Kaduna abductions: Bandits using pupils as human shields —Sources

Troops appear to be closing in on the gunmen who abducted 287 school children in Kuriga, Chikun Local Government Area of Kaduna State on Thursday, The Nation learnt last night.

But the bandits are said to be using their victims as human shield as the security men advanced on them.

The soldiers, sources said, fanned out in pursuit of the terrorists following a directive by President Bola Tinubu for the children to be rescued at all cost and the brains behind the abduction fished out.

First Lady Remi Tinubu said yesterday that kidnappers should be made to face the capital punishment.

The United Nations Children’s Education Fund (UNICEF) deplored the abduction, saying schools are supposed to be sanctuaries of learning and growth, not places of fear and violence, while Amnesty International (AI) asked government to take all necessary measures to ensure the safe release and return of abductees to their families.

Sources told The Nation in Kaduna that the troops deployed in the forest for the search and rescue operations had located the position of the bandits and their victims.

The Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Taoreed Lagbaja, reportedly landed in Kaduna to boost the morale of the troops deployed on the rescue mission, although this could not be immediately confirmed.

The movement of the gunmen and their victims in the forest is said to be rather slow because of the large number of the children and their relatively young age.

The source said: “What we have gathered is that the bandits have not been able to go far with the abducted pupils because the children among the abductees are slowing down their movement.

“Now, the troops who went after them have sighted the bandits and the abductees, but the rescue mission is said to be difficult for now because the bandits are using the children as human shield.”

Tinubu’s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Ajuri Ngelale, confirmed yesterday that the President had already met with and received briefings from security chiefs on the matter and pledged that the victims of both incidents would  soon be rescued.

Ngelale quoted his principal as condemning the heinous incidents of abduction, involving very vulnerable victims; internally-displaced persons in Borno State, and students in Kaduna State.

“The President directs security and intelligence agencies to immediately rescue the victims and ensure that justice is served against the perpetrators of these abominable acts,” he said.

“The President sympathises with the families of the victims, assuring them that they would soon be reunited with their loved ones,” he added.

The President, who vowed that the criminal elements behind the abductions would not escape justice, however said only the rescue of the victims would be acceptable to him and the loved ones of the victims.

Kaduna State Governor Uba Sani visited Kuriga on Thursday evening and assured the community that everyone  of the abducted children is like his own child, hence he would do everything possible to ensure all of them return  home unhurt.

He said: “In my capacity as your elected governor, I am assuring you that by the grace of God, all the children will return unhurt. We will do whatever we needs to do to ensure safe return of these children, even if it means coming to Kuriga to stay with you.

“Since I received the sad news of this incident, I have not had rest of mind because every child in Kaduna State is my child. So, I don’t want to you people to be disturbed. Let us pray to God to help, and on our part as a government, we will not rest until these children return home.”

First Lady seeks capital punishment for kidnappers

Reacting to the incident yesterday, First Lady Oluremi Tinubu asked state governors and lawmakers to prescribe capital punishment for kidnapping.

She also described as heart-rending the act of kidnapping innocent children, who she also described as the future of the nation.

The First Lady spoke during a meeting with the National Women Leaders of the All Progressives Congress (APC) at the State House, Abuja.

Her spokesperson, Busola Kukoyi, quoted her as saying: “They are cowards. Our hearts bleed. I call on the state governments that once we get hold of them, they deserve capital punishment. Why can’t they take men of their size? Why are they touching women and children?

“What they are doing is that they are trying to kill our future. We all know that when parents are old, we rely on our children. We see them as our investments that have not gone to a waste, especially when they are successful.

“Why will you now take them from their schools? Right now, I think enough is enough. As a former lawmaker, I believe that any one of them captured deserves the capital punishment.

“I believe most mothers will support me on this because we carry our children for nine months, and we cannot watch what we love to wither away.”

First Lady Tinubu told the women that the Renewed Hope Agenda of President Tinubu places a strong emphasis on creating opportunities for women to thrive economically, socially, and politically.

“As women, we constitute a significant portion of our society, and it is vital that our voices are heard and our contributions acknowledged. As women leaders, your role is very crucial to our nation’s development,” she said.

She urged the women to set a robust agenda for empowerment, inclusion and welfare of women within the APC and across Nigeria.

She also celebrated the International Women’s Day with the women and all other Nigerian women for their courage, resilience and doggedness.

Mamman appeals for safe return of kidnapped students

Education Minister Tahir Mamman described the Kaduna kidnapping as one too many.

He said his ministry was working with the security agencies on how to bring an end to such heinous activities of bandits, especially under the Safe School project of the Federal Government.

He appealed to security agencies and the Kaduna State Government to ensure the safe return of the pupils.

The minister, who spoke at a press conference in Abuja, described Thursday as “a very sad day for the country.”

He hoped that “these young ones are brought back even before the Ramadan season starts. Our brothers and sisters are already observing the Lent. So we commit them to prayers for the Almighty to protect them and bring them back safely home.

“We are terribly concerned about this development, and we make appropriate appeal to those who responsibility it is to bring back our children, to work as quickly as possible so that these children are returned to their homes and back to school safely.”

Security agencies must rise up to the challenge, says Atiku

Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar said the security challenge in the country is deteriorating by the day and called for an immediate end to the problem.

“The cases are endless, and the problem seems interminable,” he said on X.

He said government’s inability to secure the vulnerable “is in negation of the constitutionally guaranteed commitment that the security and welfare of citizens is the primary responsibility of government.”

He urged the security agencies to “rise up to the challenge and save innocent citizens from the horrors of banditry and terrorism.”

Obi: We need better security measures

Presidential candidate of Labour Party (LP) in last year’s election, Mr. Peter Obi, called for better security measures to avoid future occurrences.

“While insecurity has continued to bear down on every sector of our national existence, its negative impact on education will be more devastating for the nation,” he said on X

“We are already contending with an army of over 18 million out-of-school children arising from the closure of schools due to insecurity. Further attacks on schools will only aggravate these numbers, drive more children into the streets, and add to the insecurity situation of the country.

“I once again appeal to the government, both state and federal, to explore all possible means to ensure the safe release of the abducted school children and their teachers.

“I urge every Nigerian to continue to work and pray for the nation so that we can collectively conquer these unusual challenges. We must ensure that every Nigerian child can pursue their dreams and aspirations in a safe and secure nation.

Why kidnapping is a ‘lucrative business’, by Shehu Sani

Human rights activist, Shehu Sanni said kidnappers are in the business because they find it lucrative.

Taking to X yesterday, he wrote: “The Kidnapping of School Children by terrorists in Northern Nigeria is a lucrative business. They use it to blackmail Government for huge payment of ransom.

“They know that it will evoke public sympathy for the Pupils and pressure will be mounted on the government to bow to their demands.

“Many parents in rural areas are now afraid of allowing their children to go to school. This is a serious problem for basic education in Northern Nigeria.

“Though this tragic incident happened, there is a significant drop in the occurrence of such attacks on schools compared to its frequency under the last administration.

UNICEF: ‘Nigerian children deserve to learn in peace’

The United Nations Children’s Education Fund (UNICEF) condemned the “alarming frequency of such incidents across the country,” and declared that Nigerian children deserve to learn in a peaceful environment.

Country representative of the organisation, Christian Munduate, said in Abuja that schools are supposed to be sanctuaries of learning and growth and not  places of fear and violence.

He said the frequency of such incidents across the country “signals a crisis that requires immediate and determined action from all levels of government and society.

“This latest abduction, as any previously, is highly condemnable and part of a worrying trend of attacks on educational institutions in Nigeria, particularly in the Northwest where armed groups have intensified their campaign of violence and kidnappings.

“Just a day prior to this incident, the UN Resident Coordinator spoke about the abductions of large numbers of women, girls and boys by members of a non-state armed group in Borno State.

“UNICEF urges immediate action to ensure the safe return of the abducted children and staff and calls on authorities to implement comprehensive measures to secure schools across Nigeria.

“It is imperative that the safety and security of students and educators are guaranteed, allowing schools to fulfill their role as safe havens for learning and development.”

Authorities must ensure safe release and return of all abductees, says AI

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