Godwin Isenyo, Abdullahi Suleja and Olufemi Olaniyi
6 July 2021
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Bandits in the early hours of Monday invaded the Bethel Baptist High School, Maraban Rido in the Chikun Local Government Area of Kaduna State and whisked away no fewer than 140 students.
A teacher in the school, Emmanuel Paul, in an interview with journalists, said 140 students were abducted by the bandits, who attacked the school located along the Kaduna-Kachia highway at 1am.
“They came at 1am and made away with 140 students,” he said.
However, the police said a few hours after the abduction, security agents rescued 26 of the abducted students.
The abduction generated angry reactions from the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria and the Christian Association of Nigeria, Kaduna State chapter. The groups, in separate interviews with The PUNCH, urged the Federal Government to devise fresh strategies to stop incessant abductions in the country.
Recall that eight students and two teachers of the Kaduna State-owned Nuhu Bamali Polytechnic, Zaria, who were abducted on June 10, have not been released.
A few hours after the latest kidnapping in Kaduna, it was learnt that two security agents were killed by the bandits who laid an ambush after the incident.
A source said, “We learnt that the after rescuing some of the students, two of the security operatives were killed during an ambush by the bandits.”
It also was learnt the bandits broke the perimeter fence and went straight to the boys’ hostel, where they forcefully led some students to the girls hostel.
A student, who escaped to the back of the hostel during the raid, said the abducted schoolboys were made to stay in front of girls’ hostel where female students were forced out and jointly taken away with the boys.
A parent, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said when the bandits arrived at the school, “They started shooting sporadically and headed straight to the boys hostel. They had a field day before proceeding to the female hostel. From there, they took the students into the bush through the broken perimeter fencing.”
Following the abduction, aggrieved parents barricaded the Kaduna – Kachia highway and called on the Federal Government to declare a state of emergency in the state.
There was commotion as some of the parents stormed the school as early as 4am when they learnt about the attack.
The protesting parents, who sat in the middle of the highway and refused to leave, vowed that they would remain in the school until they were reunited with their children.
Protesting parents block road despite shooting by soldier
The parents, mostly women , carried leaves, and were chanting “enough is enough”, “we won’t leave here,” “we want our children back”, “we are tired of kidnapping and killings,” among others.
All entreaties to disperse the parents failed, forcing one of the soldiers to shoot into the air, but the parents remained adamant, saying they were “ready to die here” without their children.
It was gathered that the protesting parents left the road at 3pm.
My only surviving child among abducted students, distressed mother cries out
One of the parents, Mrs Caroline Emmanuel, who said her only surviving child was among the abducted students, noted that government was not doing enough in securing the lives and property of the people of the state.
According to her, even at home nobody is safe, adding that in her community at Nissi village, bandits are on a daily basis ravaging the area and killing residents.
She, therefore, called on the Federal Government to declare a state of emergency in the state.
She said, “I have only one child and he is my only surviving child and the government is not doing anything.
“One thing should be noted, bandits have been killing us. They entered the Nissi community two weeks ago. They kidnapped people at Nissi. The bandits have been kidnapping people and killing them anyhow. We can’t even go to farm. We can’t do anything again.
“Now they are coming to schools. Enough is enough. A state of emergency should be declared in Kaduna, if El-Rufai cannot do anything. He has failed. He is not doing anything. They (security agents) just come blowing siren. They should go into the bush if they are serious.
Go to the bush and face bandits, stop shooting us, protesting parents tell soldiers
“They have refused to enter the bush and a soldier is firing bullets here to disperse harmless parents, who are protesting on the road, carrying just leaves. Why should they fire bullets in the midst of aggrieved parents when they are supposed to be in the forest rescuing our children. Why, why?
“Since morning, at 4am that we have been here, no soldier or policeman has entered the bush in search of the kidnapped students.
“But he is here firing bullets at innocent parents that are just holding leaves. For what now? For what? What kind of betrayal is this, a state of emergency should be declared in Kaduna State.”
Another parent, Esther Joseph, said she visited the school on Saturday and wanted to take her daughter home because of insecurity.
She, however, said the management of the school assured her of adequate security, adding that the school ought to relocate students to another place because of the prevailing security situation.
She said, “It was around 6am that somebody called me and asked, ‘Do you know that they have kidnapped some students in Bethel school? Please go and check.’
“I was calling the teachers, but nobody picked my call. The security men did not pick my call. Why did they not relocate the school, a school that is located where bandits are kidnapping people. They should close the school.”
You lied, you rescued nobody, students escaped, parents counter police
While the Kaduna State police said security operatives rescued 26 out of the 140 students abducted by the bandits, some of the protesting parents claimed that the force was lying.
The state Police Command’s spokesman, Mohammed Jalige, stated that a combined team of police, Army and Navy gave the bandits a hot chase and rescued 26 students.
According to him, the operation is still going on. He assured parents that the operatives would rescue the students unhurt.
The police spokesman said, “In the early hours of today, Monday, 5th July, 2021 at about 0143hrs, the command received a report that bandits in large numbers gained access into Bethel Baptist Secondary School Kujuma in the Chikun LGA of Kaduna State.
“They shot and overpowered the school’s security guards and made their way into the students’ hostels where they abducted an unspecified number of students into the forest.
“On the receipt of the unfortunate incident, a joint team of the Nigeria Police, Army and Navy operatives was 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.”
Children escaped on their own – Parent
But, one of the parents, Mrs Emmaunel, claimed that the security operatives never rescued the students, noting that “ they came back on their own.
“In fact, the students that they were claiming to have rescued, came back on their own. The security agent did not rescue anybody. They have already started saying that soldiers rescued them and even when some soldiers were killed. So no soldier rescued any child.”
Another parent, John Biver, who claimed that he got to the school at 6am, said he saw some students return and that operatives never rescued them.
Kaduna orders closure of Deeper Life school, 12 others vulnerable to bandits’ attacks
After the attack , the Kaduna State Government ordered the immediate closure of 13 schools located in areas identified as vulnerable to attacks by bandits.
The directive, which was issued by the Director General of Quality Assurance Authority in the state Ministry of Education, Umma Ahmed, to proprietors of private schools, said the closure was with immediate effect.
Ahmed listed 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 Interational (Boys) School and Tulip international (Girls) School.
Also on the list are Goodnews Secondary School, St. Augustine, Kujama, Comprehensive Development Institution, Tudun Mare and Adventist College, Kujama.
Soldier foil kidnap attempt at Faith Academy
Meanwhile, but for the swift intervention of military personnel, Faith Academy, located at Mararaban Rido, Chikun Local Government Area of Kaduna State, would have been attacked by bandits in the early hours of Monday.
The school owned by the Living Faith Church Worldwide, better known as Winners Chapel, was founded by Bishop David Oyedepo.
The school is less than 500 metres away from the Bethel Baptist High School where students were abducted on Monday.
It was learnt that part of the perimeter fencing at the back of the school was broken by the bandits in an attempt to enter the school.
A parent who confided in one of our correspondents, said, “ Not that they attempted but they entered. They broke the perimeter wall and entered and but the boys were smart enough to go into the ceiling.
“Meanwhile, the soldiers around had to call for reinforcement. So, they were not able to carry out their plans.”
The state Governor, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai condemned the attack.
The state Commissioner for Internal Security and Home Affairs, Samuel Aruwan quoted El-Rufai to have stated this in a statement issued after a visit to the school.
In its reaction, the PFN President, Bishop Wale Oke, condemned the abduction.
Oke, in an interview with The PUNCH, said the incessant abductions of students and other citizens had become worrisome. He called on the government to evolve a strategy to put a stop to the incidents.
Oke said this while speaking to one of our correspondents in Ibadan.
He said, “ The PFN condemns the abduction of students at Bethel Baptist High School as well as the attempt by bandits to strike at Faith Academy. These kidnappings and other forms of criminality have become a source of worry to most Nigerians.
“Since there can’t be any meaningful development in an atmosphere devoid of peace, we call on the government to evolve a strategy to put a stop to these criminal activities. Nigerians are afraid to move from one place to another and children’s minds are also not at rest to learn while teachers are living in fear. This must stop.”
The Chairman of CAN in Kaduna State, Rev. Joseph Hayab, also condemned the bandits’ attack.
Kidnappers had a field day, blocked road, school can’t account for 174 students – CAN chairman
Hayab explained that he received the report of the kidnap, adding that “when they came into the school in their large numbers, they blocked the road near the gate, went into the school and took the students away.”
According to him, at the last count of the school population in the hostel, “they had more than 180 students on school register before the incident.
“They counted the students this morning (Monday) and they said 174 could not be accounted for. That was what I was told. We have yet to get the full picture.
“Unfortunately our government, which seems to have access to some of the criminals, is fighting some of us who are worried about all the development, and they have allowed the criminals to have a field-day, perpetrating their criminal activities. What we are asking the government to do is to go after the criminals, rather they are fighting us who are the parents and victims,” Hayab added