From Katsina To Niger To Zamfara: How Bandits Abducted Over 670 Students In Three Months

Government Science Secondary School, Kagara, in Niger State was attacked by gunmen on February 17, 2021.
Government Science Secondary School, Kagara, in Niger State was attacked by gunmen on February 17, 2021.

 

Securing the lives and properties of the people is a major responsibility of the Nigerian government, as mandated by the nation’s constitution.

But, for years, the rate of insecurity in the country has been on the rise, including insurgency and banditry in the North, and the activities of killer herdsmen across the South.

Other crimes such as armed robbery, cultism, kidnap for ransom, and internet fraud, among others, cannot be ignored.

The alarming rate of insecurity has sparked an outcry in the country, especially the increased activities of bandits who seemed to have turned schools into soft targets.

In less than 12 weeks, gunmen have attacked three secondary schools and made away with innocent children numbering over 670.

Three Years In Captivity

These attacks, which raised concerns from within and outside Nigeria, were preceded by similar incidents in Nigeria’s north-east region.

Perpetrated by the Boko Haram insurgents, a secondary school in Chibok, a town in Borno State, was attacked and 276 students were kidnapped in April 2014.

While the girls were released in batches and others escaped from captivity over the years, unconfirmed reports said an additional number of girls escaped in January 2021.

Relatives of Leah Sharibu react during her 2nd year in captivity remembrance in Abuja. PHOTO: Sodiq Adelakun
Relatives of Leah Sharibu react during her second year in captivity remembrance in Abuja. PHOTO: Sodiq Adelakun

 

Four years after the Chibok girls’ abduction, a group of insurgents invaded the Government Girls Secondary School, Dapchi in Yobe State, also in the North East.

The insurgents abducted over 110 girls from the school in February 2018 but later returned them to the community after holding them captive for four weeks.

However, one of the girls, Leah Sharibu, was left behind and has remained in the custody of the insurgents reportedly for refusing to renounce Christianity.

Leah, who is said to be the only Christian among the Dapchi girls, recently marked her third year in the custody of the insurgents since she was abducted alongside her colleagues on February 19, 2018.

Six Nights Of Horror

The first of the recent attacks occurred on December 11, 2020, when bandits invaded the Government Science Secondary School in Kankara, one of the 34 local government areas in Katsina State.

Sources said the incident took place in the night as the assailants forced their way into the school premises and marched hundreds of students to an unknown location.

Confirming the attack on the school, the state governor, Aminu Masari, noted that 17 of the students escaped while over 300 others were unaccounted for.

President Muhammadu Buhari gestures at a meeting with the Kankara students on December 18, 2020, following their release by their captors.

 

The students later went on to spend a week in the custody of their abductors before they were released and later kept safe in Tsafe, a local government area in Zamfara State.

“It’s been seven days since this happened, but by God’s grace, we’ve been able to retrieve the children from the bandits. All 344 of them,” Governor Masari said of the students’ return.

Narrating their ordeal, some of the students told Channels Television that their experience in captivity could best be described as “horrific”.

The incident occurred at a time when President Muhammadu Buhari travelled to Daura, his hometown in Katsina for a private visit.

During his stay in the state, he did not visit Kankara to sympathise with the parents of the students but he later met with the students after they regained freedom.

Katsina is located in the north-west region of the country, but the Boko Haram terrorist group which has been operating in the North East for more than a decade claimed responsibility for the abduction.

The Midnight Raid

While the dust of the abduction in Katsina had yet to settle down, pandemonium gripped Rafi Local Government Area of Niger, a state in the north-central region of Nigeria.

On February 17, armed men believed to be bandits stormed the Government Science College in Kagara town in what could be described as a repeat of the Kankara incident.

Sources told Channels Television that the assailants gained entry into the school premises at about 2 am and began to fire sporadic gunshots.

In the process, one of the students was said to have been killed with others sustaining varying degrees of gunshot wounds.

Government Science Secondary School, Kagara, in Niger State was attacked by gunmen on February 17, 2021.
Government Science Secondary School, Kagara, in Niger State was attacked by gunmen on February 17, 2021.

 

The assailants reportedly began the operation from the staff quarters and ended at the students’ hostels after which they left with an unconfirmed number of staff and students to an unknown destination.

However, one of the staff was able to escape from the hands of the bandits while the authorities in the state said efforts were ongoing to rescue the others.

There have been rumours that the abducted persons had been released and reunited with their families, but the authorities in Niger State distanced themselves from such reports.

“Our utmost priority right now is to make sure we bring them back home safe and that is exactly what we are going to do. So, there hasn’t been any information I can give you at this moment but once we have anything for you, we will let you know,” Governor Abubakar Bello told reporters at the Government House in Minna, two days after the abduction.

After spending 10 days in the custody of their abductors, the students were released by the bandits on February 27.

Another Chibok Experience?

Just as the Kagara incident continued to generate reactions, with calls to strengthen the nation’s security architecture, Nigerians woke up to the sad news of another bandit attack on a school, this time in Zamfara State in what could be described as a replica of the Chibok abduction of 2014.

Located in Talata Mafara Local Government Area of the state, the Government Girls Science Secondary School in Jangebe became the third victim on February 26 in the chain of bandit attacks on schools in the North within the last three months.

The Commissioner for Information in Zamfara, Suleiman Anka, told Channels Television that the school came under siege at midnight, although he did not give the figure of students abducted by the assailants.

A statement from the police authorities in the state later confirmed that 317 students were kidnapped in the process, while the command, in collaboration with the military, has launched a joint search and rescue operations with a view to rescuing the victims.

More than 300 students were kidnapped from Government Girls Secondary School in Jangebe, Zamfara State on February 26, 2021.
More than 300 students were kidnapped from Government Girls Secondary School in Jangebe, Zamfara State on February 26, 2021.

 

Meanwhile, a resident of Jangebe town told Channels Television that seven of the abducted students who escaped from the bandits returned home in the evening of February 26.

The girls said they maneuvered their way while trekking along the forest, adding that more students who also fled from the armed men should be expected to return.

The abduction of the schoolgirls came at a time when the authorities in Zamfara ordered the immediate closure of 10 boarding and day schools in a bid to prevent such an incident.

Those ordered to close were located on the Zamfara borders with Katsina, Kaduna, and Sokoto States where bandits have attacked dozens of communities in recent times, but the school in Jangebe was not among the affected schools.

Military Says It Is Proud Of Kankara Boys Rescue Operation

File photo: The Coordinator of Defence Media Operations, John Enenche.

 

The Nigerian military says the rescue of 344 Kankara schoolboys is the first time an operation of that magnitude will be carried out without any loss of lives.

The military described the rescue as a major achievement which will go down in history.

This position was stated by a military spokesman, Major-General John Enenche on Thursday in Abuja.

Enenche also stated that several bandits have been arrested and Boko Haram terrorists neutralised.

The spokesman further charged troops to remain determined, sustain the tempo of recent successes, and called on the public to continue to provide information that will help track down criminals.

Kankara Abduction: IGP Visits Katsina, Vows Such Incident Won’t Happen Again

 

The Inspector-General of Police (IGP) Mohammed Adamu on Wednesday visited the Katsina State Police Command to meet with officers of the Nigeria Police Force.

The IGP vowed that the abduction of the students from Government Science Secondary School Ƙankara will never happen again.

Upon his visit, the police boss met with the tactical units, the area commanders, the DPOs, and Commanders of Operation Puff Adder in order to make sure that Katsina is made a crime-free environment.

He said that with the recent abduction of scores of students from Government Science Secondary School Ƙankara, the Nigeria Police Force has resolved never to allow such incidence to repeat itself in the state.

IGP Mohammed Adamu

 

IGP Adamu, while describing the police as the lead agency in internal Security in the country revealed that internal security is the role of the police to maintain law and order adding that for that reason, the police will never give any opportunity for criminals to thrive.

“Recently we have seen an act of Banditry moving from the epicenter we used to know and were converging in Katsina state.

“We believe we must strategize with other stakeholders, citizens of the state, and cooperative partners like Miyetti Allah and other law enforcement agencies so that every nooks and cranny of the state are manned and not to allow any space for these criminals to operate whether in the morning, afternoon or night.”

The IGP’s statement comes after gunmen suspected to be bandits on December 11,  invaded the Government Science Secondary School in Kankara and kidnapped hundreds of schoolboys.

They were later released on December 16 which was confirmed by the State Governor, Aminu Masari.

 

 

Kankara Abduction: APC In League With Bandits, Terrorists, PDP Alleges

2019 Elections: PDP Assures Defectors, Others Of Fairness
PDP National Publicity Secretary, Mr Kola Ologbondiyan (file)

 

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has accused the All Progressives Congress (APC) of being a party in league with bandits and terrorists ravaging the country.

PDP in a statement issued on Friday by its National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, alleged that the ruling party has been acting as the mouthpiece of bandits, rationalizing killings and kidnapping, showing express sympathy to terrorists.

According to Ologbondiyan, the APC has refused to condemn acts of terrorism but attacks any person or groups that dare to criticize the activities of these bandits or demand the unconditional release of abductees.

“The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) says the revelations trailing the abduction and release of 600 students by bandits have further exposed the All Progressives Congress (APC) as a party in league with bandits, insurgents and terrorists ravaging our nation,” the statement partly read.

READ ALSO: Kano PDP Expels Kwankwaso As Faction Threatens Decisive Action

“The PDP says such revelations further explain why the APC has been acting as the mouthpiece of bandits, rationalizing killings and kidnapping, showing express sympathy to terrorists, refusing to condemn acts of terrorism but attacking any person or groups that dare to criticize the activities of these bandits or demand the unconditional release of abductees.”

SEE FULL STATEMENT HERE:

Press Statement

Insecurity: Kankara Students’ Abduction Still the Shame of APC, Buhari Presidency-PDP

…Says APC In ‘Blood Business’ With Bandits, Insurgents

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) says the revelations trailing the abduction and release of 600 students by bandits have further exposed the All Progressives Congress (APC) as a party in league with bandits, insurgents and terrorists ravaging our nation.

The PDP says such revelations further explain why the APC has been acting as the mouthpiece of bandits, rationalizing killings and kidnapping, showing express sympathy to terrorists, refusing to condemn acts of terrorism but attacking any person or groups that dare to criticize the activities of these bandits or demand the unconditional release of abductees.

Indeed, the Thursday’s statement by the Governor Mai Buni-led leadership of the APC, in which it showed support to bandits by condemning genuine protest by Nigerian women and youth in Abuja, has further betrayed the APC as a party that has vested interest in the proceeds of these reprehensible enterprises.

Moreover, the statement credited to the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, wherein he attempted to rationalize the abduction of the 600 students as a normal occurrence in other parts of the world, validates apprehensions of high-level conspiracy against helpless Nigerians.

The outburst by the Buhari Presidency, blaming the killed 43 farmers in Borno state instead of taking steps to apprehend their assailants also readily comes to mind.

The posers are; why is the APC always showing sympathy for and canvassing understanding for bandits, insurgents and terrorists?

Why is the APC not always forthcoming in condemning acts of terrorism and banditry but only issuing lame and patronizing press statements after being prodded and called-out by well-meaning Nigerians including the PDP?

Furthermore, why is the APC and its administration always attacking any person or groups who condemns acts of terrorism or make suggestions on how to vanquish the terrorists?

What is APC and its leaders gaining from the activities of bandits, terrorists, vandals and kidnappers, that they now act as if they are sureties for these assailants?

Why has APC refused to account for the political mercenaries it imported from Niger Republic and Chad to unleash violence during the 2019 elections as well as come clean on allegations that they are these crops of people are unleashing their anger on the nation following the failure of the APC to settle them?

This is particularly against the backdrop of reported declaration by President Muhammadu Buhari that the abductors and tormentors of our 600 traumatized and brutalized students were rather “settled”; a statement that does not only confirm that the Buhari Presidency cannot combat terrorists but also explains why banditry, kidnapping and acts of terrorism have become a thriving bloody business under the APC.

It is imperative to state that the APC’s sympathy for acts of terrorism had led to escalated attacks on our compatriots in the last five years.

It is also very worrisome that our government under the APC can no longer battle bandits and insurgent and now has to rely on nascent groups coordinated by APC leaders to negotiate and pay ransom to assailants.

Such devious designs have elevated acts of terrorism to a per-second affair in our nation under the encouragement of the APC.

The reported attack on the traditional ruler of Kaura Namoda in Zamfara state as well as the abduction of the traditional ruler of Ankpa in Kogi state, just after the settlement of the Katsina bandits, shows a disturbing trend.

The PDP calls on Nigerians to hold the APC responsible for the escalated act of banditry, kidnapping and terrorism ravaging our nation.

Perhaps, the time has come for Nigerians, whose loved ones have been kidnapped or killed by kidnappers or bandits, to approach the APC for redress.

Signed:

Kola Ologbondiyan

National Publicity Secretary

 

 

 

Kankara Boys: Buhari’s Spokesman, Garba Shehu, Apologises For Misinformation

A file photo of Presidential spokesman, Garba Shehu
A file photo of Presidential spokesman, Garba Shehu

 

Presidential spokesman, Garba Shehu, on Friday apologised for incorrectly stating that only ten boys had been kidnapped at the government science school in Kankara, Katsina state.

The boys, numbering in their hundreds, were kidnapped one week ago and were released on Thursday by their abductors.

Shehu had told the BBC that only ten of them had been kidnapped, even as state government sources put the figure at 333.

READ ALSO: Buhari’s Administration Will Do Everything To Prevent Repeat Of School Abductions – FG

“I apologize for the incorrect communication citing that only 10 students were kidnapped at the science school, Kankara,” Mr Shehu said on Friday via his verified Twitter page.

 

“This communication of numbers was provided by persons that should ideally know. These numbers were seen to conflict with what was available at that time.

“Please understand that this communication was in no way done to downplay the seriousness of the situation.

“Please accept my sincere apologies on this matter as we continue to move our great Nation Nigeria forward. Thank you.”

Kankara Boys: Buhari’s Govt Will Continue To Work Hard At Protecting Nigerians – Osinbajo

Some of the freed boys at the State House in Katsina.

 

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has reiterated the commitment of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration to protecting the lives and properties of Nigerians following the release of hundreds of schoolboys kidnapped by bandits. 

“We are grateful to everyone who worked on securing their release,” the former Commissioner of Justice and Attorney General of Lagos State tweeted on Friday.

“And as President Buhari mentioned, this administration will continue to work hard at protecting the lives and property of all Nigerians at all times.”

READ ALSO: I’m Impressed With Masari, Military But We Still Have A lot Of Work To Do – Buhari

Osinbajo was also thankful that the students had returned safely to be with their families, one week after they were abducted.

The schoolboys – numbering over three hundred- were kidnapped last Friday at the Government Science Secondary School, Kankara, in Katsina State, triggering wide condemnation.

READ ALSO: Gunmen Kidnap 19 People, Kill Clergyman In Niger State

President Buhari had in the wake of the development given a marching order to Nigeria’s security forces to go after the abductees, reiterating his commitment to the protection of lives and properties.

“I strongly condemn the cowardly bandits’ attack on innocent children at the Science School, Kankara,” the President said, as quoted in a statement released by spokesman Garba Shehu.

“Our prayers are with the families of the students, the school authorities and the injured.”

READ ALSO: Why Bandits Kidnapped Over 300 Schoolboys In Katsina – Ƙankara Resident

However, barely one week after their kidnap, the students were released and met with Governor Aminu Masari at the State House in Katsina.

During the meeting, Masari equally assured them that they will be properly taken care of before being handed to their parents, one week after they were abducted by bandits in the north-western state.

Kankara Schoolboys Leave Govt House, To Undergo Medical Examination

 

The abducted Kankara schoolboys have left the State House where they met with Governor Aminu Masari earlier today, and are now being taken to the hospital for medical treatment.

Governor Masari had assured them that they will be properly taken care of before being handed to their parents, one week after they were abducted by bandits in the north-western state.

‘We ate only once in two Days”, one of the boys told Channels Television. He also said he was not feeling well, adding that they really suffered while in the bush.

Another boy said they were made to defecate in the same place that they slept.

 

 

The students were released on Thursday, nearly a week after they were kidnapped by gunmen.

“It’s been 7 days since this happened, but by God’s grace we’ve been able to retrieve the children from the bandits. All 344 of them,” Governor Masari said.

“Immediately we leave here, we will take them to them to where they will have a bath and change thier clothes. And then reunite then with their parents.

“The hospital staff are waiting for you to check every boy to make sure nothing is wrong and if there’s anything there strong they will tell the hospital personnel”.

Shortly after their release was reported, President Muhammadu Buhari described the safe return of the schoolboys as a big relief to their families, the entire country and to the international community.

He commended what he called the spirit of partnership and the collaborative efforts of the governments of Katsina, Zamfara and military which led to the release of the students.

“I am very impressed with him, he has been up and doing since it happened,” the President stated in an interview with the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) on Friday.

When asked when other Nigerians who are in captivity will be released, he said his administration is trying his best to secure their release.

Buhari To Meet Released Kankara Students Today

File photo of President Muhammadu Buhari

 

President Muhammadu Buhari will on Friday (today) meet with the released students of Government Science Secondary School, Kankara, in Katsina State. 

“President Buhari will receive the rescued students of the Government Science Secondary School (GSSS), Kankara later this afternoon in Katsina,”  the Personal Assistant on New Media to the Nigerian leader, Bashir Ahmad tweeted. 

READ ALSO: I’m Impressed With Masari, Military But We Still Have A lot Of Work To Do – Buhari

Buhari, 78, is in his Daura, Katsina hometown on a private visit. His meeting with the students is coming less than a day after they were released by bandits who kidnapped them in their hostels last week Friday.

Read Also: Hundreds Of Schoolboys Abducted In Katsina Released

The Nigerian leader earlier expressed joy at the release of the students, praising Governor Aminu Masari of Katsina State for his role in the freedom of the schoolchildren.

Following their release, Thursday, they had met with Masari at the State House on Friday.

“I am very impressed with him, he has been up and doing since it happened,” the President stated in an interview with the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) on Friday.

“I congratulate the governor that the schoolboys have been successfully released. I congratulated the governor and the army for organising the operation and sacrament of the abductors in getting the release of the children.”

Buhari added, “As as soon as they got them the governor called me and informed and I congratulated him and the army for organizing such operation. The military is well trained, I think they are motivated.”

There, Governor Masari assured them that they would be well-taken care of and would undergo medical tests before they are reunited with their parents.