The joint task force of Operation Hadarin Daji (OPHD) has rescued 16 people, including students and labourers from the Federal University of Gusau (FUG), in Zamfara State.
The three labourers working on a project at the institution during the incident were carried along with the girls.
This ongoing operation involves the collaborative efforts of the Police, Nigerian Army, DSS, and the Nigerian Air Force (NAF), and it has led to the safe return of 13 female students and three labourers as of the time of this report.
Our reporter attached to the operation said the success followed pressure exerted on the suspected bandits by both the air and land components of the operation, resulting in the killing of numerous bandits.
On Friday morning, a large number of bandits stormed the Sabon-Gida community located within the Bungudu Local Government Area of Zamfara State, where many students from the Federal University, Gusau, reside off-campus, and abducted an unspecified number of females.
Six girls were rescued immediately after the abduction on Friday.
One of the rescued students shared her experience, revealing that the bandits had separated them into groups.
She overheard their conversations indicating that some of the kidnapped students had been relocated to Niger State, while others were moved to the Magami axis.
In a moment of bravery, she managed to sneak away while the bandits were occupied with phone calls, eventually finding refuge on a nearby farm.
Tinubu orders Immediate rescue
President Bola Tinubu directed security agencies to rescue the remaining female students.
The President said there was no moral justification for such ‘heinous crimes’ against innocent victims, whose only offence was their pursuit of quality education.
The state government called an emergency meeting immediately after the abduction and resolved to give support to a security agent to ensure the safe return of the girls.
Secret negotiation with bandits
State Governor Dauda Lawal has called for an urgent and comprehensive investigation into what he called ‘the clandestine’ negotiations with bandits currently taking place in the state.
The governor expressed concern that a federal government delegation allegedly engaged in talks with bandit groups in Zamfara without involving the state government or other security agencies.
Governor Lawal emphasised that these actions by certain federal agencies contradict the state’s adoption of a kinetic strategy to combat banditry and urged the Federal Government to clarify the activities of these agencies and investigate their actions, which he sees as sabotaging the ongoing fight against banditry in Zamfara.
The governor’s spokesperson, in a statement on Monday, highlighted the importance of not repeating past administrations’ mistakes in attempting to engage in dialogue with bandits: “Governor Lawal’s administration maintains a firm stance against negotiating with criminals”.
The statement added that the state government considers the fight against banditry a top priority and called on the Federal Government to swiftly terminate the ongoing negotiations with bandits, saying it hampers the progress made thus far.
Reporting by AbdulRazak Kaura; Editing by Saadatu Albashir