Again, Bandits Abduct Over 50 Passengers In Niger

Niger is a state in the Middle Belt region of Nigeria and the largest state in the country.
Niger is a state in the Middle Belt region of Nigeria and the largest state in the country.

 

Less than three weeks after 40 NSTA passengers were kidnapped, gunmen have again abducted over 50 passengers along the Tegina-Minna road in the Rafi Local Government of Niger State.

Speaking on Tuesday in Minna, the state capital a local resident told journalists that the gunmen blocked the road at Kundu town, a few kilometres from Zungeru town.

According to reports, the passengers were in the three vehicles who were abducted and taken to an unknown destination while the vehicles were left by the roadside.

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Similarly, armed bandits kidnapped unknown numbers of villagers at Gidigori town in Rafi Local Government Area burning five cars and carting away valuables.

Confirming the incident, senior government officials who craved anonymity said nothing has been heard from the bandits to enable the authorities to know the identities of those kidnapped.

When contacted, the Police Public Relations Officer, ASP, Wasiu Abiodun, did not pick his calls to confirm the incident at the time of filing in the story.

Emir Of Kagara Dies, Niger Govt Mourns

APC Candidate Wins Niger East Senatorial Seat
A map of Niger, a state in north-central Nigeria.

 

The Emir of Kagara, Salihu Tanko, has died.

He died on Tuesday at the IBB Specialist Hospital where he had been on a mission due to a protracted illness.

Tanko was born in the 1920s and was the oldest among the eight emirs serving in the state.

He was also the second longest-serving Emir after the Emir of Kontagora, having served for 40 years from 1981 to March 2, 2021.

His death comes exactly three days after 38 persons abducted from the Government Science Secondary School in the emirate were released.

Reacting, the Niger State Government has mourned the passing away of the traditional ruler.

In a statement issued on Tuesday in Minna, the Secretary to the State Government, Ahmed Matane said Tanko would be missed for his role as bridge-builder who reached across ethnic, cultural, and religious divides to promote peace and unity not only in his domain but the State as a whole.

Until his death, Tanko had had to grapple with increasing level of banditry in Kagara Emirate which is currently the most threatened among the eight emirate councils in Niger State.

Several traditional title holders have been abducted from the emirate, among which was the district head of Madaka who was murdered by gunmen after spending days in the hands of abductors.

The District Head of Gunna was also abducted and is yet to regain freedom after a month.

On February 17, 42 persons, including 27 students were reportedly abducted from GSSS Kagara, but the government later said only 38 persons were kidnapped after the gunmen released them on 27th of February, 2021, exactly ten days after the abduction.

Meanwhile, the burial of Tanko has been held in Kagara according to Islamic injunction.

Niger Opposition Figure Amadou Jailed Over Unrest

In this file photo taken on February 18, 2016 Supporters of Niger’s leading opposition figure and contender for the Febuary 21 presidential election Hama Amadou, jailed since November 2015 over his alleged involvement in a baby-trafficking scandal, attend a campaign rally in Niamey.
ISSOUF SANOGO / AFP

 

Nigerien opposition leader and former prime minister Hama Amadou was jailed on Monday after being held for questioning for three days over his alleged role in post-election violence, prosecutors told AFP.

Amadou faces “many charges” including “complicity” in demonstrations and property damage, prosecutors said, after widespread protests over the results of a presidential election that handed victory to ruling-party candidate Mohamed Bazoum over the opposition’s Mahamane Ousmane.

Other charges included “regionalist propaganda” and “speech inclined to set people against one another”.

More people among the hundreds arrested since the February 21 election had been jailed, the prosecutors said without naming them.

Official preliminary results said that Bazoum — the appointed successor of incumbent Mahamadou Issoufou — scored 55.7 percent of votes, but Ousmane claims he edged a win with 50.3 percent.

READ ALSO: Myanmar’s Suu Kyi Hit With Two New Criminal Charges

Amadou had once been considered the main opposition contender to run against Bazoum.

However he was barred from running because of a conviction for baby trafficking — a charge he says was politically motivated — and threw his support behind Ousmane.

– ‘Regime obstinacy’ –
Earlier Monday, the Cap 20/21 opposition coalition had said it was determined to “use all legal means to defend the victory” it claims Ousmane won over Bazoum, saying there was “no doubt” he was the rightful president.

 

Niger’s presidential candidate Mohamed Bazoum leaves the polling station after casting his ballot in Niamey on December 27, 2020 during Niger’s presidential and legislative elections. (Photo by Issouf SANOGO / AFP)

 

In a statement read at Ousmane’s party headquarters, the opposition called on “all Nigeriens to rise up as one and rally around president Mahamane Ousmane to prevent victory being snatched away.”

“More than 500 people” have been “arbitrarily arrested in Niamey and in the interior of the country” since riots that broke out after Bazoum’s victory was declared, it added.

Interior Minister Alkache Alhada said Amadou was the person “mainly responsible” for post-election riots in which two people were killed and 468 arrested, while shops were looted and infrastructure was destroyed.

Amadou turned himself in to police on Friday, and the opposition says around 10 other leaders have been arrested.

During the campaign, Amadou lashed out at Bazoum for being a member of Niger’s ethnic Arab minority, in sometimes very strong comments that several sources close to the authorities said could make him liable for criminal prosecution.

Nevertheless, the opposition said Monday that “the crisis currently severely shaking Niger has neither ethnic nor racial origins, but results from the obstinacy of a regime that refuses the choice massively and clearly expressed on February 21”.

It also alleged “massive electoral fraud” in a poll that had been touted as setting up the country’s first peaceful transfer of power since independence.

Niger is the world’s poorest nation according to the UN’s benchmark of human development, and fighting two jihadist insurgencies that have forced hundreds of thousands to flee their homes.

AFP

 

 

Kagara Schoolboys, Others Arrive Minna

Government Science Secondary School, Kagara, in Niger State was attacked by gunmen on February 17, 2021.
Government Science Secondary School, Kagara, in Niger State was attacked by gunmen on February 17, 2021.

 

The abductees from Government Science Secondary School Kagara, in Rafi Local Government Area of Niger State have arrived in Minna, the state capital.

A government official who confirmed the arrival to Channels TV said they are expected to be briefed by the State Governor Abubakar Bello.

According to the official, the released victims consist of schoolchildren, some girls and their family members.

READ ALSO: Kagara Abductees Released – Official

The students were said to have been taken to a location away from the Government House in Minna.

Although it is not certain whether a ransom was paid to secure the release of the students, Governor Bello has repeatedly said his administration would not pay money to the bandits.

Meanwhile, President Muhammadu Buhari has said he is happy to know that the abducted students have been released.

The President, in a statement issued today by his spokesman, Garba Shehu, welcome the students’ release, commending the nation’s security and intelligence agencies and the government of Niger State for their responses in securing the release.

“We are happy they have been released,” Buhari said while sympathising with the staff and the students, their parents and friends on this ordeal.

He, however, warned that the country will not continue to suffer these attacks that threaten the growth of education, the security and life of the future leaders at the same time putting the nation in a negative light.

Buhari also reiterated his earlier advice to school owners, particularly the state and local governments, as well as religious organizations to scale up security around their schools in line with the standards laid down by the UN-backed Safe School Programme of the administration.

President Buhari once again condemned the school abductions, with latest one at the Government Girls Secondary School, Jangebe in Zamfara State.

He also irected all security and intelligence agencies in the country to hunt down the culprits and bring them to justice.

 

Two Dead In Niger Election Unrest

An opposition demonstrator uses a slingshot to throw stones at police as opposition supporters protest after the announcement of the results of the country’s presidential run-off in Niamey, on February 24, 2021. PHOTO: Issouf SANOGO / AFP

 

Two people in Niger have died in post-election violence and hundreds have been arrested, the government said Thursday, accusing a prominent opposition figure of stoking the unrest.

“The toll is two dead,” Interior Minister Alkache Alhada said, reporting on violence that began on Tuesday after the results of a presidential runoff were announced.

Alhada told the press that 468 arrests had been made, “including certain politicians” whom he did not identify.

He accused a well-known opposition figure, Hama Amadou, of being “the main person responsible” for the unrest.

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“(He) is being sought and as usual he is on the run, but we will find him,” Alhada said.

Alhada said Amadou wanted to come to power by “setting fire” to Niger, accusing him of “murder, violence, unacceptable racist remarks and xenophobia”.

Violence erupted after the electoral commission declared former interior minister Mohamed Bazoum the winner of Sunday’s runoff vote with 55.75 percent, while opposition candidate Mahamane Ousmane garnered 44.25 percent.

Ousmane angrily disputed the result as fraudulent and claimed he narrowly won with 50.3 percent of the vote.

The elections have been trumpeted as a democratic watershed for the Sahel state — the world’s poorest nation according to the UN’s benchmark of human development, and a country wrestling with two jihadist insurgencies.

President Mahamadou Issoufou is voluntarily stepping down after two five-year terms, paving the way for the first elected transition since independence from France in 1960.

– Journalist’s home attacked –

Police fired teargas in clashes with demonstrators in the capital Niamey on Tuesday and Wednesday, while in Dosso, 100 kilometres (60 miles) south of the city, the offices of a pro-government party were damaged by fire.

One of the two fatalities died of an epileptic fit during a protest, Alhada said.

The other, who was shot dead, was the bodyguard of politician Seini Oumarou, an unsuccessful candidate in the first round of voting on December 27 who had urged supporters to vote for Bazoum in the runoff, he said.

There was also “destruction of infrastructure, of public and private property,” Alhada said.

Unknown assailants also attacked the home of a reporter in Niamey for Radio France Internationale (RFI), which is widely followed in Niger.

Journalist Moussa Kaka, who was unharmed in the attack, said assailants ransacked his home early Thursday, “breaking everything,” and set fire to part of it.

Kaka, a veteran correspondent for RFI, spent 10 months in prison from 2007 to 2008 on charges of “endangering state security” over alleged ties with Tuareg rebels in northern Niger.

RFI’s management issued a statement saying the attack on his home was “deliberate” because of his status as a journalist.

“This is a very serious attack on the freedom of the press,” it said, vowing its “total support’ for Kaka.

In a joint statement, the UN and the 15-nation regional bloc, the Economic Community of West African States, of which Niger is a member, firmly condemned acts of violence and urged “all parties to show restraint.”

Former colonial power France also called on “all political actors to foster a climate of dialogue,” a foreign ministry spokesperson said.

– Former top general arrested –

A senior security source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said those arrested included former armed forces chief of staff Moumouni Boureima, who was suspected of fomenting unrest.

Boureima is reputedly close to Amadou, by some standards Niger’s most popular opposition figure.

A former prime minister and speaker of parliament, Amadou contested the presidency against Issoufou in 2016.

But he was forced to campaign from behind bars after being jailed on baby-trafficking charges, which he said were trumped-up.

His subsequent one-year conviction on those charges in 2017 were the grounds for banning him in the latest election, and he threw his support behind Ousmane.

Bazoum, 60, is a right-hand man to Issoufou, with whom he founded the ruling Nigerien Party for Democracy and Socialism (PNDS).

He picked up just over 39 percent of the vote in the first round.

Ousmane, 71, became Niger’s first democratically-elected president in 1993, only to be toppled in a coup three years later.

This was his fifth attempt to regain power since then.

He won just under 17 percent on December 27 but gained pledges of support from a coalition of 18 opposition parties in the days before the runoff.

AFP

Mohamed Bazoum Wins Niger’s Presidential Runoff

 

Niger’s presidential candidate Mohamed Bazoum speaks to media outside the polling station after voting during Niger’s election run-off, in Niamey on February 21, 2021.
Issouf SANOGO / AFP

 

Former interior minister Mohamed Bazoum, the candidate of Niger’s ruling PNDS party, has won the presidential elections with 55.75 per cent of the second-round vote, according to provisional figures published on Tuesday.

Opposition candidate Mahamane Ousmane picked up 44.25 per cent, Issaka Souna, chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI), said in an announcement attended by senior officials and members of the diplomatic corps.

“(These) results are provisional and must be put to the Constitutional Court for its assessment,” Souna said.

Earlier, Ousmane’s campaign manager, Falke Bacharou, said the results were an “electoral holdup” and urged the public to protest against it.

The elections, which were held on December 27 followed by a runoff on Sunday, have been showcased as the first democratic transition in the coup-prone Sahel state’s history.

Bazoum, 60, who is outgoing president Mahamadou Issoufou’s right-hand man, picked up just over 39 percent of the vote in the first round.

Ousmane, 71, became the country’s first democratically elected president in 1993, only to be toppled in a coup three years later.

He won just under 17 percent in the first round but gained pledges of support from a coalition of 18 opposition parties in the days before the runoff

The world’s poorest nation according to the UN’s development rankings for 189 countries, Niger is also struggling with jihadist insurgencies that have spilled over from Mali in the west and Nigeria in the southeast.

-AFP

Fayemi, Other Governors Visit Bello Over Kagara Abduction, NSTA Passengers

 

Six Governors of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum have arrived Niger State to meet with Governor Abubakar Bello.

Chairman of the Forum and Ekiti State Governor, Kayode Fayemi is among those visiting the state.

Other members of the forum that have arrived are Governors Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq (Kwara), Abdullahi Sule (Nasarawa), Simon Lalong (Plateau), Aminu Tambuwal (Sokoto).

The reason for the visit is still sketchy, but it is not unconnected with the security challenges in Niger State, particularly the abduction of 41 persons from Government Science Secondary School Kagara and the release on Sunday of 53 passengers abducted from the Niger State Transport Authority (NSTA) bus.

READ ALSO: Buhari Receives Imo State Governor, Hope Uzodinma, In Abuja

Governor Fayemi explained that their mission to Niger State was to commiserate with Governor Abubakar Bello over the abduction of the Kagara students and to commend him for the release of the 53 passengers.

Noting that the governors were not in the state to lament over the current national security, he said there is a need to come together as a people and leaders.

Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum and Ekiti State Governor, Kayode Fayemi leads other governors to Niger State Governor, Abubakar Bello on February 23, 2021 over the security situation.

 

He also called for synergy among security agencies to find lasting solutions to the problem, stressing that if it requires dialogue and negotiations, it can be explored.

The NGF Chairman insisted there is no regionalization of the security issues or ethnic inclination, explaining that Nigeria can no longer play the ostrich and pretend about the issues.

He reassured his Niger counterpart that this difficult period will be over, saying all the governors in the country must put their heads together to solve the problem, which according to him cannot be fought in isolation.

According to him, the bandits terrorising the north are remnants of Boko Haram who have infiltrated into other parts of the country.

While attributing the security challenges in the country to factors such as poverty, illiteracy among others, Fayemi called for an adequate solution to the crisis in the North East.

On his part, Governor Bello lamented the break down in law and order in the country, stating that it portends a great threat to the future of the country as the future generation may be deprived of quality education due to insecurity

The governor also criticised the centralisation of security agencies at the federal level, which according to him needed to be addressed going forward.

He expressed hope that the lamentations of the residents of Niger and indeed other states will be attended to immediately.

The Niger leader noted that there are two phases of dialogue his administration is currently exploring.

First, he said, is to secure the release of the students of Government Science College Kagara abductees, while the second phase is to dialogue with the gunmen on their challenges and reasons for the attacks.

See Photos Below:

 

NSTA Passengers’ Kidnap: They Threatened To Kill Us, Abducted Victim Narrates Ordeal

Barrister Hauwa Abdulsalam, one of the 53 passengers of the Niger State Transit Authority (NSTA) that was kidnapped along the Zungeru-Minna road on February 14, has narrated her ordeal with the bandits.

Speaking to Channels Television on Monday, Abdulsalam said the bandits threatened to kill all of the captives, noting that they were heavily armed.

While identifying the leader of the bandits to be one Katalla Alli, the legal practitioner said during the seven-day period they were held captive, they only had access to dirty water from the river.

“They cannot be described, they are armed. They are heartless, fearless and said they were going to kill us,” she said when asked to describe her captors.

“And they mean it, I swear they mean it. It was yesterday that they gave the deadline, from yesterday they would start killing the men and today, they would kill the women. The leader swore and he meant it, he said is name is Katalla Alli.”

According to her, the leader of the group complained about the government, adding that thy (the bandits) were given several promises during the build-up to the 2015 general elections.

READ ALSO: Niger Govt Secures Release Of 53 Kidnapped NSTA Passengers

When asked what the promises were, Abdulsalam said the bandits’ leader told her shelter, hospital, good education and put them on a monthly payroll.

Barrister Hauwa Abdulsalam was one of the 53 passengers of the Niger State Transit Authority (NSTA) that was kidnapped along the Zungeru-Minna road on February 14.

 

She noted that when the 2015 general elections came and went, the government reneged on its earlier promise, thus forcing them to indulge in banditry.

“They were just complaining about the government that the government promised them something during the election.

“They didn’t fulfil it, that was what prompted them to be into this banditry of a thing and kidnapping. They were telling us that if the government can fulfil their promise.

“The government promised to give them shelter, good education, they will pay some of them salaries, farms and everything, but the government refused,” she added.

Meanwhile, all the 53 passengers abducted by bandits from have now been reunited with their families one week after their abduction.

They arrived at the Niger State Government House in Minna on Sunday night and were received by Governor Abubakar Bello and other top government officials.

UPDATED: Niger Govt Secures Release Of 53 Kidnapped NSTA Passengers

The Niger State Government has secured the release of all passengers abducted from the Niger State Transit Authority (NSTA) bus.

Governor of Niger State, Abubakar Sani Bello, announced this via his official Twitter handle on Sunday.

“We are pleased to announce to the general public the release of the NSTA passengers abducted a week ago while returning to Minna along the Minna-Zungeru road,” he tweeted.

 

The Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Mary Noel-Berje told Channels Television that the abductees were rescued around Zamfara State and are on their way to Niger State.

She however did not give details on how the government secured their release.

The travellers were later received by the Governor at the Niger State Government House in Minna the state capital, on Sunday night.

The governor also assured that efforts are still ongoing to ensure the release of students and workers recently kidnapped from Government Science Collage Kagara, Rafi Local Government Area.

“All 53 Kidnapped NSTA Passengers regained their freedom, efforts ongoing to Rescue the Government Science Collage Kagara Students,” the governor said on his official Twitter handle.

The governor’s announcement comes seven days after gunmen kidnapped at least 30 travellers along the Tegina-Zungeru highway in Rafi Local Government Area of Niger State.

Officials of the drivers union in the area said the victims were travelling in a bus of the Niger State Transport Authority (NSTA) when they ran into an ambush by the bandits.

The gunmen also killed three members of the local vigilante group which attempted to foil their operation.

Kagara Abductions: We Are Committed To The Safe Rescue Of All Abductees – IGP

A file photo of the Inspector General of Police, Mr Mohammed Adamu, at a meeting in Abuja.

 

The Inspector-General of Police, IGP M.A Adamu, has assured the nation that the Force is irrevocably committed to the safe rescue of all abductees in the recent attack on Government Science College, Kagara in Rafi Local Government Area of Niger State and other related incidents.

The IGP in a statement on Thursday noted that a joint massive search and rescue mission involving the Police, the Military, and other law enforcement agencies is ongoing to ensure that all abducted persons are rescued unhurt and reunited with their families.

READ ALSO: 24 Hours After Kagara Attack, Gunmen Kill One, Abduct 10 In Niger

To give impetus to the rescue operation, the IGP ordered the deployment of additional tactical, intelligence, and investigative assets of the Force including four (4) units of Police Mobile Force (PMF) attached to Operation Puff Adder II, one (1) Unit of Police Special Forces, personnel of the Counter-Terrorism Unit (CTU) and operatives from the Force Intelligence Bureau and the Force Criminal Investigations Department. One (1) Police aerial surveillance helicopter has also been deployed.

The police component of the search and rescue operation is being coordinated by the Commissioner of Police, Niger State who is effectively harnessing all the deployed resources and working in sync with the Military and other law enforcement agents in ensuring an intelligence-driven, focused, and result-oriented ground and aerial surveillance in the rescue operations and to bring the perpetrators to book.

The Inspector-General of Police, while calling for calm, enjoined members of the community to provide the Force and the security community with useful, relevant, and timely information that can assist in the ongoing search and rescue operations.

Kagara Abduction: I Call Them Terrorists Not Bandits – Niger Senator

The lawmaker representing Niger East Senatorial District in the National Assembly, Senator Sani Musa

 

The lawmaker representing Niger East Senatorial District in the National Assembly, Senator Sani Musa, has said the abductors of the students of Government Science College, Kagara, in Niger State, were terrorists and not bandits.

He stated this during an interview on Channels Television’s Politics Today on Wednesday.

“There is no presence of anybody but the bandits. I don’t call them bandits, I call them terrorists,” the lawmaker said.

“It has happened in Chibok, it has happened in Dapchi, it has happened in Kankara, it has happened in Kagara, we cannot guarantee where next, so, necessary steps have to be taken.”

Senator Musa also said that no one knows the next school or state bandits will attack in the country.

The lawmaker’s comments come hours after gunmen invaded the college, sot sporadically with one student feared killed and several others abducted.

Some teachers and their family members residing within the college staff quarters were also said to have been abducted by the gunmen.

Following the unfortunate incident, Niger State Governor, Abubakar Bello,  ordered the immediate closure of all boarding schools in the bandit-ravaged areas.

The Senate had also asked President Muhammadu Buhari  to declare a state of emergency on security without further delay.

Gunmen Kill Five In Fresh Niger Attack

A file photo of a gun seized from crime suspects in Nigeria.

 

At least five persons have been killed by bandits in Kaffin-Koro and adjoining villages in Paikoro Local Government Area of Niger State.

Not less than ten persons were also said to have been injured by the gunmen.

Villages attacked include, Kubi, Kudami, Abolo, Gwajau and Zonkolo respectively.

A resident of Kaffin-Koro, Ishaya Azaido revealed that the attackers stormed the villages on Saturday night and started attacking the villagers up until Sunday morning.

He said the bandits numbering about 50 came on motorcycles heavily armed.

Also, confirming the attack to Channels Television, the Senator representing Niger East Senatorial District where the attacks took place, Mohammed Sani Musa said the attackers rustled over one thousand cattle.

READ ALSO: Oyo Tension: Culprits Behind Violence In Igangan Will Be Brought To Justice – Police

The lawmaker condemned the criminal act, which according to him had affected the development of the senatorial district.

Musa decried the fact that the people in the senatorial district can no longer go to their farms for fear of the unknown, a development which he noted has led to hunger and starvation in the area.

Four of the injured victims have been referred to IBB Specialist Hospital in Minna while others are currently receiving treatment at General Hospital, Kaffin-Koro.

As of the time of filing the report, the Niger State Police Command has yet to issue any statement on the attacks.

Neither could the Police Public Relations Officer, ASP Abiodun Wasiu nor the Commissioner of Police be reached on phone.

The latest attack comes barely a week after a Catholic priest, Father John Gbakaan was killed by gunmen along Lambata-Lapai road in Gurara local government area of the state.

The State Governor, Abubakar Bello reacting to the killing of the priest had promised to bring the perpetrators to book before this latest attacks took place.

Since the renewed banditry attacks in the state, scores of people mostly rural dwellers have been killed.

Between January and December 2020 at least fifty persons were reportedly killed, and over one hundred persons abducted.