By David Otto
Where are the 317 girls kidnapped from GSS, Jangebe, Zamfara State North West Nigeria in the early hours of Friday 26th February 2021? Is the part now eating the whole, and for what purpose? Political, Financial or otherwise.
At the expense of innocent young and vulnerable children going about their education and wailing parents shocked and confused by a copycat of the infamous Chibok ; Daptchi ; Kankara and Kagara mass abductions in the North West and North East regions of Nigeria.
According to impeccable sources -The Zamfara state government under governor Bello Matawalle has taken the frontline (as expected) for a negotiated peaceful release of the victims – opting out of any rescue attempt by Federal security agencies.
The same source confirmed that all state security services deployed ( Nigerian Police Force ; Nigerian Army and Departmet of stage security aka DSS) to Zamfara State to deal with the mass school kidnap situation have been instructed to step back and allow diplomacy take its course. The governor of the state is known to negotiate with bandits with some success. It is believed that Zamfara state government considers reactive use of might as not the right and most safe strategy.
The prediction that the unruly bandits have embedded the girls as a secure shield made the argument against a rescue attempt watertight – the same argument used when the Chibok 200+ girls kidnapping happened in 2014 at the height of the Boko Haram insurgency.
This argument of NO RESCUE makes two credible reasons in the case in point – if you are the victim or the parent of same and in the circumstances where security services are experiencing low trust threshold against bold kidnappers.
First the perpetrators will be stupid if after succeeding to kidnap 317 girls without any struggle fail to use them as a shield in the event of a reactive rescue mission. These bandits ( with some analysts labelling them terrorist or linked to same) are without doubt ‘educated’ in their criminal trade. This is no news to anyone who understands what it takes to kidnap 317 humans and disappear into the forest just like that. Any organised or disorganised Criminal group without material support and logistic capacity will not dream of kidnapping 317 children at the same time without a robust, tried and tested plan.
The food, water, medication and shelter alone is critical for such operations and requires precise planning and preparation ( that is if the host state is not forced to supply urgent needs as a precondition for talks ). In any case, after 48hrs in custody of the bandits- one cannot underestimate their capacity.
Released or Not Released?
The breaking news of the release of the jangebe 317 on Sunday 28th February 2021 – just two days after their ordeal (confirmed by several ground and media sources)quickly disappeared when contrary reports said the Zamfara state government had denied any knowledge of the release. A media aid to the Governor Bello Matawalle – One Yusuf Idris is said to have informed a local newspaper PREMIUM TIMES that efforts were still ongoing to secure the release of the Janjebe 300+ girls.
With multiple credible sources confirming the release of the 317 girls , it is possible that something transpired while the girls were in transit as had been widely reported or is it just fake news or disinformation ? I rule out fake news and disinformation.
With several interest lined up in what has become an established enterprise by rogue actors -It is probable that the girls had been released by the bandits to a trusted third party or mediator or a guarantor for their safe keep pending direct agreed terms of an exchange through negotiations with the Zamfara state frontline team and something serious is holding the final exchange back ? Likely the give away price for freedom.
Is the state directly or indirectly blackmailing the Federal government in what has become an established organised crime enterprise of mass kidnap for ransom in the most populous country in Africa? The Federal government must hold ground and assume the might of its size.
Should ransom be paid or not?
To put yourself in the shoes of the victims or in the shoes of a parent- What ever it takes for the Federal government of Nigeria to free or SAFELY rescue the 317 girls should be considered with speed including the payment of ransom.
No government, including Nigeria should pay any ransom to any criminal if they can prevent and protect 300+ children or citizens from being taken while in school , in transit or at home not once , not twice , not thrice … not four multiple finger times. It’s the social contract. The huge price of paying ransom – however unreasonable and counter productive to national security and blackmail cannot be measured in value by a single soul lost – talk less of 317 defenceless kids. Never again. See something say something.
Otto is a counter-insurgency and Counter-Terrorism expert