Kaduna: El-Rufai under fire over “reckless” comments, poor handling of abductions

The Kaduna State Governor, Nasir el-Rufai has come under ‘fire’ for his handling of the many abductions in his state. This is coming in the aftermath of the killing of three of the students of Greenfield University, a private institution located off the now dangerous Kaduna-Abuja Highway in Chikun Local Government Area of the State.

It was gathered that unspecified number of students were abducted after bandits invaded the school and killed a security staff while taking away some of the students. However, Nigerians were shocked when the State Commissioner for Internal Security and Home Affairs, Samuel Aruwan announced on Friday that three of the students, a male and two females had been killed by the insurgents.

According to him, their corpses were found at a location close to the school.

Since the murder of the students, tempers have been rising, with blames heaped on the state Governor, el-Rufai, for his headline stand on the issue of negotiating with bandits holding the students captive.

Governor el-Rufai has remained consistent lately on his position of not negotiating with bandits or pay ransom for the release of their victims, insisting that doing so will only make abduction more lucrative.

To drive home the seriousness of his determination to call the bluff of the bandits, the governor said recently: “I mean it and I will say it again here. Even if my son is kidnapped, I will rather pray for him to make heaven instead, because I won’t pay any ransom.”

The governor stated this while speaking on the abduction of 39 students of the Federal College of Forestry Mechanisation, Kaduna, in March, adding that the government would keep exploring other ways to get them back to their families.

Also at a recent function in the nation’s capital, Abuja, the governor reiterated his stand, saying instead, all the bandits should be killed.

He said: “Our position as governors and we are unanimous in this because we, the northern states’ governors, met with the President on this subject. Our unanimous position is to wipe out the bandits. Nobody living in that forest is innocent, and just kill them all. It is the only way to end this.

“We need the combination of air power, and we need troops on the ground augmented by local expertise and knowledge. We need just one, two, three months’ operation to just try to kill all the bandits.”

Though the governor seem to have a strong conviction for his latest stance, many Nigerians are blaming him for the death of the three Greenfield University students and the continuous holding of 29 students of the Federal College of Forestry Mechanization, who are still being held by their captors.

For many, the posture of el-Rufai and his recent utterances might have infuriated the bandits, who decided to show how ruthless they can be and the fact that they mean business.

One of the parents of the abducted students of Greenfield, revealed in an interview on Friday that the bandits actually turned down N15 million offered them, insisting on N800 million, threatening to kill the students if the money is not paid.

“It’s unfortunate that the state is still insisting on not having anything to do with the negotiations even when lives are involved,” the parent who pleaded to remain anonymous said. He also added that the bandits had vowed to kill the remaining students should the parents fail to pay the ransom or attempt to use force to free the students.

Reacting to the murder of the students on Friday, Kaduna based Islamic scholar, Ahmed Gumi, appealed to Governor el-Rufai to change his stand, adding that he cannot do anything to help secure the release of the students without his support.

He said: “The situation is becoming dire and I need the government’s support before I can do anything, and I think there is a great misunderstanding and poor reading of the situation on the ground. So, I’m really helpless; I don’t know what actually I can do as of now.

“Honestly speaking, it is very unfortunate. There is an ethnic war going on, and I have been saying it. It is a war but if we don’t want to accept that it is a war, we will continue to suffer.

“You cannot predict the behaviour of people who are like that; this is the unfortunate thing and it is the common man that suffers. The way forward is for the government to listen to us, because those people (bandits) are ready to listen to us. If the government will cooperate and listen to us, I think there will be peace but we are finding it difficult to get the government’s attention.”

For the Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG), the utterances of Governor el-Rufai contributed to the murder of the students, asking him to shut up!

Speaking through its spokesman, AbdulAzeez Suleiman, the CNG said the students’ murder confirmed the lack of government’s will to secure citizens’ lives and property.

“Beyond this obvious failure, we also see Governor El-Rufai’s utterances as unhelpful in this situation. It’s not quite healthy for a government to boast where people’s lives are at stake.

“An ideal leader is one who should know when to keep on fighting and when to beat a retreat. For El-Rufai to persist in such bravado is certainly unproductive and is costing the state.”

Scared for the safety of their children, who have spent more than a month in captivity, parents of the remaining 29 students of the Federal College of Forestry Mechanization, Afaka, Kaduna, said they are now living in fear since Friday killing of the Greenfield University students.

They, however, said they are testing their hope in God and also calling on the international community to intervene on their behalf.

“We are looking unto God. What else do you want me to say?”, a frustrated parent said.

“We heard what happened. We are really concerned about the situation at hand.

“We are worried that if care is not taken, what befell those students may happen to our children. We are not praying for that, though.

“It is based on this that we are calling on well-meaning Nigerians, the state and federal governments, as well as the United Nations, to save the situation.

“We, in particular, call on the United Nations to prevail on the Nigerian government to do the needful in order to save our children from these bandits. We are calling on the international community to do something and not just watch what is happening in Kaduna State”, the parent said.

Some of the parents who spoke to Daily Post earlier, had lamented that the state government under Governor el-Rufai abandoned them to their fate, asking when it became a taboo for a governor, who once claimed he paid bandits money to stop killing people in the state, to negotiate for the release of their children.

One of the parents, Samuel Kambai told Daily Post: “As far as I’m concerned, before now, Governor Nasir el-Rufia made a statement that he is ready to negotiate with bandits and even pay them money to ensure there is no more kidnapping or killing in the state but unfortunately we are surprised to see that this same governor who made this statement has come out to say that he is not ready to negotiate with bandits. We believe that if they were to be his children, they would be out by now. But since they are not his, that is why he is making such statements.”

Also, while reacting to the murder of the students, the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) blamed Governor Nasir El-Rufai.

Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko, the National Coordinator of the group, while reacting in Abuja on Friday, reasoned that the killing of the students is a culmination of lack of political will on the part of the state governor to act appropriately.

He said: “We blame him for this unfortunate incident. The governor compounded the problem of the commoners who are at the receiving end of the activities of these insurrectionists and terrorists, by continuously making all kinds of incendiary statements and reckless media pronouncements about the kidnappers.

“These same kidnappers that the governor has demonstrated a lack of political will to arrest and prosecute for their crimes against humanity, the governor has gone on to advocate that they should all be killed. Who does that in a Constitutional democracy, to kill without following the due process of the law? This is anarchy.

“What kind of a governor is that who will provoke criminals that he has refused to arrest? So, these criminals have now descended on their victims and killed them to test the ‘might’ of the governor who proclaims that ‘Might is right. This is absolutely absurd and condemnable.”

Many Nigerians, whose views Daily Post sought, aligned with the position of HURIWA, as many of them believe that the governor has been talking too much lately instead of acting on whatever alternatives he has for the freedom of the students and others in captivity.

Others also believe that there must be an exemption to every rule, insisting that the Kaduna State Government must recognise the trauma the parents of these students have been going through and the hardship the victims are facing in the forests, especially the possibility of being wasted by the bandits.

Speaking with newsmen, Dele Adesina believes el-Rufai actually stirred the hornet’s nest with his continuous tough talks and threats of killing them all.

“The killing of the students is really unfortunate and could have been avoided if things were done rightly by those in the position to do so. And I am especially referring to Governor Nasir el-Rufai. There is no way he can be absolved from blame in this case. You have students and many others held captive by murderous criminals, who have shown that they do not have regard for human lives, yet you keep making inflammatory statements and issuing threats. The bandits has only shown that they are not moved by those threats.

“There have been several other abductions in states like Zamfara, Katsina and Niger states but none became bloody, leading to deaths and they were not this protracted because the governments of those states know the danger the abductees were and the trauma of their parents. They were sensitive enough to do all that’s possible to secure the release of the students.

“I am sure no Nigerian will want to subscribe to paying ransom to bandits or common kidnappers, but here we are talking about the lives of several people being at stake. Even if el-Rufai is not interested in paying ransom, I don’t think it is a mark of good leadership to keep making statements that keep making things worse. He has blame in the saga and he must take concrete steps to douse the current tension and ensure the remaining Greenfield University students and those of the Forestry students return home safely”, Adesina said.

For Basil Okonta, the time has come for the Kaduna State Governor to pull a retreat on his position for the sake of the lives that are at stake. He also noted that from experience, there is always an exemption to every rule, insisting that the current situation calls for that exemption to the governor’s position.

“Governments all over the world will always tell you that they don’t negotiate with terrorists but the opposite is the case, especially when it comes to life and death situation like what is presently playing out in Kaduna. Nobody is saying bandits or kidnappers should be pampered but then, the safety of the victims should come first. I believe the students and all others still in captivity should be safely brought home before we can talk of killing them all. The governor must be more tactical in his approach, if not, things will get worse”, Okonta said.

Despite all the blames being heaped on Governor el-Rufai for the death of the three students and the continued stay in captivity by others, Adewale Johnson believes that the governor is being unduly vilified by those who have brought in emotions to a purely security matter.

According to him, bandits and kidnappers have proven overtime not to be reliable, as whatever agreement you may have with them will eventually be reneged on.

“Nigerians must understand the issues at stake here and not unnecessarily blame the governor. This is a man who once said he paid bandits to stop killing and kidnapping his people. But have killings and kidnappings stopped? No. Even then, he said that, he was roundly condemned by those who felt he was pampering the bandits. Now, he said he will not negotiate or pay ransom and people are still calling for his head. That’s the nature of human beings, we can never be satisfied.

“We have heard of situations where ransom was paid, yet the kidnappers killed their victims. Bandits are not rational human beings, they operate by their own rules determined by them. You pay today, you will still pay tomorrow because they will keep coming. I believe government and the security agencies have to step up operations against the criminals and wipe them out just like el-Rufai has advocated. That’s the only way out”, Johnson submitted.

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