From Sola Ojo, Kaduna
Barely 48 hours after Kaduna State Governor, Nasir El-Rufai, insisted his administration would not negotiate with criminals terrorising some local government areas (LGAs) of the state, bandits on Thursday night abducted 30 students of the Federal College of Forestry Mechanization, Kaduna.
Only recently, President Muhammadu Buhari had boasted that the abduction of 279 students in Jangebe, Zamfara State would be the last. Governor El-Rufai also reiterated his earlier position of “no negotiation with bandits” based on shocking security reports that 937 persons were killed by bandits while 1,972 others were kidnapped in Kaduna State alone in the year 2020.
Federal College of Forestry Mechanization, Kaduna, located in Afaka area of Igabi LGA of Kaduna State, is a stone throw from the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) quarters where about 13 persons were kidnapped a few days earlier after hours of illegal operations.
Locals had expressed concern over the porous state of the school at such a time when students were returning to their hostels in preparation for their examination scheduled to commence next week.
Igabi is one of the four LGAs in Kaduna town. It is surrounded by two other councils being ravaged by bandits – Chikun and Birni Gwari.
A source who spoke to SATURDAY SUN in confidence said, the bandits forced their way into the school around 11 pm Thursday and operated for about two hours before soldiers engaged them in gun duel which restricted the number of kidnapped persons.
It was gathered that the soldiers foiled attempts by the bandits to abduct 42 female students, eight staff and 130 male students. But 30 of the students were taken away.
The attackers, allegedly armed with sophisticated weapons, had their way through the school fence and attacked the male hostel before proceeding to the female hostel.
Provost of the College, Dr Usman Mohammed Bello who declined detailing what transpired to the press simply said: “We are compiling details and names of those in the hostel and those that escaped before we can be able to ascertain the numbers missing students.”
A mother, Mrs Angelina Babale, whose child was among those kidnapped, told the visiting journalists that she was praying when she heard sporadic gunshots in the school that night.
“I was praying at night and about 11: 30 pm Thursday night when we heard sporadic gunshots and I thought it was not within our area.
“But when it continued, I ran to the Mai Ungwa (village head) house where I met a large crowd of people. The Mai Ungwa told us that the gunshots were coming from the Forestry College, but we could not go there that night. I started calling my daughter, Blessing Babale, who is a student in the school but her line was not connecting.
“So this morning we came to the school and we were told that some of the students were at Ribadu Military Cantonment. We sent my brother-in-law to go and find out if she was there only to discover that she was not there.
“The stories of students’ abduction that we hear from far away has come to us. It is so bad that at home we are not safe, in schools our children are equally not safe. Government needs to do something to stop all this abduction. I’m worried and my prayers are for her and others to be released safely,” she prayed.
Meanwhile, Commissioner for Internal Security and Home Affairs in the state, Samuel Aruwan said in a statement that the bandits broke into the institution by breaching a perimeter fence.
He said his ministry had, on receiving the distress call, alerted the 1 Division Nigerian Army and the Air Training Command of the Nigerian Air Force (NAF).
“Troops of the Nigerian Army immediately moved to the school and engaged the bandits accordingly and successfully rescued 180 citizens; 42 female students, eight staff and 130 male students. However, about 30 students, a mix of males and females, are yet to be accounted for,” he said.