Bandits give 7-day ultimatum on abducted Zamfara varsity students

Parents of the abducted students of the Federal University Gusau (FUG), Zamfara State, have called on the federal government to act quickly and save their children.

The parents said the government should negotiate with the bandits as done with other non-state actors in the past, especially in the North East, at the height of the Boko Haram insurgency.

They made the plea yesterday following a threat by the bandits on Wednesday that they would kill some of the female students if their demands were not met.

Meanwhile, fresh pieces of evidence have emerged revealing that after weeks of back and forth, the bandits have elected a new leader, who now has custody of the students and is threatening that they would start killing them if their demands are not met; one of which is the release of some bandits’ commanders in custody of security operatives.

Since the abduction, it was learnt that there was an underground dialogue spearheaded by the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA), the Defence Headquarters and the Department of State Service (DSS) on how to get the students freed.

Some of the parents, who spoke yesterday, said they heard of a series of WhatsApp messages released by the abductors threatening to slaughter some of the students.

Messages  were also got from third parties, who said the WhatsApp audios were released by the foot soldiers of the late bandits’ leader, Ali Kachalla, asking the federal government and security operatives to release their colleagues who are now in detention as a condition of sparing the lives of the abducted students.

Recall that on December 13, 2023,  Ali Kachalla was killed during a reconnaissance by operatives of the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) at a location in Niger State.

Three days later, the Defence Headquarters (DHQ) confirmed the killing of Ali Kachalla, with sources saying many of his lieutenants and foot soldiers were also neutralised.

The Director of Defence Media Operations, Edward Buba, who disclosed this in a statement on December 16, in Abuja, said Ali Kachalla was killed during an air reconnaissance and ground operation on December 11, in Munya LGA of Niger State, along with many of his foot soldiers.

It was learnt that it was Ali Kachalla who abducted over 50 students of FUG on September 21, 2023, with most of the abductees being girls and young women.

It was also learnt that the killing of Ali Kachalla, a vicious bandit who committed countless atrocities around Sokoto, Zamfara, Katsina, Niger, Kaduna and other states, unsettled his co-criminals, who are now threatening havoc, including killing some of the abducted university girls.

Since the death of Ali Kachalla, there has been apprehension in many quarters, especially among families and relatives of the people he abducted, for the safety of their loved ones.

In one of the 14 WhatsApp audio conversations, one of our reporters heard an informant talking to one of the bandits’ kingpins, urging them to rescind their decision on the school girls, saying mediation was ongoing.

In the audios reviewed on Wednesday and Thursday, the bandits’ leader, whose name could not be established, said, “We are selling our cattle to feed the girls, and we are tired….We are tired of feeding them. You should take this message to those concerned. We are giving them seven days to release our people.”

Responding, the informant said, “I urge you not to kill the girls because they are innocent.”

But the bandits’ leader said, “Then you should talk to the federal government to release our members. They have incarcerated our members for a long time.”

Speaking in Hausa, the bandits’ leader said in another audio clip: “We heard that they (security operatives) want to use force to liberate the university students from us. Okay, before they use force, tell them that we would slaughter at least three of the girls in the first instance and share the pictures for the world to see.

“What we are saying is that if they think they have superior power to free the girls, why didn’t they confront us when we went to abduct them in the first place? We heard all that they were saying because we listened to the radio. They must release our members so that we can release the captives that are with us.”

In another audio clip, the informant pleaded with the bandits to exercise more patience: “It has been a while since I saw the mediators, but I will try my best and meet with them and ensure an amicable resolution of the problem.”

The bandit’s leader said, “You are well aware that they (the government) have not been straightforward in their approach. They would say one thing today and another thing tomorrow.”

The informant then said, “I still want to assure you that based on our discussions, those in charge have promised that they…would be freed and bring them for exchange with the girls.”

It was learnt that one of the commanders the bandits want to be released is called Ibrahim, an elder brother to Ali Kachalla, even as there are over 50 of their members in custody, according to them.

One of our sources said though some of the captured bandits were still alive he was not sure of others.

The source said, “Some of the bandits were arrested during crossfire and they sustained injuries. So, you cannot tell whether they are still alive or not, it is a dicey situation.”




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