- Obasanjo, Gumi broker release
- We share anguish of Greenfield varsity students' parents - Presidency
- Obasanjo cautions FG on payment of ransom, says Buhari, Jonathan govts paid ransom, but denied doing so
- Arrest, interrogate Gumi now, Fani-Kayode tells FG
The remaining 29 students of Federal College of Forestry Mechanisation, Afaka, Kaduna State, have been released. This is even as former President Olusegun Obasanjo yesterday cautioned the Federal Government against paying ransom to kidnappers and bandits, saying it is capable of encouraging criminals in their evil act.
It will be recalled that 39 students of the school were kidnapped 57 days ago by bandits who invaded and demanded payment of N500 million ransom to effect their release.
But 10 of the students had earlier been released in batches of five after their parents paid ransom.
Husband of one of the kidnapped students who spoke on condition of anonymity, confirmed the release of the students.
Obasanjo, Gumi helped secure release
Vanguard gathered that release of the students was facilitated by Sheikh Ahmad Gumi Dialogue committee, with the collaboration of former President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo.
Also confirming the release of the students, Abdullahi Usman, chairman of the Forum of Parents of the Abducted Students, said: "Yes, they have been released. They did not sleep in the (bandits') camp yesterday. They were taken to the residence of one of the mediators to sleep.
"We have already sent our people with vehicles and ambulance to go and bring them. We are expecting them any moment from now."
On March 12, gunmen invaded the school located along Airport Road in Kaduna, and abducted 39 of the students.
Ten of them were released in two batches of five after the parents reportedly paid N17 million ransom.
Speaking on the release of the students, Usman said it is "a big relief to parents", who have been "emotionally traumatised" since the incident took place.
The parents had, on Tuesday, protested at the National Assembly in Abuja.
Attempts to reach Mohammad Jalige, spokesman of the Kaduna State police command, for comments on the students' release at press time yesterday proved abortive.
Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, had on Tuesday in Abuja, said the federal and Kaduna State governments were working assiduously to ensure the release of the students. Efforts also made to get the state government's reaction last night were unsuccessful.
The government had always insisted that it will not negotiate with bandits or kidnappers and also threatened to prosecute anyone who does so.
Meanwhile, negotiations for release of the remaining 29 students before they regained freedom yesterday was fraught with controversies, as parents of the students churned out conflicting details of the ordeals they suffered in the negotiation process.
While a mother of one of the abducted students told a television platform, Roots TV, that a negotiator, popular Islamic cleric, Sheikh Ahmad Gumi, linked them with the abductors collected N800,000 as transportation fare to help, other parents dissociated themselves from the claim and apologised to Gumi for the claim.
Earlier, 10 students were released in two batches of five, after their parents negotiated their way out, leaving 29 in the custody of abductors.
This came as the Presidency stated late Tuesday night that it shared in the anguish of parents of abducted students of Greenfield University, Kaduna, who were kidnapped by bandits on April 20.
About 23 students were kidnapped from the university by bandits who demanded N800 million to release the students, while five had been killed, with one other released after the parents reportedly paid N20 million to secure release of their ward.
Speaking with Roots TV, the woman whose identity was shielded for security reasons, said they had been trying to secure the release of the abducted students to no avail.
She said the parents had attended several meetings and were taken to Ahmad Gumi, prominent Islamic cleric, who directed them to a Fulani man, named Ahmed.
She said the parents paid N800,000 to the man who said the money was for transportation, while insisting that the parents pay an additional N500 million.
The woman, who claimed to be a widow, said: "We kept going for meetings. They took us to Gumi's house who said we should meet one Fulani man. We contributed almost N800,000 to him but he said the money was just for transportation.
"Then I started crying and pleaded with him that I am a widow, training my boy to become my helper in the future but he said that was not his concern."
Noting that the unidentified Fulani man was invited to an office in Kaduna to meet the parents, she said: "We kept begging him but he insisted that we must pay N500 million.
Another parent, who said the trauma was too much to handle, said they had become "walking corpses".
'Trauma too much'
She said: "The trauma is too much, I can hardly sleep. We are walking corpses. People see us as being alive but we are already dead. In the night, one cannot sleep, if you want to sleep you will be thinking about the condition of your child; if the child is dead, alive, or whether he had eaten.
"They (kidnappers) were after the government paying that money- N500 million. Like me in particular, they kept calling me 'Madam, go and talk to the government to pay the money'. All I kept telling them was that I am a widow, I don't have access to the government.
"Maybe if my husband were to be alive, he would know somebody who would help him to talk to the government. They kept calling me for almost two weeks and I told them the same thing."
However, other parents of the abducted students, who have now formed themselves into a group, have dissociated themselves from the remarks by the mother who said money was given to Sheikh Gumi for onward delivery to the abductors.
The parents, who apologized to the renowned Muslim scholar, said their attention was drawn to a screaming headline in May 5, 2021, in Roots TV to the effect that one of them claimed that they contributed and paid the sum of N800,000 to a Fulani man through Sheikh Gumi for the release of their children.
In a statement signed yesterday by chairman of Afaka Parents Forum, Malam Abdullahi Usman, and the secretary, Mrs. Catherine Y. Saleh, the parents said the claim had no basis .The statement read: "The woman is not a member of the committee representing the affected parents and did not speak on behalf of the parents.
"To be sure, the Forum of the abducted parents has never gathered money and given to Gumi or to someone through the revered Islamic scholar at anytime. We, therefore, dissociate ourselves from the statement.
"The committee considers the statement as unfortunate and an unnecessary distraction from its commitment to secure the release of the children who have now spent 56 days in captivity.
"For the record, the committee representing the Forum of Parents of the 39 abducted students visited the home of Sheikh Gumi to seek his intervention for the release of our children but he declined, on the grounds that as a law abiding citizen, he would not want to go against the position of the state government which has forbidden anyone to negotiate with bandits.
"We apologise to the esteemed sheikh for any personal injury the statement might have caused him.
"Again, we call on all to join our voices in calling on government at state and federal levels to work extra hard to ensure the safe release of our children, so they may be reunited with their families.
"While we await God's intervention for the release of our children, we call on all people of goodwill to join us in prayers as we continue to seek God's help for the release of our children."
Presidency on Greenfield varsity kidnap
Meanwhile, the Presidency has said it shared in the anguish of parents of the abducted students of Greenfield University.
The is coming 15 days after gunmen stormed the university located along the Kaduna-Abuja Highway in Chikun Local Government Area, and kidnapped several students.
The kidnappers have since killed five of the students and threatened to kill 16 others still in captivity if a ransom of N100 million and 10 motorcycles were not delivered to them.
The Presidency in a series on Tweets, said: "We deeply share the anguish of parents of the abducted Greenfield University students. "The Federal Government, through the military & intelligence agencies, is working to support the Kaduna State government to bring this tragic saga to an end with no further loss of innocent life.
"We will ensure that good triumphs over evil, and that all of the bandits and criminals terrorizing innocent lives and communities are brought to book.
"This is a time for all Nigerians to unite, regardless of religion, ethnicity or partisan affiliation--against a common, dastardly enemy."
Obasanjo warns FG
Also yesterday, former president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo cautioned the Federal Government against paying ransom to kidnappers and bandits, saying it will encourage criminals engaging in the dastardly act, if not stopped.
Obasanjo, who spoke while receiving members of Tiv Professionals Group, TPG, led by Prof Zacharys Anger Gundu, at his Penthouse residence at Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library (OOPL) in Abeokuta, Ogun State, Obasanjo noted that President Muhammadu Buhari's government and that of his predecessor, Dr Goodluck Jonathan, had paid ransom to kidnappers and bandits, but denied it.
He said government must develop ways to deal with kidnappers and bandits heavily in place of ransom payment.
The former President equally insisted that it requires a "carrot and stick" approach to fight insecurity challenges to a standstill.
He said: "Some people are still reaching out, and hoping that lives can still be saved. But a situation where anybody thinks paying ransom is the way out, that person is foolish. This is because when you pay ransom, you encourage. But if you are not going to pay ransom, you must have the means to deal heavily with it. You must have the stick to deal with it.
"Government has always paid ransom. Not only this government, even during Jonathan's administration. They paid ransom, but they denied it."
Think of minorities, Obasanjo warns secessionist agitators
While reliving the position of a military friend, Obasanjo expressed fears that those beating drums of division in Nigeria don't think about the interest of the minority ethnic groups.
He said: "He would say to me, if the Yorubas can stand as a country, if the Igbos can stand as a country, if the Hausa/Fulani can stand as a country, if you major tribes decide to break up from the country, where do you want the minority ethnic groups to stand? That, many Nigerians don't know about, unfortunately.
"Where do we want those minor groups to stand? Wherever they stand, now they are by virtue of Nigeria's present situation a little bit protected. But if Nigeria breaks up and they are in a smaller country, they will be oppressed. They will always be exterminated. Are we thinking of that?"
"I believe that if we will get it right in Nigeria, any leader must look at Nigeria with the prism of the diversity of Nigeria. For as long as you look at Nigeria with the prism of your ethnic group, then you aren't going anywhere, either your ethnic group or religious group. But is there hope? There is hope."
'A new Nigeria must emerge in 2023'
Speaking on the 2023 elections, Obasanjo said leaders must ensure that it birthed emergence of a new federation in Nigeria, adding that the country might slide into dissolution.
Obasanjo, who bemoaned insecurity challenges, insisted that 2023 must mark a watershed for Nigeria.
"I do believe that whatever else we do, we have to make the year 2023 a watershed for Nigeria. The year 2023 should give us the beginning of emergence of a new federation or feeling that the rot continues, and then, we are going to be sliding back to a grand dissolution. God forbid," the former President said.
N800,000 transport fare: Fani-Kayode wants Gumi arrested
Reacting yesterday to Sheikh Gumi's closeness to bandits and claims by a parent of one of the abducted students that Gumi linked the parents with a negotiator who collected N800,000 as transport fare, former Aviation Minister, Femi Fani-Kayode, called for his arrest.
In a statement issued yesterday, Fani-Kayode said if Gumi knew about the money allegedly paid, the government should invite him for interrogation. "I hereby call on the Federal Government to invite, arrest and interrogate Sheikh Ahmad Gumi.
"Assuming this lady's testimony is true, it provides clear evidence of him being an accessory and accomplice to terrorism, abduction, kidnapping and murder.
"If this were not the case, he would not spend his entire life attempting to defend, justify, rationalise and explain their barbaric, homicidal, savage and beastly ways.
"These people have so much blood on their hands yet Gumi still holds himself out as their advocate and best friend," he said.
The former minister said if the Federal Government refused to act against Gumi, it would raise questions about its commitment to fighting terror and stopping the terrorists.
Vanguard News Nigeria