By AbdulGafar Alabelewe, Kaduna
Armed bandits were again on the rampage yesterday. They invaded Bethel Baptist High School in Maraban Rido, Chikun Local Government Area of Kaduna State and abducted 140 pupils.
The school management confirmed the figure after the dawn invasion.
Angry parents blocked the Kaduna-Kachia Highway to protest the abduction of their children.
The protesting parents, who said they had enough of kidnapping by bandits in their homes, farms and schools, called on the Federal Government to declare a state of emergency in Kaduna State.
It was learnt that the bandits broke into the mixed boarding school around 2am. They fired several gunshots to pave the way for the abduction unchallenged
A similar attempt made on Faith Academy, another mission boarding secondary school owned by Living Faith Church, about 500 metres from Bethel Baptist High School, was repelled by soldiers.
A team of security operatives from the Army, Police and Navy prevented 26 pupils from being abducted. They were handed over to the school authority and reunited with their parents.
It was gathered that the invaders gained access into the school through a hole they created on the wall fence and headed straight for the male hostel and later to the female dormitory.
The traumatised parents, who besieged the school as early as 5am, later blocked the Kaduna-Kachia Highway.
A parent wielding leaves chanted Enough is enough. She said the state government had failed in providing security for its citizens.
The parent, who identified herself as Caroline Emmanuel, said: I have only one child here and my only surviving child and the government is not doing anything about it.
The students they were claiming to have rescued, came back on their own. The security did not rescue anybody.
One thing should be noted – bandits have been killing us; they just entered Nissi community two weeks ago; they came to my house; I am telling you what I know. They kidnapped people at Nissi. Bandits have been kidnapping people and killing them anyhow. We cant even go to the farm, we cant do anything again.
Now, they are coming to schools again. Enough is enough. Kaduna State should be declared a state of emergency if El-Rufai cannot do anything. He has failed.
Another parent, Esther Joseph, faulted what she described as failure of the school management to relocate the school to a safer location in the face of abductions in schools and communities on the outskirts of the Kaduna metropolis.
I was calling the teachers. Nobody picked my call.
Why did they not relocate the school? A school that is located where bandits are kidnapping people; they should close the schools, she said.
But, it was a moment of thanksgiving for Mr. Amos Amtu, whose son narrowly escaped the abduction.
The Kaduna State Police Command said 26 of the victims were rescued by the security operatives.
A statement by its spokesman, Muhammed Jalige, an Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP), said: In the early hours of today (Monday, 5th July, 2021) at about 0143hrs, the Command received a report that armed bandits in large number had gained access into the secondary school and fired gunshots, overpowered the schools security guards and made their way into the hostel where they abducted an unspecified number of students into the forest.
Jalige said on hearing about 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.
He said: The operatives gave the bandits a hot pursuit occasioned by a tactical application of weapons and succeeded in rescuing twenty six (26) students including a female teacher safely.
However, the 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 them without delay.
The Command is therefore encouraging parents not to be deterred by the recent bandits activities in the state targeting schools and learning institutions as strategic measures will be emplaced to forestall further occurrence of such dastardly act of criminality against innocent children.
The Command is saddened by the incident and call on all stakeholders on 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.
There was a report that the bandits also attempted to raid the Faith Academy. They were however repelled by soldiers.
A source close to the school said: The bandits actually entered the school, but luckily, only the SS3 pupils writing exam were in the school.
The bandits went to the boys hostel first, but the boys were smart enough to go into hiding.
Soldiers moved in and called for reinforcement and repelled the bandits, the source added.
A parent of a Faith Academy pupil, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, confirmed the foiled attack on the school.
The parent said: Thank God that the children are on break and we evacuated them on Saturday, except for the SS3 students who are still in school. With the present happenings now, the need to relocate schools in areas prone to insecurity is now imperative.
Governor El-Rufai described the latest kidnapping as unfortunate and an untold evil to humanity and the cause of education.
Kaduna State Commissioner for Internal Security and Home Affairs, Samuel Aruwan, said: According to reports received from security agencies, 28 students were accounted for while an unspecified number were abducted by the bandits.
Security agencies have assured the Kaduna State government of vigorous search and rescue efforts to locate and secure the unspecified number of abducted students.
The governor is following the development and receiving hourly situation reports, Aruwan said.
By AbdulGafar Alabelewe, Kaduna