The Federal Government is not disposed to applying force to rescue the 27 students and staff of Government Science College, Kagara in Niger State, who were abducted by bandits on Wednesday.
Government will also not pay any ransom to get them released.
The abductees spent their third day in captivity yesterday, with the Christians Association of Nigeria (CAN) and former Catholic Archbishio off Abuja, John Cardinal Onaiyekan, kicking against government’s negotiation with the bandits.
The association said the move was unacceptable while Onayekan said government got it wrong sitting down with the gunmen.
It was gathered yesterday that the security agencies have discovered the exact location where the bandits are keeping the students and other abductees.
The gunmen are insisting on amnesty for them by the Federal Government.
They want safe passage after realising that all access routes to their enclave have been blocked.
It was learnt that the bandits now find it difficult to move away from their camp or relocate the students.
A top security source, who spoke in confidence, said government has restrained troops and security forces from “storming” the bandits’ camp to avoid collateral damage.
The source also claimed that some bandits have swapped their dresses with the abducted boys’ school uniforms in anticipation of a military raid.
It was gathered that from air surveillance, it was difficult to distinguish the students from the bandits after swapping their dresses.
The source said: “The military, the police and security agencies have recorded a breakthrough in locating the camp where the students and other abductees are being kept in inhuman conditions.
“With air surveillance, everything going on in the camp is known to the military and other agencies.
“There are two options available to the government. The first is a massive air raid and war-like storming (military action) of the bandits’ enclave. This may result in heavy casualties.
“What makes aerial bombardment or storming the enclave difficult is that the bandits have exchanged their banditry camouflage with the boys’ school uniforms.
“The troops may end up killing the students during raid rather than the bandits, who are feeling the close up on them by forces.
“The other alternative is to allow political intervention through the ongoing negotiation /understanding with the bandits by the government and elders like Sheikh Abubakar Gumi.
“So far, the bandits have not asked for payment of ransom for the students. They only demanded N500 million ransom for the release of the passengers kidnapped from the bus of Niger State Transport Authority.
“As at 6pm on Saturday, the Federal Government ruled out the use of force by the military and security forces because it might defeat the overall aim of rescuing the students and other abductees alive.
“The government has dissected all intelligence reports and opted for constructive engagement instead of outright military action.
“Despite the ongoing talks, the military and security forces have blocked all access routes to the camp where the students and others are being held hostage.”
Responding to a question, the source added: “The bandits’ condition for amnesty has remained a major issue in the ongoing negotiation.
“The bandits are aware that all access routes to their camp have been blocked by the military and security forces. For safe passage, they are asking the government for amnesty.
“That is beyond military or security purview, only the political authority can manage this.
“Left to the military and other agencies, they will prefer a fight- to-the-finish to put an end to banditry.”
Meanwhile, Information and Culture Minister Lai Mohammed said on Channels Television yesterday that the federal government would not pay a dime as ransom to anyone for the purpose of getting the abducted students and other released.
He dismissed suggestions that government had already paid the gunmen.
However, he said government would not turn down opportunities to engage bandits in talks.
“We employ kinetic and non-kinetic (measures); you don’t throw away invitations to engage, but the overall strategy you keep to your chest,” he said.
Continuing, he said: “Bandits all over the world work with the psychology of people. Deliberately, they target women and children because this is what will attract a lot of global outcry.
“That is exactly what bandits do all over the world.
“The government has put in place, all along, various strategies to contain banditry, to fight insurgency, to fight kidnapping. Some of these measures are kinetic, some are not kinetic. We didn’t get here overnight and that is why it is difficult to get out one day.
“And that’s what happened during the Dapchi girls abduction and the Kangara school boys abduction. But the question is what does government do?
“When I say we didn’t get here overnight, what I meant is that be it farmer-herders crisis, be it banditry, be it kidnapping, it crept up gradually over many years, and there are certain factors which are beyond the human capacity that led us here.
“Criminality in any form will not be tolerated by the government. At the same time, the government has a duty to look at the underlying causes of some of these criminalities in order to address them.
“I was in Minna with my colleagues, the Ministers of Interior and Police Affairs, the IG, and the National Security Adviser on Wednesday to get firsthand information on the abduction of these Kagara schoolboys. I can tell you that as of today, the government is on top of the matter.”
He refuted insinuations that government paid ransom to secure the release of the Kankara, and the Dapchi schoolgirls in Yobe State.
“All these stories about ransom are conspiracy theories,” he said.