Survivors and families of abducted students of Federal University, Gusau, Zamfara State, as well as people around the community, yesterday shared their experiences on what transpired.
The university was attacked by bandits in the early hours of September 21.
They abducted an unspecified number of female students and others.
Even though some of them have been rescued, many others are still with their abductors.
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Alhaji Musa Yusuf, whose house was first attacked by the assailants, said they dragged his son and granddaughter outside the house.
“The bandits were heavily armed with guns and local weapons. They attacked Sabon-Gida village and started firing gunshots sporadically. The persistent gunshots woke me up from sleep.
“Some of the bandits gained access into my house after scaling the fence. One of the bandits then opened the door for the rest to come in. One of them asked whether I was one of the local guards of the hostel that is opposite my house and I said I was not.
“They demanded my mobile phone and money and when I told them I do not have, they proceeded to my wives’ bedrooms and asked them the same question. They collected money from my wives before they moved to my son’s apartment and asked for phone and money. They did not get anything from him but they collected his wife’s phone. They dragged my son and granddaughter outside,” he said.
He said they also asked him to provide them with an axe with which to break the door of the hostel that was opposite his house.
“But when I said I don’t have, they picked a heavy stick that was kept behind a door and went outside. They used the stick to break the door of the hostel and abducted all the students that were inside except the three that hid themselves inside the ceiling,” he said.
He recalled that the bandits continued firing several shots into the air throughout the operation which lasted for several hours, adding that contrary to speculations, the bandits did not come on motorcycles.
“They came on foot and abducted many people in the four hostels, my house and the residence of the protocol officer of the university. In my house, the bandits abducted my son, Safiyanu, and granddaughter. At the first hostel, they kidnapped all the students except the three who hid themselves inside the ceiling. All the students in the second and third hostels were kidnapped by the bandits, while at the fourth hostel, they kidnapped only five students.
“Approximately, I can say, the bandits have gone with more than 50 people comprising the female students, the protocol officer of the university, his sister, eight local iron-benders working inside the university and one other person.”
Yusuf said after the attackers brought together all the abducted people in one place, they then divided themselves. One group went with the abducted persons, while the other remained behind firing gunshots.
“Those that were left behind sustained the gunshots for some minutes before they left. It took us hours to get back to our senses even though the gunshots had stopped and the bandits left.
“Honestly, we were terrified during the attack but as God destined it we are still alive. My hope now is to see my son and granddaughter again. I will continue praying for their successful return,” he concluded.
Series of attacks
Daily Trust gathered that the September 21 attack on the university was the third incident since the establishment of the institution as three students of the university were abducted during the first instance, while five others were kidnapped in the second incident.
During a visit, our correspondent observed that the bandits might have taken the advantage of lack of parameter fencing and the non-presence of security personnel to launch their attack on the university.
It was further observed that apart from a policeman who was stationed at the main entrance of the administrative block and a staff of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) that was at the reception, the university is largely manned by local security guards.
Again, there was also no provision for hostels in the university as the students are being hosted at various private hostels in the villages within the university community, thus, making them prone to bandits’ attacks.
Some of the students at Dan Lawal Hostel, who spoke to Daily Trust on condition of anonymity, lamented the vulnerability of the institution.
One of the students said, “As you can see the university is not fenced. So, the bandits can gain access from any angle. Again, the private hostels are prone to attack. The government and the university authority should provide us with adequate security.
“We are more than 100 in this private hostel and we only have two local security guards. Police and soldiers are not coming here to provide security around the hostels. Sincerely speaking we want adequate security around us,” he said.
Another student of Basic Chemistry said, “We need adequate security. This recent attack on our colleagues has touched our hearts and seriously demoralised us. We have received a series of calls from our parents and friends asking us to abandon our studies and return home.
“But as Muslims, we all believe in destiny be it good or bad, so, we decided to stay behind and continue with our studies. But, we want the school authority to do the needful in ensuring our safety because, without it, nothing could be achieved.
“We know the university authority is doing its best, but we want more from it, especially on security. This is a university where we are studying, so, if adequate security is not provided, academic activities cannot hold because parents and the students cannot endure this kind of traumatic situation if it continues,” he said.
On his part, the leader of one of the hostels, who also craved anonymity, confirmed to Daily Trust that the gunshots around the hostels started from 11pm to 12am and then stopped and later continued around 3am.
He explained that they heard about the abduction of their female colleagues in the morning, adding, “Although the management of the school did not release official figures, however, we have heard that 24 female students fell victim to the kidnapping operation. Eight students were said to have been rescued.
“We want authority to come to our aid by providing us with adequate security around our hostels. We know our vice chancellor is doing his best, but the management of the institution should fence the perimeter of the school for security purposes.”
Although the management of the institution has failed to announce the actual number of students abducted by the bandits, however, it has confirmed the rescue of 16 out of the scores of persons kidnapped by the bandits.
The university, in a statement, confirmed that 14 of the 16 persons that were claimed to have been rescued were students, while the remaining two were other individuals who were kidnapped alongside its students.
However, the management was silent about who rescued the students and whether a ransom had been paid to the bandits or not.
An update on the unfortunate incident from the police authority in the state was also scanty as the command only confirmed the rescue of seven students, but remained silent on who rescued them and how many students are still in the custody of the bandits.
Like the police and management of the university, the Zamfara State government has failed to announce the exact number of students abducted by the bandits. Rather it has pointed accusing fingers at some individuals which it claimed were negotiating with bandits.
The state governor, Dauda Lawal, in the statement called for an investigation by the federal government into the secret negotiations held with bandits in the state, saying reports have indicated that a delegation allegedly sent by some agencies of the federal government has been holding talks with bandit groups in Zamfara without the knowledge of the state government.
Lawal seeks northern govs’ collaboration
However, the governor has called on northern governors to work together and address the security challenges affecting the region.
Speaking when he received a delegation of Coalition of Northern Group (CNG) led by its chairman, Nastura Ashir Sharif, at Government House, Gusau, the governor said the region was under threats.
Represented by his Chief of Staff, Alhaji Mukhtar Muhammad Lugga, Governor Lawal said “Northern region is facing the worst period that it has never witnessed since its creation beginning from pre-colonial time. This is not the time for us to play politics. We must confront and face the reality.”
The governor affirmed that the state government would never enter into any negotiation with the bandits.
He said, “We are not going to be intimidated as a people. We will remain resolute until we see the end of this banditry. The state government is firm and is not going to negotiate with these bandits.
“You cannot negotiate with somebody that is still holding firearms. We have seen efforts made by the past administration. What kind of negotiation do you enter with somebody that is holding AK47 gun? For the negotiation to be successful, the firearms must be surrendered to the FG as a show of goodwill before anything else can be done. But for now we are not ready to enter any truce with the bandits.”
Governor Lawal affirmed that proper coordination was needed in any negotiation aimed at achieving the desired goals.
He, therefore, advocated a unifying effort between the federal and Zamfara state government to address the menace of insecurity in the state, assuring that the state would continue to support any effort that will translate to peace in the state and northern region.
He commended the group for its concern about the problems affecting the northern Nigeria.
Earlier, the secretary of the group, Alhaji Abdulaziz Sulaiman, said they were in the state to sympathize with the government and people of the state over the recent abduction of the university students.
Sulaiman, however, appealed to federal and Zamfara state governments to face the security challenges head on and ensure the safe return of the abducted students.
He said it was necessary for Zamfara state government to work closely with federal agencies responsible for security matters, calling on stakeholders to prioritize the overall safety and well-being of people of Zamfara above political differences.