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 said 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 one of our correspondents 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.”
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.