By Jonathan Nda- Isaiah, Ernest Nzor, Abuja, Abu Nmodu, Minna and ISAIAH BENJAMIN, Kaduna
Bandits yesterday attacked Kagara and other communities in Niger State, killing four people and kidnapping many the same day they released students of Government Science College, Kagara, in Rafi local government area of the state and others who were earlier kidnapped.
Governor Bello was reported to have received those rescued at the Government House in Minna.
In yesterday’s attack, residents said eight people were kidnapped in Kundu while 11 others were kidnapped in Gunna district.
A resident said four people were killed in Karako, even as seven others were missing yesterday night.
Musa Kwabe, a community leader in Kagara, said eight persons were kidnapped in Kundu and 11 others in nearby Gunna district
A resident who pleaded anonymity also told LEADERSHIP Sunday that the bandits started operation from Yakila through Kagara, rustling cattle until they started killing people in Maikunjeri, a suburb of Kagara.
It was learnt that throughout the operation that lasted four hours there was no security intervention despite the fact that more policemen were drafted to the area as a result of the kidnap of the Kagara students.
A source said, “Within a week they have abducted more people than the people abducted from GSC Kagara, the attack today was bloody.”
A chief imam, Ibrahim Ruvo, was also reported kidnapped.
Attempts to get police confirmation proved abortive as the line of the police spokesman, Niger state Command, Abiodun Wasiu, could not be reached.
Kagara Schoolboys Recount Ordeal In Bandits’ Den
Meanwhile, the abducted Students of Government Science College, Kagara gave horrid accounts of their stay with the bandits, saying they were tortured daily and fed with beans once a day during their 11 days in captivity.
Some of the students, who were limping as a result of the torture, said they were also made to trek several kilometres until some of them started collapsing.
They spoke in an interview with LEADERSHIP Sunday yesterday after they were received by the Niger State Governor Alhaji Abubakar Sani Belllo.
Abdullah Ibrahim, an SS3 student of the school, said, “We were beaten mercilessly and fed with beans once in a day, they did not pity us or consider our ages.”
Another student, John said, “I may not want to go back to the school again, the experience was terrible, if I have a choice I will not want to go back.”
He also said they were fed with beans daily, adding, “They beat us every day, we really suffered in their hands, we thank those who rescued us.”
Abdulllahi Sabitu Ibrahim, another SS3 student, said it was “hell” in the bandits’ camp.
“At one point, I felt I was not in this world again, they beat us, gave us beans once in a day, sometimes they didn’t give us water, in fact, clean water was scarce,” he said.
He also said if he had a choice he would not go back to the school again, “except drastic steps are taken to secure it”.
Some of the parents also revealed their fears while the children were with the bandits.
A few of them spoke on how the possibility of the students losing their lives gave them sleepless nights and how they prayed that the worst should not happen to the children.
Aliyu Isah, a former teacher in the school who was abducted with his wife and five children but escaped when the bandits were taking them away, said, “I just want to thank God for the safe return of my wife and children, I went through sleepless nights because I didn’t know the condition they were in.
“I went through trauma, especially when I was with them, they tied us together but I was able to escape when the student they tied me with let go of his uniform, immediately I found a way and ran away, they could not see me when they matched others to their camp.
“I suffered physically and psychologically, I ran for a long distance before I got a safe place and the thought of my wife and children being with them made me sick,” he said.
He added: “It is something you don’t wish your enemy should experience, I am very happy and pray such a thing never occurs in our state again.”
Another woman identified as Mama said a lady who was staying with her was among those abducted and the news of their release was like a heavy load lifted off her.
She said, “I cannot tell you what I went through just by thinking of what condition my sister was in, but I thank God for her safe return.”
Also speaking, Abubakar Musa said, “Six of my children were among them, I want to thank God for their safe return, I am happy they have been released.”
A former principal of the school, Suleiman Kutigi, said, “I was the principal of the college from 1998 to 2007, incidentally, my son, a teacher with the school, was among those abducted, we thank God he is back. By the nature of the school, only the front is fenced, the back is porous; I suggest the school and other rural schools should be deboardened.”
He said from his experience as principal, it is better the school operates the day system for now.
“I am not happy, not only because my son was among those abducted but because I was a principal in the same school for nine years, and the same school known for academic excellence is now a place bandits attacked.”
Those abducted as announced by the government on Feb. 17 were 27 students, three teachers and their 12 family members but yesterday, 38 people were released by the bandits including 26 students, three teachers, eight female family members with one student still in intense medical care for exhaustion.
The governor was silent about others but announced while receiving them that one person was still under medical care and all those released would still be under close medical examination for a few days.
PMB Hails Security Agencies, Niger Govt Over Release Of Schoolboys
President Muhammadu Buhari has welcomed the release of the abducted students of Government Science College, Kagara, Niger State.
The president in a statement by his media aide, Garba Shehu, commended 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” said President Buhari, who also greatly sympathized with the staff and students, their parents and friends on this ordeal.
He, however, warned that the country would 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.
The president 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.
Buhari once again condemned the school abductions, with latest one at the Government Girls Secondary School, Jangebe in Zamfara State, and directed all security and intelligence agencies in the country to hunt down the culprits and bring them to justice.
Panic Among Zamfara Parents Over Fate Of Abducted Schoolgirls
As parents and guardians of the abducted students of Jangebe Secondary School in Talata Mafara local government of Zamfara State continue to reel in pain, some of the parents have shared their pains with LEADERSHIP Sunday. As news of the abduction filtered, parents and guardians rushed to the school to pick their children and wards.
Kabir Sani, whose three children were among those abducted, expressed shock on the fate of the students. “It is sad and shocking that the girls were taken to a thick forest,” he said.
He said they were seriously in fears over their condition in the forest. “Imagine the number of students, over 300 in a wild forest, sleeping on sand and grasses”, he said.
Also speaking, Sani Tela, another parent, told LEADERSHIP Sunday that almost everybody in the town was touched by the incident.
Tela said his children and that of his younger brother were affected. He said though there was no positive information yet, they were waiting for the return of the government officials who reportedly entered the forest early yesterday.
“This incident has touched all residents as there is no family that has no child among those abducted,” he said.
APC Expresses Concern
The opposition APC in the state has expressed concern over the development. In a statement, the state APC caretaker committee chairman, Alhaji Lawal M. Liman, said, “It is no longer news that despite the peace accord of the PDP-led government in Zamfara State these armed bandits have continued launching fatal attacks and kidnapping for ransom.
“They have engaged in maiming, raping, arson and other atrocities against the peace loving populace, and the situation is on the increase in almost every part of our dear state,” the party said.
It advised Governor Matawalle to stop paying lip service about the security situation in the state, and urged him to tell the world the real situation in the state so that it could be assisted to fight banditry.
Northern Elders Charge Governors On Security
Meanwhile, the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) has urged northern governors to explore avenues to improve the security of citizens.
The forum in a statement made available by its director, publicity and advocacy, Dr Hakeem Baba-Ahmed yesterday in Abuja, said they shared the profound shock and outrage of Nigerians at the spate of kidnapping of school children in different parts of the North.
“Apart from the likelihood of similar abductions re-occurring as bandits engage in copycat crimes in a region that is basically unprotected, these abductions will severely damage the poor state of education in the North, particularly girl-child education.
“It has become painfully obvious that the federal government is unable to muster the will or capacity to limit exposure of Nigerians to violent criminals. Governors have been left to quarrel over causes and strategies. Many are taking steps that have dubious legal foundations, most of which merely compound the state of security of citizens.
“In spite of assurances from the federal government that it would end banditry and kidnappings, the life of the Nigerian is becoming more endangered by the day, and citizens have lost faith that governments will reverse the successes of the criminals against defenceless citizens,” the forum said.
It advised northern governors to explore all lawful avenues to improve the security of citizens and improve their support to all security agencies to give them more powers to secure citizens.
It said, “Governors should explore issues which aid the spread of banditry at local and community levels and resolve them. They should also intensify multi-pronged approaches to ending banditry and kidnappings, including measures which prevent the continuation of these criminal activities by those who show a genuine willingness to stop.
“Bandits who refuse to submit to mediation and cessation of criminal activities should be treated in accordance with the laws of the country. Citizens should organize and raise their levels of vigilance.
“They should resist the temptation to take laws into their hands, and improve the manner they work with security agencies. Parents should not be discouraged from sending children to school, and all governments must take firmer measures to secure learning institutions”.
Kidnap Of Students Grand Plan To Cripple Education In North—CNG
The Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG) has described the kidnap of staff and students in schools in northern Nigeria as a plan to crippled education in the North.
Spokesman of the group, Abdul-Azeez Suleiman, who stated this in a statement made available to newsman yesterday in Abuja, said, “The Coalition of Northern Groups is excited by reports that the kidnapped staff and students of Government Science College Kagara have finally regained freedom from the armed bandits in Niger State on Saturday. But we warn that it is not yet Uhuru and we should not celebrate too early.
“Beyond the jubilation, however, President Buhari owes the nation the duty of explaining the glaring failure of his administration in the vital area of providing security for particularly the North.
“We call on northern leaders to interrogate the extent of levity of the federal authorities in not being able to anticipate and checkmate the manoeuvres of marauding bands of criminals that roam northern communities and operate at will targeting such soft spots as schools.
“We see the recent escalation of kidnap of school children as a grand design to cripple the educational viability of the northern region after having messed up its economy and mutual cohesion.
“No doubt the past few days had been very difficult for everyone, difficult for the abducted students, difficult for parents and families of the captives emotionally, practically and of course, financially.
“They were also difficult days for the government of Niger State, community leaders and elders that scrambled to reassure the public. The situation is also difficult for absolutely everyone as we wonder about the future and worry about each other, our neighbours, our friends, our families and ourselves,” he said.
It’s Serious Threat To North—ACF
The Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) yesterday said the continued abduction of school children is a serious setback to education in the North, particularly for the girl child.
The national publicity secretary of the forum, Mr Emmanuel Yawe, said, “Yes, it is a serious setback, particularly for the girl child in the North. The ACF takes this threat very seriously since the North is already disadvantaged in education compared to other parts of the country. We hope the governments are taking it as serious as we do.”
President of the Arewa Youth Consultative Forum (AYCF) Yerima Shettima, said the continued abductions must be stopped or it might force Nigerians to defend themselves.
“The continued abduction of students is a very serious joke, we can’t continue like this, we are not in a Banana Republic where things happen anyhow with all impunity, this is a mockery and abuse of our sensibilities as a nation, this is unacceptable and this cannot continue.
“It is better for the government to immediately rise up and find an answer to this ugly trend or Nigerians might be forced to take laws into their hands and defend ourselves, this cannot continue, this is an insult on our faces and I call on all Nigerians to rise up to this occasion, this is a fight, there is darkness and we must all put hands together and fight it as Nigerians,” he said.