Most of the abducted pupils of Tanko Salihu Islamiyya School, Tegina, Niger State, are sick and can barely walk.
The condition the 136 pupils, who have spent 40 days in captivity, is said to have become a serious source of concern for their abductors, who are said to be moving the children from one point to the other every three days to escape detection.
Consequently, the bandits are said to have reduced their ransom demand from N110 million to N50 million. They had first demanded N200 million.
Some of the parents, who prefer anonymity, said they learnt from the abductors that some of the children can hardly eat or walk and there is no medical attention more than “self-prescription of Panadol or Paracetamol to mitigate the children’s excruciating pain.”
A parent said, “The condition of the children was compounded by the initial flogging they received from their abductors at the early days of their abduction. We are afraid the worst may happen.”
The parent said even as the ransom has been reduced to N50 million, their efforts to raise money have not yielded up to a quarter of the said amount.
The headmaster of the school, Alhassan Garba Abubakar, confirmed to LEADERSHIP that the ransom had been reduced to N50 million.
“They have not stopped contacting me. They call and sometimes flash me. The last they called me, they slashed the ransom they are demanding to N50 million,” he said.
Abubakar said they told him that the health condition of the children was not good, and that “80 percent of the children are sick; they cannot walk again.”
The bandits had initially demanded N200 million ransom before reducing it to N150 million, and later to N110 million and now N50 million
Meanwhile, the Niger State House of Assembly has passed law a bill seeking to establish the state vigilante armed squad to be supervised by the state police command in a bid to fight banditry in the state.
The bill, passed unanimously, was sequel to the report of the House joint committee on Security and Judiciary.
The committee, co-chaired by Jibril Ndagi Baba and Ahmad Bello, made some adjustments to the initial bill and stipulated that the ministry of local government should coordinate the squad and their activities under the supervision of the state police command.
If the governor assents to the bill, the law empowers the Vigilante Corps in the state to carry arms without much inhibition.
Gunmen Kill 19 In Adamawa Villages
No fewer than 19 people were confirmed dead yesterday following an attack on Dabna village in Hong local government area of Adamawa State by suspected herders.
Chairman of Hong LGA, James Pukuma, who confirmed the figure of casualties, said the attack was carried out some Fulani who were on a revenge mission over the death of one of their kinsmen killed in the community late last year.
Pukuma said the attackers spoke Fulani language all through the attack, which took place early in the morning.
He said survivors are currently taking refuge in Garha, Kwapre and Hong, pending the return of normalcy to the area.
A resident, Zabadi Mava, said a prayer session was held for the repose of those killed in Hong shortly after the corpses were buried.
A survivor of the bloody attack, Abubakar Usman, told LEADERSHIP that the residents of the two villages are currently running for their safety to Hong and Garaha communities as of the time of this report.
LEADERSHIP learnt that this was the second time the community was attacked in the last three months.
He said a combined team of soldiers and vigilante in 20 trucks had been deployed to repel the attack, while an Air Force fighter jet was seen hovering in the sky to support ground troops.
Boko Haram insurgents had in April attacked Kwapre village in Dugwaba District, killing more than 20 persons and kidnapping 43 others.
District head of Garaha, Simon Yakubu, said the attackers were said to have demanded N30 million ransom to release those they abducted.
LEADERSHIP reports that 21 villagers were killed in Katsina on Tuesday.
Military Dispatching Bandits, Others To Early Graves – Army Chief
Meanwhile, the newly decorated chief of army staff (COAS), Lt. Gen. Faruk Yahaya, yesterday said many of the bandits and other criminals undermining the nation’s national security had been “sent to God to go and answer for their crimes.”
The army chief spoke to State House correspondents after he was decorated with his new rank of lieutenant general by President Muhammadu Buhari and assisted by Vice President Osinbajo at the Presidential Villa.
While thanking President Buhari for finding him worthy of the position of Nigeria’s army chief, Yahaya pledged unalloyed loyalty and that of all soldiers and officers under his leadership to the country’s constituted authorities.
He assured that army under his leadership will be committed to tackling the deteriorating security in the country generally, adding that success was already being recorded as the soldiers would leverage on their tactical experience to defeat the enemy.
He said: “I want to, first, most sincerely appreciate the President and commander in chief of the armed forces for the confidence reposed in me and now being decorated lieutenant general and chief of army staff.
“And I want to pledge my unalloyed loyalty on behalf of the officers and men of Nigerian Army and also say that we will continue to do our very best to arrest this challenge that we have, particularly insurgency, insecurity and other violent crimes.
“We are already getting successes. We will leverage on that, including our experience in this job and, by the grace of God, we shall get there.”
On what message he had for bandits and other criminal elements undermining national security, and given President Buhari’s declaration that they would be treated in the language they understand, he said: “That’s what we have started doing already and many of them have been sent to God to go and answer for their crimes. And we will continue to do that.”
On his part, the minister of defence, Major-General Bashir Magashi (retd) explained that the president had already given his directives on what he wanted the security chiefs to achieve.
“It is a normal decoration. The president has already talked to us how he wants us to operate, how he wants us to solve the problem of this insecurity, especially in the North East, and he has already started.”
On what to expect from the new army chief, the minister said,” I think like every other chief, his mandate is to bring to an end this banditry, kidnapping and the Boko Haram issue, and I think right from his resumption to date, there is a lot of improvement in the way we are fighting this war. The planning is thorough, the activities are going according to operational plans and I am sure, with that kind of arrangement, we will get out of the insurgency problem,” the defence minister said.
On whether they had started implementing what the president’s order – that criminal elements undermining national security would be treated in the language they would understand, he said: “I really don’t seem to see any need for explanation; if you commit an offence, you will be treated, you will be tried; if you are guilty, you will be punished.
“But for anybody picking up arms against soldiers, you know what it means, we will also treat him according to the law. I don’t think that there is anything wrong to get rid of your enemy if he wants to get rid of you, and that is what the president is saying. You cannot burn our weapon and be allowed to stay alive because he can use that weapon against you. So, we use the weapon against them and that is what we are doing.
“We are getting a lot of them to understand that language because we have been following humanitarian approach, but still we are not being acknowledged. So, now, we want to do the right thing; we want to take on anybody who is carrying arms and that is the truth about it. Nigeria will not allow this kind of nonsense to be happening; that is our message.”
Earlier, the ceremony at the State House was attended by top military brass including the Chief of Defence Staff, General Lucky Irabor; Chief of the Air Staff, Air Marshal Isiaka Amao, Chief of Defence Intelligence (CDI), Maj General Sunday Adebayo, DG Department of State Service (DSS), Yusuf Bichi, and the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Usman Alkali Baba.
Gen Yahaya succeeds Ibrahim Attahiru, a lieutenant general who died in an air crash on May 21 along with ten other army officers and men.
Prior to his appointment, the new army chief served as the Theatre Commander of Operation Hadin Kai, a counter-insurgency operation in the north-east.
Zulum Accuses FG, Military Of Developing Cold Feet On Mercenaries
Borno State Governor Babagana Zulum has said that the federal government and the Nigerian military have developed a lukewarm attitude towards bringing mercenaries to fight Boko Haram/Islamic terrorists.
Zulum, however, said the lukewarm attitude of the federal government and the Nigerian military might be due to the cost, but that he believes Nigeria is big enough to handle its challenges.
The governor stated this during a programme on Channels Television monitored by our correspondent yesterday, where he was fielded questions following the meeting of Northeast Governors’ Forum in Jalingo, the Taraba State capital.
The governor noted that the Nigerian Army of the 1980s was better than the Nigerian Army of today, adding that the equipment the country had 40 years ago are still in existence.
Zulum said, “I had series of conversations with Mr President and he has never told me that he will not engage mercenaries, but it seems the federal government and the Nigeria Army have developed a lukewarm attitude towards bringing the mercenaries; they have developed cold feet .
“So, I think one of their reasons is cost. And then, the second reason, to the best of my knowledge, is that the Nigerian Army thinks that Nigeria is big enough. But no, the Nigerian Army of last 40 years is better than Nigerian Army of nowadays. It is sad, very sad! We are supposed to have gone far in terms of development.
“Look at the equipment we had in the last 40 years, they are still in existence. Yes, Mr President has procured some equipment; the equipment are coming, but when will they arrive? That is a serious thing that they should look into.
“We need to address this issue immediately, otherwise the issue will consume a greater part of our nation. But I have seen that Mr President invited member nations of Lake Chad Basin Commission.
“He has interfaced with the presidents of Niger, Chad, Cameroon and other presidents in the region. I think this will go a long way in solving the issue. I am not privy to their deliberations, but I think the president is looking forward to see the issue insurgency addressed at the regional level, which is very important.
“You can’t address the issue of insecurity in Borno State without interfacing with government of Cameroon, Niger and Chad. It is very important. What of the waterways, which is also very important? Sometimes, the Nigerian Army doesn’t even have enough ammunition.
Speaking on the meeting of the Northeast governors, her said the there is improvement in the fight against insecurity but more needs to be done.
“We categorically stated that peace has started returning to the Northeast gradually. We appreciate the efforts of the federal government, but again we have to say the right thing, the gaps are eminent: “Does the Nigerian Army have enough vehicles, do they have enough numerical strength or helicopters? But they are trying their best.
“On the issue of funding, I think the nexus between peace, security and development need not to be over-emphasised.
“You cannot say we don’t have funding, this is never feasible. And I thank God that Mr President has sent supplementary budget of N800 billion to the National Assembly. This budget, I think, most of the funding is going to the Nigerian military.
“This is good, I see no reason for us to provide support for social investment with over N800 billion and then say we don’t have money to procure arms. Security is very important; we have to prioritise our demands; we have to prioritise our objectives; we have to place security as number one priority.
“You construct road, if there is no security, nobody will ply it. You decide to spoon feed IDPs by giving N20,000 to N30,000, this is not important. Create enabling environment that will enable the IDPs to be on their own. Provide security that will enable people move on the highways freely. Provide security for farmers to go to their farmlands. Ensure that in every part of Nigeria, people move freely,” the Borno governor added.