Barely one week after some 73 students and their teachers were abducted from Government Day Secondary School Kaya in Maradun local government area of Zamfara state, there is mounting fear and confusion among parents and relations over the fate of the abductees.
The captors, according to one of the parents who pleaded anonymity, demanded N750 million ransom for the release of the children when they spoke to the bandits last week Wednesday.
The parent, in an interview with AEW’s blog in Gusau, Wednesday, confirmed that the bandits spoke with them last week on the telephone.
However, their worry, he said, stemmed from the fact that the telecom shutdown by the National Communications Commission (NCC) at the instance of the state government was making it difficult for them to reach their wards, thus fuelling the fear that they could be killed by their captors.
“The bandits said they are demanding the sum of N750 million from us before they could free our children and we don’t have such money,” he said.
During the conversation, the source said, the gunmen threatened to kill the abductees if the community failed to raise the demanded ransom.
The source further said: “We spoke with them two days before the NCC disconnected the mobile phone network in the state following security challenges facing the state, and now we don’t know the fate of our children. They threatened to kill our children if we failed to meet up with the price (ransom) they placed on the children’s release.”
The parents called on both the federal and Zamfara state governments to do the needful as quickly as possible to ensure the rescue of their children unharmed.
Economic activities crippled
In a related development, the shutdown of telecom sites across the state is beginning to take its toll on the people and their means of livelihood.
Speaking to AEW’s blog in an interview, a bank customer identified as Sulaiman Salisu, described the situation as ‘seriously alarming.’
Salisu said he spent two days consecutively trying to withdraw some money to cater for his family but was unsuccessful owing to what he called lack of cyber network in all the commercial banks in Gusau, the state capital.
“As I am speaking to you now, I have spent two days trying to withdraw some money to cater for my family problem and pay for my medical bill but failed,” he said.
AEW’s blog reports that the development followed the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) directive to the commercial banks in the state to shut down their cyber network in compliance with the federal government’s decision of tackling security challenges facing the state.
Salisu appealed to the federal government and the apex bank to look into their predicament and salvage them from the current socio-economic instability by restoring network to the banks for residents to have access to their money.
“Yes, we know there is security challenge which we must tackle. However, I am of the view that in doing this we must not be made to pay so huge a sacrifice. Let government do something around this, I beg of them. You know what it means when you can’t access your fund,” Maimuna, another customer pleaded.
Apart from the telecom shutdown, Governor Bello Mohammed Matawalle also ordered the closure of all weekly markets, banned all forms of petrol black markets as well as imposed restriction of movement of vehicles from 8pm to 6am across the state.
Similar measures were taken by Sokoto, Katsina, Kaduna and Niger states. AEW’s blog visited some commercial banks in Gusau Wednesday and sighted the customers sitting redundantly in anticipation of the return of cyber network to have access to their money.
Also, over 100 people who violated the executive orders regarding the recent security measures in the state have been arrested.
Secretary of the Task Force on Security Matters, Abdul Haruna, disclosed this in an interview with journalists in Gusau Wednesday.
He also said five cows belonging to a military officer were recovered.
Haruna said two vehicles loaded with food items and other essential commodities, suspected to be heading to the bandits’ camps were intercepted.
“However, the drivers of the two vehicles could not defend themselves hence they were arrested,” he added.
Haruna said Lalan, Mayanchi, Lamba Bakura and Colony junctions have all been closed indefinitely.
He said: “We closed these junctions because since markets have been closed indefinitely, the bandits have no other means than to be getting their foodstuffs and other essential commodities from the junctions.”
20 abducted in Sokoto community
Similarly, bandits suspected to be fleeing Nigerian Air Force attacks in the Bakura – Talata Mafara axis of Zamfara state Tuesday stormed Dange Shuni local government area of Sokoto state and kidnapped at least 20 residents.
The residents told BBC Hausa as monitored by Premium Times that communities in the area were witnessing influx of bandits recently.
Sokoto state Commissioner for Security Affairs, Garba Moyi, confirmed the development but said the state government was on top of the situation.
He said bandits from Zamfara had been moving into Sokoto but were not kidnapping people as being reported because they were only looking for escape routes.
Moyi confirmed that sometimes the bandits attacked residents to instill fear or steal food while on the run.
An unnamed local said: “Even yesterday (Tuesday) the bandits running away from bombs in Zamfara attacked a village called Fajanbi and abducted nine people.
“Another person taken from another village escaped and told us that abductees from the area were more than 20 in the kidnappers’ den.”
Lockdown working – Dosara
But the Zamfara state Commissioner for Information Ibrahim Dosara has said the military offensive against the bandits in the state was yielding the right results since the telecom shutdown.
Addressing journalists in Gusau, the commissioner said security operatives now found it very easy to deal with the bandits in their enclaves within the forests.
“Zamfara State Government in efforts to ensure the crashing of the bandits has requested for the closing down of all networks in the state and this has been effective. The security officials are finding it very easy to deal with the bandits in their enclaves in the forests,” the commissioner said.