By Vivian Onyebukwa, Chioma Okezie-Okeh, Oluseye Ojo, Lawrence Enyoghasu, Okey Sampson And Pelumi Adewale
Many parents and guardians of students in tertiary institutions in the southern states of the country are currently gripped by fear, following the seeming spread of abductions of students to the southern part of the country.
Abduction of students by gunmen in the country gained global attention in 2014 when 276 schoolgirls were kidnapped in Chibok, Borno States by Boko Haram insurgents.
There has been a gradual increase in recent times, as criminal elements have turned campuses across the country into unsafe haven for hapless students.
Some of the most recent abductions are those of the 22 students of Greenfield University, Kaduna, on April 20, and two Abia State University students last Wednesday. In the Kaduna State incident, five of the abducted students were killed by their captors. Worried by the unfolding ugly development, many stakeholders, including eminent Nigerians have voiced their concerns over the issue urging government to quickly do the needful to avert the situation from degenerating into a state of anarchy.
Speaking on the issue, the Olubadan of Ibadanland, Oba Saliu Adetunji, Aje Ogungunniso I, decried the rising spate at which students are being kidnapped, apart from other forms of criminality across Nigeria.
The first-class monarch noted that kidnapping for ransom has become one of the most lucrative businesses in the country. He however warned that if pragmatic steps are not taken by the government to holistically tackle insecurity, especially banditry, kidnapping and insurgency, total anarchy might descend on the country soon.
The monarch who spoke through his Personal Assistant/Director of Public Affairs, Mr. Adeola Oloko, noted that people still have a lot of respect for religious leaders. He implored government to engage religious leaders to talk to the adherents of their religions on the danger and evil of banditry, kidnapping and insurgency. Mr. Donatus Onyenanu who has two children in Abia State University, implored government to take urgent actions so stem the ugly tide, warning that failure to do so on time portends grave danger for the education sector.
On his part, Mr Grace Alozie whose son is a student of the Federal University of Technology, Owerri, called on government to shut down boarding schools till the security situation in the country is better.
“Parents should withdraw their children from schools until security is stable in this country. They should register in any nearby school until security is stable. And night movement should be stopped; evening and late lectures should stop. My son is now a day student. I don’t care that I am spending more to transport him from my sister’s house to school.”
Another concerned parent in Imo said her kid’s school was shut down after the attack on the states police headquarters and correctional facilities.
“I believe the school, which is a missionary college, will know the best time to allow our children to go back. I am not worried because she is at home. We will continue to pray that things will get better. I will never allow my child to go back to school if the attack continues.”
Mrs Ibirogba Omolola, a mother of two said: “We are calling on the government to find something to do about this issue of kidnapping in Nigeria. When I heard the case of the kidnapped students in Abia, my heart dropped, I couldn’t even imagine something like that happening. The annoying thing is we get little or no response at all from the government. The Federal Government should really do something about the security of this nation because it is getting too much.”
A student of Abia State University, Ngozi Okoro, expressed fears over the recent situation in the country. She told Saturday Sun that instead of her to go through hell in the hands of bandits and kidnappers, she would rather remain at home.”
Nora Chiemerem, a Masters Degree Student of Music Department, University of Nsukka, Nigeria on his part noted: “We only travel in groups if we have to travel. There is fear everywhere now. There are many things to do outside this place but with what you told me about the Abia abduction, I didn’t think I would dare to travel now.”
Omidiji Oladeinde, a former student of University of Ibadan, decried the general insecurity in the country. “I will suggest a temporary closing down of the universities in the regions that have high record of kidnapping cases. I fear the situation will keep increasing if the government fails to take a major step soon”
Another student, Chukuwemeka Chidinma, said: “Knowing that kidnapping of university students is very rampant now, it is so scary going to class and coming back now. Most students just stay in their rooms now. We are currently living in fear because I attend the Federal University of Technology, Owerri in Imo State, and Abia State is really not far from here. Only God can help us.”
Meanwhile, abductors of the kidnapped students of Abia State University, Uturu have contacted the parents of their victim and demanded for ransom.
This was disclosed by the Vice Chancellor of the institution, Prof Onyemachi Ogbulu while addressing journalists in Umuahia.
Gunmen on Wednesday evening abducted some students of ABSU moving from Uturu to Okigwe with other passengers.
Two of the students were said to have managed to escape from their abductors.
Addressing journalists in Umuahia, Prof Ogbulu said contrary to speculations that scores of students of the institution were abducted, it was only one student that was kidnapped as the two other students escaped.
He said the abductors had contacted the parents of their victim and demanded ransom. He refused to disclose the amount they demanded.
The Vice Chancellor said the University, working in consonance with Abia and Imo states Governments would ensure the immediate and unconditional release of the student and others abducted along side him.
While assuring that the University is safe, Prof Ogbulu said security in and around the institution has been beefed up to forestall future occurrence of the incident.
He commended Gov Okezie Ikpeazu for government’s prompt response in addressing the challenge and warned criminal elements to keep away from the University as security has been put on red alert to ensure protection of lives and property of innocent citizens.