In Cheering News, NSA Announces Release of Remaining 22 Gusau University Students

•Says mass abduction of Nigerians, ‘Never again!’ 

•10 years after Chibok, UNICEF seeks action to secure children’s education

Chuks Okocha, Michael Olugbode in Abuja and Segun Awofadeji in Bauchi

The National Security Adviser (NSA), Malam Nuhu Ribadu, yesterday, announced the rescue of the last batch of the kidnapped students of Federal University, Gusau, in Zamfara State.

Ribadu said the rescue of the students was through non-kinetic effort and without payment of ransom to their abductors.

On the savagery of mass abduction of innocent Nigerians by gunmen, the NSA declared, “Never again!”

Relatedly, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) called on the Nigerian government, partners, and the international community to take decisive steps to ensure that all schools in Nigeria had the resources and tools to fully implement the Minimum Standards for Safe Schools, focusing on the most vulnerable regions in the country.

UNICEF spoke against the backdrop of the 10th anniversary of the mass abductions in Chibok, Borno State.

Speaking during the release of the last batch of Federal University, Gusau, students, at the Counter Intelligence Office, Ribadu, told them, “I wish to congratulate you, the victims, and your families for your safe return home.

“Consider this experience as a trial, which should not break you, but make you stronger. I also wish to specifically thank the parents of the rescued victims for their patience and understanding during this period.

“On behalf of the president, I thank all those involved in the successful rescue of the victims without losing anyone of them, or paying any ransom.

“This is yet again a success story in our effort to free all those being unlawfully held in captivity. We have so far released over a thousand of such victims without noise and in complete respect to their privacy and safety.

“This occasion marks a final juncture in a series of rescues we have undertaken in the last few months to free victims of recent cases of mass abductions.”

The NSA declared, “Going forward, we are strengthening law enforcement and security measures to prevent these abductions, and strengthen physical security across vulnerable communities.

“I am grateful to all our security and enforcement agencies for their tireless work and sacrifices.

“Finally, I want to put on record and appreciate the leadership and encouragement of His Excellency, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, which made all these possible.”

Giving details of the rescue, Commandant of the National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC), Major General Adamu Laka, said bandits on September 22 2023 ransacked the Federal University, Gusau, kidnapped the students, and took them away on motorcycles through bush parts to the kidnappers’ den.

Laka explained that the first batch of the students were rescued March 15, 2024, while the second batch were released April 12, 2024 and the final batch were released April 14, 2024.

He explained that all the students were safe and in good conditions of health and would be released to the Zamfara State government through the state’s liaison office in Abuja

One of the students, Afsat Ibrahim, said they were kidnapped for about 207 days, but they were happy to be home again.

Meanwhile, a new UNICEF report showed that about 37 per cent of schools across 10 states of the federation had early warning systems in place to identify threats, such as school attacks.

UNICEF Representative in Nigeria, Ms. Cristian Munduate, who made the revelation in a press release, called for the prioritisation of education and child protection in national policies and budget allocations to create a safer and more inclusive environment for all Nigerian children.

Munduate urged government at all levels, partners, and the international community to address critical gaps in safe school infrastructure, preparedness for natural disasters, conflicts, and comprehensive approaches to violence against children. She said they should also as strengthen law enforcement and security measures to protect educational institutions and communities from attacks and abductions.

According to her, “As Nigeria marks 10 years since the mass Chibok abductions in the North-east, 90 girls remain in captivity, and the country is recovering from another abduction of schoolchildren in Kaduna State in March of this year. UNICEF is calling for intensified efforts to protect the country’s most vulnerable population – its children.”

Munduate stated, “UNICEF released today the ‘Minimum Standards for Safe Schools (MSSS) Monitoring Report,’ revealing a stark reality: the journey toward ensuring every Nigerian child can learn in a safe environment is far from over.

“Most notably, the report shows that just 37 per cent of schools across 10 states have early warning systems in place to identify threats, such as school attacks.

“The kidnapping of the Chibok girls was a wake-up call to the severe risks our children face in their pursuit of education.”

Munduate added, “Today, reflecting on this tragedy and other recent abductions, it is evident that our efforts to safeguard our children’s futures must be amplified. Given these alarming statistics, we must address not only the symptoms but also the root causes of this crisis.

“Education is a fundamental right and a crucial pathway out of poverty. Yet, for too many Nigerian children, it remains an unattainable dream.”

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