2 months after Katsina, gunmen abduct students, staff in Niger school
Barely two months after armed men invaded Government Science Secondary School, Kankara in Katsina State, President Muhammadu Buhari‘s home state, and snatched more than 300 students, a similar raid by gunmen on a state-run school in Nigeria’s north-central region has left one student dead and dozens of others feared abducted along with some teachers.
The armed men in military fatigues, according to witnesses, stormed the Government Science Secondary School, Kagara, Rafi Local Government Area of Niger State, at around 2am on Wednesday.
The number of students and staff kidnapped by the assailants from the boarding facility housing hundreds of schoolchildren is still unknown as at press time. However, a security source told France24 that “a headcount is underway to establish how many students were kidnapped”.
Abubakar Mohammed, a Kagara resident, confirmed to CNN that one student was killed by the gunmen.
“At about 2am, they stormed the staff quarters of the school. They forced the children of staffers to take them to the hostel. There they abducted the students along with some members of staff. They killed one of the students in the hostel. His body is now at the police station in Kagara. Police is now everywhere in the school,” Mohammed said.
He said residents of the community were on high alert after receiving a warning about the planned attack.
“At about yesterday evening, we heard information that bandits were coming to Kagara but we did not know where they will attack. Later at about 10pm, we heard that they were just on the outskirts of Kagara, there was panic,” he said.
Heavily-armed bandits have intensified attacks in Nigeria’s northwest and north-central regions in recent years, kidnapping for ransom, raping and pillaging.
On Tuesday, Niger State authorities said bandits also killed 10 people and kidnapped at least 23 others in attacks on two remote villages.
The latest incident comes nearly three years after 111 schoolgirls were kidnapped by jihadists in Dapchi, Yobe State, northeast Nigeria, and six years after 276 girls were snatched from Chibok, Borno State in same northeast Nigeria.
In a statement by presidential spokesman Garba Shehu, President Buhari said he received reports of the brazen attack on Government Science College, Kagara, Niger State, following which a yet-to-be-ascertained number of staff and students have been abducted by gunmen.
The president said he has directed the Armed Forces and police to ensure the immediate and safe return of all the captives.
He also said he has dispatched to Minna, Niger State capital, a team of security chiefs to coordinate the rescue operation and meet with state officials, community leaders, as well as parents and staff of the school.
“Our prayers are with families of the victims of this attack,” he said.
But many Nigerians say they are tired of these platitudes from the president who is the country’s chief security officer. They say the president should do more than issue statements to condemn the armed invasion of schools.
In a bid to beef up security, Buhari recently let go of his service chiefs and appointed new ones after several calls by concerned Nigerians and even legislators that the former service chiefs were not living up to their bidding.
“Nigeria has to declare a state of emergency on insecurity,” Idayat Hassan, director of the Abuja-based Centre for Democracy and Development think tank, told France24.
“The government must secure the schools and urgently too, or else (the) Chibok, Dapchi and Kankara school raids will encourage others to do worse,” Hassan said.