Parents of abducted students of the Federal College of Forestry Mechanisation, Afaka in Kaduna State, have indicated their resolve to negotiate with bandits for the release of the students, citing loss of confidence in government’s effort occasioned by its seemingly lethargic approach to the impasse.
They have, therefore, dared the state government to arrest them as it had allegedly threatened to do to those who negotiate with terrorists, even as they have urged non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and other charity organisations to come to their aid in their bid to rescue their children from bandits.
But the state government said its threat is directed at unscrupulous individuals who claim to be acting on behalf of the state government in order to capitalise on the situation for selfish gain.
The parents, who made the call through their spokesman, Comrade Friday Sani, in a press briefing at the school compound yesterday, said the families of the abducted students had lost hope in government’s intervention following the statement credited to Kaduna State Governor Nasir el-Rufai that he would not pay ransom to bandits even if his son were kidnapped.
According to the distressed parents, they have been imprisoned emotionally all these while and, therefore, can no longer be afraid of government’s threats on the ground of arrest for negotiating for the lives of their children.
They noted that since the incident, the federal government had never made any statement on whether it was making any efforts to rescue their children or not.
“It’s better for us to be arrested because we have been arrested emotionally by the government. So we want to let the governor know that we are not afraid of arrest. If we are in government detention and our children are at home, it is far better,” he said.
Comrade Friday further said they received news of how 10 of the students were released, noting that it might be the reason why the government had relented in its efforts, or probably because the affected families were no longer protesting. He said if truly government forces rescued the 10, they should follow same tactics to rescue the remaining 29.
LEADERSHIP Weekend reports that the anguish of these parents started on March 11, 2021 after bandits invaded the school and abducted 39 students. Ten of them have been released while 29 are still in captivity. The bandits had demanded N500 million for the remaining 29 students.
Comrade Friday Sani said the bandits had opted to call individual parents to demand ransom, threatening to marry off the young girls and kill the males among them.
He noted that the situation was dire and the parents would not fold their arms and allow such to happen, even at the risk of arrest.
However, in its response, the Kaduna State government said that contrary to reports in some sections of the media, the bond between Governor el-Rufai and the parents and other citizens in captivity was characterised by deep empathy amidst spirited efforts to rescue them.
In a statement issued yesterday by Samuel Aruwan, the commissioner, internal security and home affairs, he said the governor would continue to work hard until banditry is contained, without succumbing to emotional blackmail and gradual politicisation of the situation.
He said: “For instance, some sections of the media have been reporting the parents’ responses to a purported threat by the governor to prosecute them, which is simply false and deeply mischievous.
“The statement of the government warning impostors who have been presenting themselves as government-appointed emissaries to negotiate with bandits across the state has nothing to do with the parents or relatives of the abducted students, or any other person in captivity. It was rather directed primarily to some identified individuals exploiting the security situation in the state and neighbouring states.
“Finally, the state government will not join issues with the parents whose pain we understand and with whom we share the common goal of the return of all the abducted students. “
According to him, the state government will keep working towards crushing banditry, kidnapping and other acts of criminality that pose danger to the people and communities.
“We believe that most people of goodwill share this desire, and we urge everyone to be wary of those who see in the misery of others only an opportunity for needless controversy,” Aruwan said.