Parents of the kidnapped students of the Federal College of Forestry Mechanisation, Afaka in the Igabi Local Government Area of Kaduna State, on Friday, lamented the abduction of their children, even as the state government confirmed that the number of pupils unaccounted for was 39.
The state government had earlier confirmed that bandits on Thursday night abducted no fewer than 30 students from the school, located opposite the Nigerian Defence Academy on Airport Road.
But on Friday night, the state Commissioner for Internal Security and Home Affairs, Mr Samuel Aruwan, said in a statement that checks by the government later found that 39 persons, comprising 23 females and 16 males, were still missing. He, however, gave an assurance that security agents were working hard to rescue the students.
Earlier, Aruwan told journalists that troops of the Nigerian Army from 1 Division prevented the bandits from taking away more students, noting that they were able to rescue 180 persons.
He said, “Troops of the Nigerian Army in the early hours of Friday rescued 180 citizens, many of them students at the Federal College of Forestry Mechanisation, Afaka, Igabi Local Government Area of Kaduna State. The armed bandits in large numbers had attacked the institution around 11.30pm on Thursday and kidnapped several students and staff members.
“The armed bandits broke into the institution by breaching a perimeter fence. They then encroached about 600 meters to attack the first facility. The Ministry of Internal Security and Home Affairs on receiving a distress call alerted the 1 Division Nigerian Army and the Air Training Command of the Nigerian Air Force.
“Troops of the Nigerian Army immediately moved to the school and engaged the armed bandits accordingly. The troops successfully rescued 180 citizens; 42 female students, eight staff members and 130 male students. However, about 30 students, a mix of males and females, have yet to be accounted for.”
Aruwan noted that some of the rescued students were injured and receiving medical attention at a military facility.
Aruwan said in the statement, “Further checks in the wake of the attack by armed bandits on the Federal College of Forestry Mechanisation, Afaka, Igabi LGA indicate that 39 students are currently unaccounted for. The missing students include males and females.
“In an earlier update, citizens were informed that troops rescued 180 persons, following an attack by armed bandits on the college late Thursday night, with about 30 still missing. The number of missing students is now confirmed to be 39, comprising 23 females and 16 males.
“The Kaduna State Government is maintaining close communication with the management of the college as efforts are sustained by security agencies towards the tracking of the missing students. Citizens will continue to be informed of further developments.”
Meanwhile, reports said the bandits, numbering about 100, could not access the school through the gate because of its proximity to the NDA and that they gained access into the school premises by breaking the college’s perimeter fence at the rear.
The parents of some of the students, in separate interviews with Saturday PUNCH, therefore called on the government to do everything possible to secure the release of their children. Some of them had stormed the school in the early hours of the day in search of their children.
I warned my daughter against returning to school — Parent
Mr Sunday Hai, the father of one of the abducted pupils, told our correspondent that he warned his 22-year-old daughter, Sarah, against returning to school on Thursday night when she came home but that she insisted she had to go and prepare for her examination.
Hai, a farmer, said, “When I saw her on Thursday night, I asked what brought her home, she said she came to pick something to prepare for their forthcoming examination. I warned her against going back to school that night because it was late but she insisted she must go because they were preparing for their examination.
“My last word to her was when I requested for her bank details. She gave me and I credited her account with a little money and she said ‘thank you’ and left. My neighbour who is also a pastor called me and gave me the sad news on Friday morning.”
Hai said he wondered how the bandits could carry out such a heinous crime opposite the NDA. “I was told they (bandits) broke in through the back and started the abduction while the security operatives broke into the premises through the gate because it was locked,” he added.
While calling on the government to do everything within its power to rescue the students, he noted that he no longer went to farm because of banditry.
Another parent, Mrs Angelina Babale, in an interview with journalists, said she lived close to the college and that she was praying on Thursday night when she began to hear gunshots around 11.30pm.
“I ran to the Village Head’s house, where I met a large crowd and I was told the gunshots were from the college, but we could not go there that night,” she added. “I started calling my daughter, Blessing Babale, who is a student at the school, on the phone but it wasn’t available.
“Friday morning, we got to the school and were told some of the students were at Ribadu Cantonment. We sent one of my husband’s brothers to go and find out if she was there but she wasn’t.
“The abduction of students that we hear from a distance has come to us. It is so bad that at home, we are not safe; in schools, our children are equally not safe. Government needs to do something to stop all these abductions. I’m worried and my prayers are with her and others for them to be released safely.”
Mr Bitrus Shekari, who said he had two children in the school, noted that one of them was kidnapped while the other one was safe.
An off-campus student at the school, said though he was not on the school premises when the bandits attacked, his classmates called him during the operation.
He said, “The school wanted to close on Monday because of what happened at the airport last week but the security officers told them not to worry that they were on top of the situation. I live off campus but I learnt of the attack around 11.30pm.
“I was even planning to move to the school hostel in preparation for our examination, scheduled to start next Thursday. The school is very close to military institutions and we felt we were safe. We have the NDA, Army Division not far from here. So, I never expected this to happen. I’m in shock. I have lost interest in schooling. I think we are in trouble in this country.”
The abduction came less than 48 hours after Aruwan presented the 2020 security situation report to the governor, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai.
The report pointed out that bandits killed no fewer than 937 persons, kidnapped 1,972 persons and rustled 7,195 cattle in the state in 2020.
At the event, the governor had insisted that his administration had no room for negotiation or granting amnesty to bandits.
Troops foiled planned abduction of Turkish students in Kaduna – Army
Meanwhile, the Nigerian Army, in a statement on Friday, said the troops of Quick Response Force of 1 Division foiled an attempt by bandits to kidnap students of Turkish International Secondary School, located in Rigachikun, Kaduna State.
The Director, Army Public Relations, Brig.-Gen. Mohammed Yerima, in a statement on Friday, stated, “Acting on a tip-off on the impending abduction of the schoolchildren, troops quickly mobilised to protect the school from the bandits.”