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.
Retired soldiers protect against non-payment of security allowance
Some retired soldiers on Monday protested in Abuja over non-payment of their security debarment allowances, among others.
The protesters who defied the rains demonstrated in front of the Ministry of Defence headquarters, clutching mats and banners as well as singing.
The protesters lamented the non-payment of their Security Debarment Allowance, among others.
They were joined by some relatives of deceased military personnel, blocking access road to the ministry located at Ship House on Olusegun Obasanjo Way in the Federal Capital Territory.
The military veterans under the aegis of the Retired Members of Nigerian Armed Forces and the Coalition of Concerned Veterans, accused the Minister of Defence, Maj.-Gen. Bashir Magashi (retd.), of being insensitive to their plight.
Addressing reporters during the protest, spokesman for the CVV, Abiodun Durowaiye-Herberts, vowed that they would not leave the ministry’s entrance until their demands were met.
He said they had already made arrangement to sleep overnight if the situation warranted it.
“We are here alongside our wives and children, and the widows of late military personnel and veterans who died in service, some of whom died fighting Boko Haram terrorists. We’ll be sleeping over at this place until the Minister of Defence, Magashi accede to our demands,” he said.
On his part, the National Secretary of RMNAF, Roy Okhidievbie, explained that the demonstration was to demand the payment of their security debarment allowance owed them by the Federal Government.
He accused the minister of refusing to disburse the allowances despite approval by President Muhammadu Buhari.
“We have had meetings with the Defence Minister, Magashi, but he appears to be headstrong, heartless, and unperturbed concerning the grievances of retired military officers, as he never paid nor showed any interest or concern to pay these allowances, especially the Security Debarment Allowance.
“Interestingly, President Buhari-led administration has approved the payment of this allowance, but Magashi has refused to make disbursements,”
In January, some retired soldiers under the aegis of the Coalition of Concerned Veterans protested against the non-payment of their pension arrears for 24 months.
The veterans who gathered at the Ministry of Finance headquarters, Abuja, insisted on getting answers to their demands, or else they would continue protesting.
They were seen with placards on which various inscriptions were written. One of the placards reads, “CCV demands immediate payment of security debarment allowance.” Another read, “Military veterans demand 24 months arrears of minimum wage approved.”
Nationwide outage as grid collapses to zero megawatts again
Nigeria was thrown into a total blackout Monday morning as the national grid collapsed to zero megawatts (MW).
The latest incident, which reportedly occurred at 10:51am Monday, is the seventh time the power grid would collapse this year.
This came just days after electricity consumers said they had enjoyed improved supply.
Some power distribution companies including Kaduna Electric, Enugu and Kano have already communicated the nationwide outage to their customers, adding that efforts were being made to restore supply.
The national electricity grid as of 10am on Monday had 3,712MW generated from 21 power generation companies (GenCos) before it dropped to 0MW one hour after, Daily Trust reported.
It stated that information from the System Operations, a section of the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN), indicated only Afam IV was on the grid but with zero supply as of 12noon.
It also showed that as of Sunday, the highest generation was 4,100MW while the lowest was 3,652MW with the frequency hovered between 49.04 Hertz (Hz) and 50.34Hz.
Electricity consumers have attested to improvement in supply in their various areas since July this year.
For instance, the Abuja Electricity Distribution Company (AEDC) recently confirmed increment in its daily allocation to over 500MW from the actual 300MW it had distributed before then.
Though the national grid had not cross 5,000MW, Daily Trust observed that level of load rejection especially around the DisCos’ networks had dropped significantly with some customers entitled to five-hour supply, recording over 12 hours daily.
The Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) had attributed the improvement in power supply nationwide to the partial activation of contracts seeking to hold sector operators liable for deliberate incompetence.
The national grid collapsed twice, in July and in August but was quickly restored and power supply improvement was sustained before the latest system collapse on Monday.
Although the TCN, the national grid manager, was yet to establish the cause of the crash, some insider said it could be as a result of a maintenance of the 330 kilovolts Jos – Bauchi transmission line maintenance slated for Monday.
2023: PFN disowns Bishops for holding meeting with Tinubu
The Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN) has disowned the “Pentecostal Bishops Forum of Northern Nigeria” for holding meeting with Bola Tinubu, presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Deputy National Secretary of the PFN, Bishop David Bakare, told reporters in a telephone interview that such group was not known to the PFN, saying, “there is nothing in PFN that is regional based like Southern or Northern Pentecostal Bishops.”
Bakare, who maintained that the PFN is an arm of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) said the position of the fellowship on same faith presidential ticket of the APC has not changed.
“The meeting between Tinubu and the Pentecostal Bishops Forum of Northern Nigeria has nothing to do with PFN. I am speaking to you officially and authoritatively that the ranks of the Christian community and of course, the PFN which I represent, is not broken at all.
“The Pentecostal Bishops Forum of Northern Nigeria is not known to the PFN. The forum does not have any affiliation or relationship with the PFN that is registered with the government of this nation.”
He added that the position of the PFN “on same faith ticket still stands as it was in the beginning and we have not, for any reason, shifted our position on that matter…
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The PFN was not a part of the meeting with the presidential candidate that was highly politicised. We are, however, aware of the ripples in the public domain about this matter. I am speaking officially to clarify that the PFN has nothing to do with that organisation.
“We didn’t take such a decision, we have not met that political party and whatever we will do would be in the public domain. That group is on its own and has nothing to do with the real incorporated PFN. I looked at the photos (from the meeting) and the names. I could recognised about two people who are our members, but they speak for themselves.”
He’s procuring fake Christian groups -Babachir
This is a former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal, accused the presidential candidate of the APC of procuring fake Christian groups in a desperate bid to convince the electorate to accept the same faith ticket.
The SGF, in a statement, disclosed that a number of Nigerians have reached out to him and former Speaker, Yakubu Dogara, to convince them to accept the same faith presidential and vice presidential ticket.
“We have so far not taken the road to reconciliation because in the first instance, neither the APC as a party nor its presidential candidate has bothered to seek us out for reconciliation even though early on, our doors were left open for such.
“We only get to learn of their views through vile propaganda in the media courtesy of their rabid attack dogs who they have procured in abundance.
“There are of course some ‘Christian’ turncoats and ‘Judases’ who, driven either by moral turpitude, poverty or greed, have hired themselves out as agents and spoilers of this noble Christian course.
“To this group, I wish to recommend the study of the biographies of Judas Iscariot and Ahithophel in the Bible. Be careful to note how their lives ended
“It seems that Bola/Kashim’s preferred approach is to attempt to counter our position through insults and sponsored fake Christian organisations in order to create the impression that there is division within the Christendom on this matter.
“Needless to say, this tactic has failed woefully. They are now the butt of jokes in church gatherings all over the country. Unknown to them, Church history emphatically records that Christians are more united in terms of adversity and persecution as now being propelled by this same faith ticket of the APC.
“This approach has also portrayed the duo as arrogant and pitiable people whilst also exposing them to the public as people with unimaginable deficiencies of noble character.
“The reality is that for each minute that this same-faith ticket duo have spent on their Goebellsian propaganda, they have ended up spending several hours more trying to rebutt the controversies that they themselves create in the process.
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“Everyone, including some notable Christian haters, are now inviting false Bishops and ‘CAN leaders’ to meetings. They are busy fabricating overnight “Christian” organisations that churn out falsehood to the public. It is such a pity that people who intend to lead our country could descend to such low levels of morality and deficiency of conscience.”
We’re consulting for a pan Nigerian platform to adopt -Dogara
Former Speaker of House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, said having rejected the divisive same faith ticket, they were consulting with relevant Islamic and Christians leaders to jointly adopt a pan-Nigerian platform that all of them would support in 2023.
He stated this in a lecture entitled: “Nigerian democracy post 1999: Progress, diversity and national unity” and magazine launch and awards event organised by MUPUN youths association in Jos.
Mr. Dogara, who was represented by the former member representing Pankshin, Kanke Kanam federal constituency of Plateau, Timothy Golu, said when some of them rose against the same faith ticket, it was because they were bothered by the issues and insistence on same faith ticket and same faith voting which is tantamount to summoning a jihad to collide with a crusade.
He explained tha, the people promoting “this combustible agenda” hate the North and by extension, Nigeria, adding that they wanted to “use religion to weaken the North first for some sinister schemes because our weakness is their strength.
“Take it or leave it, if Nigeria has a major promise those that will deliver on it will be those of you who will summon the courage to embrace people of other faiths in the spirit of justice equity and fairplay. The truth is that no one will root out Islam just like no one will root out Christianity from the North or Nigeria.
“If that is the case, why won’t Christians and Muslims work together on the many things we agree upon to make Plateau, the North and Nigeria great? All that bothers us is the progress of all Nigerians regardless of creed.”
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‘Ex-SGF undermining goodwill of northern Christians’
Replying, Yakubu Dati, Chief of Staff to the Director General, APC Presidential Campaign Council, Governor Simon Lalong, accused Babachir Lawal of trying to isolate Christians in the north from playing significant roles in the mainstream politics of Nigeria.
He accused him of trying to lead northern Christians in the wrong direction because he lost the bid to be appointed running mate to Tinubu.
“Last time I checked, Babachir Lawal does not have the mandate to speak on behalf of northern Christians because he was never elected to lead any such group and does not command the respect of the average northern Christians. Even in his native Hong Local Government, Lawal does not have a voice, as his voice thins out when other respected personalities from the area like the current SGF, Boss Mustapha, speak.
“But more profoundly is the fact that Babachir Lawal talks as one who does not have a sense of history hence he is trying to carve out a region out of Nigeria to make them a target of derision and scorn.
Without anybody sending him, Lawal is trying to damage the reputation of northern Christians who have all along been accommodating and tolerant of other Nigerians,” he said.
Dati observed that Northern Christians in Borno, Yobe, Gombe, Bauchi, Kano, Kebbi, Sokoto, Kaduna, Plateau, Taraba Benue, Nasarawa, Kogi, Kwara etc were not known to be hostile, self-serving or epitomise bigotry as Lawal was trying to portray them, noting that the northern Christians have worked peacefully and harmoniously with other Nigerians and while they demand equity and fairness in all affairs, do not stake their integrity on the altar of tokenism of political office.
“The northern Christians have taken the front seats in some administrations and played other roles in others and other sections of the country have understood the exigencies of such era and have been cooperative.
Yakubu Gowon, a northern Christian, has been head of state, while TY Danjuma, Joe Garba, Domkat Bali, Shagaya, etc have held responsible positions in this country at one time or the other,” he said.
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