New Telegraph

Anguish of parents as Islamiyya children spend 81 days with bandits

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…trauma sends parents to hospital
…3 children confirmed dead, many seriously ill
…bandits threaten to attack another school if motorcycles, balance of ransom not paid soonest

Following the swift response and release of the Niger State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Muhammad Sani Idris and the All Progressives Congress (APC) Zone C Chairman Alhaji Aminu Musa Bobi in less than one week, distraught parents and guardians of the 136 Salihu Tanko Islamiyya school children are pleading with the government and security agencies to apply same tactics to secure the release of their wards who have now been in captivity for 81 days.

The fate of the kidnapped Tegina Islamiyya pupils is still uncertain as even upon the payment of some ransom to their abductors, they are still being held which is only piling more anguish on already distraught and traumatised parents. The state government appears to be taking a tough stance on the issue of abduction most especially as it relates to mobilizing funds to secure the release of the kidnapped school children as only their respective families have been left to facilitate efforts for their release.

The Commissioner for Information was kidnapped from his Tafa home last week where he was tied up and left in the rain without food for two days but was subsequently released on Friday morning allegedly without paying any ransom. Speaking after his release, the Commissioner said: “I was not rescued and did not pay any ransom. And nobody paid ransom on my head.

It was just miraculous.” Also, the Zone C Chairman of the APC, who was abducted in his farm on Saturday, was released seven days solely by the efforts of the Niger State Police Command without any ransom fee being mentioned. According to a statement signed by the Police Public Relations Officer, DSP Wasiu Abiodun: “The Command mobilized a joint team to the area for a manhunt of the gunmen. The man was subsequently rescued from the forest, debriefed and taken to the General Hospital in Kontagora for medical attention, while efforts to track down the culprits are being intensified.”

The New Telegraph had reported that some of the pupils and their teachers were abducted on May 30 this year, although 17 of the abductees escaped from the bandits’ captivity three weeks after through the Zamfara forest. But parents and citizens alike have alleged discrimination in the approach of security services and government on the matter insisting: “There is no way the bandits would have released a ‘big catch’ like the Commissioner and the Zonal Chairman of the APC without receiving ransom.”

Some of the parents, who spoke to our Correspondent on the condition of anonymity, because they had been warned not to speak with journalists, accused the state government of playing a ‘discriminatory role’ in securing the release of victims of abduction in the state. When the New Telegraph spoke with the Head Teacher of Salihu Tanko Islamiyya School, Tegina in Niger State, Alhasan Garba Abubakar over the weekend, he said the “miracle formula” used in releasing the Commissioner for Information and the APC chieftain be used to release the children and put an end to attacks.

According to him: “We agree that they were released without paying ransom as they claimed because the government’s policy is against payment of ransom but we are appealing to them to use the same prayers they used for their miraculous release to also release our children. “Some of us, the parents cannot eat, some are hypertensive and are now in hospital, the recent release of the APC Chairman and the commissioner has further aggravated the situation, I can tell you authoritatively that some of the parents are now battling with their health in hospital, they are hypertensive and they feel the government has neglected them.

“Now, you can imagine the terrible situation the commissioner and the APC Zonal Chairman said they passed through while in the hands of their abductors. You can imagine what children who cannot help themselves are going through in their hands spending more than two months in captivity with only the clothes they wore when they were kidnapped.

“Ordinarily, we are supposed to be happy that those kidnapped have been released but how can we when they spent less than seven days and our children are languishing for about 80 days now.” The Head Teacher told our Correspondent that he spoke with the abductors over the weekend and pleaded for them to show some mercy, but he said they insisted that the six motorcycles and money demanded must be delivered as soon as possible or they would attack another school.

He said: “I spoke with the bandits for not quite one minute ago; they are threatening that if the money they are demanding if they are not paid along with the motorcycles, we should be looking forward to another school attack.” It was reliably learnt that the bandits informed some of the parents in a telephone conversation that three children had died. Although, they (bandits) did not disclose the names of the deceased pupils. According to findings, the bandits reportedly told the parents contacted that they would send the video of the burial of the late pupils and the present condition of the others to confirm their bad state of health. The Head Teacher said: “They told us that three of them are dead already and with such news no parent would be okay.

We have resulted in prayers for God’s intervention”. To corroborate this claim, the Chief Imam of Tegina also made a similar announcement after one of the regular Muslim prayers in the town. One of the parents, whose two children are with the bandits and did not want his name mentioned, said: “Our children have been with the bandits for about 80 days now. But look at the government and security personnel that we have been begging to help us find our children; they just keep telling us to be patient. But the commissioner only spent a few days and was freed.

“How can we believe his claim that no ransom was paid, especially when the government has been claiming that they don’t negotiate or pay ransom to bandits.” Another parent, who said he had left everything in the hands of God, told our Correspondent: “If government did not pay ransom to secure his release, was it the commissioner himself that paid from his pocket? Well, the same miracle that happened for their release should apply to our children.” While lamenting, another parent asked: “Is it because our younger ones are not part of them? I believe if they were their children or part of them they would have done something to secure their release. The government is not being fair to us”.

The main opposition party in the state, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in a statement signed by its Chairman, Barrister Tanko Beji; urged Governor Abubakar Sani Bello to employ similar tactics to rescue the Tegina Islamiyya 136 kidnapped children, who have been held captive for about 80 days. According to Beji: “We in the PDP value and see all lives as equal and wish all persons – children, women, poor or rich, commissioner or cleaner – to be given maximum state protection as that is what a responsible government does.

“We were eyewitnesses to the American government sending elite forces to Nigeria, flying over 20 hours with every military might, just to rescue its citizen from the clutches of terrorists, same attention and alacrity should be given to not just a kidnapped commissioner or APC Zonal Chairman but all citizens especially poor children of Tegina.”

In another development, the President of Allawa youth group, Jibrin Allawa, in a post on his social media page, called for proactive measures in rescuing the children, saying they now looked malnourished. According to him: “There is a need for a proactive measure in rescuing abducted Islamiyya school children languishing in Allawa Games Reserve.” New Telegraph had earlier reported that the bandits alleged that they had spread the children across 25 different camps. Furthermore, Allawa said: “Our attention was drawn by our locals about the movement of the bandits carrying the school children around Lakpma axis of Shiroro Local Government Area on Thursday evening.

“The criminals crossed Maganda junction along Allawa Pandogari road; unfortunately, one Jamilu Madaki Kurmi was caught and shot in his hand. “Madaki confirmed to have seen the malnourished Islamiyya school children on the bikes of their captors. “On Sunday night, the bandits stormed Wutare village and arrested the villagers and then forced them to cross the river with them. Some of the villagers narrated and described the terrible situation of the Islamiyya school children as pathetic.” He added that, after getting such information: “We got in touch with the relevant authorities but unfortunately no visible action has been taken.”

He, however, commended the Concerned Shiroro Youths for always keeping tabs on security situations and intimating the relevant security agencies with the information. Co-Convener of Concerned Shiroro Youths, Sani Yusuf Kokkiin in his reaction said: “It seems the Niger State government has a phobia for paying ransom to criminals whenever there is incidence of abduction especially involving ordinary citizens.

“Obviously, the government could not watch its image maker being held in captivity. This incident has indeed proven the government’s true position on the ordinary citizens, especially innocent under aged children – only time will tell! “This unfortunate incident is going to serve as a litmus test for the government’s actual resolve on salient issues. What is good for the goose is equally good for the gander.”

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