Zamfara schoolgirls: Buhari sends strong message to bandits, warns governors against ransom payment


Ayorinde Oluokun/Abuja

President Muhammadu Buhari on Friday warned state governors against rewarding bandits with money and vehicles, warning that the policy may boomerang.

The President said this while reacting to the abduction of 317 of students of Government Girls Secondary School, Jangebe in Zamfara State early Friday.

The abduction of the students followed the kidnapping of over 40 staff and students from Government Science Secondary School Kagara in Niger State.

While kidnappers of students abducted in Zamfara on Friday have not asked for ransom to release them, the abductors of Kagara boys have been asking for monetary payment, with threats to starve the students to death if there is further delay in meeting their demand for money.

It was believed that the Katsina State Government had paid ransom running into millions of dollars to free over 300 students from a school in Kankara area of the state some weeks ago.

But while describing abduction of the students as inhumane and totally unacceptable, the President in the statement released on Friday sends out a strong warning to bandits and their sponsors that the government will not succumb to blackmail in a statement issued on his behalf by Garba Shehu, his spokesperson.

Shehu quoted the President as saying,  “this administration will not succumb to blackmail by bandits who target innocent school students in the expectations of huge ransom payments.”

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.