In a bid to secure the release of 27 pupils and 15 workers of Government Science College, Kagara, abducted by bandits during the week, there are indications that the Federal Government may consider releasing arrested bandits in exchange for the schoolchildren.
The group of bandits responsible for the abduction has reportedly made it known that it wants its members arrested by security agencies released as a condition to free the abductees, newsmen report.
It would be recalled that a group of bandits invaded the school around 2 am on Wednesday, February 17, 2021, to abduct the victims, and killed a student, who raised the alarm.
However, as part of effort to secure the release of the victims, officials of the Niger and Zamfara state governments were reported to have met some bandits at Dutsin Magaji of Kotonkoro Forest in Rafi.
The forest according to Punch connects the four states of Kebbi, Zamfara, Niger and Kaduna.
A popular Kaduna-based cleric, Ahmad Gumi, has also met an influential leader of a bandit group, who know the bandits responsible for the abduction to broker a negotiation with them.
The cleric told Punch that the abductors were demanding the release of their members arrested by security agents as well.
He said, “I met with people who know the people responsible (for the abduction), which is one step ahead. Before now, when there was a kidnapping, we wouldn’t know those responsible, but now, we have met a leader who knows (these people) because he is commanding a large area and knows the person who did it and he is going to speak to him and plead with him (to release the abducted pupils and other victims. Since there is a peace process going on, they should release them. They (the bandits) too have people arrested by security agents. So, I am telling people, this is turning into an insurgency.”
Asked if the bandits gave the release of their arrested members as a condition of the release of the victims, Gumi said, “They did not really give it as a condition. We are just saying, ‘Please release them,’ and they said, ‘Okay, we will release them (the pupils and staff members of the school) but we also want you people to consider our people (bandits) that were arrested.”
The cleric further said, “We hope they (students) will be released soon because he (the influential leader) said he knows the man and he is going to talk to him.”
Meanwhile, Governor Sani Bello of Niger state has declared that he won’t bow to ransom demands that will put money in the pockets of the bandits.
The governor said he is ready to offer ‘a new lease of life’ to kidnappers who abducted students if they change their criminal way.