Armed kidnappings for ransom along highways, and from homes and businesses now make almost daily newspaper headlines in Africa’s most populous country.
But mass school abductions have soared this year, with almost 1,000 students kidnapped, according to UNICEF. Most are released after negotiations but many are still being held in forest hideouts like the Bethel pupils.
The list of missing from Bethel makes heartbreaking reading: 121 names, the oldest 19, the youngest just 10. Most are under 15.
“I am a mother and I would not like anybody to take my child away from me for one day. Imagine the trauma,” Hassana Ayuba, whose daughter Judith was taken, told AFP.
“The children are harmless, the children did not offend anybody.”
The attack has devastated the tightly-knit, religiously faithful community. At the school, parents hold daily hours-long prayers and vigils and call for President Muhammadu Buhari to help free the children.
Violence broke out in Badarawa area of Kaduna metropolis on Wednesday when some hoodlums armed with dangerous weapons arrived at Karaye road, close to the popular Kasuwar Sati market and attempted to disrupt the sallah celebration organised by youths of the community.
The incident happened at about 5:00 pm and barely a day after residents of the state had enjoyed a hitch free Eid-el-Kabir celebration.
The hoodlums were reported to have shot severally in the air to scare the residents before the arrival of the JTF members who attempted to disperse the hoodlums.
This, however, resulted in a clash between the two groups before the arrival of Security operatives who succeeded in averting what would have been a bloody incident.
The Governor of Kaduna State, Nasir El-Rufai, has lamented the spate of insecurity in the state.
According to him the level of insecurity has brought about major suffering for residents, which he regrets.
“As Governor of the state, it is a matter of profound regret for me that our considerable investments in security are yet to manifest in the defeat or the considerable degradation of the criminals,” the governor said.
He made the comments on Tuesday in the state, during the presentation of the Kaduna State Security Incidents Report for the Second Quarter of 2021.
According to report, there have been a total of 222 deaths, resulting from violent attacks, communal clashes and reprisals in the past year.
A total of 774 persons have also been kidnapped.
“The data on security incidents in the state during the second quarter of 2021 reflects the real agony of our citizens and communities, their pains and losses, and the fears and anxiety that have created considerable distress,” Governor El-Rufai said.
Speaking further, he called on the Federal Government to launch simultaneous operations across all the seven states of the northwest and Niger State as part of measures to contain the activities of bandits who have made life unbearable for the residents of the zone.
He also noted that the state government is already considering an unconventional approach to tackle the security problem bedeviling the state, since there are no much booths on the ground to be deployed to most of the ungoverned spaces that have become vulnerable to attacks.
With banditry and abductions now becoming the order of the day, President Muhammadu Buhari has yet again, reiterated his administration’s resolve to tackling all forms of insecurity in the country, vowing to deploy all resources to making the West African nation safe from threats.
The Nigerian leader spoke on Tuesday when he hosted members of the National Assembly to a dinner at the State House Conference Centre in Abuja.
‘‘In the circumstances, we must do everything within our power, without consideration of distractions, to put an end to their activities and bring them to book,” Buhari told the lawmakers while admitting that many people take to crime due to diverse reasons including promotion of some “discredited” ideologies.
‘‘We cannot allow ourselves to be distracted from this objective, or waver in our commitment, and I am confident that together we will triumph in our present efforts.’’
The immediate past Deputy Governor of Kaduna State, Mr Bala Bantex, is dead.
He died on Sunday at the age of 64 after battling with an undisclosed illness.
Until his death, the late Bantex served as Deputy to Governor Nasir El-Rufai between 2015 to 2019, before he resigned and contested for Kaduna South Senatorial seat on the platform of the All Progressive Congress in Kaduna South Senatorial District in the 2019 election.
He lost the election to the incumbent Senator, Danjumah Laah of the Peoples Democratic Party.
Meanwhile, Governor Nasir El-Rufai has expressed sadness over the death of his former Deputy, saying that he lost a dear friend and partner in the service of Kaduna State.
In a statement, Governor El-Rufai said the people of the state will miss the brilliance and commitment of the late Bantex to the state, his easygoing manners, his sense of humour and steadfastness to his convictions.
The Governor said: “from our days as undergraduates in the 1970s to our practice as professional colleagues in the construction industry and eventually partners in a governance project, Bantex was consistently a dependable man of brilliance and imagination”.
He believed in the potential of our state and in the capacity of our people to work together for progressive attainments.
Together, we took on the task of providing new leadership for Kaduna State in 2015. He brought to his duties as Deputy Governor during our first term his unique insights as a politician with experience in navigating the diversity of our state. Bantex radiated hope and optimism in the future of our state, even when the circumstances were dreary.
Bantex had served the people of Kaduna State in several capacities prior to becoming Deputy Governor.
As a delegate to the 1994 Constitutional Conference, chairman of Kaura Local Government Council and member for Kaura Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives, he was a sterling symbol of representative democracy.
I have spoken to his family and conveyed our condolence on behalf of the government and people of Kaduna State.
We shall work closely with his family to grant a befitting farewell to a man who gave so much to this even when hobbled by ill-health.
“We have been blessed to know Bantex and to work with him. We pray God to grant him peaceful repose and to comfort his wife, children and the entire family in this moment of grief and loss”.
He said that a combined team comprising members of the Police Mobile Force, Operatives of Operation Puff Adder and Anti-kidnapping squad of the Kaduna State Police Command have launched a manhunt for the kidnappers, with a view to rescuing the victims and arresting the criminals.
The abduction is the latest in the LGA, which is 30 kilometres away from the state capital, and has become notorious for kidnappings.
The students were abducted from their hostels by bandits who attacked the school on Monday.
At the prayer meeting, the President of the Nigerian Baptist Convention, Reverend Israel Akanji led the prayers and asked the government and security agencies to step up an effort to protect the lives and property of the citizens from bandits.
Reverend Akanji disclosed that he has contacted Governor Nasir El-Rufai, who has assured him of ongoing effort to rescue the students.
Despite the assurance, the cleric insists that the government’s effort is not good enough, saying that it must do more to protect the lives of citizens against bandits and other criminal elements.
He also added that 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.
“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,” Reverend Akanji said.
Students of the Bethel Baptist High School, Kaduna were the latest victims of kidnapping in the Northwestern state.
It’s been four days now since the 121 students of the school were taken away by bandits to an unknown destination.
Two security operatives were killed while trying to repel the bandits.
An estimated 950 students have been abducted by armed bandits in the Northern region, with many of such incidents occurring in the northwest zone.
While the Police authorities are yet to confirm the incident, locals said the bandits came through a village called ‘Nasarawan Buhari’ and later went away with the four victims through another village called ‘Biye’.
The woman’s husband, who is a lecturer at the Federal University Dutsima in Katsina State was not around when the incident occurred, but a resident of the community told Channels Television that some members of a local vigilante were able to repel the bandits from taking away more people.
At least nine people have been killed at Warkan village in Zangon Kataf local government area of Kaduna State following an attack on the community by bandits on Friday.
The State Commissioner for Internal Security and Home affairs, Samuel Aruwan, who confirmed the incident in a statement, said one person was also killed in a similar attack at Kakkau area of Chikun local government area.
Security agencies equally reported that some other persons lost their lives after another set of bandits attacked Kibori, Katsit and Afana all in Zangon Kataf local government area, and Amana Kasuwa of Igabi local government within the week.
Aruwan also disclosed that five youths from Kafanchan town of Jema’a local government area are missing with their whereabouts unknown.
Meanwhile, Governor Nasir El-Rufai has condemned the latest killings and disappearances of citizens.
He condoled with families who have lost their loved ones and wished those who sustained injuries speedy recovery.
Governor El-rufai has also directed the Kaduna State Emergency Management Agency to urgently assess damages at Warkan village and provide relief materials to the affected residents, while also appealing to the affected families to remain calm, saying security agencies are investigating the incidents.
The management of the Bethel Baptist School in Kaduna State has confirmed that a total of 125 students were taken away by the bandits who attacked the school on Monday.
The Proprietor of the school, who is also the President of Kaduna Baptist Conference, Reverend Ishaya Jangado, made the confirmation in a statement on Tuesday after a meeting with parents of the abducted students to discuss ways to rescue the students.
Jangado said that the total number of students in the school hostel was 154, out of which 28 were recovered, while 125 of them are still in the custody of the bandits.
The proprietor also disclosed that the bandits have established contact with the school management and has also assured them that all the students are doing fine in their custody.
Police authorities in Kaduna State say 27 of the victims kidnapped from Bethel Baptist School in Maraban Rido, a community in Chikun Local Government Area of the state, have been rescued.
Spokesman of the Police in the state Muhammed Jalige said the victims, 26 students and a female teacher, were rescued after a joint team of the Nigeria Police, Army and Navy operatives, chased after the bandits after being informed of the attack.
Armed bandits had stormed the school in the early hours of Monday, overcoming the school’s security guards and abducting an unspecified number of students.
Some witnesses said at least 100 students were kidnapped by the bandits but the police and school authorities have yet to give an official figure.
The police spokesman, who put the time of the attack at 1:43 am, said efforts were being made to ensure the rescue of all the victims and their safe return.
He said, “Rescue operation is still ongoing to ensure that all victims are safely returned. 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 availed to them without delay.”
The command’s spokesman encouraged parents not to be deterred by the activities of bandits in the state, which has seen schools and learning institutions targeted.
This, he said, is because strategic measures will be put in place to forestall further occurrence of such dastardly acts of criminality against innocent children.
“The (Police) Command is saddened by the incident and calls on all stakeholders in security to unite, particularly at this very critical time, to safeguard schools in order to guarantee a safe and secured learning environment and other meaningful businesses,” he added.
Two persons are said to have lost their lives after bandits invaded Bethel Baptist School, a private college in Kaduna State, kidnapping an unspecified number of students.
The kidnappers in the early hours of Monday attacked the private school located at Maraban Rido within the Chikun Local Government Area of the state.
Sources say the marauders came in gun blazing, shooting sporadically into the air before whisking the students away.
Four of the students are said to have escaped while the rest were taken away by the gunmen to an unknown destination.
This latest kidnap incident comes barely one day after gunmen suspected to be kidnappers attacked the National Tuberculosis and Leprosy Centre in Zaria, Kaduna state, abducting no fewer than seven people including nursing mothers.
The incident was said to have happened in the early hours of Sunday when the bandits invaded the centre and started shooting sporadically.
Among those kidnapped were seven staff of the centre (two male and five female) and two others who are non-staff.
The gunmen also attacked the Saye Divisional Police Headquarters also in Zaria and damaged a patrol vehicle with bullets.
Although the police authorities are yet to confirm the incident, sources from the area told Channels Television that the gunmen in large numbers had invaded Saye village, blocked the bridge leading to the Leprosy centre, while some others attacked the Saye Divisional police Headquarters, in an attempt to prevent the operatives from foiling the operation.
A plethora of kidnappings
Criminal groups, known as “bandits” by the authorities, have for quite some time been terrorizing parts of the northwest and centre of the nation, attacking villages, stealing cattle, and kidnapping people for ransom.
Zamfara, Katsina, Niger, and Kaduna have been the most attacked by the bandits, with the situation in the latter state deteriorating at an exponential rate.
Most disheartening about the attack in Kaduna is the fact that most of the kidnappings are focused on citadels of learning, leading to the mass abductions of students for ransom.
A prior warning
Four days ago, Governor Nasir El-Rufai told newsmen that he has withdrawn his children from a public school in Kaduna after getting wind of a plot to kidnap his son.
The governor had in September 2019, enrolled his six-year-old son, Abubakar-Sadiq into Kaduna Capital School, a public school located in the Kaduna State capital, in order to show leadership to revamp public education in the state and make it more competitive.
But in an interview with the BBC, El-Rufai noted that available security reports revealed that three bandit groups were planning to abduct his son from the school, a situation which he also notes will expose other children to grave danger.
The Governor also disclosed that he had enrolled Sadiq’s younger sister, Nasrine in the same school after turning six years, before the security development, thereby forcing the family to withdraw the two children from the public school temporarily.
“My son is registered in the school because his sister also became six years of age and we registered her in the school but we’ve had to temporarily withdraw them for the security of the school because we got intercept from at least two groups that are planning to attack the school to kidnap my son,” he said.
“I don’t think they will succeed because there will be enough security there to prevent it but other children may be placed in danger. We have no idea what weapons they will come with.”
He however said that his two children are currently homeschooling, and are only going to Capital School to write exams, with the hope of returning to Kaduna Capital School when security improves.
The governor further explained that his family took the decision to withdraw his son and daughter based on the advice of security agents, and in order not to put the school at risk of being attacked by bandits.
Ransom For Bandits?
As Kaduna State and other parts of the north-western region continue to experience the scourge of banditry, El-Rufai has been one of those few governors that have repeatedly kicked against the payment of ransom to kidnappers.
He also reiterated his administration’s stance, explaining that three groups intercepted had vowed to abduct his children to see if he would make a U-turn on the payment of ransom.
The Kaduna Governor has insisted that the state government has no money to pay bandits amid the renewed attacks by armed groups in the state.
He stated that the recent bandits’ attacks on communities in the state were a result of the government’s decision that it would not negotiate with them.
“We have a feeling that the renewed attacks in Kaduna are not unconnected to the position that we have taken as a government that we will not negotiate with criminals,” said the governor who was a guest on Channels Television’s Sunday Politics.
He added, “We will not give them any money and they will not make any profit from Kaduna; anyone that comes to Kaduna will not get a penny from the state government, except he will get a bullet instead.”
According to Governor El-Rufai, the security challenges being witnessed in the northwest region of the country have been existing for some years and gradually evolving and getting worse with time.
He was confident that while the state government does not have any reason to change his position, the military would wipe out the bandits from the region.