It was yet another moment of sorrow, tears and agony for parents as bandits in the early hours of yesterday stormed Bethel Baptist High School, Maraban Rido, in Chikun local government area of Kaduna State and abducted 140 students.
Following the development, the Kaduna State government has ordered the closure of thirteen schools located in areas identified as vulnerable to attacks by bandits.
LEADERSHIP gathered that the hoodlums, said to be in their large number, invaded the school at about 2am on Monday and went berserk with their arsenal of guns, shooting sporadically into the air before making away with both male and female students through a hole cut in the fence of the school.
The boarding school with a large expanse of land is located beside the Kaduna- Kachia high way and is well fenced amidst other neighboring schools and houses.
Our correspondents who visited the school learnt that 26 of the students earlier taken away and were later rescued by security operatives have been returned and handed over to the school and their parents.
A teacher of the school, Emmanuel Paul, confirmed that in all, 140 of the students were kidnapped.
The bandits also killed two security operatives, even as 28 students were able to escape.
Also confirming the development, the Kaduna State Police Command noted in a statement issued yesterday that in the early hours of Monday at about 0143hrs it received a report that bandits in large number had gained access into Bethel Baptist Secondary School Kujuma in Chikun local government area of the state, overpowered the school’s security guards and made their way into the students hostel where they abducted unspecified number of students into the forest.
According to the Police Public Relation Officer (PPRO), ASP Mohammed Jalige, “on the receipt of the unfortunate incident a joint team of the Nigeria Police, Army and Navy Operatives were immediately mobilised to the area with a mission to rescue the abducted students unhurt.
“The Operatives gave the bandits a hot pursuit occasioned by a tactical application of weapons and succeeded in rescuing 26 students, including a female teacher safely,” he added.
He however said the rescue operation was still ongoing to ensure that all victims are safely returned, even as he noted that officers involved in the said operation are charged to ensure no stone is left unturned with a view to successfully accomplish the rescue mission since resources will be available to them without delay.
The Command, he noted, is encouraging parents not to be deterred by the recent bandits’ activities targeting schools and learning institutions in the state, as strategic measures would be emplaced to forestall further occurrence of such dastardly act of criminality against innocent children.
“The command is saddened by the incident and calls on all stakeholders on security to unite particularly at this very critical time to safeguard schools in order to guarantee a safe and secure learning environment and other meaningful businesses,” Jalige added.
Meanwhile, speaking with LEADERSHIP yesterday, one of the parents, Esther Joseph, while shedding tears profusely said, “It was around 6am that they called me and asked me where I was, that they had kidnapped some students in Bethel school.
“I was calling the teachers but nobody picked my call; I called the security, no one picked my call. It was the person I sent on Saturday to go and check on my daughter that I was able to reach and demanded to know why the management of the school did not close the school and relocate to Ungwan Boro. Why did they not relocate the school, a school that is located where bandits are carrying people? They should close the school”.
Another parent, Mrs Caroline Emmanuel lamented that her only surviving child was among the students kidnapped by the criminals.
She said, “I have only one child and my only surviving child has been kidnapped and the government is not doing anything about it. In fact, the students that they were claiming to have rescued came back on their own. The security did not rescue anybody because they have already started saying that soldiers rescued them and that even soldiers were killed while rescuing the children. So, no soldier rescued any child.
“One thing should be noted; bandits have been killing us. They just entered Nissi community last two weeks; they came to my house. They kidnapped people at Nissi. The bandits have been kidnapping people and killing them anyhow. We can’t even go to the farm; we can’t do anything again.
“Now, they are coming to school again. Enough is enough. A state of emergency should be declared in Kaduna State if El-Rufai cannot do anything. He has failed. He is not doing anything. They just come blowing sirens; they should go to the bush if they are serious.
“It’s been since morning around 4am that we have been here. No soldier or police has entered the bush in search of the kidnapped students. But they are here firing bullets at innocent parents that are just holding leaves. For what now; for what? What kind of mistrust and betrayal is this? A state of emergency should be declared in Kaduna State,” she stressed.
But for another parent, Amos Amtu, it was a thing of gratitude to God for saving his child from being among the abducted students.
“My son is also a student of the school and I was to return him back to school on Sunday evening but got tired so I told him to relax till today morning, only to hear the news of the abduction when I was preparing to take him back. I am thankful to God,” he said while praying God to rescue the other abducted students and bring them back safely.
State Government Shuts down 13 Schools
Meanwhile, following the abduction of Bethel High School students, the Kaduna State government has ordered the closure of thirteen schools located in areas identified as vulnerable to attacks by bandits.
Director-general of Quality Assurance Authority in the state Ministry of Education, Umma Ahmed, in a statement told proprietors that the closure of the affected schools was with immediate effect.
The statement warned against failure to comply with the government directive.
The statement listed the affected schools to include Faith Academy along Kachia Road adjacent to Jakaranda; Deeper Life Academy, Maraban Rido; Ecwa Secondary School, Ungwar Maje and Bethel Baptist High School, Damishi.
Others are St. Peters Minor Seminary, Katari; Prelude Secondary School, Kujama; Ibiso Secondary school, Tashar Iche; Tulip International (Boys) School, Tulip International (Girls) School, Goodnews Secondary School, St. Augustine School, Kujama; Comprehensive Development Institution (CDI), Tudun Mare, and Adventist College, Kujama.
Meanwhile, in a similar development, the same bandits who attacked the Bethel Baptist High School and abducted students also made a coordinated attempt that same Monday night on Faith Academy, another boarding secondary school before they were prevented by soldiers after the criminals had successfully dug a hole through the fence.
Faith Academy School owned by Living Faith Church Worldwide which is located just about 500m away from Bethel Baptist School.
A parent of a student who spoke on condition of anonymity confirmed the attempted and foiled attack on the school.
PMB Orders Security Agencies To Ensure Early Release Of Abducted Students
Meanwhile, President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday ordered the military, police and intelligence agencies to ensure safe and early release of all kidnapped victims.
A statement issued by presidential spokesman, Mallam Garba Shehu, last night not that the president expressed concern over attacks on Kaduna and Niger States, which he said are largely targeted at students.
While noting ongoing deployment of additional security personnel to all troubled areas, Buhari urged security outfits to “act swiftly” to rescue all school boys and girls in the affected states and ensure safe return.
He said the disturbing incidents of kidnapping students, mostly in Northern states, was already threatening to undermine efforts in boosting school enrolments in states that were adjudged educationally backward.
He called on state governments to ensure compliance with the UN-supported Safe Schools Programme, which the administration had adopted.
The president described kidnapping as cowardly and despicable, condemning it as an assault on affected families and the nation.