65 Bethel Baptist Students Still In Captivity As 15 Regain Freedom
* Islamiyya pupils spend 85 days in kidnappers’ den *79 FGC Birnin Yauri students 77 days *Bandits kill 2 pastors, 24 others in Benue, Kaduna, Katsina *Kaduna government orders probe of Zango-Kataf killings
There is relief for the families of 15 students of Bethel Baptist High School, Kaduna, after their release from captivity on Saturday night, but not so for 65 others who are still in the kidnappers’ den.
They had been abducted from their school on July 15, 2021 by bandits.
Kaduna State chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Reverend John Joseph Hayab, who confirmed their release, said the students will be handed to their families without fanfare.
He said, “We thank God another set of 15 students have been released and will be handed over to their parents without any ceremony,” he said. “We have learnt our lesson from the experience of the last release of 28 of the abducted students. It turned out to be that of mixed feelings, particularly for those whose children are still in captivity.
“So we will simply call their parents and reunite them with their children. We are, however, not relenting in our efforts until we secure the release of all the remaining students and in good health.”
Rev. Hayab, however, lamented the back-and-forth conditions for their release by the bandits but asked that all should remain hopeful and prayerful while everything is being done to free them from their captors. It was gathered that an undisclosed ransom was paid for release of the 15 students.
LEADERSHIP recalls that 140 of the students were abducted after which some of the students escaped, leaving 121 of the students in the hands of the abductors as of 5th July, 2021.
However, on July 25, 2021, 28 of the students were released after reportedly receiving N50 million ransom, leaving 87 behind, and between 25th July and Saturday, 21st August, 2021 when 15 of the students regained their freedom, seven of the students had either escaped or were released on health grounds by their abductors, leaving 80 of them.
With the latest release of the 15 students, 65 of them are still in captivity, though President of Baptist Convention, Rev. Israel Akanji, put the figure at 63.
LEADERSHIP reports that although there was no formal ceremony at the Baptist Secretariat in Kaduna where the released children were handed over to their parents, it was yet another moment of emotions as parents and children embraced each other and shed tears of joy.
Present at the secretariat were the president of the Nigerian Baptist Convention, Reverend Dr. Israel Akanji and the president, Kaduna Baptist Conference and Proprietor of the Bethel Baptist High School, Rev Ishaya Adamu Jangado, among others.
There was no confirmed amount of ransom paid for their release, but it was gathered from a competent source that over N100 million may have been paid so far for the release of the students.
The bandits were said to have made a fresh demand of N80 million ransom to release the remaining students.
The students were abducted from their Bethel Baptist boarding school in the early hours of July 5, 2021. The bandits had broken into the school located at Damishi along the Kaduna – Kachia highway, Chikun Local Government Area of the state, and whisked away 140 students.
Handing over the 15 freed students to their parents at the Baptist Secretariat along Ahmadu Bello way, yesterday, President of Baptist Convention, Rev. Israel Akanji, said they expected the bandits to release all the remaining students.
Akanji said: “We are grateful to God for the release of these 15 children. Although, the number is smaller than what we expected, because we had 78 out there; they have given us 15, that means 63 to come, but in everything, God said we should give thanks and we are grateful for what He has done. And we are trusting that the same God will help us to receive the remaining 63. We have great hope in God and we will keep praying and keep asking God for help.
“We do not know why they did not release all the children; we were really expecting all the children, but these are the ones we have. So, we are giving thanks to God and we are trusting God that others too will come.”
The Baptist Convention President however declined comment on the issue of ransom.
The students were conveyed to the Baptist Secretariat in an 18-seater bus a few minutes after many of their parents were brought in, in two similar vehicles.
The parents could not hide their joy, as they sang praises and shed tears on sighting their children.
Meanwhile, the Tegina Islamiyya pupils in Niger State who were abducted on May 30, 2021, have remained in bandits’ den for 85 days.
Also, 79 of the 94 students abducted by bandits at the Federal Government College, Birnin Yauri, Kebbi State, on June 17 have remained in captivity 77 days after.
The bandits, who came on motorcycles, entered Yauri from the neighbouring Rijau forest in Niger State, and abducted the students and staff of the school unhindered.
Some students and staff, 15 in all, have however been released, leaving 79 in captivity.
Bandits kill 2 pastors, 24 others in Benue, Kaduna, Katsina
Meanwhile, bandits yesterday invaded the Duba village in Batsari local government council of Katsina State, killing over twelve persons, kidnapping several others and rustling over 800 cows from the village.
A resident of the area who confirmed the incident to our correspondent said the bandits attacked the village at 6pm on Saturday, riding on motorcycles and shooting sporadically at the people who ran helter-skelter for their lives.
According to the source, Duba village was a difficult area for the bandits to invade despite several attempts in recent times, which made all neighbouring communities keep their animals there.
“Yesterday’s attack,” he said, “was well organised in the sense that the bandits came in their numbers and overpowered the community members who always defended themselves. They killed about 12 people, over 12 people sustained a series of injuries and they (bandits) went away with over 800 cows, including animals kept by some neighbouring communities.
“We have been calling on both the federal and state governments to help us but they failed to wipe away our tears, and now we’ve lost hope in them. We are calling on the Niger Republic troops to come to our aid; they are the only ones we think can confront the bandits even in their hideout”, the source said.
He noted that Batsari had been facing a lot of attacks, saying just last week the town was attacked twice and if nothing is done urgently, the bandits would soon capture Batsari LGA.
The state police command was yet to make an official statement despite being contacted several hours before the paper went to press.
The burial of the 12 victims killed was carried out yesterday morning.
Meanwhile, at least nine persons were killed following an attack by unknown gunmen in Ungwan Dooh (Mado) village of Zangon Kataf local government area of Kaduna State.
The incident which occurred during the weekend left one person injured, while 12 people were rescued by the security operatives.
Confirming the incident in a statement, Commissioner Internal Security and Home Affairs, Samuel Aruwan, said the attack was reported to the Kaduna State Government by troops of Operation Safe Haven who responded to distress calls and mobilised to the area.
Aruwan who said the assailants fled on sighting the troops noted that nine corpses had been recovered so far following a search of the village.
“The deceased are identified as Moses Dangana, Mary Dangana, Jummai Dangana, Jerry James, Happy James, Endurance Stephen, Comfort Emmanuel, Jummai Tanko, Mary Clement,” he said.
The statement further explained that one resident, Magdalene Dangoma, sustained gunshot injuries and is receiving treatment in hospital.
Two houses were razed in the attack, he said.
The statement added that troops were still carrying out search and rescue operations, and will make public the exact number of casualties.
Also yesterday, three herders were reportedly killed in an attack by unidentified persons who stormed Ribok, Tsoriyang and Kankada areas of Zangon Kataf local government area.
In another statement, Aruwan said according to security reports, the attack was a reprisal to the earlier attack on Ungwan Dooh (Mado) area where eleven persons were killed.
He said the reprisal targeted the residence of one Ardo Tanko Usman, where three residents were killed and four residents injured.
“One car, three houses and eight herders’ huts were burnt and destroyed. The military and police arrived at the scene and evacuated scores of herders to safety,” the statement said.
The statement further explained that search and rescue operations were in progress and citizens will be updated on further developments.
Kaduna State acting governor, Dr Hadiza Balarabe, condemned the recent spate of devastating attacks in the area. She prayed for the repose of the souls of the deceased, and sent condolences to their families.
The acting governor appealed for calm and urged residents to desist from reprisal killings while security agencies carry on investigations.
Also, two pastors, Moses Ijokwo and Emmanuel Aleje of Ochoro Community in Konshisha Local Government Area of Benue State, have been killed by gunmen.
This is even as Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State has urged security operatives to arrest those responsible for the killing for onward prosecution.
The governor, who condemned the murder of the two pastors, described the incident as unacceptable.
He urged the chairman of Konshisha Local Government and other stakeholders in the area to ensure that the killers and their sponsors are apprehended to face the law.
Governor Ortom, who warned those jeopardizing the state government’s efforts to end the crisis between Konshisha and Oju, said whoever is caught will not escape justice, no matter who they are.
He reaffirmed the resolve of his administration not to surrender the state to criminals and appealed to Benue people to support security agencies with timely and useful information.
Governor Ortom appealed to the people of the area to remain calm even as he assured them that the boundary between Bonta and Ukpute will soon be demarcated as soon as the committee set up to facilitate the demarcation concludes arrangements for the process.
In a telephone interview with our correspondent, Oju local government chairman, Hon. Onaa Clement, decried a situation where criminals have taken over the boundary dispute between Okpute and Bonta communities.
Onaa, who was reacting to the recent assassination of two pastors from Ochoro Community, said the killings in the area went beyond boundary demarcation.
“This matter is not about boundary demarcation again, because no day passes without killings, especially at the border communities, it has taken a criminal dimension where miscreants, bandits and militia have taken over the disputed areas to foment trouble,” he said.