Calls are increasing, from both politicians and civil society, for the rescue of at least 300 schoolgirls abducted early Friday from their hostel by gunmen in Zamfara.
The member representing Gummi/Bukkuyum federal constituency of Zamfara State, Rep. Abubakar Suleiman Gummi, has said the rescue of the girls taken from their school in Jangebe was currently top priority.
“Getting these young innocent children back in one piece will be our priority now and we will forge ahead with the peace and reconciliation effort,” he said in an interview with Daily Trust.
Speaking to our reporter on the abduction on Friday, the lawmaker decried the situation which he said was a setback on the efforts of Governor Bello Matawalle to tackle banditry through negotiations.
According to him, the abduction might have been orchestrated by some people who do not want an end to the insecurity bedevilling the state leading to loss of lives, properties and displacement of people.
“We still have unrepentant bandits who are possibly sponsored by people in our midst that stand to benefit if the government of Dr Bello Muhammad Matawalle fails.
It comes as efforts widen to recover the girls.
The Save the Children International (SCI) has demanded the “unconditional release” of the girls.
The Nigeria Country Director, SCI, Mercy Gichuhi, lamented that this is only the latest in a series of abductions in the region, as over the past months, hundreds of children in Nigeria have gone through the trauma of being abducted by armed groups.
According to her, this includes 27 students who were kidnapped earlier this month in Niger State, and some 300 schoolboys who were abducted in Katsina State in December last year.
“Save the Children warns that being kidnapped, witnessing kidnappings, experiencing school attacks, and being forced to flee and take refuge from armed groups are extremely traumatizing events for young children and adolescents, including girls.
“We are deeply concerned about the abduction of these girls from the Government Girls Secondary School by suspected armed groups this morning. Their safety and well-being remain our primary concern, and our hearts go out to them and their families.
“It is unacceptable that attacks on schools and students has become a recurring scenario in the Northern Nigeria. Schools are supposed to be safe learning zones for children to play, learn, realise and release their full potential. Instead, they are being turned into places of fear,” Gichuhi said.
Schools shouldn’t be a place of fear
She said that any attacks on schools, students and teachers are condemnable, as children have the right to have access to undisrupted and quality education in a safe environment.
Gichuhi said, “These attack and abductions can cause severe psychological trauma to children, and it puts them at risk of never returning to school, as they or their parents think it’s too dangerous.
“The children and their parents must be given adequate psycho-social support for a swift return to normal life, and those who are still missing must be found as soon as possible. Every day spent outside of their community is one too many.”
She therefore urged all parties to refrain from targeting school children, and to ensure that the kidnapped girls in Zamfara State are immediately released and returned to their families.
She noted that Nigeria is set to host the 4th International Conference on Safe Schools in 2021 and is one of the first African countries to endorse the Safe School Declaration (SSD).
She said, “Save the Children urges the Nigerian Government to ensure that children have access to safe, quality and uninterrupted education at all levels.”