A sidelined bandit kingpin was responsible for the abduction of female students of Federal University, Gusau, Zamfara State, it has emerged.
It was learnt that the kingpin took the decision to abduct the female students in order to vent his anger for being sidelined by the various negotiating teams dispatched by the federal government to find a lasting solution to the spate of kidnapping and killings in Zamfara.
Daily Trust Saturday was told that while the various teams engaged with different groups of bandits, that of the alleged kingpin that abducted the female students was not approached; hence his decision to also prove his mettle.
He, therefore, led his supporters to the hostel near the university and adjoining houses, during which they abducted an unspecified number of students and locals.
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Our correspondent reports that the university was attacked by the bandits in the early hours of September 21, during which the female students were shepherded to the bushes.
Few of them have been rescued so far, while the rest are yet to be found.
This is even as the group that abducted them is yet to publicly ask for ransom, a clear departure of how the bandits operate, which is asking for a certain amount of money hours or few days after perpetrating the act.
Over the years, Zamfara is the worst hit by banditry activities in the North West as there are dozens of groups perpetrating the crime and holding hundreds of people in their custodies.
While some of the groups are very strong, having the capacity to wreak serious havoc like destroying communities after killing and maiming people, others indulge in sundry crimes.
Daily Trust Saturday reports that one week after the latest incident, the total number of students kidnapped by the terrorists from the university has not been verified as neither the federal government nor the Zamfara State Government spoke on what actually happened.
If anything, Governor Dauda Lawal of Zamfara had accused the federal government of secretly negotiating with bandits in the state without his knowledge, even though he did not directly create a nexus with the abduction at the university.
But the federal government, through the Minister of Information and National Orientation, Mohammed Idris, fired back, accusing the governor of politicising security.
However, Governor Lawal, through his spokesman, Sulaiman Bala Idris, said the information minister should have conducted a thorough investigation before discrediting the Zamfara State Government.
“We sought clarification from the federal government regarding the sneaky negotiations with bandits carried out by some of its agents without recourse to the state government and heads of security agencies in the state.
“We have facts and evidence of what transpired between the agents of the federal government and the bandits during the negotiations in several places across Zamfara.
“The Zamfara State Government respects protocol and established authorities. We would not come out in the media to start exposing the names of the federal government agents involved in the covert dialogue with bandits.
“We want to clarify that those individuals leading secret negotiations with bandits in Zamfara are politicising insecurity, not the state government,” he said.
The spat between the federal and Zamfara governments came to the fore after the latest inglorious abduction of the female students in the university.
Before then, credible sources had said there were at least three different teams working to restore peace in Zamfara at the instance of the federal government.
“One of the teams was dispatched from the Office of the National Security Adviser (NSA). There is another team working at the instance of the Ministry of Defence, and the third one was dispatched by the presidency,” one of our sources said.
Efforts to hear directly from the presidency, the NSA office and the defence ministry did not yield fruits as at press time, but credible sources around the government said that indeed, negotiations were ongoing.
The Premium Times had reported that top government officials told them that at least seven leaders of the terror gangs responsible for the abduction and killing of thousands of residents and the displacement of tens of thousands of others in Nigeria’s troubled North West attended secret meetings with at least two individuals believed to be representatives of the Nigerian government.
The online newspaper said that two security sources who requested anonymity for safety and authorisation purposes, said the largest meeting with the bandits was held in Fankama, a community in Faskari Local Government Area of Katsina State.
“One of our sources, another soldier, gave their name as Ado Aleiro, Yusuf Yellow, Masume, Alhaji Bandi, Alhaji Kabiru, Goma Tashin Like (which is his nickname), and Idi Muwange,” it stated.
In one of the videos of the meeting that went viral, Aleiro was seen sitting alongside other leaders of the insurgents.
Aleiro is a self-confessed serial murderer. In a BBC documentary on banditry, Aleiro boasted that he didn’t abduct but killed people.
He led several terrorists on a killing spree in mostly rural communities. He has also been blamed for the brutal killing of 60 people in Kadisau, a community in Faskari Local Government.
Yellow is reportedly Aleiro’s cousin but controls a separate group of terrorists.
He was accused of carrying out a number of kidnap-for-ransom operations, including the abduction of over 80 people, mostly children and women in Tsafe early this year.
‘FG’s terrible negotiations responsible for Gusau mess’
Speaking on the matter, Professor Usman Yusuf, a former executive secretary of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) and secretary of the Chief of Defence Staff Action Committee (CDSAC) that negotiated the release of the remaining 23 abductees of the ill-fated Abuja-Kaduna train passengers, said the terrible approach by the federal government was responsible for the abduction of the girls.
Speaking on Trust TV’s Daily Politics programme on Thursday, he said, “This is the first mass abduction after the one in Birnin Yauri. There has been a lull of over a year, and all of a sudden, we have this. It is very depressing; it is disheartening for anyone who is a parent, anyone who is a human being.
“Why are we having this incident again, nine and half years after Chibok? The government and security agencies have learned nothing. This is the first abduction from a federal university, in the home of the minister of state for defence,” he said.
Asked if he was aware that federal government’s negation teams emanated from the Office of the NSA, presidency and the Ministry of Defence, he said, “I don’t know where they are from. They are all over the place. What are they going there to do?”
Asked what could be the motivation for the visits he said, “I don’t even know. They went there. These committees were there even before this abduction. And their mismanagement of negotiations led to this. So, it is not that they went there to help rescue these people like we went there to help rescue these train abductees.”
Asked where the exact problem is, Professor Yusuf said, “There are former governors, ministers and groups of people, the Fulani from the North East going into Zamfara for all the negotiations.
“There is no coordination at all. They go to the forest and we are told that these guys have come. It takes time to earn trust from these bad guys in the forest. People come from Abuja and they sit down, and the other person you didn’t go to thinks you have given these guys money.
“All these misguided and disjointed negotiations are what caused the abduction of the Zamfara university girls. The person that went and took those girls felt slighted; he felt he was not consulted and he did this nonsense.
“You do not know the environment, you did not ask, you did not talk to people and you keep going to the forest. Gandhi said whatever you do for me without me is against me,” Professor Yusuf said.
When probed to give his thoughts on why different stakeholders were trooping to Zamfara to resolve one problem, Professor Yusuf said, “Tell me, where were all these people all these four to five years during Buhari’s time? President Buhari never opened his mouth and said no negotiations. At least, it was in public; it is just his body language, and the people around him said ‘no negotiations.’
“Where were they? All of a sudden, because they see that the new sheriff in town is more open to discussion, they started going. Some even go to the Villa and claim that the president directed them to take charge. Nobody invited us. Nobody directed us. The government was against us, but we thought and felt, and still feel that it is our duty and responsibility because it is our people. Nobody needs to tell you to go and do the right thing.”
On what happened to the former Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), General Lucky Irabo’s action committee, which he served as secretary, he said, “We presented it (report on various negotiations) to our principal (Irabor) and I am sure he presented it to all the relevant people.
“We worked together with the State Security Service (SSS) to get these 23 people out. It was beautiful to see all the services: the Air Force, Navy, Army and the SSS all working together to achieve a goal. That’s how it needs to be.
“But now, it looks like they want to reinvent everything. These messy negotiations are responsible for this. I would ask them to retrace their steps, evaluate what is being done and see how you can build on it.”