Hours after the abduction of 317 schoolgirls in the northwestern Nigerian state of Zamfara, the Governor, Bello Matawalle has ordered the immediate closure of all boarding schools in the state.
The over 300 girls are students of the Government Girls Secondary School in Jangebe, Talata-Mafara local government area of the state.
The governor in a statewide broadcast said his administration will remain focused on its strategy of disarmament despite the abduction of the schoolgirls, which he described as a seeming setback.
The Friday evening broadcast saw Mr Matawalle extend his sympathy to the families of the abducted girls, while assuring them of the commitment of the state government to ensure their speedy rescue.
“I wish to assure everyone that we are wholly committed to ensuring a speedy rescue of our dear schoolgirls and reuniting them with their families. Since when I received the sad news, I have been making contacts with the security agencies and other relevant individuals and groups towards rescuing these girls,” the governor said.
“Currently, police helicopters and other search-and-rescue operatives have been deployed to the area. Members of the public, and most especially the parents and guardians, would be kept informed of developments with regard to this all-important mission.
“As a father, I feel the pains of the parents and guardians of the abductees. My heart is with you at this moment and will always be with you throughout the rescue mission. I also want to use this opportunity to appeal to the parents and guardians to exercise more patience and continue to pray for the success of the ongoing rescue mission.
“As we are making efforts to strengthen security around our schools, I have directed the immediate closure of all boarding secondary schools across the state.”
Matawalle said the recent twist in the spate of banditry has necessitated the need for the adoption of a uniform strategy across all affected states.
“Despite this seeming setback, my administration will ever remain focused on its strategy of disarmament. A single bullet in the hands of the non-state rogue elements could result in severe harm to the innocent. I am of the conviction that the large cache of assorted weapons recovered through the disarmament process has made Zamfara state safer, despite the recent unfortunate incident,” he said.
“We can only defeat this formidable challenge through a united response. Politics or any other difference should not stand in the way of the fight against insecurity.
“I appeal to the people of the state to remain calm and resist the evil machinations of those who would want to exploit the current situation to achieve political ends. I also call on people to be more security conscious and report any suspicious individual or activity to the relevant authorities.
“While we remain appreciative of the efforts by the federal government in the fight against banditry and other criminal activities in the state, I wish to appeal for more support towards combating this challenge, most especially with the new trend the challenge is assuming.”
By Abel Ejikeme