…Declares no-fly-zone, bans all mining activities in Zamfara
…279 kidnapped school girls released with help of repentant bandits – Gov. Matawalle
…Buhari celebrates release of abducted students, kicks against payment of ransom
…Our abductors threatened to kill, fry and eat us – Jangebe abductee
…Says kidnappers put sand in the rice they were fed with
…We’re relieved Zamfara Schoolgirls are free – UNICEF
…Tasks FG on schools’ safety
By Johnbosco Agbakwuru, Femi Bolaji, Ibrahim Hassan
After a five-hour meeting of the National Security Council on the security situation in the country, Defence Minister, General Bashir Magashi, retd, directed the new service chiefs to reclaim all areas dominated by bandits, kidnappers and other scoundrels in the country
This is even as President Muhammadu Buhari declared Zamfara State a no-fly-zone, following frequent banditry and kidnap of people in the state. The declaration took immediate effect.
What a no-fly zone means
An area declared a no fly zone is one over which aircraft are forbidden to fly, especially during a conflict.
A no-fly zone is often declared in areas where there is full military operation, which culminates in area bombardment.
Conventionally, the military declares a NOTAM (Notice to Airmen) informing airline operators within and outside the country (overfliers) to avoid the area to avert collateral damage.
Ordinarily, the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency, NAMA, issues such notices in civil aviation operations but since this is pure military operation, the military is expected to issue it. Efforts to get the Director of Defence Information, Brig-Gen Onyema Nwachukwu, and Director of NAF Public Relations, Air Vice Marshal Ibikunle Daramola, to ascertain when the NOTAM would be issued proved abortive at press time yesterday, as calls to their mobile lines were unreplied. Text messages were also not replied.
Declaring Zamfara a no fly zone, the President also approved the imposition and enforcement of a ban on all mining activities in the state until further notice, as part of efforts to curb rising rate of insecurity.
Service chiefs get orders to flush out bandits
The President’s declaration came on a day 279 kidnapped victims of Government Girls Secondary School, Jangebe, Zamfara State, were released by the bandits who abducted them in their hostels last Friday.
National Security Adviser, NSA, Major-General Babagana Monguno, retd, who disclosed these while briefing State House correspondents at the end of the meeting held at the Council Chamber, Presidential Villa, Abuja, said:
“While the Federal Government is not averse to the application of non-kinetic means to resolve this problem, I need to make it very clear that the Federal Government will not hesitate to apply to the fullest its kinetic means to restore normalcy to the country.
“I’m sure you’re all aware of the fact that no country will tolerate a group of non-state actors.
No sovereign nation will allow a group of non-state actors to bring it down to its knees and put the state in panic mode, apprehension, mistrust, disorder, and so on and so forth.
“Therefore, both the defence and intelligence organisations have been charged that while we look forward to having a peaceful, non-kinetic resolution, we will not allow this country to drift into state failure and with the fact from today, the new service chiefs have been given directives by the Minister of Defence to reclaim all areas that have been dominated by bandits, kidnappers and other scoundrels and scallywags.”
‘Non-state actors now on govt radar’
General Monguno said as part of strategies to douse tension and restore order in all parts of the country, the intelligence and security communities had been mandated to go after all non-state actors whose activities had been fueling chaos and place them under surveillance.
He said the President has charged the new service chiefs to reclaim all areas under the control of bandits, insurgents, kidnappers and all others involved in criminal activities across the country.
All mining activities in Zamfara banned
“Now, His Excellency, the President, has approved, based on our recommendation, the imposition and enforcement of a ban on all mining activities in Zamfara State with immediate effect, until further notice.
“He has directed the Minister of Defence and the National Security Adviser to deploy massive military and intelligence assets to restore normalcy to that part of the country. He has also approved that Zamfara State be declared a no-fly-zone with immediate effect.
“Now all non-state actors that have been causing problems for the innocent peoples, not just in Zamfara State or the Northwest zone, but also the Northeast and other parts of the country , have been placed under surveillance by the intelligence agencies. We have had a lot of reports coming in, collusion with people from all walks of life.”
The NSA also disclosed that President Buhari had given the intelligence and other law enforcement outfits in the country the go-ahead to bring down the activities of all individuals already flagged as persons of interest on the nation’s security watchlist.
He said the President gave the order that such persons be trailed and flushed out, warning that the Federal Government will not fold its arms and watch individuals or groups push the nation beyond the edge.
He said: “Other issues deliberated upon include issues of freedom of citizens to reside wherever they wish to reside. This is stipulated in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“While at the same time, the government endorses that anybody who is a criminal, who acts on his own outside the law, should be brought to book wherever he is, but the issue here is that when we continue to pitch ourselves against each other, then this problem will only continue to be magnified.
“Therefore, Mr. President has charged each and every one to be mindful of this situation because once we start to profile ourselves along ethnic or religious lines, then there’ll be no end to it. We’ve seen what has happened in so many countries around the globe, and we do not want Nigeria to fall into that type of situation.
‘We’ve had enough violence’
“I think we’ve had enough of violence, enough of chaos, enough of anarchy, but I want to stress once more that any individual or group that thinks it can take it upon itself to cause disunity, disharmony and push the country to the brink should have a rethink.
“Any individual who thinks he has any support, who thinks he can undermine this government, anybody, any human being, as long as it’s a citizen of this country, any person who thinks he’s the cat’s whiskers, or he can be rocky on the perch and lead us into a situation of unhappiness, will have himself to blame at the end of the day.
“Already, the President has given directives to the military and intelligence organisations to trail and flush out all the people that have been on our watchlist and I can assure you there’s quite a handful of people on our watch list. They will be trailed, they will be routed out and they’ll be brought to book.
“They’ll be prosecuted and used as example for others. Anybody who wants to use this situation to blackmail the government should also think.
“The President, finally, has asked us to put our heads together to try as much as possible to work on a whole of government basis, in conjunction with a whole of scientific basis, to achieve result.
READ ALSO: Zamfara schoolgirls kidnap: Atiku reacts, says states need to be empowered to control their internal security
“When I say whole of government, I’m not saying whole of executive. I’m saying the whole of executive, legislature and judiciary.
“That is what the partnership is and this partnership will work with people outside the federal establishment, that is working with the state governments, traditional and religious organisations and local community leaders, while at the same time trying to enhance community policing.”
He, however, noted that though government would prefer to use other diplomatic means to resolve the various crises threatening the peace and security of the country, it would not hesitate to use military force to protect and sustain the peace and security of Nigerians.
He also revealed that security agencies had good information on persons using their social status as cover to get involved in criminal activities, such as kidnapping.
He said government had evidences that such individuals had been profiting from proceeds of crimes but warned that machinery had been put in place to check such activities and bring culprits to justice.
“In doing so, I’ve also asked all the intelligence agencies to collapse all their efforts into one platform, so that with the convergence of efforts, we will be able to give the required intelligence to the operational elements of government.”
‘Big names profiting from criminality’
“Now, I need to stress also that there are individuals in this country who have assumed a status that is beyond what they should be. The intelligence at my disposal and the disposal of the other intelligence agencies reveals that we have certain entities, individuals who are making capital out of insecurity, especially kidnapping.
“This is a situation that has to be brought to an end and I’m sending a warning to anybody who is hiding beneath a veneer of some status, whether in terms of an official capacity or traditional or religious, to stoke the flames of disorder will have himself to blame. The government is very serious about this.
“Like I said, we’re drifting into a situation that we can no longer afford to lose lives. We are not going to be blackmailed, we’re going to use whatever is at our disposal, while operating within the confines of legitimacy, within the confines of legality to deal with the problem.
“Government has a responsibility to assert its will, using the instruments at its disposal to keep the state moving. This will not be compromised,” the NSA said.
279 school girls released with help of repentant bandits – Gov. Matawalle
Earlier yesterday, the 279, not 317, students kidnapped at Government Girls Secondary School, Jangebe, were released by the bandits who abducted them in their hostels five days ago.
The girls, who were driven to Government House, Gusau, as early as 5am in buses, were received by the state governor, Dr. Bello Mohammed, Matawallen Maradun.
The governor, who noted that no ransom was paid for the release of the girls, said repentant bandits in the state assisted security agencies in the operation that led to their rescue.
He said: “This is the result of our peace effort and putting to shame all those saying there is no security in this country.
“We have been in discussion since Friday with the abductors and reached agreement on Monday by 4pm that the girls will be released.
“We are happy that all 279 have safely returned. They will undergo medical checks and given balanced diets to recuperate by the state government before they are handed back to their respective families.
“I want to appeal to parents not to remove their children from schools as a result of this. We will ensure additional security in all the schools. We thank all media outlets for their support throughout these trying times.”
Matawalle congratulated parents of the victims and Nigerians for the safe return of the girls.
Buhari celebrates release of abducted Zamfara students, kicks against ransom payment
Reacting to the release of the kidnapped students yesterday, President Muhammadu Buhari expressed “overwhelming joy.”
Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, who disclosed this in a statement, quoted the President as saying: “I join the families and people of Zamfara State in welcoming and celebrating the release of these traumatized female students.”
The presidential aide further quoted Buhari as saying he was excited that the abductees’ ordeal came to a happy end without any incident, adding that “being held in captivity is an agonising experience not only for the victims but also their families and all of us.”
While celebrating the release of the students, the President called for greater vigilance by the people so that human intelligence could be collected early enough to nip bandits’ plans in the bud.
He warned that the time had come to reverse completely, the grim and heart-breaking incidents of kidnapping.
The President was also said to have kicked against payment of ransom, saying “ransom payments will continue to prosper kidnapping.”
He urged the police and the military to go after the kidnappers and bring them to justice.
Our abductors threatened to kill, fry and eat us – Jangebe abductee
…Says kidnappers put sand in the rice they were fed with
Meanwhile, one of the victims, Hafsat Anka, said the captives threatened to kill, fry and eat them if they misbehaved.
Hafsat, while narrating her ordeal to the News Agency of Nigeria, NAN, at Government House, Gusau, shortly after regaining freedom, stated that they trekked a long distance from the school, had a stop-over for some hours before they reached their destination.
“There was no clean water or good food, and we felt we had already spent years, even though it was our first day and the bandits kept firing into the air to scare us.
“They were very young boys with on one elder they called Kasalle or Yaya who gave them instructions, and he was the one that stopped them from touching any of us,” Hafsat stated.
According to her, the bandits who wore military uniforms claimed they defeated the security officials by invading the school and successfully whisking the girls away.
Hafsat, who said she was happy to be rescued, pointed out that she would continue her studies but as a day student.
Anka, an SS II student who spoke amid tears, also said they were laid in trenches littered with human faeces.
“We saw other people, including women and children, and father of one of our school mates who had been in the den for three months. They fed us with rice laced with sand after cooking,’’ she added.
We’re relieved Zamfara Schoolgirls are free – UNICEF
…Tasks FG on school safety
Reacting to the release of the students yesterday, the United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF, expressed delight about it but condemned repeated attack on schools in the country by insurgents and bandits.
Nigeria representative of the United Nations agency, Peter Hawkins, in a statement, charged the Federal Government to expedite actions to ensure schools remained safe for learning.
The statement read: “We are relieved with the news of the reported release of over 200 students of Government Girls’ Secondary School, Jangebe, in Zamfara State, north-west Nigeria, who were kidnapped during an overnight attack at their school in the early hours of the morning on Friday, February 26
“While we rejoice at the release of the schoolgirls and look forward to their safe return to their families, we reiterate that attacks on students and schools are not only reprehensible but a violation of the right of children to an education. It is a right that any society can ill-afford to violate.
“UNICEF calls on the government of Nigeria to take all measures to protect schools in the country so that children will not be fearful of going to school, and parents afraid of sending their children to school.
“Schools must be safe places to study and develop, and learning should not become a risky endeavor.
UNICEF will be providing psycho-social support to the girls and their families and working with the Ministry of Education on how to ensure the safe return to school of all children in Zamfara State.”