Following the abduction of 121 students of Bethel Baptist High School in Kaduna State, the Nigerian Baptist Convention said it had started organising prayers in all Baptist churches in Nigeria and abroad.
The President, Nigerian Baptist Convention, Revd Israel Akanji, said this in an interview with Saturday PUNCH on Friday, which he said was the last day of the Baptist World Alliance.
Akanji said the alliance comprised 127 countries of the world and that the event held via Zoom, a virtual meeting platform.
The clergy said at the event hosted by Brazil, the 127 countries that make up the Baptist World Alliance were informed of the abduction of students of the Bethel Baptist High School.
Asked what efforts the Baptist Church had made so far, the clergy said, “You know that we are a church and once we are in any difficulty, the first point of call is to God in prayer. Therefore, we have been organising prayer all over the Baptist Church in Nigeria and all over the world.
“In terms of publicity (of the abduction), all over Nigeria, it is known. Every state is aware and the Baptist World Alliance is also aware.
“In fact, Elijah Brown, the General Secretary of the Baptist World Alliance, has made a kind of press statement in which he spoke about the abduction of the students in Nigeria. He condemned this act that has been going on in Nigeria and especially the kidnapping of the students of our Baptist High School.”
Despite the attack, Akanji said the Baptist Church would not be intimidated, noting that the Church would continue to provide quality education. According to him, the Baptist Church has for the past 166 years operated secondary schools in Nigeria.
He said, “One thing we have been letting everybody know is that the Baptist denomination has given education to Nigeria since 1855. For 166 years now, the Nigerian Baptist Convention has been providing education.
“Our first institution is the Baptist Academy in Lagos, which is still an institution to reckon with today and has produced great men and women for Nigeria. And the Baptist Boys High School in Abeokuta, Ogun State, produced Chief Olusegun Obasanjo and the late Chief MKO Abiola. These are people who greatly impacted Nigeria.
“Now, in our history, this is the first time in 166 years that a Baptist school would be raided and the students kidnapped. It had never happened. So we believe in the strength of our history. By calling the Almighty God, our students shall be returned to us.”
“So we are thinking that having called on God and on our track record as a denomination providing education for this nation without ceasing for 166 years, we deserve that our students should be brought back,” he added.
Akanji said he had spoken with the Kaduna State Governor, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, who he said promised to do everything possible to secure the students’ release.
Asked if the Baptist Church would engage Islamic cleric Sheikh Ahmad Gumi in leading mediation talks with the bandits to free the kidnapped students, Akanji said the church would not stop parents from seeking Gumi’s help.
He said, “On the issue of talking to Sheikh Gumi, well, you know that when people are desperate, when people are in trouble because you are talking of a school where 121 students cannot be accounted for… These 121 students have parents and family members who are very concerned.
“In fact, some parents slept in the school compound, praying all night that the children should be back. The parents can do what they like. And if they have been going round looking for one kind of assistance or the other, we will not know the extent but as a church, we have only been speaking to the government and insisting that the government should bring our children back because the security of lives is in the hands of the government.
“I cannot stop anybody who goes to anybody to look for help because as I said, these children have parents, and we cannot stop them. They are at liberty to go wherever they want. But you are asking me as a church and I am saying that in our church, we have not taken that decision that we are going to Gumi. We have not.”
Students of the Bethel Baptist High School, Kaduna were the latest victims of kidnapping in the Northwestern state.
The victims, mostly in Senior Secondary Schools 2 and 3, were kidnapped after bandits around 1 am on Monday invaded their school disguising as military personnel.
A day after the kidnapping, the bandits reportedly reached out to the school management, demanding foodstuffs including 30 bags of rice, 20 bags of beans and 10 kegs of palm oil, to feed their captives.
It was learnt that the students’ parents and school management had raised money to buy the foodstuffs following the bandits’ threats to starve the students if the foodstuffs were not supplied.
The bandits have yet to demand any ransom.
Meanwhile, Kaduna State in recent times has become a hotbed of attacks on schools and kidnapping of students by criminal gangs called bandits.
Bandits had in April kidnapped 29 students and two staff of Greenfield University at Kasarami, Chikun Local Government Area of Kaduna State. Five of the students were later killed by the bandits while the rest were released on May 29.
The incident came about six weeks after bandits on March 11 attacked the Federal College of Forestry Mechanisation, Afaka, Igabi Local Government Area of Kaduna State and kidnapped 39 students. The students were released after about two months in the kidnappers’ den.
The latest attack on Bethel Baptist High School has generated criticism on the inability of the government to secure the schools even as The PUNCH recently reported that no fewer than 348 students were still being held by bandits.
Out of the 348 students, three categories numbering 227 had been languishing in bandits’ dens many weeks after they were abducted from their schools in Niger, Kebbi and Kaduna states.
Parents of the Bethel Baptist High School, Kaduna State held a four-hour prayer session on Friday to seek God’s face for their children’s release from bandits.
In tears, the parents converged on the school premises located along the Kaduna-Kachia Highway in Chikun Local Government Area of the state, and asked God to take over the matter.
The parents and sympathisers specifically prayed to God to touch the abductors’ hearts and release the 121 students in their custody unconditionally.
Organised by the Kaduna Baptist Conference, speakers at the event encouraged parents and the school management to remain strong and not lose hope during their trying period.
The President, Nigerian Baptist Convention, Rev’d Israel Akanji, said the church wouldn’t be intimidated over the attack on its school, noting that the mission would continue to provide quality education for the country’s development – saying over the years, the Baptist Church had been in the vanguard of providing eduction in Nigeria.
He said, “We don’t have security. Therefore, I call on the Governor of Kaduna State [Mallam Nasir El-Rufai] to ensure that the students are released. When I spoke with him, he made a promise, and I’m trusting God that he will keep to his word in ensuring the students’ release.
Also, the Chairman, Kaduna State chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Rev’d John Hayab, lamented the insecurity in the state.
“We will not be intimidated. If the government was putting bandits on the run, they would not have the mind to be asking for food,” he said.
The President, Kaduna Baptist Conference, who is also the Proprietor of the Bethel Baptist High School, Rev’d Ishaya Jangado, said Christians in the state were under pain.
“Over 400 Christians have been kidnapped from January till date. We did everything the government asked us to do. They are sinking us into economic danger day by day,” he said.
In her brief remarks amid tears, the school principal, Mrs Florence Tuga, urged mothers to pray and seek God’s intervention while touching their breasts and wombs.
Bandits kill 52 in Zamfara, Kaduna communities
Meanwhile, 42 persons have been Killed by bandits in five communities of Faru district in Maradun Local government area of Zamfara State on Thursday evening.
The affected communities are, Tsauni, Gudan-Baushi, Gidan-Adamu, Wari and Gudan-Maidawa.
An indigene of the area, Mallam Buba Faru, said the incident occurred on Thursday when the bandits who rode over 100 motorcycles stormed the communities.
Buba said the bandits shot indiscriminately at the people, burning their houses and food stores.
He said, “They were shooting indiscriminately at people they came across in the five communities. They also attacked farmers who were on their farmlands cultivating their crops.
“So far, 42 dead bodies have been recovered by the security and volunteer groups in the area.”
The bodies, according to Buba, would be buried according to Islamic rites.
Speaking to Saturday PUNCH on phone, the spokesperson for the state police command, SP Mohammed Shehu, stated that 35 people were killed in the five communities.
According to him, their corpses were taken to Faru town for burial.
Shehu stated that the police could not reach the affected communities on time when they were informed of the attack due to the road network.
Also, some bandits in separate attacks invaded Warkan village in Zango-Kataf Local Government Area and Kakkau village in the Chikun Local Government Area, of Kaduna State, killing 10 persons
It was gathered that the bandits in the early hours of Friday invaded Warkan village in Zangon Kataf LGA, killing nine persons and injuring others.
Saturday PUNCH further learnt that the bandits in large numbers stormed the village around 2am while the villagers were deep asleep.
The state Commissioner for Internal Security and Home Affairs, Samuel Aruwan, on Friday, confirmed the attack, saying that the governor, Malam Nasir El-Rufai, had condemned the latest killings.
Aruwan said, “The Governor of Kaduna State, Malam Nasir El-Rufai, has condemned killings and disappearances of citizens in Zangon Kataf, Igabi, Chikun and Jema’a local government areas of the state.
“The disappearance of five youths from Kafanchan town of Jema’a LGA was also reported today by the security agencies. The governor appealed to the affected families to remain calm as security agencies are investigating the incidents.”
Gunmen kidnap final-year student in Plateau, demand N5m ransom
Meanwhile, the President of the Students’ Union Government of the Federal College of Education, Pankshin, Plateau State, Mr Zuma Fwanshiwa, on Friday, confirmed the kidnapping of a student at the college by gunmen.
Saturday PUNCH gathered that the abducted student, identified as Mr Felix Gele, was in final year and operated a provision shop close to the institution.
The spokesman for the state police command, Ubah Ogaba, when contacted, promised to get back to our correspondent but he had yet to do so as of the time of filing this report.
NCS impounds diesel-laden vehicle in Katsina
Meanwhile, the Nigeria Customs Service says it has impounded an articulated vehicle loaded with diesel concealed in polythene bags meant for bandits in Katsina State.
The NCS Controller in charge of the Federal Operations Unit, Zone B, Kaduna, Albashir Hamisu, made the disclosure in Katsina on Friday, while handing over the vehicle to the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps for further investigation.
Hamisu said the vehicle was intercepted and subsequently impounded on Wednesday.
According to him, each polythene bag contained 35 litres of diesel, adding that the polythene bags were also concealed inside 200 sacks.
The controller stated that the vehicle was intercepted along Batsari-Jibia road, while heading towards a location around the Nigeria-Niger border.
He added, “The importance of this arrest is that banditry is being promoted by this kind of illicit activity. Every day, bandits are on motorcycles and they don’t come to the filling stations to buy fuel.
The NSCDC Commandant in Katsina, Mohammed Sanusi, in his response, promised an in-depth investigation.
Nigeria under security threat for over 12 years –Buhari
Meanwhile, the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd), says the country has been under massive security threats in the last 12 years.
Buhari, however, said his regime was more determined than ever to reverse the ugly trend, through the promotion of national security and development.
He identified threats challenging Nigeria as Boko Haram insurgency, banditry, militancy, kidnapping, and activities of separatists and armed militias, among others.
Buhari, who was represented by the Minister of Defence, Maj-Gen. Bashir Magashi (retd), on Friday, stated this at the Armed Forces Command and Staff College, Jaji near Kaduna State, during the graduation of Senior Course 43 of the college.
At least 226 officers of the Nigerian Armed Forces and those of eight other African countries were participants.
He lauded the response of the Armed Forces of Nigeria to the Boko Haram insurgency, banditry, militancy, kidnapping and others, adding that the Federal Government would continue to provide the required guidance and support to ensure that the desired end state was achieved.
The President said, “Bear in mind that most security challenges facing the world today are both asymmetric and trans-border in nature, involving mainly non-state actors in different sub-regions and regions. The West African sub-region and indeed our beloved continent of Africa are not immune to these threats.”