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Bandits Give 7-Day Ultimatum On Abducted Zamfara University Students

Posted by Samuel on Fri 29th Dec, 2023 -

The parents said the government should negotiate with the bandits as done with other non-state actors in the past, especially in the North East, at the height of the Boko Haram insurgency.


The parents of the kidnapped students from the Federal University Gusau (FUG) in Zamfara State are urging the federal government to take swift action and rescue their children.

The parents said the government should negotiate with the bandits as done with other non-state actors in the past, especially in the North East, at the height of the Boko Haram insurgency.

They made the plea yesterday following a threat by the bandits on Wednesday that they would kill some of the female students if their demands were not met.

Meanwhile, fresh pieces of evidence have emerged revealing that after weeks of back and forth, the bandits have elected a new leader, who now has custody of the students and is threatening that they would start killing them if their demands are not met; one of which is the release of some bandits’ commanders in custody of security operatives.

Since the abduction, it was learnt that there was an underground dialogue spearheaded by the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA), the Defence Headquarters and the Department of State Service (DSS) on how to get the students freed.

Some of the parents, who spoke to one of our correspondents yesterday, said they heard of a series of WhatsApp messages released by the abductors threatening to slaughter some of the students.

Daily Trust also got messages from third parties, who said the WhatsApp audios were released by the foot soldiers of the late bandits’ leader, Ali Kachalla, asking the federal government and security operatives to release their colleagues who are now in detention as a condition of sparing the lives of the abducted students.

Recall that on December 13, 2023, Daily Trust reported that Ali Kachalla was killed during a reconnaissance by operatives of the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) at a location in Niger State.

Three days later, the Defence Headquarters (DHQ) confirmed the killing of Ali Kachalla, with sources saying many of his lieutenants and foot soldiers were also neutralised.

The Director of Defence Media Operations, Edward Buba, who disclosed this in a statement on December 16, in Abuja, said Ali Kachalla was killed during an air reconnaissance and ground operation on December 11, in Munya LGA of Niger State, along with many of his foot soldiers.

It was learnt that it was Ali Kachalla who abducted over 50 students of FUG on September 21, 2023, with most of the abductees being girls and young women.

It was also learnt that the killing of Ali Kachalla, a vicious bandit who committed countless atrocities around Sokoto, Zamfara, Katsina, Niger, Kaduna and other states, unsettled his co-criminals, who are now threatening havoc, including killing some of the abducted university girls.

Since the death of Ali Kachalla, there has been apprehension in many quarters, especially among families and relatives of the people he abducted, for the safety of their loved ones.

In one of the 14 WhatsApp audio conversations, one of our reporters heard an informant talking to one of the bandits’ kingpins, urging them to rescind their decision on the school girls, saying mediation was ongoing.

In the audios reviewed on Wednesday and Thursday, the bandits’ leader, whose name could not be established, said, “We are selling our cattle to feed the girls, and we are tired….We are tired of feeding them. You should take this message to those concerned. We are giving them seven days to release our people.”

Responding, the informant said, “I urge you not to kill the girls because they are innocent.”

But the bandits’ leader said, “Then you should talk to the federal government to release our members. They have incarcerated our members for a long time.”

Speaking in Hausa, the bandits’ leader said in another audio clip: “We heard that they (security operatives) want to use force to liberate the university students from us. Okay, before they use force, tell them that we would slaughter at least three of the girls in the first instance and share the pictures for the world to see.

“What we are saying is that if they think they have superior power to free the girls, why didn’t they confront us when we went to abduct them in the first place? We heard all that they were saying because we listened to the radio. They must release our members so that we can release the captives that are with us.”

In another audio clip, the informant pleaded with the bandits to exercise more patience: “It has been a while since I saw the mediators, but I will try my best and meet with them and ensure an amicable resolution of the problem.”

The bandit’s leader said, “You are well aware that they (the government) have not been straightforward in their approach. They would say one thing today and another thing tomorrow.”

The informant then said, “I still want to assure you that based on our discussions, those in charge have promised that they…would be freed and bring them for exchange with the girls.”

It was learnt that one of the commanders the bandits want to be released is called Ibrahim, an elder brother to Ali Kachalla, even as there are over 50 of their members in custody, according to them.

One of our sources said though some of the captured bandits were still alive he was not sure of others.

The source said, “Some of the bandits were arrested during crossfire and they sustained injuries. So, you cannot tell whether they are still alive or not, it is a dicey situation.”

Parents who spoke to Daily Trust yesterday said they were distraught.

Dr Ibrahim Mai Unguwa, the father of one of the abducted girls, called on the government to reconsider its decision to use the kinetic approach in rescuing the students, saying, “The move could lead to their death in the hands of the bandits. The children may be faced with two dangerous situations: one, they may be killed by the bandits or killed during a fight between the government’s security personnel and the bandits.

“Based on this, I am personally appealing to the government to reconsider its decision and go for dialogue with the abductors so that our children can be set free.

“The government should honour the request extended to it by the bandits. This is not the first time the government has swapped criminals with citizens. We have all seen what happened in Iraq and recently in Palestine; where prisoners were swapped between government and rebels.

“Even here in Nigeria, we have witnessed how members of Boko Haram were swapped with some Nigerians they had abducted. So, the government should consider the plight of both the abducted girls and the parents.

“For me, it is not a failure if the government swaps these girls with relations of the bandits as demanded. We hope that the government will listen to our calls and consider the swap option rather than the kinetic approach the government is opting for.”

Alhaji Muhammad Malami, another parent, said, “The use of power will not work at this critical time because anything can happen to our children. We, therefore, call on the government to think twice on this matter.

“The government should not be a cause-agent for the death of our children. Rather, it should be a cause for the rescue of our children. We want them alive. It is now more than three months after the abduction of these girls.

“Those in the corridors of power should assume these girls are their children; how are they going to feel? They should fear Almighty Allah and do everything possible to rescue them alive. We don’t want them to die in the hands of bandits.

“We have been praying for their return and we will continue to pray until they return to us safely. No one would want his child to spend three months in the custody of bandits, especially during this harmattan season.

“Remember, these children are spending days in an open space without shelter and medical attention whatsoever. This is terrible. We pray that Allah will return all of them to us very soon. But, sincerely speaking, we are calling on the government to reconsider using the kinetic approach in rescuing our children.”

At a recent wedding fatiha in Abuja, a former Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Professor Ali Pantami, prayed for the safe return of the abducted Zamfara varsity students and those of the Federal University Dutsinma (FUDMA) in Katsina State.

Pantami said, “Any father whose daughter is held hostage is definitively in agony as it may be more painful when a daughter is held hostage by criminals than a male child. They have been abducted for over 90 days. May Allah protect their chastity, faith and lives and reunite them with their families soon.”

Daily Trust reached out to the Office of the National Security (ONSA) on the issue yesterday and a source said the safety of the girls will not be compromised.

“The NSA, Malam Nuhu Ribadu is working day and night with all the security agencies to ensure that captives are freed. The recent release of female students of Federal University Dutsinma is a good example and a testimony to the efforts being put in place,” the source said.

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