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Katsina attack: Military considers external help to rescue abducted schoolboys

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The military is considering the option of seeking external help to rescue over 300 schoolboys of Government Science Secondary School (GSSS) Kankara, Katsina State abducted last Friday by bandits.

A top military officer was quoted by THISDAY as saying one of the options being considered is for the Federal Government to seek assistance from the United States Africa Command (AFRICOM).

This is to launch a rescue bid leveraging its sophisticated technology for such operation.

The military also dismissed claims by Boko Haram that it masterminded the abduction of the pupils last Friday.

It described the claim of the terror organisation, made by its acclaimed leader, Mr. Abubakar Shekau, as mere propaganda.

Katsina State Governor, Aminu Masari, said 17 pupils had escaped from their captors.

Another report, however, claimed that two of the abductees might have been killed.

The Senate has summoned the defence minister and security chiefs over the abduction.

A military source said rescuing the pupils would be faster with help from US AFRICOM.

AFRICOM had recently alerted Nigeria and other West African nations that ISIS, al-Qaeda and other terror groups were making inroads into the West African sub-region, exploiting local differences and collaborating with affiliates.

The United States Special Forces recently rescued an American kidnapped from a farm in Niger Republic in Sokoto State.

During the operations, the Special Forces killed six of the kidnappers, four from Niger and two from Nigeria.

THISDAY gathered that the Federal Government could be reaching out to the US government (AFRICOM) in view of its recent intelligence alert on the movement of terror groups to the sub-region.

“At many levels, strategic levels there is a flurry of activities to rescue the children safely and keep the peace of the nation,” the source added.

The source said the military was looking at many options irrespective of ongoing negotiations with the kidnappers.

The source also dismissed claims by Boko Haram that it staged the kidnap of the Katsina students as propaganda.

He said, “We have our constitutional mandate, which we are pursuing. We are not discouraging other options, be it negotiations or any other thing.

“We are focused on the rescue of the children, having established location. The issue of collateral damage is also being looked at. The safety of the children is paramount.”

On the claim by Boko Haram that it kidnapped the pupils, the source, who asked not to be named, said, “It is in their character to make such bogus claims in situations like this. It is part of their propaganda. Anything that happens in Nigeria is linked to Boko Haram.

“The fact that they have collaborators is not in doubt but this is propaganda.”

17 students escaped from captivity, says Masari

Katsina State Governor, Aminu Masari, in an interview with journalists late on Monday after he briefed President Muhammadu Buhari in Daura on efforts made to rescue the students, said 17 out of the 333 abducted schoolchildren had returned home.

Masari had earlier told the Minister of Defence, Maj. Gen. Salihi Magashi (rtd), who on Sunday led security chiefs on a sympathy visit to the people of the state that 333 pupils were missing after the invasion of the school.

The governor, who said frantic efforts were ongoing to rescue the remaining captives, added that the 17 freed students were released “unconditionally” and had since been reunited with their family members.

He said: “As at today (Monday), information available to me shows that 17 of the missing children have been found. Fifteen of them were found around Dinya in Danmusa. I was informed by the DPO. One other was found through them and the last, the father called that his son has returned home.

“All these missing children who have been found have been reunited with their families since we have shut down the schools. Majority of the missing children are in the forest in Zamfara. But God willing, the children will be returned safely.

“I was told that they spoke with a teacher whose son was also kidnapped that the bandits said the helicopter should stop roving and that they will collect ransom but they didn’t specify. And so they ended the call.”

Masari explained that one of the abducted children’s fathers, who is also a teacher at the school, was contacted by the bandits who warned that security forces should stop aerial patrol of their hideouts.

He added that the bandits demanded that adequate money should be set aside pending the completion of the ongoing rescue mission.
However, two of the abducted students have been reportedly killed by their abductors.

A parent, whose son is among those kidnapped by the bandits, told THISDAY yesterday on condition of anonymity that one of the students who escaped from the kidnappers’ den said the hoodlums killed two of the schoolboys in his presence.

He said the student told them that while in captivity, they were made to go through inhumane experiences, including being flogged like animals and fed with wild flora.

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28 Bethel Baptist students regain freedom, 87 still held

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Bandits have released 28 students abducted Bethel Baptist Academy along Kaduna-Kachia road in the Chikun Local Government Area of Kaduna State.

Two of the students had earlier escaped while the bandits had released one on health ground.
The gunmen who invaded the school on July 5th had demanded N500,000 for each of the students.
A total of 121 were abducted.
Chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in Kaduna, Rev. John Hayab, said about 80 students were still held captive by the bandits while the released students will be reunited with their families.

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Land use act should be amended not abrogated – Erhabor

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By Dada Jackson

 

The unending controversy surrounding the Land Use Act seems to be escalating by the day considering the furore it is generating in the polity.

Over the years,there has been a clamour for the document to be either amended or completely discarded.

But the argument continues on what to do with the document.

Some professionals and stakeholders in the construction industry have also been expressing divergent views on areas of the document that has to do with the powers of Governors in granting Certificate of Occupancy(CofO) to prospective land seekers.

In an exclusive interview with Daily Independent, a chartered land surveyor, Mr. Gowin Erhabor, said that the act which was a creation of former military Head of State, General Olusegun Obasanjo in 1978 was to transfer the ownership of land to the government.

According to him,the idea which was lofty, had since been abused by some state Governors to the detriment of some people.

He said he does not subscribe to the outright abrogation of the Act but submitted,that it should be amended especially the section that confers absolute power on state Governors to grant approvals for CofO.

The land surveyor pointed out,that over the years,some Governors have used that power to muscle perceived political opponent’s thereby frustrating their efforts at acquiring and.

He said ” For instance if a Governor does not like the face of someone he sees as his political for,he would do everything at his disposal to deny such an individual yge opportunity of getting a land. This power conferred on Governors in the document us too enormous to allow it continue.I detest thus section of the Act,hence it should be jettisoned without much ado”.

Erhabor however commended the National Assembly for initiating the move to amend the Act,urging them to expedite action on its passage.

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Lagos to set up housing trust fund

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…..Proposed Workers’ Village gathers steam

 

By Dada Jackson

 

In a bid to make housing accessible to the less privileged in Lagos State,and in line with the transformation agenda of the Mr. Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu administration, especially in the area of housing, the Lagos State Government is working on plans to increase access to decent and quality homes for them.

This is as the state government is planning to providing houses for some of its workers to be known as Workers’ Village.

The Commissioner for Housing, Hon. Moruf Akinderu-Fatai disclosed this during a site inspection of some of the ongoing State owned Housing Schemes.

His words “Having successfully completed and commissioned 10 housing estates in the past two year, and working hard to deliver our various ongoing schemes, we are moving forward to implement strategies that will improve access to decent homes in the State”.

According to him,the State Government had completed various Housing schemes located at Igando, Lekki Phase1, Lekki Phase 2, Igbokushu, Nob Oluwa, Idale Badagry, Iponri, Igbogbo amongst others,adding that work on six others sited at Odo-Onasa/Ayandelu, Resettlement Scheme Agbowa, Sangotedo Phase1, Omole Magodo, Gbagada and Ibeshe which is being built by the Lagos State Property Development Corporation were nearing completion.

The Commissioner pointed out,that hopefully, the six schemes that are at various stages of completion in Odo Onasa-Ayandelu, Agbowa Resettlement Scheme, Sangotedo,Omole/Magodo, Gbagada and Ibeshe would soon be commissioned while others at LASU Ojo, Egan- Igando and Sangotedo Phase2 were also receiving attention towards a speedy completion.

He said that these schemes with others at Itamarun Epe and Ajara in Badagry as well as joint venture schemes would yield over 7000 homes by the third anniversary of the present Administration.

He said that the positive impact of governmental intervention is hampered by the twin issue of high cost of funding for investors and people seeking home ownership through mortgage.

The Housing Commissioner noted that the State Government was looking into the issue of accessibility of decent homes through a multidimensional approach that would reduce these financial barriers to housing.

He disclosed that the State Government is fine tuning a financial mechanism tagged Lagos Affordable Housing Development Trust Fund. This according to him is a financial product that would bring succour to both property developers and intending home owners.

Akinderu-Fatai said ‘ the Fund will reduce the challenge of

financing housing development as well as empower people particularly the low and medium income earners to access housing without undue financial stress.

He underscored the fact that the housing challenge in Lagos is complex because of the continued and uncontrollable influx of people from all over the nation. He noted that given the rate at which the population of the State is increasing, there must be proactive measures to ensure that governmental interventions result in substantial positive impacts in the lives of the people.

He also reiterated that the Lagos Affordable Housing Development Trust Fund which is being prepared in collaboration with Arctic Infrastructures is the State’s response to the need for financing products that are domesticated to solve it’s peculiar housing challenges.

He said while global financing models are attractive, they may not address the unusual problems of Lagos State.

The Commissioner pointed out that provision of mass and social housing is a key agenda of the State government but the impact can only be felt when there is a structured financing mechanism that is based on predictable population growth.

Apart from the Rent to Own scheme which gives opportunity of repayment over a period of 120 months, the State is also looking at more workable financing options that will help the informal sector.

” We have to formalize the informal sector through cooperative associations and artisans guilds so that majority of our people can take advantage of a financing product that supports instalmental payments”.

The Commissioner also said that the fund would encourage more vertical construction of homes by government and private investors to optimize the land space available in the state.

Akinderu Fatai siezed the opportunity to point out that the commitment of the State government is unequivocal and that “Lagos State would continue to work relentlessly until more Lagosians are brought on the home ownership ladder. Building more homes is our way of improving standard of living , increasing economic engagement through provision of construction jobs and also opening up our rural areas”

He said the State Government plans to construct two workers villages as part of a global plan to transform the State into a 21st century economy that is distinct and comparable to others in the world.

“In line with our passion for progress in the sector, funding is needed and assistance from our development partners will be highly appreciated.” he said

The Permanent Secretary Ministry of Housing Mr Wasiu Akewusola, said that “the uniqueness of the financing package is the fact that it will be targeted at low income earners and the informal sector and can be accessed by both construction companies and homeseekers and will be made up of contributions made by both public and private sector. The fund will also cater to training and capacity building and upgrading of artisans, development of innovative building technology, sustenable housing developments and renewable of slums. The suggested funding from government is expected to be sourced from contributions by local governments, subventions, infrastructure development charge, Housing fund surcharge and Lagos Pension fund. Private sector contributions can be in form of grants and donations from both local and international organizations. ”

In disbursing the fund, Akewusola said, “part of the financing would be used as Housing loans with repayment plan of 20years. This will channeled through micro finance banks with cooperative societies serving as intermediaries”. “Construction fund will also be granted to developers having vertical construction with sustenable energy idea, he discloses.

He noted that the idea of a Trust for the financial product is to ensure accountability, credibility and sustenablity.

Other plans that are being worked out by the State include an allocation structure that will reach the masses so that homes are not hijacked by the rich, continued maintenance of existing schemess to prevent rapid dilapidation, provision of homes for young professionals, introduction of cost saving techniques to reduce cost of building homes and increasing sustenability of future Housing schemes.

 

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