Zamfara State, one of the northwestern states hard-hit by the activities of bandits, was in the news again penultimate week with the abduction of more than 24 students of the Federal University, Gusau (FUGUS) by marauding gunmen. The students were picked from their hostels within the Sabon Gida community in Bungudu Local Government Area of the state in the dead of the night on September 22, 2023.
It is not the first time that FUGUS will come under attack, putting at risk the lives of innocent students in pursuit of academic excellence and self-actualisation. Data gathered by this newspaper showed that bandits have attacked this same community three times this year, where more than 31 students were herded into the bush by gunmen. The first attack was on April 2, where two students of the university were kidnapped. The gunmen struck again on June 17 and five students were again kidnapped. The most recent, affecting no fewer than 24 students is the most absurd for the number of victims as well as daring impunity displayed by the attackers. From observation, these bandits are getting more daring by the day.
Previously, on February 26, 2021, some 279 students of Government Day Secondary School, Jangebe in Talata Mafara Local Government Area of the state were kidnapped. On August 16, 2021, another 15 students and five staff of the College of Agriculture and Animal Science in Bakura Local Government Area were also kidnapped. Another 75 students and seven teachers of Government Secondary School, Kaya in Maradun Local Government Area were also kidnapped on September 1, 2021.
In these infamous attacks, a total of 369 students and seven teachers were kidnapped from their various schools in Zamfara State from 2021 to date. Also, in the last three years, 1, 714 people have been kidnapped in Zamfara State (reported cases), with 1,041 in 2021, some 454 in 2022 and 219 so far in 2023.
We condemn these attacks and call on the authorities to rise to the occasion. It must be stated that these abductions have grave consequences on the health and wellbeing of the people as well as the education of all children of the zone, especially the girl-child. While condemning the incident, the Arewa Consultative Forum noted that the incident “Is even more worrisome, being of far-reaching negative implications, among many others, for access to education, which, especially for the girl-child, is subject to many formidable challenges in the best of times.”
Unfortunately, however, at a time when all efforts and resources should be geared towards the rescue of the latest victims of kidnapping, the state and federal governments are engaged in a war of words. While the Zamfara State government is accusing the federal government of holding a ‘clandestine negotiation’ with the bandits through some of its agencies, the federal government through the Minister of Information and National Orientation, Mohammed Idris, is accusing the Zamfara State governor of choosing to play politics with “The sensitive matter for cheap political goals,” rather than appreciate security agents and federal institutions for the prompt effort to rescue the abducted students of the Federal University, Gusau.
This should not be the attitude of those who should be in charge of the safety and security of the people. The state and federal governments should be on the same page to make any appreciable gains. The federal government should understand that the state government is very critical to the success of the war against bandits, with many states expending their own resources to support security agencies. The state government should also note the role the Nigerian constitution has assigned to the federal government in security matters. When the state and federal governments are operating in a different silo, the only winner will be the bandits.
With the Minister of State for Defence, Bello Mohammed Matawalle, being the immediate past governor of Zamfara State, we expect that all seriousness will be applied to the situation at hand. The fight against insecurity must never be used to score cheap political points at the expense of the lives of the people.
At this juncture, we are calling on the federal government and the state to sheathe their swords, cooperate with each other and ensure that these students and others in captivity are rescued. They must end the blame game and remember that the primary purpose of government is the protection of lives and property of the citizens. The state and the federal government should agree on the best approach to adopt in dealing with insecurity. Above all, there must be policy consistency because it would make no sense to deploy the military on the field while secretly negotiating with bandits on the other hand.
We are also calling on the federal government to immediately build a perimeter fence around the university and enough hostel accommodation with a good presence of security agents to secure the community. Whatever it will take to rescue the abducted girls should and must be done.