Angry parents of abducted students of Bethel Baptist High School, located at Kujama, along the Kaduna-Kachia highway on Monday blocked the main road in protest following the abduction of about 140 secondary school students from their dormitories.
This is the fourth mass abduction of students and staff in Kaduna in the last six months as gunmen have invaded Federal College of Forestry Mechanisation, Greenfield University along Kaduna-Abuja highway, Nuhu Bamali Polytechnic in Zaria and now Bethel Baptist High school in Chikun LGA.
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Daily Trust gathered that armed bandits had stormed the school premises around 1:30am on Monday after breaking the back fence of the school.
Our correspondent further gathered that gunmen had also made an attempt on Faith Academy, a secondary school owned by Living Faith Church, but they were repelled by a combined team of soldiers and the school’s security team.
Sources at Bethel High School told our correspondent that after breaking the fence, the bandits went to the boys’ hostel which was close to the fence before moving to the female hostel which is closer to the main gate of the school.
He said the gunmen overpowered the school’s security guards and shot their way into hostels after which they whisked away students into the forest.
Our correspondent who visited the school around 10am reported a tense situation even though there was heavy presence of a combined team of soldiers, police and local vigilante groups.
Parents of the abducted students, mostly women, expressed anger at government and security agencies for failing to protect their children.
Some of the parents sat in the middle of the road while others held leaves and threatened to remain there as they wailed and called for the rescue of their children.
A staff member of the school told our correspondent that the management was still compiling the list of missing students adding that about 140 students were presumed to have been abducted.
We have lost confidence in government, security agencies – Parents
One of the angry parents, Jibril Audu, who was part of the protest said government and security agencies had failed in their responsibility of protecting citizens from criminals. “We are tired of what is happening in this state and country. We will not leave this road until they rescue our children,” he said.
Another angry protester called on the international community to help rescue their children, saying, “We need help because as bandits have taken over the state, we have lost hope in government’s ability to rescue our children.”
However, Martha Emmanuel whose niece, Marvelous Ezekiel, is one of the abducted students, said she was optimistic that God will rescue the students from their abductors. “My brother’s daughter, Marvelous Ezekiel, is among the kidnapped students, she is in SS3 preparing to write her final year examination,” she said.
Police rescue 26 students
The Kaduna State Police Command on Monday said a joint team of the Nigeria Police, army and navy operatives had, on receiving a distress call, pursued the bandits and succeeded in rescuing 26 students including a female teacher.
According to the Police Public Relations Officer, ASP Mohammed Jalige, the officers involved in the operation have been charged to ensure no stone is left unturned with a view to successfully accomplishing the rescue mission.
ASP Jalige said the command is, therefore, encouraging parents not to be deterred by the recent bandits’ activities in the state targeting schools and learning institutions as strategic measures will be placed to forestall further occurrence of such acts of criminality against innocent children.
He said the command is saddened by the incident and called on all stakeholders on security to unite, particularly at this very critical time, to safeguard schools in order to guarantee a safe and secure learning environment and for other meaningful businesses.
Closure of schools
The Governor of Kaduna State, Malam Nasir El-Rufai, has condemned Monday’s kidnapping of students from Bethel Baptist High School and described the development as a grave evil to humanity and the cause of education.
A statement issued by the Commissioner of Internal Security and Home Affairs, Samuel Aruwan, said a team of military and police personnel was mobilised to the school and had pursued the bandits in a bid to foil their evil intention.
However, the state government, through the Quality Assurance Authority also ordered the closure of some vulnerable schools following a meeting with the National Association of Proprietors of Private Schools and key stakeholders on Monday.
A letter signed by the Director General, Kaduna State Schools Quality Assurance Authority, Umma K. Ahmed, identified 13 schools including Bethel Baptist High school and Faith Academy where an attempt was also made but thwarted by security personnel.