School abduction: Tinubu rules out ransom payment

The Federal Government on Wednesday said it would not pay “a dime” as ransom for the release of over 280 pupils and teachers of Government Secondary School and LEA Primary School at Kuriga, Kaduna State, kidnaped on March 7.

“Mr. President reiterated his zero tolerance for the payment of ransom…and Mr President has also directed that no ransom will be paid by the government to any of these criminal elements,” the Minister of Information and National Orientation, Mohammed Idris, told State House correspondents at the end of Wednesday’s Federal Executive Council meeting held at the Aso Rock Villa, Abuja.

Idris insisted that the security agencies are “working round the clock” to ensure their release, adding that they will be “brought back to safety.”

His remarks come barely 24 hours after Kaduna-based Muslim cleric Sheikh Ahmad Gumi, offered to dialogue with terrorists who abducted at least 280 schoolchildren from Kuriga Government Secondary and LEA Primary Schools in the Chikun Local Government Area of the state.

The terrorists reportedly invaded Kuriga in Chikun Local Government Area, Kaduna, shooting at their targets before whisking away the pupils and teachers from both schools.

Locals said the secondary section of the school was relocated to the primary school on account of the security threats to the Council.

A day earlier, the United Nations confirmed the abduction of at least 200 internally displaced persons from their camp in Ngala Local Government Area of Borno State.

In a statement released on last Wednesday, the UN resident and humanitarian coordinator in Nigeria, Mohamed Fall, said the abductees, including women, boys and girls, were captured while fetching firewood.

Although the actual number of IDPs abducted remains unknown, Fall said they may be over 200 persons. Fall added that the terrorists released some older women and children below 10 years.

Gumi advised that to facilitate the release of the abducted schoolchildren, the President should give him the opportunity to negotiate.

The Islamic scholar warned against Tinubu repeating the mistake made by his immediate predecessor, Muhammadu Buhari, who refused to dialogue with bandits.

Conveying the President’s stance on the issue, the minister said, “In council today, Mr. President reiterated his directive to the security agencies and the Ministry of Defence to ensure that our kids that have been abducted by these criminal gangs are brought back to their homes safely. This was also mentioned by Mr. President in Clcouncil today.

“So the security agencies are working around the clock. These children and people who have been abducted by criminal elements will be brought back to safety pretty soon.

“The security agencies are working hard in that direction. And Mr President has also directed that no ransom will be paid by the government to any of these criminal elements.”.

On TVC’s Politics on Sunday, Tinubu’s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Ajuri Ngelale, revealed that the FG is receiving support from the United States government for the release of the students, teachers and IDPs.

Asked what specific support the United States is prepared to offer Nigeria in the rescue efforts, Idris replied, “We’re aware that it is not just the US that has offered. Other countries have also offered to support Nigeria. But what we can tell you is that the government is still reviewing these offers and the position of government will be made known to you.

“Now, like I said, Mr. President has said this is not an unacceptable situation. The government will not condone abductions or kidnapping or any kind of criminality in that direction…and the government is taking very proactive steps first to mitigate and also to stop the spread of this.

“The government is not taking any excuses. The President has directed that security agencies must, as a matter of urgency, ensure that these children and all those who have been kidnapped are brought back in safety and also in the process to ensure that not a dime is paid for ransom. So it’s important to underscore that the government is not paying anybody any dime.”

The FG said it is “optimistic that these children and other people that are abducted” will be returned to their families in safety.

President Tinubu had on Friday condemned what he called “heinous incidents of abduction,” directing security agencies to ensure their rescue.

Tinubu, who said he had been briefed on both abductions, assured Nigerians of ongoing rescue efforts.

“I have received briefing from security chiefs on the two incidents, and I am confident that the victims will be rescued.

“Nothing else is acceptable to me and the waiting family members of these abducted citizens. Justice will be decisively administered,” a statement signed by Tinubu’s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Ajuri Ngelale, quoted him saying.

The statement is titled ‘President Tinubu condemns Borno, Kaduna abductions; directs immediate rescue of captives.’

The statement read, “The President directs security and intelligence agencies to immediately rescue the victims and ensure that justice is served against the perpetrators of these abominable acts.”

He also sympathised with the families of the victims, assuring them that they would soon be reunited with their loved ones.

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