Arrangements and consultations are ongoing between the government of Niger and the bandits for the purpose of releasing the abducted 27 students, three staff and family members of Government Science College, Kagara, the state government has confirmed.
Gov. Abubakar Sani-Bello of Niger says the state government is at the final stage of negotiation for the release of the victims in a state live broadcast in Minna on Friday.
Recall that 27 students, three staff and family members of Government Science College Kagara, Rafi Local Government Area of the state, were abducted by suspected gunmen on Wednesday.
The governor said the government was doing everything through interfacing with the federal, local government and the state authority to rescue the victims.
“At the moment, there is no additional information apart from the one we have at hand. Our priority is to make sure we bring back the students safe, things are speculated or rumoured, but we cannot work with these in situations like this,” he said.
The governor noted that the state was using kinetic and non-kinetic measures to bring back the children’s to safety and assured parents and families of the victims to be hopeful as everything possible was being done.
He disclosed that an Islamic scholar, Sheikh Ahmed Gumi, had offered to assist the government voluntarily and had both agreed that a comprehensive memo was sent to the government on his findings.
He urged traditional leaders to support government efforts by giving useful intelligence on criminals hiding in their communities and suspected movements in their domains.
On the dilapidated state of Government Science College, Kagara, the governor said that the school was already listed in the whole school approach of the state government.
Gumi also said in an interview with newsmen that there was a positive outcome from his interaction with the bandits as they were in various factions.
He said the grievances of the bandits were simple as they complained of being persecuted, arrested and lynched and urged the federal government to grant them blanket amnesty.
The Niger state government has appealed to bandits across the state to lay down their arms and embrace dialogue and reconciliation for peace and security to prevail.
Also, in a statement issued by Mr Tanko Lawal, Information Officer to the Secretary to the Government of Niger State, Alhaji Ahmed Matane, in Minna on Friday, the state government told the bandits to surrender arms.
Matane made the appeal in Dutsen Magaji, Mariga Local Government Area of the state while addressing some group of people suspected to be bandits and their commanders.
Matane, who was accompanied by Gumi, Kaduna-based Islamic scholar, called on other elements such as kidnappers and cattle rustlers to join in the peace dialogue process to put an end to the security challenges that have bedevilled the state.
He enjoined leaders of the bandits to support the government to secure the release of the abducted passengers of the state transport authority and students of Government Science College, Kagara, adding that the unfortunate incidents in recent days called for sober reflection.
Matane reaffirmed that government would continue to ensure the security of lives and property by strengthening the security architecture of the state and the need for people to collaborate with the government in its efforts to rid the state of criminal elements.
He stressed the need for religious leaders and other stakeholders to embark on how to get the bandits, kidnappers and cattle rustlers to key into the peace initiatives of the government.
In his remarks, Gumi expressed optimism that dialoguing with the bandits would put an end to the current insecurity in the state and country at large.
He reminded the bandits that Islam is against taking the lives of innocent people and appealed to them to embrace peace by laying down their arms.
Gumi said that he would continue to discuss with the state government to explore whatever assistance and support the government would give to them with a view to achieving the set objectives.
Some leaders of the bandits in their separate remarks, lauded the state government for the peace process, adding that it would go a long way in restoring peace across the state.
They appealed to the state government to assist the release of their members arrested by security agencies and detained across the state for the peace process to thrive.
The highlight of the event was the distribution of Islamic books to the bandits by Gumi so as to teach them the doctrine of Islam.