Over 881 students kidnapped under Buhari’s administration
...Police say conducting area surveillance in search of the kidnapped girls
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NO fewer than 881 students have been kidnapped since President Muhammadu Buhari came to power in 2015, findings by The ICIR have shown.
Buhari had struggled to clinch the presidential seat three times, until he eventually made it in the 2015 presidential election.
The thrust of his campaign promise to Nigerians was to tackle insecurity, apart from fighting corruption and boosting Nigeria’s economy.
Nevertheless, most Nigerians believe not much has been achieved, especially in the area of security.
Reports have shown that terrorist attacks, kidnappings and all forms of insecurity have been on the rise.
Worse still, kidnapping has become a sudden attractive enterprise under Buhari’s government.
Recent report from the SBM, an independent research and strategic communications consultancy outfit, disclosed that between June 2011 and March 31, 2020, at least 18.34 million dollars were paid to kidnappers as ransom.
“Even more frightening is that the larger proportion of that figure (just below 11 million dollars), was paid out between January 2016 and March 2020, indicating that kidnapping is becoming more lucrative,” the report read.
However, beyond the various kidnap and abduction incidents, The ICIR highlights those involving school students which are summed to 884 students.
3 Schoolgirls Kidnapped in Lagos
In March 2016, three schoolgirls, Timilehin Olusa, Tofunmi Popo and Deborah Akinayo, were abducted by kidnappers in Ikorodu, Lagos State. The girls were taken from their boarding school – Babington Macaulay Junior Seminary School–to a hideout, according to a BBC report.
The police confirmed the incident and later launched a search for the abducted school girls. Though it was not established whether it was abduction or kidnapping, an eyewitness said the abductors were heavily armed – a similar pattern adopted by kidnappers in other parts of the country.
The criminals destroyed part of the school fence, shot in the air to scare the people, before taking the schoolgirls away at about 8pm.
They were late rescued after six days in captivity.
113 kidnapped Dapchi Students
In February 2018, about 110 schoolgirls from age 11 to 19 were kidnapped by the Boko Haram terrorist group. The students were taken from the Government Girls Science and Technical College (GGSTC) in Dapchi, a town located in Bulabulin, Yunusari Local Government Area of Yobe State.
Two other girls and a boy from another school were among those abducted by the insurgents which summed up to 113 students.
It was not the first time the insurgents would be kidnapping school girls. A similar incident had occurred in 2014 when the Boko Haram terrorist group stormed into Government Secondary School in Chibok and kidnapped 276 girls from their dormitories.
However, most of the Dapchi students were later returned after almost a month in the kidnappers’ den.
It is not clear if the federal government paid ransoms to secure their releases. Lai Mohammed, minister of information and culture, had said, “The only thing they asked for was that they should be the ones to drop them off.”
“They didn’t want to hand them over to any third party. Nothing was given in exchange for them,” he stated.
While most of the students have gained their freedom, Leah Sharibu, one of the kidnapped girls, who refused to renounce her faith, was held back.
Up till today, Sharibu is still believed to be in the custody of her abductors. As a result, religious leaders locally and from abroad have continued to call for her release.
In October 2008, Mohammed Khalid, chief Imam of Apo Legislative Quarters, and Yakubu Pam, chairman of the Northern region for the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) both appealed for a safe return of the girl.
About six days ago, Enoch Adeboye, general overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, further demanded the safe return of Sharibu. He tasked clergymen within the church to intensify prayers for her release, but not much action has been heard from the government in recent times as new cases of kidnapping have continued to emerge.
344 abducted students from President’s Own State
Amid these incidents, there was an abduction of 344 students from the Government Science Secondary School, Kankara, Katsina State.
A viral video about the boys’ kidnap incident surfaced on the internet. The Boko Haram insurgents reportedly claimed responsibility for the incident which occurred on December 11, 2020. It was reported that the bandits who perpetrated the criminal act were under the instruction of the insurgents.
The boys were later released about a week after.
Abdul Labaran, director-general in charge of media to Governor Aminu Bello, also confirmed the release to the Vanguard newspaper.
80 abducted students from Islamiya School in Katsina
Barely 10 days after the last abduction of 344 school children, 80 students, mostly young girls, were kidnapped in Mahuta town, Dandume Local Government Area of Katsina state.
Eyewitnesses said the incident occurred while the students were returning from Unguwan Alkasim village where they went to celebrate the birth of Prophet Muhammad. They were ambushed by the assailants.
Gambo Isah, Katsina State Police spokesperson, also confirmed the incident that appeared to have become a regular occurrence.
The victims were later safely rescued by the police authority. It was probably the last kidnapping incident of the year 2020 that made it to the news.
27 students kidnapped in Niger State
On February 17, 42 persons were abducted by armed men in Niger State. The incident occurred at the Government Secondary School, Kagara, where the criminals, who reportedly dressed in military camouflages, stormed the school at about 2 am Wednesday and whisked their victims away.
Both teachers and the schoolboys were taken, but the figure of kidnappers’ students was 27.
“Information reaching us is that 27 students are still missing. We don’t know the number of teachers at the moment, we don’t want to put out numbers that will turn out contradictory, but efforts are being made to rescue them,” Mary Noel Barje, chief press secretary, told CNN.
The incident which forced the state government to temporarily shut down boarding schools in the state drew the attention of the federal government and civil society organisations.
After spending about nine days with their kidnappers, the victims were released to the state government. However, a boy was killed in the process of rescue.
“The abducted students, staff, and relatives of Government Science College, Kagara have regained their freedom and have been received by the Niger State government,” Abubbakar Bello, state governor, had disclosed.
317 schoolgirls kidnaped in Zamfara State
Last in the series of kidnapping incidents under Buhari’s government, at least for now, was the abduction of 317 of schoolgirls of the Government Girls Secondary School, Jangebe, Talata-Mafara Local Government Area of Zamfara State.
The incident reportedly happened at about 1:00 am at midnight on Friday. No group has so far claimed responsibility for the attack. Bello Matawalle, state governor, in a special state broadcast, assured parents of the students’ of safe return of their children. “I wish to assure everyone that we are wholly committed to ensuring a speedy rescue of our dear school girls,” he stated.
Incidentally, the recent attack occurred barely days after Adamu Mohammed, inspector-general of police (IGP), had deployed 275 special police officers to the state.
Their task was to quell banditry, kidnapping, armed robbery among other criminal activities, in the state until the latest abduction.
Buhari, in a statement issued by Garba Shehu, his official spokesperson, told state and local governments to be more proactive and increase safety measures around schools in their respective states.
He challenged state governments that had adopted the style of rewarding bandits with cash and vehicles to reconsider, as the method “might boomerang disastrously.”
“Let them not entertain any illusions that they are more powerful than the government. They shouldn’t mistake our restraint for the humanitarian goals of protecting innocent lives as a weakness or a sign of fear or irresolution,” Buhari told the bandits, stressing that there were ongoing measures to address the situation.
Buhari’s assurance means nothing – Aisha Yesufu
However, Nigerians have continued to express their anger over the reccurring insecurity situations.
Aisha Yesufu, one of the popular critics of the current administration, described the president’s assurance as worthless
She alleged that Buhari was clueless, incompetent, and bothered less about the safety of Nigerians. “…the statement is absolutely nothing. We are used to a president whose words mean absolutely nothing. He says one thing and the opposite happens,” she remarked on ChannelsTV.
“The president should come out and tell us what is going on. The media should sit with the president and ask, what is the way forward? …He was voted to provide solutions; his salaries are being paid.”
She stressed further that the “body language of the president enables the terrorists, they know that we have an ineffective president and commander-in-chief. We have an incompetent one, we have a clueless one who does not even bother about what is happening in the country.”
While driving home her arguments, Yesufu criticised Buhari’s absence at the burial of seven military officers who died in an aircraft crash while on official assignment.
“Yesterday, we buried seven military officers, among them, the best that we had. The nation was in mourning, and the president was a few minutes away from where they were buried and he didn’t turn up.
“What does that mean to anybody, even the nation?” she queried. “It is time we began to make serious demands from the president. Let him know that if he is not ready to do this for us, he can resign and go away. Enough of the abductions,” she stated.
This is not the first time Buhari would be asked to leave the office for his perceived incompetence.
Resign from office – Nigerians demand
A coalition of civil society organisations (CSOs) last week also told the president to be more serious concerning the security situation in the country or resign from office.
The over 40 non-government organisations (NGOs) tasked the National Assembly (NASS) to impeach the president if insecurity persistee in the country.
The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) had earlier called for Buhari’s resignation due to the worsening security situation.
Last December, northern elders under the umbrella body of Northern Elders Forum also told Buhari to resign over a similar concern.
Meanwhile, The ICIR contacted Muhammaed Salisu, police spokesperson for the Zamafara State Police Command, for an update about the missing girls. He said the police had already commenced aerial surveillance on the forest where the children might likely be taken to. The efforts, he emphasised, was being carried out by joint security operatives led by the state police commissioner.
“Other security operatives are also in support of the operation,” he said.
Moreover, The ICIR had earlier reached out to the Army spokesperson, Mohammed Yerima, about the incident, but he claimed he was unaware of it. The ICIR again reached out to him on Saturday evening, for an update about the kidnap victims but he queried why the reporter had to reach out on a constant basis. However, he said a press statement would be issued once there was an update.
“You can’t be calling me every hour over the incident. If there is any update, I will issue a release,” he stated.