• says victims must be returned safely to their homes

From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja

President Bola Tinubu has reiterated his warning to the nation’s security agencies that his administration will no tolerate ransom payment to criminal elements engaged in kidnappings and abduction.

The Minister of Information and National Orientation, Mohammed Idris, disclosed this while briefing State House Correspondents after the Federal Executive Council meeting, presided by President Tinubu.

The criminal elements earlier this month in Borno State, kidnapped at least 200 mainly women and children while searching for firewood. A few days later, in Kaduna state, less than 300km from the country capital, armed men abducted nearly 300 schoolchildren.

The Minister said: “Also in council today,  Mr. President reiterated his directive to security agencies and Ministry of Defense to ensure that those our kids that have been abducted by this criminal gangs are brought back to their homes safely. And Mr. President has also reiterated his zero tolerance for the payment of ransom, that was also mentioned by Mr. President in Council today.

“So, the security agencies are working around the clock. This children and people that have been abducted by criminal elements will be brought back to safety pretty soon. The security agencies are working hard in that direction. And Mr. President has also directed that no ransom will be paid by government to any of his criminal elements. I think it’s important that this be put out there.”

Asked what specific support the United States is prepared to offer Nigeria in the rescue of the kidnapped children, Idris said: “Talking about what support if any are we getting from other countries, specifically the US. Well, we’re aware that is not just the US that has actually offered. Other countries have also offered to support Nigeria. But what we can tell you is that government is still reviewing these offers and the position of government will be made known to you.

“The reporter from Channels you talked about the apparent surge in this kidnapping of course in the country.  Now, it is true that some of these are happening. We have seen what has happened in Kaduna, in Borno State and then in Sokoto. Of course, government is watching that very closely and not just watching but also agencies are actually taking proactive steps to ensure that this is halted significantly.

“Now, like I said, Mr. President has said that is not unacceptable situation. The government will not condone abductions  or kidnapping or any kind of criminality in that direction. We saying of course, this happened and government is taking very proactive steps first to mitigate that and also to stop the spread of this.

“You know, we are seeing some kind of movement and the more security agencies are also hitting these targets, the more these criminals are pushed to also getting some soft targets. But government is not taking any excuses. The President has directed that security agencies must as a matter of urgency, ensure that these children and all those who have been kidnapped are brought back in safety and also in the process to ensure that not a dime is paid for ransom.

“So it’s important to underscore that government is not paying anybody any dime. And the government is optimistic that these children and other people that are abducted will be brought back to their families in safety. It is very important for us to note that.”