Tinubu: FG, States Collaboration Facilitated Release of Abducted Schoolchildren

Some of the rescued Kuriga school children in ZAMFARA State yesterday - Photos: DHQ

Some of the rescued Kuriga school children in ZAMFARA State yesterday - Photos: DHQ

·      Says schools must be safe, secure for learning

·      Kaduna governor salutes NSA, military, Nigerians

·      Declares 168 pupils kidnapped, 168 released

·      Excited parents say news relieving

·      DHQ: Joint security operation freed the kids

·      NEF: Enough of school abductions in north

·      Abbas, Atiku, Obi, others hail development

Deji Elumoye, Chuks Okocha, Kingsley Nwezeh, Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja and John Shiklam in Kaduna

President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, yesterday, welcomed news of the release of  Kuriga schoolchildren in Kaduna State, saying collaboration between the federal and state governments made it possible. Tinubu emphasised the importance of such collaboration for expected outcomes, especially on matters of security.

The president, in a release by his media adviser, Ajuri Ngelale, commended the National Security Adviser (NSA), Malam Nuhu Ribadu, the security agencies, and Kaduna State Government for the dispatch and diligence with which they handled this situation. He said schools must be safe and secure for learning.

Kaduna State Governor, Senator Uba Sani, who announced the release of the schoolchildren, commended the president, NSA, and the military for their role in the operations.

The state government affirmed that 168 schoolchildren were abducted, and 168 were released, contrary to the figures being widely reported.  

Parents of the children heaved a sigh of relief following news of their release.

Defence Headquarters (DHQ), in an update issued by Director, Defence Media Operations (DDMO), Maj Gen Edward Buba, said the schoolchildren were freed during a combined search operation by the security forces and local authorities.

Nonetheless, Northern Elders Forum (NEF) waned that the Kuriga school abduction was an incident that called for improved security measures, saying enough of school abductions.

Speaker of the House of Representatives, Tajudeen Abbas; former Vice-President Atiku Abubaka; and former governor of Anambra State hailed the news of the release of the schoolchildren.

Bandits had on March 7 invaded LEA Primary School and Government Secondary School, Kuriga, Chikun Local Government Area of Kaduna State, and abducted several students.

The bandits, reportedly, killed one person and abducted the schoolchildren, including some of their teachers. But some of the pupils were said to have escaped and returned home, while the bandits left with the others.

The Kaduna State government had earlier denied reports that it hired a private negotiator to facilitate the release of the children, whose kidnappers reportedly demanded N1 billion as ransom.

The president had also vowed that no ransom would be paid to bandits.

But an elated Tinubu stated yesterday that prompt action, meticulous attention, and tireless dedication were critical to the outcomes in cases of mass abduction. He further welcomed the release of pupils of a Tsangaya school in Sokoto State.

The president said in the statement posted on his official X account, “I welcome the news of the release of the Kuriga school children in Kaduna State. This reemphasises the importance of collaboration between the federal government and states for expected outcomes, especially on matters of security.

“The National Security Adviser, the security agencies, and the Kaduna State Government must be commended for the dispatch and diligence with which they handled this situation. It is clear that incipient urgency, meticulous attention, and tireless dedication are critical to optimal outcomes in cases of mass abductions.

“I also welcome the release of pupils of a Tsangaya school in Sokoto State, and commend all the parties to the feat for their valiant effort.

“I once again assure Nigerians that my administration is deploying detailed strategies to ensure that our schools remain safe sanctuaries of learning, not lairs for wanton abductions.”

Sani, who did not give details of how the schoolchildren were freed from captivity, had in a release, confirmed the good news.

He said in the release, “In the name of Allah the Beneficent, the Most Merciful, I wish to announce that our Kuriga school children have been released.

“Our special appreciation goes to our dear President, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, GCFR, for prioritising the safety and security of Nigerians and, particularly, ensuring that the abducted Kuriga school children are released unharmed.

“While the school children were in captivity, I spoke with Mr. President several times. He shared our pains, comforted us and worked round the clock with us to ensure the safe return of the children.

“Special mention must also be made of our dear brother, the National Security Adviser, Mal. Nuhu Ribadu, for his exemplary leadership. I spent sleepless nights with Mal. Ribadu fine-tuning strategies and coordinating the operations of the security agencies, which eventually resulted in this successful outcome.

“The Nigerian Army also deserve special commendation for showing that with courage, determination and commitment, criminal elements can be degraded and security restored in our communities.

“We also thank all Nigerians who prayed fervently for the safe return of the school children. This is, indeed, a day of joy. We give Almighty Allah all the glory.”

Meanwhile, Sani received a special mobile squad deployed to the state by the Inspector General of Police to check the activities of bandits.

Receiving the squad, which included two Armoured Personnel Carriers (APCs), Sani thanked the IG, saying the gesture would go a long way in addressing the security challenges in the state.

Parents: News of Their Release Relieving

Parents of the abducted 287 Kaduna schoolchildren, yesterday, breathed a sigh of relief following news of their release.

Some of the parents rushed to Government House anxiously to be reunited with their children, after the governor broke the news.

However, after several hours of waiting for their arrival, they were informed that the children would be brought in on Monday.

While waiting for the arrival of the children, Sani held a meeting with heads of security agencies and the parents. It was gathered that during the meeting, the parents were advised against speaking to the media.

However, one of the parents, Jubril Gwadabe Kuriga, told journalists in an interview that the government informed parents about the release of the children on Sunday morning and asked them to come to Government House.

Kuriga said news of the release of the children came as a big relief, as the parents went through pain and trauma.

“I can tell you that some parents are suffering from shock and trauma. There is a woman whose four children are among those abducted. She cannot eat and she cannot sleep,” he said.

Kuriga, whose nine-year-old daughter was among the abducted schoolchildren, said, “The government called us and informed us that the children are with them. That is the true story, but we have not seen them yet. They promised us by tomorrow (Monday) they will hand over the children to us.

“Each student or child will be handed over to the parents. We are feeling happy because it is not easy missing your child for this long period of time, so if we need to be happy.”

He said with the security presence in the area, the children could go back to school.

“We are happy that we now have security presence. We are going to use them to see that our children go back to school,” he said.

At the time of filing this report, it was not clear whether the children had arrived Kaduna from Zamfara State or not.

DHQ: Joint Security Operation Freed Kaduna Schoolchildren

Defence Headquarters (DHQ) said the schoolchildren were freed in a combined search operation by security forces and local authorities.

In an update by Director, Defence Media Operations (DDMO), Maj Gen Edward Buba, DHQ, however, said only 137 hostages were freed, including 76 females and 61 males.

“The rescued hostages, totalling 137, comprise of 76 females and 61 male. They were rescued in Zamfara State and would be conveyed and handed over to the Kaduna State Government for further action,” it stated.

DHQ said, “In the early hours of 24 March 2024, the military working with local authorities and government agencies across the country, in a coordinated search and rescue operation, rescued the hostages.

“The hostages are same persons that were abducted from the school at Kuriga in Chikun LGA of Kaduna State.

“These hostages were handed over to the Sokoto State Government. These efforts demonstrate the armed forces resolve to finding other innocent hostages and track down the terrorists that perpetrated these crimes.

“These efforts would continue until other hostages are found and the terrorists arrested, tried, and brought to justice by Nigerian law.” 

It said troops were employing similar effort to track down the culprits responsible for the killings of 18 soldiers in Okuama Community in Delta State, adding that, justice awaited the culprits, because they would not go unpunished.

NEF: Enough of School Abductions in North

Northern Elders Forum (NEF) said the Kuriga school abduction was yet another tragic incident that called for improved security measures, warning that “enough is enough”.

In a statement last night, NEF decried the frequent abduction of schoolchildren in the north and called for urgent medical attention and shock checks for the children as they reintegrated into society.

The statement signed by its spokesperson, Abdul-Azeez Suleiman, said, “The Northern Elders Forum firmly declares that enough is enough. The safety and security of our children should never be compromised or subject to negotiation.

“It is unacceptable for Nigerians, particularly those in the northern region, to continue living under such insecure conditions.

“Unfortunately, just months into the Tinubu administration, there have already been clear signs of failure in providing the vital aspects of security of life and property to citizens.

“While we celebrate the return of the abducted Kuriga school children, we must also recognise this event as a wake-up call for all of us.

“We cannot afford to become complacent in the face of such acts of violence and disregard for human life. As elders, it is our duty to protect and nurture the next generation.

“We urge the government and relevant authorities to work closely with us in ensuring that our children can go to school without fear. The safety and well-being of our children must always be a top priority.”

NEF also stated, “We also call for accountability and swift action from our leaders to address the security challenges our communities are facing. The return of the Kuriga school children stands as a testament to the resilience and strength of our community.”

Abbas, Atiku, Obi Hail Development

Speaker of the House of Representatives, Tajudeen Abbas, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, and former governor of Anambra State, Peter Obi, yesterday, hailed the news of the release of the schoolchildren.

Abbas said by the development, Tinubu was already living up to the task of protecting the lives and property of Nigerians. He lauded the Kaduna State governor for his relentless efforts, which culminated in the release of the students, saying the governor has demonstrated good leadership.

Abbas also hailed the NSA for the role he played in the release of the students. He commended the security agencies, especially the military, for their determination and commitment to the release of the Kuriga students.

Abbas, however, urged the armed forces to be more steadfast and determined in their operations, as well as ensure the rescue of other Nigerians captured by criminal groups in different parts of the country.

Atiku, while celebrating the news, used the opportunity to call for the strengthening of the safe school initiates, even as he renewed his call for the overhaul of the security architecture.

According to a statement he posted on his X account, Atiku said, “To this end, I recommend the strengthening of the Safe School Initiative that prioritises the protection of schools, especially in the areas that are most vulnerable to mass kidnap of school children.

“But above all, there should be an overhaul of the security architecture to meet the demands of the threats facing us. I am elated at the news of the release of the 287 abducted school children in Kaduna after 16 days in captivity. I commend all those who worked tirelessly to make their release a reality.

“As we celebrate with their families and friends, let’s be mindful that, like stage four cancer, this state of insecurity that has befallen our nation is metastasising and needs proactive measures to stem it.

“I can only imagine the trauma that these vulnerable children have suffered. It is recommended that the children receive psychotherapic care by professionals. We also do not need to wait for the next incident before putting mechanisms in place to forestall it.”

On his part, Obi said it was comforting to hear that 287 schoolchildren had been released.

According to a statement, also posted on his X account, Obi said, “It is hard to imagine the mental pain and trauma the children must have gone through in the hands of their abductors.

“The report of their release is, however, reassuring to the nation and their parents. I thank the government, the security agencies, and all those who made immense efforts to see that our children are released from captivity and reunited with their families.

“We must ensure that every Nigerian is safe in Nigeria, by not giving terrorists any operating space in our nation. No Nigerian should ever be a captive or hostage anywhere in his fatherland.

“I encourage every Nigerian, in the midst of these dark and fearful nights in our nation where danger seems to be lurking on every corner, to remain hopeful for the new dawn of a secure and safe nation – the New Nigeria which is Possible.”

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