YAHAYA ZAKKA MINNA.
Niger state government says Shiek Ahmed Gumi did not come to the state to negotiate the release of the Kagara school boys but to continue his self imposed outreach to bandits to lay down arms and embrace peace.
This clarification is coming on the heels of media reports indicating that Shiek Gumi was in the state on the invitation of the government to help negotiate the release of both Kagara school boys and the NSTA abductees.
Speaking in a telephone interview, the Secretary to the State Government, Ahmed Ibrahim Matane said it was just a coincidence that Shiek Gumi was preparing to come to the state when the regretable incidence of Kagara school boys was reported.
He said the Islamic scholar had earlier before the incidence, contacted the state government and informed it of its mission to come explore strategy for engagement with the bandits and preach to them to abandon their criminal activities and embrace peace.
He disclosed that the people Sheik Gumi met in the bush were not the gang that executed the abduction of the school boys but “because they have good interaction amongst themselves, they might help in contacting those who abduct the boys and open communication. And that is why I was with him to explore means of freeing all abductees”, he said.
He said the state government was working day and night to ensure the safe release of all abductees, while also assuring members of the public, including parents and guardians that the information available to government was that the school boys and other victims of abduction are safe and alive.
When asked to give a tentative date when the school boys would be released, the SSG said it will happen soon, but added that negotiation between the kidnappers and government was still ongoing. He however said government will intensify and regularize communication between it and the bandits.
He said one thing Ahmed Gumi presence helped in achieving for the government was creating that communication channels with those who are ready to listen and keep to the bargain. He said the state government will not shift its stance not to offer money for the bandits in exchange for the victims.
He said the ransom payment will embolden the kidnappers to wreck more havoc in the state. He said “government will certainly look into their grievances. They said they have been neglected, they have no hospitals, schools, clean water and so on. They said their cattle has been stolen by rustlers and the military jets bombed and killed their women and children. They said the vigilantes have been killing them indiscriminately. That they lost everything. These are complaints that we are going to look into”.
When asked if government will acceed to ransom payment if there was need for it as final condition for the release of the victims, the SSG said government will not like to open the window for financial inducement because doing so will fuel the insurgency. According to him “if you give out money, tommorow another splinter group will emerge and carry out more heinous crimes and then everything will be uncontrollable”.
The SSG said inspite that, the state government has deployed all the security apparatus within its reach to pursue the bandits and possibly rescue the abductees. He said both optional approach of carrots and stick will be used until all those in the hands of the bandits are rescued.
He said “presently, the army, the airforce, police, including the vigilantes are combing the forest to know where the victims are and rescue them”.
He said it was not true that government had received demands from the bandits for the release of some of their top commanders and members arrested by security agents as condition for the release of Kagara school boys. He said all that was discussed with Dogo Gide in the forest, was the discontinuation of armed banditry in the state and the release of both Kagara abductees.