overwhelmed by the security challenges. It is really a distressful situation.”

He called on the government to find ways of protecting lives and property, saying that it is the constitutional responsibility of the government to protect the lives and property of its citizens.

Yawe said the ACF would be reorganised to tackle youth restiveness from the local government level.
According to him, massive youth employment by the government at all levels will reduce the crime rate and checkmate rising insecurity nationwide.