President Muhammadu Buhari has warned state governments against rewarding bandits and other criminal elements with monetary and material rewards, adding that such a decision will only inflame the security crisis bedevlling the country.
President Buhari said this while reacting to the abduction of 317 of students of Government Girls Secondary School, Jangebe in Zamfara State, according to a statement by Garba Shehu, his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity.
The president condemed the abduction, describing it as “inhumane and totally unacceptable”.
According to him, no bandit or criminal group is stronger than or can defeat the Federal Government, adding that his administration will not yield to the demands of the terrorists.
He stated that the government is ready to military force to haunt the bandits and criminal groups across the country, but disclosed that the administration is limited due to a number of sensitive issues.
The statement read: “This administration will not succumb to blackmail by bandits who target innocent school students in the expectations of huge ransom payments.
“No criminal group can be too strong to be defeated by the government. The only thing standing between our security forces and the bandits are the rules of engagement.
“We have the capacity to deploy massive force against the bandits in the villages where they operate, but our limitation is the fear of heavy casualties of innocent villagers and hostages who might be used as human shields by the bandits.”
“Our primary objective is to get the hostages safe, alive and unharmed.”
President Buhari explained that the rescue of hostages is a complicated process that requires patience.
He, however, warned that bandits and other criminal elements should not mistake his government’s concern for hostages as a weakness.
“He warned the bandits: ‘Let them not entertain any illusions that they are more powerful than the government. They shouldn’t mistake our restraint for the humanitarian goals of protecting innocent lives as a weakness or a sign of fear or irresolution.’
“The President appealed to state governments ‘to review their policy of rewarding bandits with money and vehicles, warning that the policy might boomerang disastrously.'”
President Buhair also advised states and local governments to be more proactive by improving security around schools and their surroundings.
This incident comes on the back of another abduction of students and staff of Government Science College, Kagara in Niger State by gunmen suspected to be bandits last week.
A total of 41 students, staff and family relatives of the school employees are still being held captive by their abductors.