Bandits struck in Kebbi State again on Thursday when they kidnapped scores of students and four others at the Federal Government College Birnin Yauri.
A teacher in the school, who spoke to The PUNCH on condition of anonymity, said most of the kidnapped students were in the Senior Secondary School one and two.
It was gathered that a teacher, a vice-principal, the school security officer and a wife of a teacher were together with the students taken to an unknown destination in two Hilux Pick-Up vehicles by bandits who killed a policeman.
Sources told one of our correspondents that kidnappers in their large numbers, armed with sophisticated weapons stormed the school on Thursday.
One of the sources stated, “The kidnappers invaded the school at 10am and killed one security agent attached to the school and injured a student.
“The kidnappers in their large numbers overpowered a team of mobile policemen that attempted to repel the attack.
“Shortly after the gun battle with the police, the kidnappers broke into the school and whisked away some students and four others in two Hilux vehicles to an unknown destination.
“Following the attack, the whereabouts of at least three staff members and a wife of a teacher have yet to be ascertained. The school is still collating the number of abducted students.”
The Press Secretary to the Emir of Yauri, Mallam Ibrahim, who confirmed the incident to newsmen on the phone, said, “The kidnapper stormed the school and kidnapped both females and male students.
“The principal of the school just called the palace and told His Royal Highness what actually happened. We cannot ascertain the number of students yet,” he added.
The state police command spokesman, Nariu Abubakar, in a statement quoted the state Commissioner of Police, CP Adeleke Adeyinka, as condemning the attack.
He stated, “The commissioner of police has assured parents and guardians of students that the command is following credible leads and intensifying efforts to track the assailants and ensure the rescue of the missing students and teachers.
“A combined team of police operatives from the police mobile force, anti-kidnapping and counter-terrorism units are currently combing nearby forests, routes and suspected hideouts of the criminals.”
As of the time of sending this report at 7pm on Thursday, the state government had yet to react to the incident. A Government House source disclosed that the state Governor, Senator Atiku Abubakar Bagudu, travelled out of the state.
Efforts to speak with the Special Adviser to the Governor on media, Mallam Yahaya Sarki, did not yield any result as several calls to his line could not connect.
But the lawmaker representing the Igaski/Shanga/Yauri in Kebbi State at the House of Representatives, Yusuf Sununu, lamented the attack.
Sununu, who addressed journalists in Abuja on Thursday, warned that the growing insecurity in Kebbi State was a major threat to food security in the country.
Sununu said the pervading insecurity in the country was becoming worrisome, saying, “gone are the days when Kebbi used to be the most peaceful in the country.
“Not long ago, we lost over 154 people from my constituency when they were travelling in a boat that capsized and we can only account for 98 corpses, with 22 survivors.
“A week ago, we had another calamity when bandits – according to eyewitnesses – numbering about 250 to 300, each with an AK-47 rifle and using very strong motorcycles, came into my constituency. They had a field day and operated for more than eight hours, going (from) house to house, room to room, collecting money, handsets, motorcycles and cattle. That led to a massive influx of internally displaced persons to the headquarters of the emirate in the town of Yauri.
“However, we were able to convince people and they started going back to their respective areas. But they (bandits) left a message that they would be coming back. Taking it seriously, some people refused to go back and in the early hours of today, they repeated what they had done earlier, and they came into the constituency, somehow around 10:30am or thereabout. They were able to gain access after strong fights with some security guards and policemen guarding the Federal Government College, Birnin Yauri, and they made their way into the school. They succeeded in kidnapping some teachers and an unaccounted number of students. Some of the students and security men are currently receiving care at the General Hospital Yauri following gun injuries.
“This is a cause for concern and as representative of the people, I had to come here and make a call on the Federal Government to look at Yauri’s position with its neighbouring Niger State. It has direct access to Zamfara State and west of Yauri is back of River Niger. Our fear is that their major target is to enter Yauri. Now, we are calling on the Federal Government to provide adequate security. I have got in touch with security agencies. We had discussions and it has been confirmed to me that military aircraft are in surveillance in the area.
“We have to make it clear that Kebbi State and indeed Yauri holds a unique position in the food security of this country. Over 90 per cent of the land of Yauri is for rice farming. But as of today, no farmer can comfortably go back to his farm and farm and come back to sleep with his eyes closed.
“We are right now facing an influx of a number of people into Yauri with a higher rate of internally displaced persons. Accommodation, feeding and other logistics that are necessary are being affected. The worst part of it is that a nation can only develop when it is sound educationally wise.
“The so-called Boko Haram is almost becoming a reality because parents cannot feel free to send their wards to school for fear of being kidnapped. As it is now, a lot of primary schools in the emirate in Yauri town are being occupied by IDP. This has a tendency to deter the progress so far achieved by the Kebbi State Government in terms of agriculture and in terms of promoting access to education.
General Hospital turned into IDP camp–Rep
“The healthcare is also being stretched because of the influx of people. The only General Hospital we have is being occupied by IDPs. So, we are in a state of disarray and definitely we have to call on the FG so something can be done immediately to safeguard the lives and property of our people.”
Police plan surveillance in schools
The Nigeria Police Force said it had deployed undercover operatives for surveillance and intelligence gathering around vulnerable schools across the country.
The Force Public Relations Officer, Frank Mba, a Commissioner of Police, disclosed this in an interview on Thursday.
Our correspondent had asked him what the force was doing to make schools safe and to rescue those abducted.
“We are implementing high visibility policing patrol system around schools across the country by deploying more personnel and assets for both foot and motorised patrols.”
“We are deploying a huge number of undercover operatives for surveillance and intelligence gathering around vulnerable schools.,” he said.
He said, “We are working with the Federal Government and other stakeholders to implement and actualise the Safe School Initiative programme.
“We are taking advantage of our community policing programme to mobilise host communities where these schools are situated to collaborate with law enforcement agencies in providing real time surveillance for these schools.