The President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), and military authorities came under fierce backlash on Saturday following the abduction of many schoolboys from the Government Science Secondary School, Kankara in the Kankara Local Government Area of Katsina State on Friday night.
The Peoples Democratic Party, the Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum and others described the incident as unfortunate, saying it was a sad reminder of the abduction of the Chibok schoolgirls in 2014. They noted that it was worrying that such mass abduction could take place under the watch of the various security agencies.
Gunmen suspected to be bandits Friday night invaded the school, a male only boarding school, and abducted an unspecified number of pupils. Residents said the gunmen invaded the school around 10:15pm and shot at one of the policemen manning the main gate.
The policeman, who was reportedly wounded in the leg, is said to be receiving treatment in hospital.
It was learnt that the bandits then proceeded to the staff quarters where they abducted the wife of a staff member before storming the pupils’ hostel where they gathered and abducted an unspecified number of pupils.
Military sources disclosed that troops of the Nigerian Army later arrived at the school to confront the bandits following which they (the bandits) left with some of the pupils.
Some of the pupils were also said to have escaped from the school during the gun duel between the troops and the gunmen.
The spokesperson for the Katsina State Police Command, SP Gambo Isah, confirmed the incident but did not disclose the exact number of students abducted.
When contacted on Saturday morning, he said, “We are still doing a head count to know the number of pupils (affected), maybe no pupil was even abducted as some of them had to escape from the school during the gun duel. So, I cannot give you the exact number of pupils abducted for now.”
A senior staff member at the school, who spoke on condition of anonymity, equally said a head count was being done, adding that parents had been coming to the school since early Saturday morning to know the fate of their children.
ACF urges security agents to go after bandits
The pan-Northern socio-political organisation, Arewa Consultative Forum, which condemned the abduction, said security agents should swiftly go after the bandits to rescue the pupils.
ACF National Publicity Secretary, Mr Emmanuel Yawe, told one of our correspondents in Kaduna on Saturday, “That this is happening in the President’s home state and at the time of his visit is not only serious but calls for concern. We at the ACF are not happy with the security situation in the country.
“ACF shares the concern of the traumatised parents and hope that their beloved ones will join them soon. We call on security men to act swiftly by apprehending the criminals and bringing them to justice.”
Buhari incapable of securing our nation – PDP
In its reaction, the Peoples Democratic Party condemned the attack, while asking the President to show leadership by fulfilling his promise of leading the war against insecurity from the front.
The main opposition party expressed regret that the security situation in the country would not have degenerated to its current state if the President had listened to its counsel and that of many Nigerians to rejig the nation’s security architecture. It stated that the situation had shown that the President was incapable of securing the nation.
A statement titled, ‘Terrorism: Account for 600 kidnapped Katsina students, PDP tells Buhari,’ signed by the party’s National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, in Abuja on Saturday partly read, “This particular abduction in the President’s home state, under his watch, raises further serious questions over this government’s capacity to fight insurgency.”
The party chided the President for earlier refusing to honour an invitation by the House of Representatives for a collective deliberation on security, adding, “The time of the attack buttresses the fact that President Buhari, as the commander-in-chief, is totally incapable of securing our nation; the very reason there have been widespread calls by patriotic Nigerians that he should resign.”
While asking the President to end his holiday and ensure the rescue of the pupils, “having earlier admitted that issue of security is his exclusive responsibility,” the PDP said, “Our party sympathises with the people of Katsina State, particularly the parents of the kidnapped students, who have been subjected to harrowing experience occasioned by the incompetence of the Buhari administration.”
A response was still being awaited from the All Progressives Congress as of the time of filing this report.
Declare state of emergency, Atiku tells Buhari
Former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar has advised the President to declare a state of emergency on security as well as suspend academic activities in boarding schools in the North as part of measures to curb the growing insecurity. He, however, said the elected political structure at the local and state levels should be left intact.
In his statement titled, ‘Time for better strategies to secure Nigeria’, Atiki said, “I sympathise with the parents of the abducted children and the government and people of Katsina State. I pray for their safe return.”
While calling on law enforcement agents to immediately swing into action to rescue the missing pupils, he said, “I therefore call on the Federal Government to immediately declare a state of emergency in states bedevilled by banditry and terrorism for an offensive and decisive war on terror and insecurity.”
Abduction, sad reminder of Chibok girls kidnap – SMBLF
The Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum also condemned the incident, saying, “The security system that cannot stop all this nonsense is totally useless and totally unfit.”
The SMBLF in a statement on Saturday evening by Yinka Odumakin (South-West), Chief Guy Ikokwu (South-East), Senator Bassey Henshaw (South-South), Dr Isuwa Dogo (Middle Belt), said, “The mass kidnap bore similar imprints with the Chibok incident of 2014 which became a serious political weapon for political power grabbers who lied about change.
“That a military formation is also around the Katsina school like Chibok and was unable to prevent this again raises the strong factor of conspiracy. The question is for how long are we going to watch fellow Nigerians being used as cannon fodders in this terrible scheme by these agents of darkness?”
It’s time to declare state of emergency on B’Haram – Ohanaeze
Igbo apex socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, has said it is time to declare a state of emergency on Boko Haram insurgency, adding that the government should go after the terrorists.
Ohanaeze’s Deputy National Publicity Secretary, Chief Chuks Ibegbu, told Sunday PUNCH, “It was Chibok and Dapchi in the past, now it’s Katsina. These terrorists are becoming more daring. There should be a national emergency on Boko Haram war. It has to be addressed methodically and strategically. The real terrorists are on our neck.”
The Coalition for Peace and National Security described the action of the bandits as unacceptable, as it challenged security agencies to immediately swing into action with a view to rescuing the missing pupils and apprehending the perpetrators.
CPNS, in a statement by its National Coordinator, Dr Mohammed Maigoro, and National Secretary, Tunde Funsho, said, “This latest development is yet another confirmation that the country is porous without security. We call on the President to be more concerned about this than regime protection as everyone has embraced democracy with no one reasoning along that line anymore.”
Hundreds still missing as fighter jets comb Zango/Paula forest
Meanwhile, the state Commissioner for Education, Dr Badamosi Charanchi, said 406 pupils had been accounted for as of Saturday evening.
This fuelled fears that hundreds of pupils might still be unaccounted for as sources put the population of pupils in the school before the attack at about 800.
Charanchi, while addressing the staff and parents of pupils of the school inside the school premises, said, “We have now accounted for 406 pupils and I’m sure more pupils will be found as efforts are ongoing to ensure their rescue.” Governor Aminu Masari later gave the figure as 426, saying no one could give the exact number of pupils abducted yet.
A top government official, who pleaded for anonymity, said, “The school population is around 800. The population is actually more than that but you know the Junior Secondary School 3 and the Senior Secondary School 3 pupils are not in school since they have completed their examinations.”
However, the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, has ordered the deployment of additional operational and investigative assets to support the ongoing search and rescue operations in Kankara and its environs.
It was learnt that the military had also deployed air assets, including combat helicopters to support the rescue operation.
The Nigeria Air Force spokesman, Air Vice Marshal Ibikunle Daramola, could not be reached on the air operation as calls to his phone rang out but a senior officer confirmed that the NAF was involved in the ongoing search for the missing pupils.
But Force spokesperson, DCP Frank Mba, said in a statement titled, ‘Kankara GSS attack: IGP deploys additional rescue assets’, that the deployment, which includes personnel from the Police Tactical Squads and crack detectives from the Force Intelligence Bureau, would provide investigative support for the state police command.
“Investigations so far revealed one of the attackers was killed and a policeman injured during the attack,” he added.
How gunmen staged commando-like abduction – Residents
Multiple sources, including residents and security operatives revealed on Saturday that the bandits who were said to be in hundreds and fully armed, stormed Kankara on foot a few minutes after 9pm having parked their motorcycles at a nearby village to avoid suspicion by residents and security operatives stationed in Kankara.
It was further learnt that while some of the bandits engaged the policemen stationed at the main gate of the school in a shoot-out, some of the bandits scaled the school fence to gain entrance.
Some top officials of the school also revealed that the bandits first went to the staff quarters where they took the wife of a staff member who they later released. The bandits reportedly proceeded to the pupils’ hostel where they gathered the students together and marched them out of the school.
One of the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said, “The pupils were being marched out of the school when troops of the Nigerian army arrived and engaged them in a fierce shoot-out. The development made some of the pupils to escape while the bandits left with some others. It was a very disturbing scenario.”
Parents who had their wards in the school continued to storm the school throughout Saturday to make enquiries about their children.
Masari closes all boarding schools, faults attack
Governor Aminu Masari in an interview with journalists in Katsina described the incident as worrisome, as he gave assurance that efforts were ongoing to rescue the abducted pupils.
He said in Hausa, “This incident has gone beyond imagination. For us, it’s highly worrisome and disturbing. I’m assuring parents and guardians of these children that – we couldn’t say that we are more disturbed than them – but to rest assured that we share the same worry with them. I urge you people in the name of Allah and his prophet to please remain patient and intensify prayers.”
He said there was no need to trade blame. He added, “We want to assure you that we will do all that is possible to rescue the schoolchildren as we have directed the immediate closure of all schools in the state and that all pupils should be taken back home.”
Meanwhile, Kankara town remained calm throughout Saturday while soldiers and policemen were sighted in strategic places in the town.
Masari, who had in the past negotiated with the bandits and offered them amnesty if they laid down their arms, added, “As I’m speaking to you now, the soldiers are in the bush engaging the militants in a firefight. I plead with you to exercise patience, we will rescue the children and I also ordered for the closure of all schools to save the children.”
Masari, who was accompanied by his Deputy, Alhaji Mannir Yakubu and other top government officials to the school, later cancelled the amnesty offer last June, saying the bandits had betrayed his trust in them.
Buhari condemns attack on Katsina school
The President has also condemned the bandits’, saying he had also directed men of the Nigerian Army and the Nigerian Police Force to go after the attackers to ensure that no student got missing or harmed.
Buhari’s position was contained in a statement by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, titled ‘President Buhari strongly condemns bandits’ attack on Katsina school.’
The statement quoted him as saying, “I strongly condemn the cowardly bandits’ attack on innocent children at the Science School, Kankara. Our prayers are with the families of the students, the school authorities and the injured.
Shehu also disclosed that in the latest briefing received by the President from Governor Aminu Masari, with whom he had been in touch, and the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Tukur Buratai, the military, supported by air power, had located the bandits’ enclave at Zango/Paula forest in Kankara and there had been exchange of fire in an ongoing operation.
“The President has directed the reinforcement of security of all schools in line with the safe schools policy of the administration,” the statement added.
We rescued over 200 pupils – Police
Meanwhile, the Katsina State Police Command on Saturday said over 200 pupils had been rescued. It, however, did not specify the number of students abducted by the bandits.
A statement by the spokesperson for the command, SP Gambo Isah, disclosed that a police inspector was injured during attempts to rescue the students.
The statement partly read, “On 11/12/2020 at about 21:40hrs, bandits in their numbers, shooting aimlessly with AK 47 rifles, attacked Government Science Secondary School, Kankara. The policemen on duty also responded to the attack and engaged them in a gun duel which gave the students the opportunity to scale the fence of the school and ran for safety.
“The DPO reinforced the policemen on duty with (an) Armoured Personnel Carrier which forced the hoodlums to retreat into the forest. One Inspector sustained a gunshot wound and was taken to the hospital and is responding to treatment.
“In the course of the investigation, the DPO rescued over 200 pupils back into the school compound.”
He said the police, army and the Air Force were working closely with the school authorities to ascertain the actual number of the missing and/or kidnapped students while search parties were assiduously working with a view to finding and/or rescue the missing pupils.
The principal of the school, Usman Abubakar, referred enquiries on the incident to the state Ministry of Education.