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  • Girls marched on foot from school to the bush
  • Seven students escape from abductors
  • Troops spot students’ location; harmattan delays rescue
  • Concern for the lives of victims is our only restraint, Buhari warns bandits

By Yusuf Alli, Managing Editor, Northern Operation, Bolaji Ogundele, Gbenga Omokhunu, Abuja, Sani Muhammad Sani, Gusau/ THE NATION

The bandits who struck at the Government Secondary School, Jangebe in Zamfara State,early yesterday ,appeared to have outsmarted security agents in the area in a game of wits in the moments leading to the invasion of the school.

The gunmen,according to sources,seemed to have divided themselves into groups,with one group engaging the security agents in a battle while another group moved into the school premises to abduct the girls.

This strategy,it was gathered,kept the security agents busy and unable to know what was going on at the school.

Preliminary report made available to the Federal Government yesterday put the number of the abductees at 307 as against the 317 initially reported.

Seven of the students escaped.

President Muhammadu Buhari,in his first reaction to the development yesterday, warned bandits against over-stretching their luck, saying the only thing shielding them from certain destruction is the restraint for the lives of the innocent captives.

The Nation gathered that security agents engaged in a fierce battle with some of the bandits who were used as decoys to divert attention from the abduction.

The preliminary report to government showed that the bandits marched the girls in the dark into the bush.

The military and security agencies have already located where the girls are being kept..

But the prevalent harmattan in some parts of the North, including Zamfara State and government’s concern for the lives of the girls, are said to be delaying a rescue operation from the air and on the land.

The Chief of Defence Staff, Maj. Gen Lucky Irabor, is said to be coordinating the rescue operation.

“From preliminary report, the bandits this time around changed tactics before abducting the school girls in Jangebe,” an authoritative source said last night .

“They (bandits) diverted the attention of security agencies by using kidnappers as decoys. We have it on record that security agents clashed with some kidnappers in Jangebe before the bandits struck.

“So, while security agents were battling kidnappers, the bandits took advantage to raid the school and abduct the girls.”

Responding to a question, the source said: “The girls were marched on foot into the bush under armed escort by the bandits who were more in number than the abductees.

“The girls, who were frightened, tried to save their lives by pleading and obeying the directives of the bandits.”

Sources said the location of the abducted school girls has been found.

Said one of the sources: “The military and other security agencies have located where the girls are being kept.

“But what is delaying the rescue operation, both in the air and on the land, is the prevalent harmattan in the North, including Zamfara State. The harsh weather makes visibility on land and in the air difficult.

“Troops and other agents are also being careful to ensure minimum damage in rescuing the girls. We may have no choice than to call a spade, a spade.

“We hope political authority in the stste will buy the idea of the military liberating these innocent girls.”

The Chief of Defence Staff, Maj. Gen Lucky Irabor, was busy last night coordinating the rescue mission.

Other sources in Jangebe itself said the bandits struct at about 1am,shooting sporadically.

Seven abducted girls escape

Seven of the abducted girls succeeded in escaping from the grip of the gunmen, it was gathered last night.

The girls, according to the source, outwitted their abductors while they were being marched into the forest.

The girls said more could be on their way home as many of they were able to maneuver their way out of captivity.

We have deployed two surveillance helicopters, says IGP

Police Inspector General Muhammed Adamu said yesterday that the military, police, Department of State Security, and other security operatives have commenced coordinated search and rescue operations on the Zamfara abducted school girls.

Adamu ordered the immediate deployment of two operational surveillance helicopters to Zamfara State.

This is in addition to the personnel of Operation Puff Adder II earlier deployed to the State to support efforts by the Command to combat banditry, kidnapping and other related crimes.

The Force Public Relations Officer, CP Frank Mba said: “Operatives of the Nigeria Police Force have commenced a coordinated search and rescue operation, involving the deployment of both ground and aerial assets, aimed at locating and rescuing the students of Government Girls Secondary School, Jangebe, Zamfara State abducted in the early hours of Friday, 25th February, 2021.

“To ensure the success of the ongoing operation, the Inspector-General of Police, IGP M.A Adamu, NPM, mni has ordered the immediate deployment of two (2) operational surveillance helicopters to Zamfara State.

“This is in addition to the personnel of Operation Puff Adder II earlier deployed to the State to support efforts by the Command to combat banditry, kidnapping and other related crimes.”

Adamu condemned the “barbaric and callous abduction of the innocent female students,” and pledged that the Police and other security forces will not relent until the abducted students are successfully rescued and reunited with their families”.

Mba said the joint rescue operation is being carried out by the Police, the Military and other members of the law enforcement community with support from the State Government and other Stakeholders.

The Zamfara Police Commissioner Abutu Yaro said a joint search and rescue operation was already underway with a view to rescuing the kidnapped students .

CP Yaro said the Force Commander Operations Hadarin Daji, Major General Aminu Bande, Brigade Commander 1 Brigade, Nigeria Army Gusau, and other state government officials led a heavily armed Re-enforcement team to Jangebe to complement the ongoing rescue operation in the locations where the students were believed to have been whisked to.

Concern for lives of victims is our only restraint, Buhari warns bandits

President Muhammadu Buhari,in his first reaction to the abduction of the girls, warned bandits not to over-stretch their luck, saying the only thing shielding them from certain destruction is the restraint for the lives of the innocent.

Security forves, according to him, have what it takes to end the impunity of the bandits.

The President’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu,said in a statement that the military have been mindful of the rules of engagement, adding that no criminal group is too powerful for strong for government to crush.

Government,he vowed, “will not succumb to blackmail by bandits who target innocent school students in the expectations of huge ransom payments.”

He added: “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.

“A hostage crisis is a complex situation that requires maximum patience in order to protect the victims from physical harm or even brutal death at the hands of their captors.”

He warned the bandits “not to 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.”

He also advised states and local governments to be more proactive by improving security around schools and their surroundings.

The 27 students of the Government Science College Kagara,Niger State,who were abducted from the school last week remain in captivity as are about 100 Chibok school girls who were seized in April 2014 and Leah Sharibu who was kidnapped in Dapchi,Yobe State in 2018.

Agency Report

Golf Legend, Tiger Woods suffered some multiple leg injuries Tuesday morning in a horrific car crash in Los Angeles California.

Reports said the golfer had to be cut out of the wreck after the car rolled over.

Woods, 45 years old, was said to be on the steering wheel.

The accident happened on the border of the Rolling Hills Estates and Rancho Palos Verdes in Los Angeles at 7.12AM PST.

The Los Angeles County Sheriffs department confirmed that Woods was the driver of the vehicle.

Fire crews had to lift him from the vehicle with the “jaws of life” before Woods was transferred to hospital by paramedics.

Mark Steinberg, Woods’ agent said the mega star is undergoing surgery for multiple leg injuries.

According to the department, the vehicle sustained “major damage.”

Woods was in the area for a two-day content photoshoot with Golf Digest, the outlet confirmed, after serving as host for the PGA Tour’s Genesis Invitational.

By Justina Asishana, Minna/ THE NATION

Some of the abducted passengers of a bus, who regained freedom at the weekend, on Monday relived their ordeal in the hands of the bandits.

Fifty three passengers of a Niger State Mass Transit bus, who were kidnapped on the highway on February 14, were released one week after.

They were taken to the Government House in Minna, the Niger State capital, about 11pm on Sunday.

Among them were 19 members of a family, children and the aged.

One of them, Hajiya Jumai Isa, said: “It was a terrible experience but we thank God that we are safe now. They threatened us, they beat the men, they really beat the hell out of them. They told us they didn’t want anything from us but money. They said they wanted money, that we should give them money, that our people should bring money so that they would free us and that if not, they would kill us.”

She added that the bandits brandished sophisticated weapons that she had only seen in movies. “Their weapons, I have never seen the type before in real life. They have rockets, guns, AK 47, and other weapons. The bandits were more than 1,000 in that bush.’

Some of the 53 passengers recently kidnapped on the Kontagora-Minna road on board of the state-owned Niger State Transport Authority (NSTA) bus, arriving the Government House, Minna, after they were released by their abductors on Sunday (21/2/21).
00717/22/2/2021/BJO/NAN

She expressed appreciation to God and the government for bringing her back safely, “I feel happy being reunited with my family. I thank God I am still alive because I lost hope, I didn’t think I would come back again.”

Mohammed Ndagi, who was returning from his friend’s wedding in Rijau at the time he was abducted, said bandits were shooting sporadically and a bullet almost took off his head.

‘One of the bullets brushed my head. When I saw blood, I thought I wouldn’t survive. But even with the wound, they forced me to move with them into the bush. We walked for about 24 hours. We walked all through the night. They gave us simple food, served on our palm. We drank the water that cows drink.”

He added: “We slept on bare floor. They did not tie our hands or tie us at all. They kept guns to our heads and beat us all the time. They beat us with stick. As they beat us, they kept saying, we need money or you will die here”.

He said they were moved from one place to the other adding that on the day they were released, the bandits escorted them to where those who picked them were waiting to prevent their being re-kidnapped.

“On the day they released us, they asked us to forgive them for what they did to us and we said we had forgiven them.

“They escorted us because they said if they left us to go on our own, some of their partners might re-kidnap us.”

Hamza Buhari described his experience as “hectic that I don’t wish for my enemy. They took us inside the bush. We walked for 24 hours. They moved us from one point to another. They conveyed the elderly on motorcycles. They beat us every day. They gave us rice on our hands. The experience was very bad”.

Alhaji Isah Abdukadir, who had 19 members of his family expressed gratitude to God and the government for ensuring their release.

Abdukadir who was close to tears, said the past week was traumatic for his family.

One of the family members who gave her name as Ameer said her mother, grandmother, uncle and sister were among those released.

Majority of the freed abductees had difficulty walking having been made to trek long distance in the bush.

Some of them were supported into the conference hall of the Government House.

Niger State Governor Abubakar Sani-Bello, who received them, said the released victims were malnourished and unwell adding that the medical team would attend to them.

He said no ransom was paid adding that the government employees used dialogue to secure their release.

Governor Sani-Bello said pupils of Government Science College Kagara, abducted by bandits on Wednesday, were still in captivity.

“We still have the students of Kagara in the hands of the bandits and everything is being done to secure their release soonest,” the governor explained.

Bello said the state went through one week of negotiation and dialogue to ensure the release of the passengers.

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Agency Report

As Nigeria shuts its doors, billionaire Elon Musk’s Tesla Inc drove Bitcoin toward mainstream acceptance on Monday after its disclosure it had purchased $1.5 billion of the cryptocurrency.

Musk said the company would soon accept it as a form of payment.

The announcements, buried deep in Tesla’s 2020 annual report, drove a 10% surge in the world’s most widely-held cryptocurrency.

Investors anticipated other companies will soon join a list of firms that invest in or hold bitcoin including BlackRock Inc, the world’s largest asset manager, and payments companies Square and PayPal.

Elon Musk buys $1.5billion of bitcoin

Nigeria’s Central Bank last week warned banks to steer clear of the digital currency.

Musk has upended Wall Street over the last year and briefly became the world’s richest person as shares of Tesla surged nearly 500% to become the fifth most-valuable U.S. company, leaving other companies and investors eager to follow in his wake.

“If any lesser mortals had made the decision to put part of their balance sheet in Bitcoin, I don’t think it would have been taken seriously,” said Thomas Hayes, managing member at Great Hill Capital LLC in New York.

READ ALSO BBNaija housemates rewarded with $500 worth Bitcoin

“But when the richest man in the world does it, everyone has to take a second look.”

The news sparked heavy trading in cryptocurrencies and caused exchanges like Coinbase, Gemini, Binance to experience technical issues, according to Coindesk here.

A well-known supporter of cryptocurrencies, Musk has weighed in regularly on the past month’s frenzy in retail investment, also driving up prices of the meme-based digital currency dogecoin and shares of U.S. video game chain GameStop.

He said a week ago that bitcoin was “on the verge” of being more widely accepted among investors, and in December asked if it was possible to do large transactions in the currency.

In late January, Musk changed the bio of his Twitter account, which has 46 million followers, to include #bitcoin.

Tesla said in a filing the decision was part of its broad investment policy as a company and was aimed at diversifying and maximizing its returns on cash, including holding gold.

READ ALSO Elon Musk overtakes Jeff Bezos as world’s wealthiest person

The report said it ended 2020 with $19.38 billion in cash and cash equivalents.

Gold jumped more than 1% Monday while ethereum, another cryptocurrency, surged to a record high.

LONG-TERM STORE OF VALUE?

Central banks remain skeptical of digital currencies, but analysts say the more real world uses appear for bitcoin, the more attractive it will prove as a long-term store of value.

Bitcoin surged more than 10% to a record high of $43,625 after Tesla’s disclosure.

“The argument for bitcoin is evolving. It used to be negative (reasons to buy) but suddenly there are positive reasons, and that’s why you see bitcoin at (new highs),” Mohamed El-Erian, chief economic advisor of Allianz, told CNBC.

Tesla is the latest company to add bitcoin to its corporate treasury, following similar moves by Square, the payments company led by Twitter Inc chief Jack Dorsey and U.S. software firm MicroStrategy Inc.

PayPal said in October that it would allow customers to buy, sell and hold bitcoin and other virtual coins using its online wallets. It remains to be seen whether bitcoin will see greater adoption as a form of payment, something that it has traditionally struggled to achieve.

READ ALSO Cow ranching business better than cryptocurrency – Adamu Garba

“If this becomes a trend in corporate treasuries the downside of staying on the sidelines will only become costlier over time,” said Maya Zehavi, a blockchain consultant.

Musk has also endorsed other cryptocurrencies. He gave dogecoin, the coin based on a popular internet meme, a shoutout on Twitter last week, sending its price to record highs over the weekend.

Dogecoin was created largely as a satirical critique of the 2013 crypto frenzy and is not taken as seriously as bitcoin or ethereum. It has almost doubled in value since Friday, hitting a record 8.71 cents, according to data on blockchain and cryptocurrency website Coindesk.

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