*We rescued 200—Police
*Over 406 found – Commissioner
*Masari closes all schools
*Buhari orders army, police to go after attackers
*Atiku faults security agencies’ style
By Bashir Bello
There was confusion, yesterday, over the actual number of students kidnapped at Government Science Secondary School, Kankara in Kankara Local Government Area of Katsina State after gunmen attacked the school on Friday night.
The gunmen were said to have stormed the school at 11:30 pm, shooting sporadically after which about 884 students were thrown into disarray.
Katsina State Police Command acknowledged the incident, saying it had rescued over 200 of the victims.
Sunday Vanguard reliably learned that the gunmen had earlier invaded Kankara main town, shooting sporadically but were repelled by security operatives of Operation Sahel Sanity and Operation Sharan Daji.
Subsequently the attackers stormed the all-boys school located on the outskirts of the town while leaving.
In a statement confirming the attack, Public Relations Officer, PRO, of the state Police Command, Gamboh Isah, said the police, Nigerian Army, and Nigerian Air Force were working closely with the school authorities to ascertain the actual number of those missing.
The statement read: “Yesterday (Friday), 11/12/2020, at about 21:40hrs, bandits in their numbers, shooting sporadically with AK 47 rifles, attacked Government Science Secondary School, Kankara. The policemen on duty responded to the attack and engaged them in a gun duel which gave the students the opportunity to scale the fence of the school and ran for safety.
“The DPO reinforced the policemen on duty with Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC) which forced the hoodlums to retreat into the forest.
“One Inspector sustained a gunshot wound and was taken to hospital and is responding to treatment.
“In the course of the investigation, the DPO rescued over 200 students. The police, Nigerian Army, and Nigerian Air Force are working closely with the school authorities to ascertain the actual number of the missing and kidnapped students while search parties are assiduously working with a view to find or rescue the missing students. It will be too early to say at this particular moment the actual number of students that have been kidnapped or missing.”
In another account, a source told Sunday Vanguard that the school, which is located close to the residence of the District Head of the town, has a population of more than 800 students.
The source added that a headcount was being done to ascertain the total number of missing students.
“The bandits stormed Kankara town around 10:06 pm shooting sporadically. They came to the town and even close to the residence of the District Head”, the eye witness said.
“DPO alerted Operation Sharan Daji and Operation Sahel Sanity who repelled the attack. On their way out, they attacked the Government Science Secondary School, which is located on the outskirts on the way to Yan Tsabau, shot the security guard and entered the school.
“Currently, we are conducting headcount and out of over 800 students in the school, less than 200 were found while scores were kidnapped and others fled into the bush for safety.”
Meanwhile, the state Commissioner for Education, Associate Professor Badamasi Charanchi, said about 406 students were found after the attack on the school.
He spoke while addressing residents, parents and guardians on the school premises in a short video that went viral on social media.
While being questioned by the Commissioner, some students who found their way back said they passed the night inside the bush.
Charanchi said: “The children have continued to return and, according to report available, the number of missing children who have returned are now 406 including the earlier ones found.
“We have interacted with many of the children who said some passed the night in the bush.
“Parents, upon identification of their children, we will hand over their children to them to return home.”
Rattled by the incident, Governor Aminu Masari ordered the closure of all schools in the state until further notice.
Masari, who gave the order when he visited the attacked school alongside his deputy, Alhaji Manir Yakubu, met with school officials, religious leaders, parents and traditional rulers in the area.
While urging restraint, he promised that government would ensure that all abducted students were released.
He added that the army, air force and police were on the trail of the kidnappers to rescue the students.
In a related development, Special Adviser on Security to the Governor, Ibrahim Katsina, urged residents to see the security challenges as a collective problem.
He said: “While government at different levels are doing everything humanly possible to ensure the safety of lives and property, it is very important to understand that due to the complexity of the problem, we can only succeed in solving the problem through collective efforts and sincere partnership as commendably demonstrated by the people of Kankara yesterday night.
“Bandits operate by using information mostly sourced from the bad eggs living in our communities. These bad eggs monitor security plans and choose soft targets for the bandits thereby making it cumbersome for government to detect and preempt such attacks. It is only through collaboration between officials and local intelligence apparatuses that we could curtail incidences like this.”
Go after attackers, rescue all students, Buhari tells army
President Muhammadu Buhari, who arrived in Daura, Katsina State, on Friday, to begin a one-week visit to his home state, has ordered the army and the police to go after the attackers.
He also urged the school authorities to carry out an audit of the population of students.
The President, in a statement issued by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, told parents, who rushed to the school and removed their children, to notify the school and police authorities in order to have a full account of the number of students.
“I strongly condemn the cowardly bandits’ attack on innocent children at the Science School, Kankara. Our prayers are with the families of the students, the school authorities and the injured,” Buhari said.
He pledged to continue to support the police and military struggle against terrorists and bandits.
“In the latest briefing received by the President from Governor Aminu Bello Masari, with whom he has been in touch, and the Army Chief of Staff, General Tukur Buratai, the military, supported by airpower has located the bandits’ enclave at Zango/Paula forest in Kankara and there has been exchange of fire in an ongoing operation. Police said so far, there has not been reported any student casualty. The President has directed the reinforcement of security of all schools in line with the safe schools policy of the administration,” the statement added.
Account for abducted students – PDP
On its part, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, called on President Buhari to go all out to secure the freedom of the abducted students.
The party stated this yesterday at a news conference addressed by its National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan.
“The publicity secretary urges the first citizen as the commander-in-chief, who promised to lead from the front, to account for the abducted students, as the large-scale abduction happened a few hours after the President and his security machinery took over the state,” the statement said.
“Our party holds as perplexing that at a time the people of Katsina should have heaved a sigh of relief because of his presence, the abduction happened right under Mr. President’s nose, in his home state, where he had gone holidaying. “
Atiku faults security agencies’style
Former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, condemned what he called the reactionary style of the nation’s armed forces in their quest to address the security challenges in the country. Atiku spoke in a release he personally signed while reacting to the school invasion. “While I urge our nation’s law enforcement agencies to immediately swing to action and rescue the missing students, I am nevertheless conscious of the fact that we cannot continue to be reactionary in our response to the growing insecurity in Nigeria. Something has to give”, he said
“I sympathise with the parents of the abducted children and the government and people of Katsina, my adopted home state and home of my late benefactor, Tafida Shehu Musa Yar’adua. I pray for their safe return”.
“I therefore call on the federal government to immediately declare a state of emergency in states bedevilled by banditry and terrorism, for an offensive and decisive war on terror and insecurity.
“For the avoidance of doubt, the emergency I call for should follow the steps prescribed by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended), and case law, by leaving all democratically elected state and local government structures intact.”