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Celebration in Katsina as 344 Kankara schoolboys regain freedom

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There was jubilation in Katsina State as the Nigerian military late Thursday rescued 344 of students of Government Science Secondary School (GSSC), Kankara.

The children were seized by bandits from the all-boys boarding school in Kankara town last Friday, December 11 and holed up in one of the sprawling forests in the northwest region.

The state government confirmed their release, saying they were being returned to the state from Zamfara where they were kept in captivity.

Spokesman for the governor of Katsina State, Mr. Abdul Labaran, confirmed the release of the abducted students saying the bandits freed them in Zamfara forest where they were kept.

It was learnt that top government officials, including security agents, were heading to Kankara to receive the children.

“Yes, the students have been released by their abductors.

“Three hundred and forty four of them are currently being transported from Zamfara forest to Katsina State Government House this night (Thursday),” he said.

However, he was silent on whether or not ransom was paid for the release of the schoolboys.

The state governor, Mr. Aminu Masari, had said on Wednesday that the government was in negotiations with the bandits through the leadership of Miyetti Allah, the central organisation of Fulani herders.

He claimed that bandits and not Boko Haram abducted the schoolboys.

He said the state government knew the abductors of the children.

“The report we have and from the information available to us, this abduction was conducted and executed by local bandits that are known to all of us,” he had said.

When asked if there is a possible link between the attackers and Boko Haram, the governor said there are “signs” that bandits are making contact with the insurgents.

“You know over one year, there were signs that some of the elements of the bandits are making contact with some of the elements of Boko Haram or ISWAP,” he added.

Reacting to the report on the release of the schoolboys, President Muhammadu Buhari described their safe return as a big relief to their families, the entire country and the international community.

The president, in a statement by his spokesman, Mr. Garba Shehu, expressed the nation’s appreciation for the steps taken by all involved to make their release possible.

He lauded what he called the “spirit of partnership and the collaborative efforts of the governments of Katsina, Zamfara and military leading to the release.’’

He commended the nation’s intelligence agencies, the military and police force for providing the environment for the safe release of the hostages.

“The Governor, Aminu Bello Masari, and the army worked extremely hard. As soon as I got the information I congratulated them. The armed forces know their job. They have been well trained and properly motivated,” he stated.

On other detainees still in captivity, the president assured the people that his administration is aware of its responsibility to protect the lives and property of Nigerians.

He urged the citizens to be patient and fair to the administration as it deals with insecurity, economic crisis and corruption.

According to him, his administration knows that it was elected to resolve challenges.

“When we came, we made efforts that yielded the return of the Chibok girls. When a similar incident of school abduction happened at Dapchi, we successfully returned all but one of the more than one hundred abductees. When this latest incident happened, we put in our efforts and today we have this result to show.”

The president cited the successes of his administration in dealing with security in the South-south and North-east as proof of its commitment to guaranteeing the safety of lives and property.

He stated that the northwest now presents a challenge, which his administration is determined to deal with.

“We have a lot of work to do, especially now that we have re-opened the borders. It is unfortunate that the bandits and terrorists continue to get weapons even under the circumstances of the border closure. We are going to dare them. We will deal with all that,” the president added.

He prayed for the full recovery of the pupils, whom he said had endured hardships in the course of their six-day ordeal.

However, hours before their release, Boko Haram, which had claimed responsibility for the abduction, had released a video showing the abducted schoolboys in its custody.

The video, which could not be independently verified, followed the same pattern after the kidnap of the Chibok girls some years ago.

The video, circulating on social media, purportedly showed Boko Haram militants with some of the boys.

The trending video showed Boko Haram’s flag and a group of boys in a wood begging security forces to leave the area.

The video has not been authenticated though it bears the hallmarks of the terrorist group.

In the video, released yesterday by the insurgents, some of the boys, looking distraught, appealed to the government to cooperate with their abductors so that they can be freed.

“Please help us. Tell the vigilantes and soldiers not to come around,” one of the boys in the video said, adding: “More than 500 of us are in the forest.”

“Close any form of school, including Islamiyya. Please send the army back. They can’t do anything to help us. Please sir, we need your assistance,” the distraught boy said.

At the end of the video, a voice believed to be that of the Boko Haram leader, Mr. Abubakar Shekau, said that “he was doing Allah’s work.”

Earlier on Thursday, dozens of protesters marched through the streets in the city of Katsina under the banner #BringBackOurBoys.

That hashtag has been trending on Twitter in recent days, harkening back to a campaign launched to bring home more than 200 girls abducted by Boko Haram in 2014 in the northeastern town of Chibok.

The march in Katsina was in response to a call from the Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG), a civil society body that focuses on the welfare of northern Nigerians. Some of the demonstrators chanted ‘Save northern Nigeria’.

“Northern Nigeria has been abandoned at the mercy of vicious insurgents, bandits, kidnappers, armed robbers, rapists and an assortment of hardened criminals,” a member of CNG, Mr. Balarabe Ruffin said.

Also yesterday in Abuja, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) staged a peaceful protest in front of the party’s Legacy House, Maitama, Abuja, to demand the safe return of the Katsina pupils.

The protesters, chanting anti-Buhari and APC songs, urged the federal government to bring back the pupils.

The protesters carried various placards with the following inscriptions: “High insecurity under APC is too much.” “Buhari has failed.” “Stop insecurity in Nigeria.” “Bring back our boys now, now.” “Buhari must change the service chief now.”

The protesters stopped at the PDP Legacy office in Maitama Abuja, where they were addressed by the national chairman of the PDP, Mr. Uche Secondus.

“Our message is simple. It is high time the government of President Muhammadu Buhari brought back our children that were kidnapped. The level of insecurity in Nigeria is getting out of hand. Bring back the boys. Enough is enough,” he said.

A public affairs analyst, Ms Annie Olaloku-Teriba said the fact that the abduction took place in northwestern Nigeria raised concerns because that is outside of Boko Haram’s typical area of operation.

She said the boys’ kidnapping was in essence “an attack on education”, which may also have more long-lasting effects.

“It poses questions as to the capacity of the government to protect schoolchildren and young people,” Olaloku-Teriba told Al Jazeera on Thursday, shortly after the news broke of the boys’ release.

“And that can have much longer-lasting consequences in terms of parents’ confidence to send their young people and their children to school,” she said.

(With ThisDay report)

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Security

Agojeju-odo Massacre: Ugane Club Challenges FG, Kogi Govt, Traditional Council to Act

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The  people of Omala Local Government Area of Kogi State have challenged the Federal and Kogi state governments, as well as the Igala Traditional Council to wake up to their responsibilities of providing security for communities that have come under sustained vicious attacks by heavily armed Fulani herdsmen in recent times.

A statement signed by the National Coordinator of Ugane Club, a socio-cultural organisation of Igala people of Omala Local Government extraction, Dr James Odaudu, frowned at what it called an abdication of government responsibility of safeguarding the lives and property of the people.

The full Statement;

In the wake of the human carnage that was visited on the Agojeju-odo Community in Omala Local Government Area of Kogi State on Thursday by Fulani herdsmen, it has become necessary to remind the Federal Government, the government of Kogi State and the Igala Traditional Council of their responsibilities for the security of lives of the people.

It is worrisome that 48 hours after the dastardly and gruesome murder of over thirty innocent and law-abiding citizens in the sleepy farming community, even with gory pictures of the vicious and callous human tragedy in the public space, there have been no official reactions from the Federal and Kogi state governments, including the Igala Traditional Council.

As a socio-cultural organisation committed to the welfare of Igala people of Omala extraction, Ugane Club views the silence of government and the Traditional Council as not only nonchalant but a betrayal of the people’s trust for safety and security.

Ugane Club notes that Thursday’s attack on Agojeju-odo was not the first time communities in Omala Local Government have been brought under the heavy gunpowder of the marauding herdsmen. There are cases of commercial centres of Bagana and Iyade which have been completely taken over by these aliens. The case of Agbenema also comes to mind .

Ugane Club condemns the unconscionable and callous murder of defenceless inhabitants, including women and children in Agojeju-odo and other communities before it, in the strongest possible terms, and calls on governments at all levels to rise up to their responsibilities of protecting law-abiding citizens, especially in Omala Local Government Area in order to avoid a loss of confidence and resort to sself-help.

We also wish to remind the authorities of an earlier request for the establishment of security outposts at the boundaries of Kogi State with the Benue and Nasarawa States through which the herdsmen terrorists come in to carry out their attacks on Omala Local Government Area and other parts of Igala Kingdom.

Ugane Club further urges the Igala Traditional Council led by His Majesty, the Attah Igala, to take all possible measures to protect his Kingdom from being overrun by these alien herdsmen who bear no sociocultural similarities with the peaceful nomadic Fulanis that have co-habited with the Igala people for decades.

Ugane Club commiserates with the people of Omala Local Government Area, especially the traumatised Agojeju-odo Community over the loss of their loved ones and displacement from their ancestral lands and hopes that those whose responsibility it is to bring succur to them will rise up to the challenge.

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Education

BREAKING! 287 Abducted Kuriga School Children Released

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About 287 Schoolchildren abducted by terrorists in Kaduna State on March 7, have regained their freedom.

This was revealed in the early hours of Sunday, March 24, by the Governor of Kaduna State, Senator Uba Sani.

Terrorists had early on Thursday morning March 7, stormed LGEA Primary School, Kuriga, Chikun Local Government Area of Kaduna State and kidnapped scores of pupils and teachers at about 8:20 am immediately after the morning assembly.

However, in a statement obtained  by SunriseNigeria, Sani specially thanked President Bola Tinubu, NSA Nuhu Ribadu and the Nigeria Army for the release of the Kuriga pupils and students.

 

The statement reads:

“In the name of Allah the Beneficient, 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 prioritizing 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 finetuning strategies and coordinating the operations of the security agencies, which eventually resulted in this successful outcome.

“The Nigerian Army also deserves 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.”

Governor Sani is expected to receive the students shortly in Kaduna.

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Boko Haram Sponsors Have Links With Nigerian Military, Army General Forcibly Retired After 64 Days’ Detention Reveals In Letter To President Tinubu

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Former General Officer Commanding (GOC), 1 Mechanised Division of the Nigerian Army, Maj Gen Danjuma Ali-Keffi, has revealed that terrorism financing, procurement, and movement of arms and ammunition for Boko Haram and other criminal elements have links to the military.

General Ali-Keffi, who was forced out of the army for exposing his colleagues’ involvement with terror financing, disclosed this in a letter to President Bola Tinubu, which also detailed his arrest, detention, and compulsory retirement.

“The most worrisome aspect was that some of the individuals involved in the financing of Boko Haram terrorists and who were also involved in the procurement and movement of arms and ammunition for Boko Haram and other criminal organisations had links with the military,” he stated.

Ali-Keffi, who headed Operation Service Wide (OPS), set up by former President Muhammadu Buhari to investigate those involved in terrorism financing, said his arrest, detention, and compulsory retirement followed the report of his team, which exposed the involvement of senior government officials, a top banker, and top military brass in terrorism financing.

Ali-Keffi revealed in the letter published by ThisDay that he headed a presidential investigative taskforce, the Board of Inquiry (BOI), convened by Major General BM Monguno (rtd), the former National Security Adviser (NSA), which sat in the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) for five weeks from early January to late February 2020.

“I was the President of the BOI, with members and secretaries drawn from the NCS, NIS, DSS, NIA, ONSA, and NFIU, as well as from the Board of Inquiry, which largely conducted its work as an investigative body tasked with investigating circumstances surrounding the illegal smuggling of petroleum products contained in 168 oil tankers into the Benin Republic through a single smuggling route in Ilesa Barbara, Kwara State,” he said.

He said the BoI went further “to uncover 295 oil tankers that conveyed Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) and the major smugglers identified.”.

He lamented that the most painful part of his experience was that President Buhari, who approved his headship of the task force, did not come to his rescue.

Begging President Tinubu for his intervention on the matter, he said, “Please cause an investigation into the circumstances surrounding my arrest, detention, maltreatment, and compulsory retirement from the Nigerian Army.”

He also sought a review of his compulsory retirement from the army and that it should be commuted to voluntary retirement as well as approved compensation for the expenditure incurred by the task force in hiring vehicles and quarters. This should include compensation for the pains and injuries suffered while incarcerated and approval of personal security, he said.

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