School abductions have worsened. From a fleeting criminal fad they have become a modus operandi for bandits looking to nick millions of naira from parents. What was once believed to be a one-off show of cruelty in Chibok eight years ago is now a recurring loop that barely moves Nigerians again. Dapchi happened and shook the nation. Kankara and Jangebe came in late 2020 with the chilling realisation of the perilous times Nigeria was crouching into.
However, nothing could have foretold how rife, and sometimes numbing these school adoptions would become in 2021.
At least 821 students have been abducted within the first eight months of the year already. That figure is more than two-thirds of the 1191 students kidnapped in Nigeria in the previous seven years combined.
Here is a rundown of the abductions:
Twenty-seven pupils kidnapped in Kagara
Just as the dusk began to lift over the sky of Kagara in the early hours of February 17, another kind of darkness descended on the town. A marauding gang of bandits invaded Government Science College in the community, overpowered the security guards, killed one student and snared an initially unknown number of children and staff members away.
It was not until noon on that unfortunate day that Bello Abdullahi, governor of Niger state, officially put the number of abducted students at 27 alongside 15 staff members.
The victims were not released until after 10 days in the kidnappers’ dens — with those who are wards of military personnel specifically targeted for excessive maltreatment.
Over 270 abducted in Jangebe
While the country was still frantic from the fresh abduction of Kagara students, another pincer landed.
On February 26, in Jangebe town of Talata-Mafara LGA, Zamfara state, residents were jerked awake from sleep by sporadic shooting. The rat-tat of the guns escalated into the hair-raising boom of doors getting kicked down as a set of bandits raided some houses in the community, and the residents could only watch as the brazen gunmen proceeded to their next target. The assailants headed for the Government Girls Secondary School located in the area and left with 279 students.
The girls were freed on March 2, after a ”peace reconciliation” with the bandits and the state government.
Leading the federal government’s delegation to the state after the girls’ release, Hadi Sirika, minister of aviation, said the president promised the incident will be the last school adoption the nation would ever witness under his administration. But the president’s vow failed to materialise.
Twenty-nine kidnapped in Afaka
Less than two weeks after the federal government pledged Jangebe abduction will be the last, bandits struck again.
On March 12, gunmen attacked the Federal College of Forestry Mechanisation, Afaka, Igabi LGA of Kaduna state, and abducted 29 students.
The following day, the abductors released videos in which the students were seen sitting on the floor in an unknown location, guarded by armed men whose identities were concealed.
In the videos, the victims appealed to the government to pay the ransom demanded by the bandits so that they would be freed.
Through it all, the Kaduna state government remained adamant on its earlier resolve that struck out negotiating with bandits as an option.
On the evening of May 5, news filtered through that the kidnappers have agreed to release the students — after seven weeks of abduction. It was reported that the students were ransomed by a pool of contributions from the victims’ parents.
Two primary school pupils ‘went missing’ in Rama
On March 15, another gang of suspected bandits invaded UBE primary school in Rama, Birnin-Gwari LGA of the state.
According to Samuel Aruwan, Kaduna commissioner for internal security and home affairs, two pupils who were initially missing were later found. He then added that three teachers — Rabiu Salisu, Umar Hassan, and Bala Adamu — were abducted.
Twenty Greenfield University students kidnapped
When, on April 18, another group of bandits abducted 20 students from Greenfield University, Kaduna, and the criminal trend assumed a more bloody dimension.
The assailants wanted N800 million as ransom, and when the demands were not met to early enough, they killed five of the students, further threatening to kill more.
On May 29, the remaining students were released from captivity by their abductors. A parent of one of the abductees claimed the bandits were paid N180 million before they were released.
A student kidnapped in Plateau.
On April 29, gunmen abducted a student of the Calvary Ministries, a mission agency popularly known as CAPRO, in Barkin Ladi LGA of Plateau state.
The gunmen reportedly attacked the school in the night, and after a fierce gun battle with security operatives, they went away with one of the students.
A student abducted in Abeokuta
On May 23, Olayinka Tokunbo, a Federal University of Agriculture student, Abeokuta, was abducted from a farm near the institution. He was kidnapped alongside another man and one lady.
He was, however, set free three days later with details of his release withheld by the authorities.
Another 156 children abducted in Niger
On May 30, bandits on 70 motorcycles and attacked 17 communities across three LGAs of Niger state. The gunmen then proceeded to Salihu Tanko Islamic School, Tegina, and abducted 156 schoolchildren.
The bandits then released 11 of the children “who were too small and couldn’t walk,” demanding N110 million as ransom.
Abubakar Alhassan, the school’s headmaster, said one of the parents of the abducted children died few days after the incident from shock.
The pupils spent more than 16 weeks in captivity for 90 of them were released on August 27 after a few of them had died.
Eight students kidnapped from Nuhu Bamalli Polytechnic, Kaduna
On June 11, the Kaduna state government confirmed that eight students and two lecturers were kidnapped during a bandit raid of Nuhu Bamalli Polytechnic.
TheCable had reported how gunmen invaded the school on Thursday night, shooting sporadically upon entering the premises.
The abductees remained in captivity for 28 days until their release on July 19.
‘Eighty’ students kidnapped in Kebbi
On June 17, many students were reportedly abducted by bandits who attacked the Federal Government College, Birnin-Yauri in Kebbi state.
The gunmen went away with several students — estimated to be 80 — after a gun battle that overpowered the police officers on the ground. One of the officers was killed, and five teachers were kidnapped alongside the students.
One of the students that escaped the attack claimed that the assailants are not Nigerians.
Subsequently, five students and two teachers were rescued, while one was killed during a rescue mission by security operatives.
About 121 students of Bethel Baptist High School abducted in Kaduna
In the early hours of July 5, bandits invaded Bethel Baptist High School in Damishi, Chikun LGA of Kaduna state, and snared 121 students away despite police officers rescuing 28 others.
It was not until 20 days after that the belligerents began releasing the students in batches and 90 of them have been released with the remaining 31 still in captivity.
Another 15 students kidnapped from College of Agriculture, Zamfara
On August 16, Bandits took away 15 students, a teacher, his wife, and two children at the College of Agriculture and Animal Health in Bakura, Zamfara state.
The victims were not freed until 11 days later with the details of their release still sketchy.
Nine students kidnapped in Kastina
On August 18, nine students were kidnapped in Sakkai, Faskari LGA of Katsina state, following an attack on the community.
Isah Gambo, police spokesperson in Katsina, confirmed the incident to TheCable that the students were said to be returning from the Islamiyya school in the area when they ran into the gunmen who were attacking the residents of the area.
The nine students, all boys, were said to have been taken away by the gunmen, who drove away on motorcycles.
Seventy-three students abducted in Zamfara
On September 1, gunmen descended on Government Day Secondary School in Kaya, Maradun LGA of Zamfara state, and abducted 73 students.
The assailants invaded the school around 11 am and took the students to an unknown location.
The incident forced Bello Matawalle, governor of Zamfara, to order the closure of all schools in the state.
According to a statement on Wednesday by Mohammed Shehu, the Zamfara police spokesman, a search-and-rescue team has been deployed to find the students.
The students are still in captivity as of the time of filing this report.
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