President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR

Insecurity/Abductions: Buhari confirms governments reward bandits with cash, vehicles ─Report

*President Muhammadu Buhari says his administration will not ‘succumb to blackmail by bandits and criminals who target innocent school students in the expectation of huge ransom payments’

*Analyst remarks this is a huge indictment coming from the Commander-in-Chief, saying ‘we need look no further to understand why this banditry has appeared seemingly intractable’

*HURIWA declares the Zamfara State Governor and all others who actively preach appeasement for terrorists and kidnappers as well as bandits, must be punished in accordance with the law

Isola Moses | ConsumerConnect

In view of the continued terrorist attacks and mindless abductions of Nigerian school students and apparent failure of constituted authorities to protect lives and property of the citizenry in recent times, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has confirmed that governments at all levels are rewarding bandits with money and vehicles.

It was gathered the President has admonished the states and local governments in the Federation reportedly engaging in dialoguing, negotiating and paying these terrorists to review their policy which may “backfire with disastrous consequences”.

Buhari’s tacit admittance to this practice was contained in a statement Friday, February 26, 2021, which came hours after the mass abduction of students of the Government Girls Secondary School, Jangebe, in Zamfara State, Northern Nigeria.

Governor Abubakar Bello of Niger State (l) and Sheik Abubakar Mahmud Gumi, Islamic scholar and Grand Khadi of Northern Region

People’s Gazette had reported how N800 million was taken into the forest via Sheikh Gumi to secure the release of students and staff of a government school kidnapped in Kagara, Niger State.

The kidnapped young school children were announced released Saturday morning.

The President stated: “State Governments must review their policy of rewarding bandits with money and vehicles.

“Such a policy has the potential to backfire with disastrous consequences. States and local governments must also play their part by being proactive in improving security in and around schools.”

According to Buhari, his administration will not “succumb to blackmail by bandits and criminals who target innocent school students in the expectation of huge ransom payments.”

Incidentally, the President, who has overtime been criticised for his administration’s inability to curb widespread security challenges in the country, asked the bandits to shun illusions that they are more powerful than the government.

“They should not mistake our restraint for the humanitarian goals of protecting innocent lives as a weakness or a sign of fear or irresolution,” said he.

He further challenged the states and local governments to be more proactive in protecting lives and property of Nigerians, while also seeking a review of their policy of rewarding bandits with ransom.

Kidnap-for-ransom by bandits marauding communities across the country has become rife in recent times, report said.

While families and associates are made to cough out ransoms for abducted private citizens, the gunmen now target schools and government officials in anticipation for a hefty payday from the government at all levels.

It is recalled that in 2018, the United Nations (UN) confirmed that the Nigerian Government paid “large ransoms” to secure the release of 111 school children from Dapchi, in Borno State.

Governor Bello Matawalle of Zamfara State

Yet, one of the girls, Leah Sharing, has not been released till date.

Nevertheless, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, Minister for Information and Culture, had claimed then, that no ransom was paid to the terrorists, an assertion that the UN later put a lie to, according to report.

The UN had said in a statement: “In Nigeria, 111 schoolgirls from the town of Dapchi were kidnapped on February 18, 2018 and released by ISWAP on 21 March 2018 in exchange for a large ransom payment.”

Commenting on Buhari’s statement on the recent terrorist attacks cum abductions in Nigeria, Ken Eluma-Asogwa, a political analyst, said Mr. President’s open admission speaks volumes.

Eluma-Asogwa said: “This is a huge indictment coming from the Commander-in-Chief. We need look no further to understand why this banditry has appeared seemingly intractable.

Kagara Government School students after their release from terrorists’ camp    Photo: BBC

“I understand that, realistically speaking, governments at all levels try to engage kidnappers to ensure safe return of captives, but the allegation of procurement of operational vehicles for the terrorists by some state governments as alleged by no other person than the Commander-In-Chief leaves much to be desired.”

The analyst noted: “This goes beyond ordinary negotiations for release of victims; this is open admission to state sponsorship of terror. It speaks volumes.”

In the meantime, the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) has disclosed what should happen to state governors negotiating with bandits.

HURIWA said state governors negotiating with bandits should be arrested, prosecuted and impeached.

This was in response to the remarks by Governor Bello Matawalle of Zamfara State on the recent mass abduction of school students in his domain, that engaging bandits in a dialogue was not as bad as Nigerians make it look.

Governor Matawalle had said it was not a sign of weakness, but part of peace efforts because he realised not all bandits were criminals.

However, Emmanuel Onwubiko, National Coordinator of HURIWA, in a statement contended that governors negotiating with bandits have failed in securing their states as well as lives and property of the citizenry; hence, they should be dealt with.

The statement said: “The Zamfara State governor and all others who actively preach appeasement for terrorists and kidnappers as well as bandits, must be punished in accordance with the law.

“Which is why we are advocating his immediate impeachment, arrest and prosecution for failing to protect his people from the violence of Terror Gangsters roaming freely in that part of the country.”

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