GUSAU – Seven out of the 317 female students abducted at the Jangebe Government Girls Secondary School in Zamfara State have escaped from their abductors.
A source who spoke with Channels Television from Jangebe town via a phone call on Friday evening confirmed that the girls returned home on their own as they claimed they manoeuvred their way back from the bandits while trekking along the forest.
According to the source, the escaped students said more had also escaped and are expected back soon.
The girls were abducted from their boarding school in the early hours of Friday.
In reaction to the development, the Zamfara Police Commissioner, CP Abutu Yar, had earlier said a joint search and rescue operation was already underway with a view to rescuing all 317 students.
CP Yaro said the Force Commander Operations Hadarin Daji, Major General Aminu Bande, Brigade Commander 1 Brigade, Nigeria Army Gusau, and other state government officials led a heavily armed Re-enforcement team to Jangebe to complement the ongoing rescue operation in the locations where the students were believed to have been whisked to.
The Commissioner while interfacing with the Principal of the school and the parents, appealed to everyone to remain calm, assuring them that the joint efforts of the police and other security agencies would surely lead to a successful rescue of the students.
Meanwhile, the state Governor, Bello Matawalle, has ordered the immediate closure of all boarding schools in the state.
“As we are making efforts to strengthen security around our schools, I have directed the immediate closure of all boarding secondary schools across the State,” Matawalle said in an evening broadcast.
One Abduction Too Many?
This comes less than a week after armed men attacked the Government Science College Kagara in Rafi Local Government Area of Niger State, abducting dozens of students and staff and killing one.
The incident started at about 2:00 am last Wednesday with the gunmen who were said to have worn military uniforms, shooting sporadically before whisking away their captives to an unknown destination.
Prior to that, over 300 students of the Government Science Secondary School, Kankara, Katsina State were also abducted in December 2020.
They were, however, all rescued shortly after.
A ‘Strong Warning’
President Muhammadu Buhari has reacted to the most recent abduction, describing it as inhumane and totally unacceptable.
In a statement released by spokesman Garba Shehu, the President said: “this administration will not succumb to blackmail by bandits who target innocent school students in the expectations of huge ransom payments.”
According to Buhari, “no criminal group can be too strong to be defeated by the government,” and he added that “the only thing standing between our security forces and the bandits are the rules of engagement.”
“We have the capacity to deploy massive force against the bandits in the villages where they operate, but our limitation is the fear of heavy casualties of innocent villagers and hostages who might be used as human shields by the bandits,” he said, stressing that “our primary objective is to get the hostages safe, alive and unharmed.”
Last Saturday, the Minister of Information, Mr Lai Mohammed, said that no ransom will be paid for the release of the abducted students.
He said this on Channels Television’s Sunrise Saturday while explaining some of the government’s strategies to curb the rate of abductions in the country.
While he ruled out the option of paying ransoms, the minister assured Nigerians that the “government has put in place various strategies to contain banditry, insurgency and kidnapping.”
“Some of these measures are kinetic, some are non-kinetic,” Mr Lai Mohammed said, without disclosing any specific actions.
According to him, the same was the case for the abducted Kankara schoolboys in Katsina State and the Dapchi schoolgirls in Yobe State, where contrary to reports, he claimed that no ransom was paid to secure their release.
“All these stories about ransom, are conspiracy theories,” the minister said.
He continued by saying: “I can assure you that the government is on top of the matter – but it is not a subject matter for television discussion.
“We didn’t get there overnight, that is why we can’t get out in one day”. (CHANNELS TV)