President Muhammadu Buhari has described the latest abduction of hundreds of students of Government Girls Secondary School, Jangebe in Zamfara State as inhumane and totally unacceptable, sending out a strong warning to bandits and their sponsors.
According to the President, “no criminal group can be too strong to be defeated by the government,” adding 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.”
President Buhari noted that “a hostage crisis is a complex situation that requires maximum patience in order to protect the victims from physical harm or even brutal death at the hands of their captors.”
He warned the bandits: “Let them not entertain any illusions that they are more powerful than the government. They shouldn’t mistake our restraint for the humanitarian goals of protecting innocent lives as a weakness or a sign of fear or irresolution.”
The President appealed to state governments “to review their policy of rewarding bandits with money and vehicles, warning that the policy might boomerang disastrously.”
He also advised states and local governments to be more proactive by improving security around schools and their surroundings.
Meanwhile, the United Nations Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, has condemned “in the strongest possible terms” the reported abduction of 317 schoolgirls in Zamfara.
Guterres’s reaction to the incident, which reportedly occurred in the early hours of Friday, came through his Spokesman, Mr Stephane Dujarric.
“You will have seen the reports of a mass abduction of girls from a school in Zamfara in Nigeria.
“I can tell you that the Secretary-General condemns this in the strongest possible terms and calls for their immediate and unconditional release.
“As we’ve said before, schools should always remain safe spaces to learn without fear of violence,” Dujarric told newsmen in New York.
He said the Secretary-General would release a full statement on the incident “shortly.”
In another development, Gov. Bello Matawalle of Zamfara has announced the closure of all boarding schools in the state to prevent activities of insurgents against students.
A report from Gusau, Zamfara state capital, by Abubakar Ahmed (NAN), said that Matawalle made the announcement in a statewide broadcast on Friday in Gusau.
The governor said that the decision was sequel to the abduction of 317 students of Government Girls Science Secondary School, Jangebe in Talata-Mafara Local Government Area of the state by gunmen in the early hours of Friday.
“Myself, and the entire state government and the citizens are deeply touched by this development which is the abduction of students from their school and this is the first of its kind in the state.
“Already, we are currently partnering with security agents and trailing all the suspected bandits’ routes,” he said
According to him, this is in addition to helicopters that the state government chartered to carryout aerial surveillance of the bushes for possible detection of the whereabouts of the students.
“I want to assure the parents of the victims that we are doing everything possible to rescue the victims and reunite them with their families.
“This is indeed not the time to trade blames but we need to come together regardless of our political differences to save these our children,” the governor pleaded.
He said that 65 of the students had returned to the school.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that residents of Jangebe and neighbouring villages had remained apprehensive as a result of the attack.