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The Yauri girls’ debacle

The dozens of months and hundreds of days of trauma which the parents of the students abducted from the Federal Government College (FGC) Birnin Yauri…

The dozens of months and hundreds of days of trauma which the parents of the students abducted from the Federal Government College (FGC) Birnin Yauri in Kebbi State suffered should never have been the experience of anyone anywhere, at least not where the government still has the constitutional mandate to secure lives and property. This could only happen where government, with all the security operatives and apparatus at its disposal, turned itself into a mere lame duck. This was the case with the set of abductees from the FGC, Yauri recently freed by their abductors.

After 707 days in captivity, the two remaining kidnapped students of the FGC, Birnin Yauri, regained freedom. The two female students, Faida Sani Kaoje and Safiya Idris were reportedly released from their captors in the early hours of Thursday, May 25, 2023. Before this last batch in the release of the abducted schoolgirls, three other girls, Elizabeth Ogechi Nwafor, Esther Sunday and Aliya Abubakar, were released by the bandits on May 7, 2023. The committee of parents had disclosed while soliciting support that the bandits demanded a sum of N100 million. An undisclosed amount of money, it was alleged, was paid by abductees’ parents as ransom after getting support elsewhere due to the failure of the Kebbi State government to meet the demand of the bandits.

It would be recalled that the 11 female students were among the dozens kidnapped when bandits invaded the school two years ago, exactly on June 17, 2021. It was reported that some of the girls had become teenage mothers while about four others were pregnant. It was painful that the 11 schoolgirls remained in captivity despite payment of ransom and prisoner swaps, at different times.

A notorious banditry kingpin, Dogo Gide and his gang is believed to be the mastermind behind the abduction of more than 100 pupils and five of their teachers from FGC Yauri. While many of the girls escaped in the days that followed the abduction, others were released after ransoms were allegedly paid to Gide’s gang and allegedly in exchange for some of Gide’s fighters who were arrested by the authorities. The terrorists thereafter held on to 11 of the schoolgirls.

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What made government inaction in the case of the abducted Yauri schoolgirls more appalling and agonizing was how the gang leader kept in close and unbroken contact with the parents of their victims. It was a lifetime devastation when the parents of one of the victims, it was alleged, came to know of the presence of their kidnapped daughter, who had been illegally put into the family way in their own neighbourhood; supposedly living with her captor who was picking phone calls from the girl’s parents.

While it was foolhardy for a bandit to go this far in daring the government and the people, it is the worst security failure for details of a kidnapper including where he lives and how he operates to become public knowledge and yet remain unchallenged, no matter how armed or audacious, by those paid to protect Nigerian citizens. This is not to mention how traumatic the situation must have been for the family, especially the head, who was left helpless.

A parent who spoke under anonymity told reporters that his daughter used to speak with her mother very frequently but most times under watch as the bandits would insist on knowing what they discussed to avoid letting out sensitive information. What an incredible display of audacity by criminal elements and a ridiculous show of shame demonstrated by the entire armed forces of the country!

Gide and his men, like other armed groups operating in the forests straddling Kaduna, Niger and Zamfara States, are said to be living freely in Birnin Gwari suburbs of Kamfanin Doka and Gwaska general area.

How come a criminal was watched to become this notorious without being dealt with in accordance with the provisions of the law for handling such cruel members of society? Why should the government in a country with several security outfits allow parents to become emasculated and helpless only to suffer humiliation at the hands of armed bullies?  No parent should have to go through that ordeal.

While this flop by security personnel, like many other aberrations, can only happen in Nigeria, the contemptible let-down by the security agents credibly explains why banditry and kidnapping still thrive in many parts of the country. Government should have used all the forces available to it to deal with these glorified bandits so that no other terrorist group or individual would further attempt to hold the country hostage.

It is also time to look into the issue of gender-based violence with a view to stopping it, as we believe that the criminals were so bold because the victims were women. Also, now that the girls are free, they should undergo some form of rehabilitation to enable them to reintegrate into society.

While Daily Trust deeply empathises with the affected parents and their daughters, we call on relevant security agents to follow up and arrest, prosecute and punish the abductors of all the released Yauri schoolgirls in accordance with the provisions of the law. Unless the Gide-led group and other pockets of bandits are cleared from their enclaves, the public image and prowess of Nigeria’s law enforcement agencies would for a long time remain dented, and therefore, ridiculed.


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