The total number of students being held by bandits has increased to 348 with the latest abduction of 121 students in Kaduna State.
Out of the 348 students, three categories numbering 227 are still languishing in bandits’ dens, many weeks after they were abducted from their schools in Niger, Kebbi and Kaduna states.
The situation worsened on Monday when the hoodlums stormed the Bethel Baptist High School, Maraban Rido in the Chikun Local Government Area of Kaduna State and abducted 121 students.
Amidst increasing attacks on schools, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation told The PUNCH that parents might no longer prioritise education of children and youths in the affected areas.
The pan-northern socio-political organisation, Arewa Consultative Forum, on its part berated the Federal Government, saying it was not proactive.
They said these as the Proprietor of the Bethel Baptist High School, who is also the President, Kaduna Baptist Conference, Rev. Ishaya Jangado, in an interview with journalists on Tuesday, said the bandits had called the school management and said they were holding 121 students.
In Niger State, 136 pupils of Salihu Tanko Islamiyya School, Tegina, who were abducted on May 30, had yet to be released as some parents told THE PUNCH that they could not raise the N100m being demanded by the bandits.
In Kebbi State, 83 students and seven staff members of the Federal Government College, Birnin Yauri are still in bandits’ captivity, 19 days after the hoodlums abducted 94 students and eight workers from the school.
Eight of the students and one teacher were rescued by troops of the Nigerian Army a few days after the abduction. However, three students were reported to have died during separate rescue operations.
But hoodlums, who abducted eight students and two workers of the Kaduna State-owned Nuhu Bamali Polytechnic, Zaria on June 10, had not released them.
On Tuesday, the mother of a Senior Secondary School 3 student, who was among those abducted at the FGC Kebbi, in an interview with The PUNCH, described her experience as traumatic.
The woman, who spoke on condition of anonymity, stated, “The trauma of my innocent son in kidnappers’ den with no contact could only be imagined until my phone rang from an unfamiliar number on Tuesday last week. I picked the call with trepidation, surprisingly, I heard the voice of my son. He told me he was speaking with me from an unknown location under the watch of the kidnappers and with their phone.
“I told him to give the phone to the kidnappers, for me to plead with them for their release but he told me the kidnappers said they did not want to have any discussion with any parents because their grouse was with government. He said they were not demanding ransom but only wanted the government to release four of their leaders in custody of the government.
“I did not have the luxury of further discussion with him beyond this before the call was terminated. Since then, I have resorted to prayers that with government intervention, the students and staff shall return safely.”
FGC students in kidnappers’ den: We are at the mercy of FG – Kebbi gov’s aide
Asked what the Kebbi State Government was doing towards rescuing the kidnapped students, an aide to the state Governor, Atiku Bagudu, who spoke to one of our correspondents on the condition of anonymity, said, “We are looking up to the Federal Government that holds the aces in security matters.
“We are all at the mercy of the Federal Government, which controls security outfits. The latest we heard was that security operatives were closing in on the kidnappers, to rescue the students.
“You know that a state governor has limitations in directing all the federal security agencies because they are responsible to their heads and not the state governor. All we can do is to assist them with logistics, when and where necessary especially when they approach us.”
The PUNCH gathered that abductors of Nuhu Bamali Polytechnic students were demanding a collective ransom of N22.5m for the two lecturers and eight students.
It was learnt that the kidnappers reached out to the families and the management of the Nuhu Bamali Polytechnic for each of the students and lecturers to pay N2.5m.
Commenting on the fate of the students, the ACF expressed concern about their stay in captivity.
The ACF also said it was more disturbed by the lack of government’s proactive steps to halt kidnapping in the region.
The National Publicity Secretary of the ACF, Emmanuel Yawe who shared the concern of the northern body with one of our correspondents in a chat, noted that it was the belief of the ACF that government was not alive with intelligence gathering to stop kidnapping.
The ACF’s Spokesman said, “The best way to handle the menace of kidnapping is for the government to be more proactive in intelligence gathering.
“Once we have good intelligence we can act swiftly and stop kidnapping. The danger of allowing people to be kidnapped is that once this happens, getting them released through payment of ransom or military action becomes more complicated. This is the sad situation we are in on now.”
A security expert, Col. Hassan Stan-Labo (retd.), admonished the Federal Government to deploy security agencies in addressing issues of killer herdsmen, bandits and kidnappers with zeal and vigour.
Stan-Labo told one of our correspondents that the government must go after criminals and hoodlums the way it went after Nnamdi Kanu, the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra and the Yoruba nation activist, Sunday Igboho.
Attacks on schools: Parents may no longer prioritise education of children, says UNESCO
Meanwhile, UNESCO, in response to questions by one of our correspondents, said attacks on schools would have negative impacts on learning in the affected areas.
In the response sent by its Press Service Officer, Thomas Mallard, the organisation stated, “All types of attacks targeting or affecting students, education institutions and their personnel (teachers, principals, guards, etc), have considerable negative impacts on continuity and quality of learning, both in short and long terms. This is not separate from the devastating psychosocial trauma confronting the affected communities.
“No child should ever have to choose between education and their life, but this is often the case in many countries, including some communities in Nigeria, as education becomes the target of direct and constant attacks resulting in the death, injuries and abduction of learners and education personnel. As a result, many schools are shut down.
“Where they are not, parents have lost any confidence and trust in the presence of rule of law that could protect their children and youths to ensure their security and safety. Such lack of trust among the communities might shift their decisions against prioritising education for their children and youths, which negatively impacts societies towards achieving their aspirations now and in the future.
“More importantly, within education management, there is uncertainty in educational planning and schools’ calendar, which add to the complexities and challenges towards provision of quality and equitable education for all as contained under the Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG4) of the 2030 Agenda. UNESCO, as the designated agency for the monitoring and coordination of SDG4, will continue to work closely with all education partners in Nigeria in finding and implementing durable solutions to these issues.”
The organisation said it would continue to “work with other education partners and government entities to advocate rapid implementation of necessary measures that would ensure security for education systems and safety for students.”
It stated that it was working with the governments in supporting them towards building a culture of peace and non-violence for community members.
“It is only through such an inclusive and holistic approach to learning that the negative impact of such repeated attacks on education could be healed over time with a path towards building peaceful coexistence,” it added.