For some years, schools in Nigeria have been at the centre of attacks by kidnappers. The attacks, which led to abductions of students, also destroyed many lives and homes. Hundreds of students still in captivity, including some Chibok girls abducted seven years ago.
Some parents have died while many students are yet to fully recover from the trauma. Daily Trust reports.
Despite global and local condemnations, the trend has continued, forcing some state governments to shut schools and fortify others.
Some students have died from these attacks. Some of the abductees escaped or were released after payment of ransoms.
While the military has also been helpful in securing the release of some of these abductees, hundreds of others have remained in captivity as rescue efforts seem to have whittled down with time.
Twenty-two parents have died as the waiting continues following a series of promises from the federal and state governments, as well as security agencies.
Those alive and awaiting the return of their children said the situation had altered their lives as hope for their safe return wanes by the day.
Parents of 136 Niger abductees burdened by ransom
One hundred and thirty-six students of Salihu Tanko Islamiya School in Tegina, Niger State, abducted on May 30, 2021, are still in captivity. Unfortunately, three of the children died.
Daily Trust learnt that parents of the abducted children are weighed down by anxiety and concern over their wellbeing as they labour to raise money for the ransom demanded by the kidnappers.
Our correspondent could not reach the parents for comments, but sources close to some of them said the bandits had demanded N200million as ransom, adding that they are still negotiating.
The head of the school, Malam Alhassan Garba Abubakar, lamented that some money had been paid to the bandits, yet they refused to release the children.
“There is no news about the children. The bandits contacted us five days ago and we were able to raise a certain amount out of the N30million they demanded, but they failed to release our children.
“They told us that three of them were dead already. And with such news, no parent would be okay. We have resulted to prayers for God’s intervention,” he said.
It was learnt that one of the children, identified as Zainab S. Boka, escaped from her abductors.
The 12-year-old girl was said to have escaped through Pandogari town, where a motorcyclist took her to the village head of Allawa, Mallam Umaru.
She revealed that most of the students are sick due to maltreatment and constant trekking in forests.
Meanwhile, the state government said they were doing everything within their means to secure the release of the children.
Speaking with our correspondent, the secretary to the Government of Niger State, Alhaji Ahmed Matane, said the state was collaborating with the federal government to secure the release of the children.
“We are also very careful to avoid collateral damage. The bandits have reached out to the parents and they are discussing with them. For the government, negotiation would be for the bandits to lay down their arms and get some legitimate means of livelihood. Government has provided the platform. The grazing reserves are there for those who are willing to go into pastoralism. That’s what we are doing as a government,” Matane said.
Parents seek divine intervention as 118 Bethel students remain in captivity
Two weeks ago, Christian leaders and parents of the abducted students of Bethel Baptist High School converged on the school premises around Kujama in Chikun Local Government Area of Kaduna State to pray for divine intervention for the release of their children.
Tears flowed freely during the three-and-half-hour prayer session organised by the Kaduna Baptist Conference, which saw top Christian leaders, including the president of the Nigerian Baptist Convention, The Rev Israel Akanji and the Kaduna State chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), The Rev John Joseph Hayab.
The parents of the children and sympathisers wore black clothes to seek God’s intervention.
One hundred and twenty-one students were abducted, one was released on health ground, while two escaped on Thursday.
The bandits, who reached out to the school authority earlier, demanding food to feed the students, are asking for N60million as ransom. They made a list of various food items, including 10 bags of foreign rice, 20 bags of local rice, 20 bags of beans and 10 cartons of seasoning, as well as 10 kegs of oil and two bags of salt.
Parents have been told to raise N500,000 each to be paid as ransom. But one of the parents, who identified herself as Mercy, said most of them were poor and relied on God for the safety of their children.
Another parent who asked not to be mentioned because parents have been advised not to speak with the press corroborated Mercy’s statement, adding that not all the parents are able to meet up with the said amount.
When contacted, the police public relations officer, Kaduna State command, ASP Mohammed Jalige, said security agencies in the state were doing their best to ensure the release of the children alive and safe.
Also, students of the Federal Government College (FGC), Birnin Yauri, Kebbi State, who were abducted alongside some members of the staff, have remained in captivity for over a month now.
Bandits numbering 150 reportedly rode on motorcycles to the school and abducted the students – boys and girls.
Parents of the students have been in trauma as they are yet to know the fate of their children. However, Daily Trust Saturday learnt that some of the students are given the opportunity to speak with their parents once in a while.
One of the parents who met with the governor over the issue told our correspondent, under the condition of anonymity, that the bandits were threatening to marry off his daughter if they failed to meet their demand.
Also, a mother of one of the abducted students, who gave her name as Hajiya, said that since her only son was abducted, she had been in and out of hospital.
Asked if the state government was making efforts to secure the release of the children, Hajiya said she was told that government officials asked them to exercise patience as their children would soon be released.
“I am praying that my son would be released and he would meet me alive. My health is deteriorating by the day. I hardly sleep as I am always thinking of him. You can understand what an only child means to one. I have been in and out of the hospital since he was taken away,” she said.
The abduction of 276 schoolgirls from a government-owned school in Chibok, Borno State seven years ago marked the beginning of multiple abductions of students in Nigeria. More than 1, 000 students were abducted in Dapchi, Yobe State; Government Girls’ Secondary School, Jangebe; Federal Government College, Birnin Yauri, Kebbi State; Kankara, Zamfara State and schools in other states.
While some of the students were released, Leah Sharibu, who was kidnapped when her school was attacked in Dapchi, Yobe State, is still in captivity. Also, 112 Chibok girls are yet to be released, after seven years.
In Niger State, 136 students are still in captivity. While information is still sketchy on the number of abducted students of Federal Government College, Yauri, Kebbi State on 17 June, a lawmaker representing Ngaski/Shanga/Yauri federal constituency of the state, Tanko Sununu, said over 90 students were still in captivity.
In Kaduna, 118 students of Bethel Baptist High School are yet to be freed as parents struggle to pay the ransom demanded by the kidnappers. One student was released on health grounds while two others escaped on Thursday.
Meanwhile, the safety of 457 students in various kidnappers’ dens is still unknown.
112 Chibok students become ceremonial references
During the seven years anniversary of the 276 students kidnapped in Chibok, the presidency vowed to rescue the 112 still in captivity. Daily Trust reports that the continued stay of the students in captivity has unsettled the entire community. The spokesman of the community, Allen Manasseh, said 22 parents among the 112 students in captivity have allegedly died while waiting for the release of their children.
“Some girls reportedly died after their enclave was bombed in the forest. It is difficult to describe how a parent feels about losing a child to terrorists.
“Some of the authorities are not friendly and cannot be approached. We have requested that the Chibok schoolgirls desk in the Ministry of Women Affairs be moved to the Office of the Vice President,” he said, adding that parents are highly depressed.
Anna John, who was among the 276 abductees whose release was facilitated by the government, said her experience in captivity was traumatic. She added that some of the girls who remained in captivity were married off to insurgents.
Anna and two of her colleagues later completed their secondary education in Jos, Plateau State in 2017, having been offered scholarships by the Borno State Government. Though she had eight credits in her secondary school certificate examination, she is yet to gain admission into the university.
The Borno State Government has, however, remodelled the Chibok school as a co-education institution.
42 months after, Leah Sharibu remains in captivity, whereabouts unknown
Leah Sharibu is the only student among the 113 abducted from Government Science and Technical College (GSTC), Dapchi on February 2018 yet to regain freedom.
Taiwo Adeniyi (Abuja), Misbahu Bashir (Maiduguri), Romoke W. Ahmad (Minna), Mohammed Yaba (Kaduna), Ibrahim Baba Saleh (Damaturu) & Aliyu M. Hamagam (Birnin Kebbi)