Estimated reading time: 17 minute(s)
THE headache for Katsina State Governor Aminu Masari is how to locate and bring back home 333 pupils that are still missing after weekend’s abduction of pupils of Government Science Secondary School, Kankara.
Before this mass abduction, Katsina, along with other states in the Northwest, has been battling with banditry.
Only 426 pupils out of the total population of 884 in the hostel could be accounted for on Saturday.
But Governor Masari told Minister of Defence Gen. Bashiir Magashi (rtd), who led service chiefs to the state on a mission to rescue the kids that 333 pupils were still missing.
Masari said the abductors, believed to be bandits, were yet to make contact with the state government.
He added that no group had claimed responsiblility for the abduction.
The police said they rescued 200 pupils shortly after the incident. About 206 others surfaced before the arrival of the service chiefs.
Masari said his administration, in collaboration with security agencies, was combing Kankara and neigbouring communities in search of the missing students
He added: “The school’s pupil population is 839 and so far, we are yet to account for 333. We are still counting because more are still coming out of the forest.
“We are still searching for those missing because as a government, no group or association has contacted us or made any claims till date.’
Magashi promised that the armed forces had resolved to move fast and ensure speedy rescue of the students
The Defence Minister said: Within the next few days, we will ensure the students are back without collateral damages to the people of Katsina State. All hands are on the deck to ensure that this rescue move is given the greatest priority it deserves.
“We have the strategies; we have the intelligence and the information. We also have details of their whereabouts, movements and methods of operations.
“The task is easy for the armed forces and the police. The only thing is that we need prayers from you so that there will be no collateral damage in the event of being hostile.
“We assure you that all hands are on deck. But, the conclusion by the armed forces is that these hoodlums should be declared terrorists.”
Members of the delegation included National Security Adviser, Gen. Babagana Monguno; Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Abayomi Olonisakin; Chief of Air Staff Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, Chief of Naval Staff Vice Admiral Ibok Ekwe Ibas and Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu.
Others are: Director-General of the Department of State Services, Yusuf Magaji-Bichi and Director-General, National Intelligence Agency NIA, Ambassador Ahmed Rufai’
As the delegation was meeting with Masari, a group of women went on a protest, calling for the rescue of the abducted pupils.
The women protested on the school premises, calling for quick rescue of the pupils.
The protesters, who were led by a woman who identified herself as one of the mothers of the abducted pupils, went around with placards with various inscriptions including: “Government must speak out’, ‘We want our children back’ and ‘We want security in Kankara.’
The protest by the women caused a spat between the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the state government.
While the PDP, in a statement by its spokesperson, Kola Ologbodiyan, claimed that security operatives fired tear gas at the women, the Masari government denied it and reminded the opposition party that security issues must not be politicised.
Ologbondiyan, in a statement, said: “It is indeed sad that instead of going after terrorists and insurgents, that struck a few hours after a holidaying President Buhari and his security machinery took over the state, the state apparatus of power is being used to inflict further pain on the helpless victims.
“Such display of insensitivity further foregrounds the lack of empathy by the Buhari-led All Progressives Congress (APC) administration and serves as a sad reminder of how it also blamed the 43 farmers recently slain by terrorists in Borno State, instead of taking steps to apprehend the assailants.”
Ologbodiyan added that the” PDP shares the pains and sorrows of these parents who have been under serious torment since President Buhari arrived Katsina for his needless holidays.”
The PDP called on the Presidency to immediately apologise to Nigerians and the parents of the kidnapped students as well as take steps to ensure disciplinary actions on those who ordered the tear gas attack on the parents.”
The Special Adviser to Masari on Security Matters, Ahmed Katsina, dismissed the claim by the PDP , saying the current security challenges facing the state should not be politicised.
“Security issue has no colour or culture. It should be handled in a non-partisan manner,’’ he added.
Also on Sunday, the Northern Governors’ Forum condemned the attack, but thanked President Muhammadu Buhari for swiftly directing security chiefs to ensure that the missing students were rescued unhurt.
NGF Chairman and Plateau State Governor Simon Lalong said the forum was “solidly behind security agencies who have been in pursuit of the bandits to ensure that normalcy is restored and the criminals are apprehended.”
Lalong said his colleagues condemned the incident, which they described as “unfortunate”
He said: “We express our solidarity with our colleague, Governor Aminu Masari, the government and people of Katsina State, over the unfortunate incident.
“We stand with the authorities as they do everything possible to respond to the situation and ensure that no student gets missing or harmed.
“Lalong also urged families of the students and the school authorities to be calm and wish the injured quick recovery.
The Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG) threatened to mobilise students and youths to protest, if the abducted pupils were not rescued on time.
The chairman of the Northwest zone of the CNG, Jamiu Aliyu, said: “Failure of the government to rescue the missing students within the shortest period of time will make our group to mobilise hundreds of thousands on the streets of Katsina State for a continuous protest, even if it’s going to cost our lives.”
The CNG condemned the “barbaric act” and frowned at the “inability of the government to protect those young, innocent and vibrant students from this horrible attack.”
The group’s Northwest zonal Jamilu Charanchi, called for increased military deployment in Katsina State