Abductions: Some sub-regional forces conspiring against Nigeria’s stability — Presidency

The Presidency has fingered some sub-regional forces for the escalating incidents of kidnapping of students and other security glitches in Nigeria.

Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Ajuri Ngelale, alleged that some sub-regional forces were “actively conspiring” against the stability of the country during an interview on TVC news late Sunday.

He, however, assured that the Federal Government is “responding” to the conspiracy of these sub-regional forces.

Recall that last Thursday, bandits abducted no fewer than 287 pupils/students from a primary and secondary school at Kuriga, a community in Chikun Local Government Area of Kaduna State.
Days later, bandits also abducted some Tsangaya students at Gidan Bakuso in Gada LGA of Sokoto State. Tsangaya is a school that combines Islamic and Western education.

Speaking on the spate of kidnappings in the country, Ngelale said President Bola Tinubu is working hard to secure all parts of the country, noting that the US government had promised to provide assistance for the release of the abducted Kaduna school children.

The Presidency spoke as the Pan-Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, urged President Tinubu to go after sponsors of terror.

Also, experts against financial crimes drawn from Anglophone member states of the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, and the Intergovernmental Action Group against Money Laundering in West Africa, GIABA, yesterday, called for concerted efforts against terrorism financing and money laundering.

Meanwhile, on a day bandits demanded N40trillion ransom for 16 abducted Kaduna residents, one of the kidnapped students in Kuriga, Mustapha Abubakar, who escaped, narrated his ordeal in the hands of their captors, saying he stealthily hid in a shrub like a snake and escaped, while they were being moved by the bandits.

* Sub-regional forces conspiring against Nigeria’s stability

Speaking on the conspiracy against Nigeria, Ngelale said: “Across the North, we understand that some of the sub-regional geographical forces are actively conspiring against the stability of the Nigerian nation. We are responding to it. We are doing it in a way that is concerted with our neighbours.

“It is worth noting that the United States government has also pledged its assistance to ensure that there is a full return of all school children, who were kidnapped recently in Kaduna.

“We will continue to intensify our collaboration not only within the region but internationally to make sure that some of the regional actors that are conspiring against our nation are brought to justice and ultimately silenced for the future of our country.”

* Go after sponsors of terror, Afenifere tells Tinubu

Reacting to the recent kidnapping of school children in Kaduna and Sokoto states, Afenifere, in a statement by its Publicity Secretary and Deputy National Publicity Secretary, Mogaji Gboyega Adejumo and Prince Justice Faloye, asked the President not to leave room for excuses.

Lamenting the rising wave of insecurity, Afenifere said: “The recrudescence of this human tragedy is as clear to the Afenifere as the daylight is distinct from the eventide.

“Since democracy took off, this pattern remains constant, ever present; create chaos, destabilize the government, embarrass the President, finally, and disgrace the President out of office.

‘’No president since 1999 has escaped this scourge, coming with the political Sharia against Obasanjo, the Niger Delta violent political agitation of Obasanjo and Yar’Adua and cleverly solved by the duo; the Boko Haram religion-later-turned-political instrument to embarrass a sitting Southern Christian president as it was with Jonathan, who was told to convert to Islam, followed by the kidnapping extraordinaire of the Chibok girls’ type, the final straw that shocked Jonathan out of office.

“The Abikus, coming once a regime and for repeated times from as far back as the Zango-Kataf crisis, come with land-grabbing, human displacement and subjugation of a people over another, often planned, aided, lauded and prompted by those self-styled as owners of Nigeria.

“They were terrorists; Buhari curiously preferred to call them bandits. Their acts as aggressors, killing farmers, destroying their produce, and stealing indigenous peoples’ lands, clearly marked them as terrorists. “Buhari’s government would rather term these acts as farmers/herders clashes. The most disturbing expository, elucidatory, explicative reality about the whole saga is that these terrorists are known to the government.

“Mr President, you have to be brutally reminded of these recrudescences in history, a disease constant, an Abiku, real, clear and present.

“On Christmas Eve in 2023, there was a massacre on the Plateau. Chief Ayo Adebanjo, leader of Afenifere, led other leaders that make up the four zones from the South-West, South-East, South-South and the Middle-Belt on a condolence visit to the governor and the Gbom Gwom Jos and to the entire people on the Plateau. About 300 humans were slaughtered like rams.

“A hero makes history, is not afraid, and does not turn a blind eye. Mr President, arrest these perpetrators now, no excuses, Mr President…

“It is down to you, Mr President if you would rather go the way of your predecessors, by looking the other way and letting innocent blood flow, be disgraced and set for an early exit or find the strength, the will and the courage to face the sponsors of terror, with the resolve to eradicating this Abiku scourge from ever again taking root anywhere in our land.

“Through your policies, fiscal and monetary, the local currency has suffered the worst trajectory of devaluation of 35% in just your very first nine months in office, the very first massive devastation in the history of this country.

‘’The naira plunged to its lowest point on record in official trading as a shortage of US dollars persisted, despite promises by the government to boost supply.

“Go after the sponsors of terror. Restructure this country. Expedite action towards creation of state police. Return the country to a parliamentary system of government. Bring back Regionalism. And watch our countrymen and our hopeless children begin to live again in dignity, right before your very eyes.”

* ECOWAS experts move against terror financing, money laundering

Speaking at the opening of a two-day Training of Trainers, ToT, on Countering the Financing of Terrorism, CFT, for Anglophone GIABA member states at the National Institute for Security Studies, NISS, in Abuja, Director-General of GIABA, Edwin W. Harris Jr., said money laundering and the financing of terrorism continue to adversely impact the socio-economic development, peace, and security of member states and beyond.

He said in the last decade, the ECOWAS community had experienced an increasing level of terrorism, radicalisation, and violent extremism at an alarming rate.

“The GIABA Community shares this global concern regarding the current situation in the Central Sahel area and North-Eastern Nigeria and will continue to provide the necessary support to mitigate the money laundering and terrorist risks identified in line with the ECOWAS Priority Agenda,” he said

According to him, GIABA’s typology reports revealed the rapid evolution in the sources, methods, and techniques of terrorist financing, taking advantage of loopholes in legislation (such as the incompleteness of the terrorist financing criminalization regime), and the opportunities offered by digital finance and the power of cybernetic tools.

He said: “Even though the banking sector in most of our countries have taken steps to implement the UN sanctions lists (UNSC Resolution 1267) in terms of targeted financial sanctions linked to TF, there is still a vast majority of the private sector (particularly the DNFBP sector, Electronic Money Issuers, microfinances, Money and Value Transfer Services, insurance companies etc) that are struggling to align themselves.

“As for national sanctions lists, they remain severely handicapped by lack of operationality of national designation mechanisms under UNSC Resolution 1373.

“GIABA’s approach to supporting countries in their fight against the financing of terrorism is to bring their prevention and enforcement systems in line with international standards, particularly those of the Financial Action Task Force, FATF.

“In practice, this means providing countries with appropriate legal and institutional frameworks and building their capacity to implement these frameworks effectively. Most recently, in November 2023, GIABA organized a regional stakeholders’ workshop for operational agencies to engage them on the outcomes of our various typology reports for future adaptations and their responses to emerging threats.

“Counterterrorism can no longer be the exclusive domain of the military services. GIABA and FATF’s studies have rightly revealed that terrorists are increasingly using legitimate commercial enterprises to raise funds, as well as non-profit organizations, the abusive exploitation of extractive and mining resources, donations, crowdfunding, and above all, the proceeds of criminal activities such as kidnapping for ransom, extortion, illicit drug trafficking, illicit trade in small arms and light weapons, trafficking in arts and antics, etc. Terrorists also manage to move these collected funds through front companies, money or value couriers, using payment methods such as prepaid cards, mobile banking, or virtual assets.”

Terrorist financing networks must be disrupted – DSS

Also speaking, Director General, Department of State Services, DSS, Yusuf Magaji Bichi, who was represented by the Director of Training and Staff Development, Mrs Bolatito Sure-Olufe, said while military and intelligence efforts had achieved notable successes in disrupting terrorist operations, terrorist financing networks must be disrupted.

According to the D-G, depriving these groups of the funds that fuel their activities is crucial to undermining their capabilities and ultimately defeating them.

“Terrorist organizations rely heavily on a steady flow of funds to sustain their operations, including recruitment, training, procurement of weapons and explosives, and execution of attacks.

“By targeting their financial lifelines, we can strike at the very heart of these groups, limiting their reach and hampering their ability to carry out acts of violence.

“Moreover, the financial trail left by terrorist financing activities provides invaluable intelligence that can help uncover the structure, connections, and intentions of these networks, enabling more targeted and effective interventions.

“By strengthening our ability to follow the money trail, we can deprive these groups of the resources they need to carry out their heinous acts, ultimately contributing to a more secure and peaceful world for all.”

Why we need urgent actions – Nuhu

On his part, Nigeria’s Ambassador to ECOWAS, Amb. MS Nuhu, noted that the challenges posed by terrorism in the Sahel region, as well as the movement of terrorist groups towards coastal areas, underscore the urgency of actions.

He said in light of these challenges, ECOWAS in 2018, initiated the development of a regional framework for counter-terrorism.

“It is crucial to highlight that component six of the ECOWAS Regional Action Plan is dedicated to countering the financing of terrorism within the region.

‘’This underscores the critical importance of addressing the issue of terrorist financing, which serves as a significant enabler for terrorist activities.

Need for national, regional collaboration

Director/CEO of the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit, NFIU, who is also the National Correspondent of GIABA, Hafsat Bakari, said blocking the channels, routes and techniques used to move these funds within ECOWAS nations and across their borders required cooperation not just at a national level but also at a regional level.

According to her, this can only be achieved through a proper understanding and application of the role of the military, intelligence services, law enforcement agencies, prosecutors and the judiciary in this collective endeavour.

She said one of the strategic objectives of the National Counter-Terrorism Financing Strategy is enhancing the capabilities of Nigeria’s front-line military, intelligence, law enforcement, and prosecutorial authorities.

I hid in a shrub like a snake to escape from abductors – Kuriga student

Abubakar was among nearly 280 school children kidnapped at Kuriga but he and 27 others were able to return to their respective families.

The kidnapped children, both male and female, were between the ages of five and 18.

Speaking in an interview with the BBC Hausa monitored in Kaduna, yesterday, Mustapha Abubakar explained that the bandits moved the children like a herd of cows.

He said: “We trekked in the bush, sometimes we crawled. We were so thirsty, that some of the girls were becoming weak and falling due to tiredness. The bandits were lifting them and putting some of them on motorcycles.

“We later reached a big river where we drank water and continued trekking. There was a plane that hovered above us. That was when the bandits ordered us to remove one of our clothes and lie down.

“Even the bandits were exhausted. They had no food and were eating leaves and wild fruits. They gave us nothing to eat.

“While we were moving, I noticed a shrub, which was brown like my trousers. I hid inside and crawled like a snake. I was there until it was completely silent before I came out and headed to the bush.

“I later met an old man, who was having difficulty walking, I asked him about the pathway to the main road or any nearby place so that I could get water to drink.

“I had a marathon race, I was exhausted but I pushed on as evening time was approaching. I later arrived at Gayan, a community near us and that was how I eventually escaped.”

Bandits ‘demand’ N40trn as ransom for 16 abducted Kaduna residents
Meanwhile, bandits, in an unprecedented move, have reportedly demanded N40 trillion as ransom to release 16 residents abducted from Gonin Gora area of Kaduna.

Speaking with TheCable, yesterday, John Yusuf, a community leader, said the bandits contacted family members of the victims and also demanded 11 Hilux vans and 150 motorcycles. This is the first time bandits would make such a huge demand since abduction for ransom started in Nigeria.

After the attack, residents of the area, on February 29, blocked the Kaduna-Abuja highway for several hours to protest against the killing and abduction.

Yusuf said the bandits attacked the community twice within a week. “The bandits have contacted us. They are demanding N40 trillion, 11 Hilux vans and 150 motorcycles for the release of 16 people they are holding captive.

“Where are we going to get this kind of money? Even if we sell the entire community, we cannot raise N40 trillion. Even Nigeria as a country has never made a budget of N40 trillion.

“The abductions happened twice within a four-day interval. During the first attack, three people were kidnapped, while in the second attack, 13 people were abducted, bringing the total number of people being held captive to 16,” he said disclosing that the communities in Birnin Gwari were surrounded by bushes serving as hideouts for the bandits.”

While noting that the establishment of a military base would tackle the criminal operations in the area, he said: “We are pleading with the government to come to our aid by establishing a military base behind our community where the bandits take advantage of the bushes to invade our community.

“From our community down to Birnin Gwari, which is over 150 kilometres, is a stretch of bush. We also have another stretch of bushes from Gonin Gora down to Niger State. “

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