March 9, 2024

My daughter was ill, now she’s with bandits — Distraught mother of abducted pupil

Bandits in Zamfara

•7 children taken from my household alone —Another mother

•President Tinubu orders rescue of captives

•UNICEF, Northern Elders Forum, others condemn kidnap

By Ibrahim Hassan-Wuyo

“My daughter was ill, she managed to eat her breakfast and went to school, now she’s in the bush with bandits.”

Those were the words of a wailing mother of one of the abducted 287 primary school pupils and secondary school students with their teachers at Kuriga community in Chikun Local Government Area of Kaduna state. Another distraught woman in the community lamented that, “the primary school was the only thing we can boast of having from the authorities.

Now it has become a sad story, children can no longer go to school, our husbands could not sleep at night, they were patrolling the community. Now, they were overpowered by the bandits who took away our children”.

Meanwhile, President Bola Tinubu who condemned the abduction in a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Chief Ajuri Ngelale has directed the security and intelligence agencies to immediately rescue the victims and ensure that justice was served against the kidnappers.

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the Northern Elders Forum have also condemned

the abduction as they expressed deep concern over the escalating security crisis in the North.

Last Thursday, 287 students and pupils were kidnapped with some of their teachers in Kuriga by bandits who attacked their school. Kuriga is in the troubled Birnin Gwari axis where terrorists frequently attack vulnerable communities and roads.

A teacher in the Primary School who was among those abducted but escaped narrated how the bandits numbering hundreds armed with sophisticated weapons stormed the school while they were on the assembly ground and marched them into the forests.

He said the teachers and the students were moved on foot into the forest and it was a miracle that he and 25 other students managed to escape and returned to Kuriga. According to him,one of the pupils was shot but he survived after receiving treatment at the neighboring hospital in Birnin Gwari. A member of the village vigilante group was however not lucky as the bandits shot and killed him while he was on their trail.

Another teacher was said to have volunteered to be abducted with the children. He was heard saying the children relied on him for protection and therefore, his soul would not be at peace if he left the children with their captors.

When Governor Uba Sani visited the community to assure them of government readiness to rescue all the children, a wailing woman was heard saying, seven children were taken away from her household alone and asked “where is the president, where is our governor, don’t let them take away our children, please bring back our children”.

Victims will be rescued —Tinubu assures

In his reaction, President Tinubu said, “I have received briefing from security chiefs on the incident, and I am confident that the victims will be rescued. Nothing else is acceptable to me and the waiting family members of these abducted citizens. Justice will be decisively administered”. The President then sympathised with the families of the victims, assuring them that they will soon be reunited with their loved ones.

The abduction highly condemnable —UNICEF

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) also condemned the attack. In a statement on Friday, Christian Munduate, UNICEF representative in Nigeria, said schools are learning sanctuaries and should not be places of fear and violence. Her words: “I am deeply saddened and concerned by the reports of yet another abduction of students in Kaduna state. The alarming frequency of such incidents across the country signals a crisis that requires immediate and determined action from all levels of government and society. Schools are supposed to be sanctuaries of learning and growth, not sites of fear and violence.

“This latest abduction, as any previously, is highly condemnable and part of a worrying trend of attacks on educational institutions in Nigeria, particularly in the north-west, where armed groups have intensified their campaign of violence and kidnappings. Just a day prior to this incident, the UN resident coordinator spoke about the abductions of large numbers of women, girls and boys by members of a non-state armed group in Borno state.

“UNICEF urges immediate action to ensure the safe return of the abducted children and staff and calls on authorities to implement comprehensive measures to secure schools across Nigeria. It is imperative that the safety and security of students and educators are guaranteed, allowing schools to fulfill their role as safe havens for learning and development.

“Our hearts go out to the families of the abducted students and staff, and we stand with them in this harrowing time. The right to education is fundamental and must be protected against any form of violence or intimidation. The children of Nigeria deserve to learn in peace.”

She noted that UNICEF was working with local officials to provide assistance to affected parents.

According to her, “UNICEF is coordinating with local officials and providing assistance to the affected parents and families through psychological support services. The UN children’s agency is dedicated to collaborating with government entities, local communities, and various partners to tackle the fundamental issues leading to violence against children and to safeguard educational environments from threats and violence. Every child deserves to grow up in an environment of peace, away from the looming shadows of threats and insecurity. Unfortunately, we are currently facing a significant deterioration in community safety, with children disproportionately suffering the consequences of this decline in security.” She called on the government to take necessary action to ensure the students are rescued and the safety of every child in schools is assured.

Abduction poses serious threat to education in the region —Northern Elders

The Northern Elders Forum (NEF), in a statement signed by Abdul-Azeez Suleiman, Director of Publicity and Advocacy condemned the heinous act and expressed deep concern over the escalating wave of school abductions in the region. “This incident, where over 200 students and teachers were kidnapped from LEA Primary school, further underscores the fragile state of security in the nation,” the statement read.

The NEF lamented that “the abduction of schoolchildren has now become a common occurrence in Northern Nigeria, posing a serious threat to education in the region. This reprehensible act not only violates the fundamental rights of these innocent children to education but also instills fear and anxiety among parents and educators.

“The recent wave of school abductions, where innocent children are being taken from their schools, is particularly distressing. These incidents not only traumatize the victims and their families but also undermine the educational system and the future of the nation,” the forum said

The Forum emphasized the need for a collaborative effort between the government, security agencies, and local communities to ensure the safety and security of all Nigerians.

“It is clear that the current security situation is a matter of grave concern, and it is imperative that all stakeholders work together to find lasting solutions to these challenges,” NEF said.

The NEF also highlighted the broader implications of such acts of violence on the fabric of Nigerian society. It said, “The continuous occurrence of kidnappings, killings, armed robberies, and violent attacks, not just in the rural areas but even in the federal capital, is a stark reminder of the pervasive insecurity that plagues the nation. It is a tragic reality that Nigerians are living under constant fear of being targeted by criminal elements. The abduction of 200 students in Kuriga village is particularly distressing, considering that it is the same community where a school principal was killed and his wife kidnapped just over a month ago. Such brazen acts of violence demonstrate the brazen disregard for human life and the rule of law by the perpetrators of these crimes. This state of lawlessness is unacceptable and called for urgent action to restore security and peace in the affected areas.

“This condemnation should serve as a clarion call for the government and security agencies to take proactive measures to protect schools, communities, and vulnerable populations in the North. It is imperative that all necessary resources and strategies are deployed to ensure the safe return of the abducted students and teachers and to prevent such incidents from recurring in the future.

‘Government must see this as a strong stance reflecting the collective outrage and concern of Nigerians over the deteriorating security situation in the country. The government must prioritize the safety and well-being of its citizens and take decisive action to combat insecurity and safeguard the future of the next generation. Education is a fundamental right that must be protected at all costs, and any threat to it must be met with unwavering resolve and determination.

“May the abducted students and teachers be safely reunited with their families, and may justice be served on those responsible for this heinous crime,” they said.