Nigeria’s Minister of Defence, Maj. Gen. Bashir Magashi (rtd), on Wednesday rallied Nigerians to defend themselves against bandits who have turned kidnapping into a thriving business.
Magashi, speaking against the backdrop of the abduction of 42 people, including pupils, from the Government Science College, Kagara, Niger State early on Wednesday, told reporters in Abuja that the bandits were having a field day because they knew people in communities they attack would not fight back.
Magashi, while fielding questions from reporters in Abuja, urged Nigerians to defend themselves against bandits and stop being cowardly.
According to him, tackling the increasing insecurity in the country is the responsibility of all.
Reacting to the abduction of the Kagara pupils, Magashi said: “Well, is it the responsibility of the military alone? It is the responsibility of everybody to be alert and ensure safety when necessary. We shouldn’t be cowards. Sometimes the bandits come with about three rounds of ammunition and when they fire shots everybody will run.
“In our younger days, we stand to fight any form of aggression. Why should people run away from minor aggression? We should stand and face them. If these people know that the people have the competence and capability to defend themselves, they will run away.”
The minister, however, said the government would protect the territorial integrity of the county and its people.
The bandits, said to be numbering about 300, in a daring raid, had staged attacks on the school, and abducted 27 pupils, three members of staff of the school and 12 members of families of the kidnapped staff.
The Kagara abduction came barely two months after gunmen, in commando style, invaded the Government Science Secondary School, Kankara, Katsina State, on December 11, 2020, and abducted over 300 pupils who were subsequently freed about a week later from where they were being held in a forest in neighbouring Zamfara State.
President Muhammadu Buhari immediately issued marching orders to security chiefs to recover the Kagara abductees.
In furtherance of the presidential directive, the security chiefs, led by the National Security Adviser, Maj. Gen. Babagana Monguno; and Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed; his counterpart in the Ministry of Interior, Mr. Rauf Aregbesola; their colleague at the Ministry of Police Affairs, Mr. Maigari Dingyadi; and the Inspector-General of Police (IG), Mr. Mohammed Adamu, arrived in Minna, the Niger State capital on Wednesday, to supervise the rescue operations.
Already, the military has launched manhunt for the kidnappers with a view to recovering the victims.
The Niger State Governor, Alhaji Abubakar Bello, who gave more details on the abduction at a press conference in Minna, however, ruled out payment of ransom to the kidnappers.
He has also directed the immediate closure of boarding schools in three local government areas in the state to avoid a reoccurrence.
But despite canvassing that Nigerians should stand up to the bandits, Magashi opposed the clamour for the federal government to allow Nigerians to bear arms for self-defence.
He added that even in the developed country, they are still debating on whether or not to continue or stop it.
On the nomination of the immediate-past service chiefs as ambassadors, Magashi said considering the efforts they put in for the country, especially when they came in 2015, they made the nation proud by capturing all the areas under the control of Boko Haram terrorists.
The military on Wednesday launched a manhunt for kidnappers of pupils and members of staff of Government Secondary School, Kagara, Niger State.
The Nigerian Army Headquarters, in a statement, said troops were in pursuit of the kidnappers.
It said the military, working in concert with other security agencies, had mobilised forces in a bid to ensure safe return of the kidnapped victims.
The manhunt is coming as troops of Operation Takai Bango, a subsidiary of Operation Lafiya Dole, killed two terrorists in Baiomari, Yobe State.
The statement signed by army spokesman, Brig.Gen. Mohammed Yerima, called on members of the public to assist the security agencies with information to lead to the arrest of the abductors.
With President Muhammadu Buhari’s directive to the armed forces to ensure the safe return of all the captives, the NSA, Monguno; Minister of Information and Culture, Mr. Lai Mohammed; Minister of Interior; Mr. Rauf Aregbesola, his counterpart at the Ministry of Police Affairs, Mr. Maigari Dingyadi; and the IG, Mr. Mohammed Adamu arrived in Minna, to coordinate rescue efforts.
Earlier, Buhari had directed the armed forces as well as the police to ensure the safe return of all those abducted.
The president, while condemning the abduction, said in a statement by his media assistant, Malam Garba Shehu, that he had received reports of the brazen attack on the school and the subsequent abduction.
Buhari dispatched to Minna a team of security chiefs to coordinate the rescue operations and meet with state officials, community leaders, as well as parents and staff of the college.
He assured the people of the support of his administration to the armed forces in their battle against terrorism and banditry.
He urged them to strive to end the security crisis and avoid cowardly attacks on schools in the future.
Monguno, who spoke on behalf of the delegation, said the government would spare no efforts to secure the release of the captives.
He added that the strategy used to rescue the Kankara schoolboys would be adopted to free the Kagara 42.
He stated that those behind the kidnap would also be arrested and prosecuted.
He also announced the deployment of four additional units of riot policemen in the state to improve security while his office is working with the Directorate of State Services (DSS) and other intelligence groups to fish out criminals.
Earlier, the governor had said his government would not pay ransom to bandits because it had discovered that the money being paid to them was being used to purchase arms and ammunition.
Bello, however, said any of the bandits that genuinely repent would be rehabilitated by the state.
The governor had earlier confirmed the abduction of 42 persons by the bandits from the school.
Bello, at a news conference after an emergency State Executive Council meeting, said 27 of those kidnapped were pupils; three, members of staff of the school and 12 were family members of the kidnapped staff.
Bello also confirmed the death of a pupil who was shot by the bandits. He gave the name of the deceased as Monday Doma.
He added that the school before the incident had a population of 650 pupils.
Bello also confirmed that out of the 40 passengers travelling in a Niger State Transport Authority vehicle abducted last Sunday, eight had been released while the bandits are demanding ransom for others.
The governor directed the closure of all boarding schools in Rafi, Mariga, Shiroro and Munya LGAs because of the possibility of their being attacked by bandits.