Nigeria’s federal government Tuesday expressed its commitment to do all it could to save the remaining 16 students of Greenfield University, Kaduna, whose abductors have threatened to kill for the delay in ransoming them.
At a press conference in Abuja where he faulted the recommendations by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in resolving the growing insecurity in the country, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said the federal government, in line with its constitutional responsibility of protecting all Nigerians, would not fold its arms and allow the bandits who kidnapped the students execute them.
The bandits had on Monday threatened to kill the remaining ones still in captivity if their demand for ransom was not met by yesterday.
In an interview with the Voice of America (VOA), Hausa service, one Sani Jalingo who claimed to be the leader of the abductors, warned that if the state government or parents of the students fail to pay a ransom of N100 million and provide them with 10 new Honda motorcycles by yesterday, the remaining students would be killed.
Of the about 22 students abducted on April 18 when the hoodlums invaded the school about 8:30 pm, the bandits have killed five.
However, the bandits might have reconsidered their decision to kill the remaining students yesterday as one of them was freed under a yet-to-be-clear circumstances. Their parents also appealed to the bandits to spare the lives of the students.
At the press conference in Abuja, Mohammad also spoke on efforts by the federal government to combat the security challenges facing the country.
However, the National Security Council (NSC) meeting held yesterday at the State House, Abuja to deliberate on the security challenges facing the nation will continue today at the same venue.
Also, the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) and the three service chiefs will tomorrow brief the Senate on their efforts so far to address the security problems.
Mohammed also faulted the recommendations by the PDP in resolving the security crisis, saying the contents of its recent press conference had exposed the opposition party’s gimmickry.
He spoke against the backdrop of Monday’s press briefing by the PDP National Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus, in which he canvassed, among others, state police, devolution of powers and the establishment of border protection council, as part of steps to combat insecurity.
Mohammed accused PDP of merely playing politics with serious national issues, especially security.
The minister also threatened to expose the forces behind the current security challenges at the ‘’appropriate time’’ and deal with them.
He stated that the alarm raised by the Department of State Services (DSS) on the plot by some powerful forces to destabilise the government only confirmed the consistent position of the federal government that there were plots by some political forces to make the country ungovernable.
He said the federal government was shocked that ‘’a party that ruled the country for all of 16 years does not know that kidnapping and banditry are not federal offences.”
It advised the PDP to call out the states, including those being controlled by it, to ensure a rigorous prosecution of arrested kidnappers and bandits.
‘’PDP conveniently forgot that as far as terrorism, a federal offence, is concerned, this federal government has successfully prosecuted thousands of Boko Haram members in Kainji, as part of a continuing exercise. We are now seeking the cooperation of the judiciary to continue with the trial of arrested terrorists,” he added.
The minister explained that while PDP claimed to have ostensibly offered suggestions to the federal government on some topical issues, especially national security by dropping the toga of politics in the national interest, the party played cheap politics.
He said: ‘’The party went ahead to make wild accusations against the president and his government. For example, the PDP said the government has refused to engage, and that we were running a government of exclusion.
‘’The opposition party then went ahead to reel out a number of suggestions as a way out of the current challenges facing the nation. Unfortunately, the recommendations by the PDP have exposed the opposition party’s gimmickry, and the fact that it was merely playing politics with serious national issues, especially security.
‘’Had it not been so, and had it done its homework properly, the PDP would have known that most of those same recommendations were already contained in the outcome of the federal government’s town hall meeting on national security, which was held in Kaduna on April 8, 2021,’’ he added.
According to him, the federal government has consistently engaged Nigerians on topical national issues, including security, the fight against corruption, terrorism, infrastructure and farmer-herder conflict.
Meanwhile, one of the abducted students of Greenfield University, Kaduna, has been released.
The mother of the released student, Mrs. Lauretta Attahiru, confirmed this on Tuesday to journalists in Kaduna.
She, however, declined to make further comments on how her son was released.
The police could not also be reached to confirm the release of the student as Mohammad Jalige, spokesman of the Kaduna State Police command, did not respond to telephone calls and a text message.
The parents had earlier said the bandits had been negotiating with them individually, asking each of them to pay as high as N20 million, before they eventually demanded a bulk of N100 million and 10 motorcycles on Monday.
With the release of the student, the fate of the remaining 16 students remained uncertain yesterday, especially given the bandits’ threat to kill them over the inability to ransom them.
Also on Tuesday, the President of the National Association of Parents Teachers Association of Nigeria (NAPTA), Alhaji Haruna Danjuma, pleaded with the bandits to spare the lives of their victims.
Danjuma told journalists in Kaduna that the parents of the affected students and Nigerians had been gripped by fear and tension following the threat by the hoodlums.
“We are simply begging them not to kill any other student in view of the fact that they are innocent.
“The deadline is really worrisome and we as parents, are concerned and worried over the lives of our students and teachers of the university,” he said.
A former senator who represented Kaduna Central Senatorial District, Shehu Sani, also appealed to Fulani socio-cultural groups to intercede to secure the release of the students.
Sani tweeted that he had privately appealed to Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) and the Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore to help secure the release of the students.
Meanwhile, the National Security Council (NSC) meeting held Tuesday at the State House, Abuja, to deliberate on the security challenges facing the nation will continue Wednesday at the same venue.
Wednesday’s meeting, which will be the third in less than a week, will as usual be presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Indications that the meeting will continue Wednesday emerged when Tuesday’s meeting ended without any media briefing or press statement issued.
Also, the President of the Senate, Dr .Ahmad Lawan, at Senate plenary on why the CDS and the service chiefs could not appear before the senators Tuesday, said at the commencement of plenary that the military top brass could not honour invitation due to the National Security Council meeting.
“Today, the National Security Council is continuing its meeting that it started last week. Therefore the invited security heads will not be able to come for the briefing.
“We are not sure if they will finish their meeting today (Tuesday). We assume it could spill to Wednesday too,” he added.
Lawan, however, \said the CDS and the service chiefs would brief the Senate Thursday on the security situation in the country.
He said: “We have now fixed the date for the briefing to be Thursday, May 6,” adding that the briefing will enrich the knowledge of his colleagues about security issues.
Iyobosa Uwugiaren, Deji Elumoye in Abuja and John Shiklam in Kaduna