Governor Bello Matawalle of Zamfara State on Sunday said the state government is negotiating with abductors of Government Girls Science Secondary School, Jangebe.
He explained that repentant bandits were helping the state government execute the negotiations and that they expect the schoolgirls to be released sooner rather than later.
The governor spoke in Gusau, the state capital, when he received a presidential delegation on a sympathy visit over last Friday’s abduction of 317 schoolgirls.
“We are using the leaders of the repentant bandits to rescue the schoolgirls from the kidnappers.
“Very soon, we are going to witness the release of the abductees,” the governor added.
Matawalle, who has been in dialogue with bandits in the state, in spite of the criticism of his action, maintained that his administration would “continue with the peace process with bandits considering its impact in addressing security challenges facing the state.”
The state recently granted amnesty to some bandits and came out of the forest and handed in their arms. They were then classified as “repentant bandits”.
Matawalle commended President Muhammadu Buhari for sending the delegation to symphathise with the state over what he described as “ugly act”.
The delegation was led by Minister of Aviation Hadi Sirika. Other members were Minister of Police Affairs, Alhaji Maigari Dingyadi, Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management Hajiya Sa’adiya Umar-Faruk and Minister of Women Affairs Mrs. Pauline Tallen.
Matawalle said: “I strongly believe in the president and his effort in fighting all forms of insurgence and I urge him to improve on the nation’s security.
“This is by ensuring synergy among the security agencies so that confrontations with criminals can be coordinated on ground and in the air simultaneously.”
Sirika said new measures had been developed by the Federal Government which would bring complete end to all forms of criminality in the nation.
“The President is saddened by the abduction of the students from Jangebe and reassures you that the government has all the resources and wherewithal to contain these criminals.
Buhari also commended Matawalle’s efforts against armed banditry and promised a continued support to bringing lasting peace.
“The Federal Government will continue its partnership with Zamfara government and its citizens in resolving the security challenges facing the state,” Buhari said.
Girls still with abductors
Zamfara State Commissioner of Police Abutu Yari last night debunked social media indicating that the Zamfara schoolgirls had been released.
“They have not been released. Don’t mind the social media reports,” he said on the telephone.
In a statement later, the police said they were working in concert with other security agencies to secure the release of the girls.
Matawalle, during another meeting with traditional rulers, said his administration had discovered some mischief makers that were bent on truncating his peace initiative, and pledged to expose such people for the world to know them.
Chairman of the 17-member council and Emir of Anka, Alhaji Attahiru Ahmad, described the girls’ abduction as an attempt to destabilize the nation.
He said: “We are here to express our sympathy over the abduction of our children and as the representatives of the people, we are seriously disturbed by the development which we know is not your fault.
“What happened is a tragedy to the whole nation, even though it is not the first, but fifth after what happened in Chibok, Dapchi, Kankara and Kagara of Borno, Yobe, Katsina and Niger states.
“Your Excellency should know that this is something ordained by God and so, cannot be termed as a weakness as being speculated by detractors who are not happy with your success.”
Schools are being shut in other parts of the North for fear of mass abduction.
Killings and kidnapping also continued unabated at the weekend.
Bandits killed seven people in attack on some communities in Kaduna State in what is fast becoming a weekly occurrence. They struck in Kajuru and Igebi local government areas.