- Global outrage as bandits seize 317 school girls in Zamfara •UN agency,Amnesty condemn attack •Angry parents in shouting match with staff, withdraw wards from school •Zanfara goc shuts all boarding schools •Jangebe residents protest abductions, block access to community, attack journalists •Gumi:Bandits I met not responsible for latest abduction; may step in again to negotiate with abductors
By AbdulGafar Alabelewe; Kaduna; Sanni Onogu, Moses Emoriken; Gbenga Omokhunu and Frank Ikpefan, Abuja
Massive anger swept across the globe yesterday as news broke of yet another mass abduction of students in Nigeria by bandits.
No fewer than 317 students of the Government Girls Secondary School,Jangebe in Talata Mafara Local Government Area of Zamfara State were seized in a midnight attack on Thursday by gunmen.
It is the sixth of such attack by hoodlums on innocent students in the north since Boko Haram killed and burnt 59 students of Federal Government College, Buni Yadi in Yobe State on February 25,2014.
That is aside the over 200 schools that have been set ablaze by the terror sect over the years.
The Secretary General of the United Nations (UN) Antonio Guterres, called the abductions a heinous violation of human rights while Amnesty International AI labeled the abduction a war crime and an assault on the right to education for thousands of children in northern Nigeria.
Angry parents stormed the school and launched into a shouting match with the staff who had tried to prevent the parents from taking their children among the remaining ones on the campus.
Residents of the town also took over the streets and blocked the access into the community to protest the abduction.
The protesters soon turned their anger on journalists and government officials who had gone to the town to dig into the matter.
Hundreds of Nigerians also took to social media to denounce government and the security agencies for their continued inability to protect the citizens from bandits.
Renown Islamic scholar,Sheik Ahmad Gumi,who has been interfacing with bandits in Zamfara and Niger State over the last few weeks with a view to stemming the wave of violence,told The Nation yesterday that the gunmen he men were not responsible for the last abduction.
He hinted that he may step in again to negotiate with the abductors.
UN Sec-Gen wants abducted girls released immediately
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres yesterday called for the immediate release of the school girls kidnapped in Zamfara.
He called the abduction a “heinous violation of human rights.”
Guterres in a tweet said he was “appalled by the abduction of more than 300 girls during an attack on a secondary school in Nigeria.”
He said they “must be released to their families immediately & unconditionally.”
In a separate statement the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) expressed concern over the abduction which it described as “a gross violation of children’s rights.”
“We are angered and saddened and by yet another brutal attack on schoolchildren in Nigeria. This is a gross violation of children’s rights and a horrific experience for children to go through – one which could have long-lasting effects on their mental health and well-being,” Country Representative of the agency, Peter Hawkins said.
According to him, the school attack is coming a little over a week after a similar attack in Niger State.
‘Education under attack in northern Nigeria’ – Amnesty
Amnesty International (AI) said the Jangebe school attack and similar ones in the past are proof that “education is under attack in northern Nigeria”.
The organization,in a tweet called the abduction,saying: “Amnesty International condemns this appalling attack, which is the latest in a string of attacks on schools in northern Nigeria. -Attacks on schools and abductions of girls are war crimes.
“Education is under attack in northern Nigeria. Schools should be places of safety, and no child should have to choose between their education and their life. Other children have had to abandon their education after being displaced by frequent violent attacks on their communities.
“The girls abducted are in serious risk of being harmed. Nigerian authorities must take all measures to return them to safety, along with all children currently under the custody of armed groups.”
Distraught parents storm school,engage staff in shouting match
Dozens of parents yesterday stormed the school to confirm if their children were among the abducted ones.
While those whose children could not be immediately be accounted for either broke down in tears or offered to join in a search and rescue operation ,other parents chose to take their children home.
This did not go down well with the staff who initially resisted the attempt to take their remaining students home.
But the affected parents would have none of that.
A shouting match soon ensued between the two sides.
The parents banged the tables and even smashed doors and windows to drive home the point that they meant business.
The staff however piped down when they saw that the parents were not about to relent.
It was gathered that some of the parents even collapsed when their children could not be accounted for.
Jangabe residents protest abduction,block roads,attack journalists,govt officials
In the town itself,hundreds of residents stormed the streets to protest the abduction of the students by bandits.
The protesters blocked access into the community even by journalists,security agents and government officials.
Journalists from Daily Trust, NAN, AIT, TVC, Channels and an online media Thunder Blowers narrowly escaped lynching by the protesters.
The mob attacked two vehicles conveying the reporters.
A photographer of Thunder Blowers was seriously injured on the forehead and had to be rushed to Gusau, the state capital for treatment.
The protesters threw stones and other dangerous objects at the vehicles which some youth wanted burnt but the drivers of the vehicles zoomed off after some of the windscreens were smashed.
The protesters also reportedly pelted the convoy of the state commissioner for security home affairs Alhaji Abubakar Dauran who had gone to the town to assess the situation.
Police Commissioner Abutu Yaro expressed dismay at the action of the protesters.
He said there was no reason for them to take the law into their hands by attacking vehicles, including those on a rescue mission and journalists, and appealed for calm.
He said:”People must understand that the government and security agents are on their side and against the bandits that is why it is very important for them to see the need to allow security agents do their work effectively and rescue the victims.
“We are doing our best along with all sister security agencies, members of the vigilantè group, and the state government to get to the bottom of this matter.
“l can assure you that we will rescue all the students unhurt.”
‘Some people want us to call bandits, artisans’;Nigerians mock advocates of dialogue with bandits
Hundreds of Nigerians also took to social media to deplore the latest abduction and calls,in some quarters,for dialogue with bandits.
Human rights activist, Senator Shehu Sani,in a mockery of such calls tweeted: “Some people want us to call Bandits, artisans.”
Nefertiti @firstladyship said: “Peace is expensive, but you don’t negotiate with Shekau nor bandits. America understands this. Does Nigeria? Each time you open negotiations with criminals, you invite trouble, I mean big trouble. Sheikh Gumi is playing with fire. Any nation that buys peace is indebted to war.”
Reno Omokri,former aide to ex-President Goodluck Jonathan said: “These are the same bandits Sheikh Gumi wants us to give amnesty. The same Gumi who encourages their criminality by feeding them lies that Christian soldiers are behind their ordeal. After #KagaraStudents we are now faced with #RescueJangebeGirls. Gumi, do you still want amnesty?”
Nafi’u Ahibbah at NafiuMuhammadL3 tweeted: “The mass abduction of students at Girls’ school Jangebe, Zamfara state is another sad story which again has squarely punctured the supposed peace treaty entered into with these beastly people.The more they abduct the more money they generate, they can’t stop the dirty trade,” while Onah Agamah @Oagamah said: “The abduction of over 300 students from the Government Girls Secondary School, Jangebe, Zamfara State shows that security architecture under this administration has failed completely. From Kankara to Kagara to Jangebe. Haba Nigeria!!!”
The Social Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) asked the United Nations Security Council to treat the failure of Nigerian authorities to prevent and prosecute attacks on students, and to end the growing insecurity in the country as a fundamental breach of the UN Charter and Nigeria’s international human rights obligations.
The group,in a February 26 ,2021 letter signed by its deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, said attacks on schools and abductions of students were a violation of children’s rights.
SERAP said these abductions and attacks also undermine the purposes and principles of the UN Charter and if not urgently prevented and combatted, may rise to the level of threat to international peace and security.
The Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) blamed the Zamfara State government for tolerating hostage taking and accepting terrorism.
It wondered why the Zamfara State House of Assembly has done nothing to stamp out the emerging trend of kidnapping of students by adopting the harshest legal punishment for such act of terrorism.
“The government of Zamfara state should be held responsible and should be told to ensure the safety of these hostages. In fact the Zamfara State house of assembly should impeach the governor for failure to protect the school children, for his inability to discharge his duty to protect school children and for actively defending the so called armed bandits whom he is quoted as allegedly saying that they are not criminals,” HURIWA said in a statement in Abuja.
It added: “”To demonstrate to Nigerians that they want to respect the Constitution of Nigeria and stand by the best approaches to tackling the rising wave of terrorism by these so called armed bandits in the North of Nigeria the governors of the North as well as other northern governors in partnership with their houses of assembly should pass a law stipulating a death penalty for kidnappers of school children and must be implemented/enforced because there should be no room for negotiation with terrorist/kidnappers”.
Lawan urges FG, Zamfara State Government to rescue kidnapped school girls
Senate President Ahmad Lawan urged the Federal and the Zamfara State Governments to ensure the immediate rescue of the abducted school girls.
He condemned the attack and expressed sadness and outrage that the incident happened while efforts were still being made to rescue those abducted just over a week ago at another secondary school in Kagara, Niger State.
The Senate President said the recurrent attacks on schools and other acts of banditry called for intense soul searching on how the nation arrived at this sorry pass and how to cage the monster of violent crimes in Nigeria.
Lawan expressed his sympathy for the abducted school girls and urged the authorities at all levels to work together to ensure their immediate rescue.
The Senate President also reiterated his call on the state authorities to accord priority to securing schools and other locations now seen as soft targets by savage criminals.
Enough is enough,says Northern Governors Forum
The Northern Governors Forum (NGF),in its reaction, said the North has had enough disruptions of its education system.
Chairman of the Forum and governor of Plateau, Simon Lalong, said in a statement in Jos that the spate of abductions in schools in the region was grossly unacceptable.
He said strong measures must be taken to put an end to the menace before it escalated into a monster that would inhibit educational pursuits and national aspirations.
Lalong expressed concerns that the new development was coming when the abduction of school children in Kagara, Niger State, was still being addressed, saying the pattern called for serious concerns among all Nigerians.
“As northern governors, we are deeply saddened by these embarrassing and unfortunate attacks on our children who are in schools to seek knowledge and build capacity to impact positively on the nation and to create a better society,” he said.
“The assault on schools where innocent and harmless students are targeted should not be condoned in any way because it has the tendency to set the nation back to ignorance and more poverty.
“The northern part of the country in particular is more educationally disadvantaged and cannot afford to have these disruptions. Enough is enough,” he said.
The chairman tasked security agencies to use every asset at their disposal to rescue the children and bring those behind the act to justice.
Zamfara bandits I met, not responsible for latest abduction,says Gumi
Renown Islamic scholar, Sheikh Ahmad Gumi, who has been leading talks with bandits terrorising Zamfara and Niger States ,said the abductors of the Jangebe school girls,are not the gunmen he recently engaged with in Zamfara forest.
Gumi in a telephone interview with The Nation said, the abduction was carried out by a splinter group of the Zamfara bandits.
The Islamic scholar who appeared to have reached out to the bandits leaders he recently met, stated categorically that, “they are not the ones that abducted the girls. It is a splinter group.”
When asked whether he would be going to Zamfara to meet the bandits for talks and plea for the release of the school girls, Sheikh Gumi simply said, “maybe”.
He first met with bandits in Zamfara a few weeks ago before holding talks with another set in Niger State last week.
PDP asks Buhari to deal with Zamfara schoolgirls’ abduction
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) asked President Muhammadu Buhari to deal decisively with what it called the c “escalated scourge” of kidnapping
National Publicity Secretary of the party, Kola Ologbondiyan, in a statement said the terrifying spate of abduction and acts of terrorism in the country underscored concerns that the All Progressives Congress (APC) and its administration have become bereft of solutions to the security challenge.
The party called for an immediate full-scale investigation into the Jangebe school girls abduction.
It said: “Only last week, gunmen had a field day invading communities after communities in Niger State, killing and maiming our compatriots after which they descended on Government Secondary School, Kagara where they killed a student and abducted 40 others alongside their teachers.
“In December, just two months ago, the nation was jolted when gunmen invaded President Buhari’s home state, Katsina, at the time he was holidaying in the state and abducted over 600 students of the Government Science Secondary School, Kankara.
“Indeed, our party weeps over the unfortunate situation that our nation is being plunged into by the incompetent, deceptive and uncoordinated APC and its administration that not only caused the escalation of acts of terrorism in our country but also failed to run an effective command structure to secure the nation.”
The statement recalled that the PDP had earlier alerted “of a link between the APC and the outlaws,” adding, “It is unpardonable that the APC has failed to stop their bandits, who they brought from neighbouring
countries to help them muscle the 2019 election. Instead, they had allowed them to continue to invade our communities and wreak havoc on our people.”
Atiku says state police is crucial
Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar in a telephone call to Governor Bello Matawalle on the abduction said all hands must be on the deck to support the Zamfara state government in securing the release of the girls.
The Federal Government cannot expect the states to provide security of life and property in their domain, without giving them control over internal security, he said.
He tasked the National and State Assemblies to begin the process of constitutional and legal reforms that will make this a reality.
He added: “My heart goes out to the families of the abducted children, and my right hand of fellowship is extended to Governor Matawalle, to help in any way possible.”
Parents may stop sending their children to school because of insecurity – NUT
The Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT) warned that parents may stop sending their children to school if the Federal Government fails to stop constant attacks of schools in the country.
The union condemned the kidnapping of 317 students of Government Girls Science Secondary School, Jangebe.
President of the NUT, Dr Nasir Idris advised the Federal Government to provide security for schools in the country.
He also asked the government to revisit the Safe School Initiative introduced in 2014 following the adoption of the Chibok girls in Borno state.
Idris said: “It is like these people have turned it (adoption of school children) into a very lucrative business on their own part. Therefore we condemn it in totality and the federal government should ensure that they provide enough security to our secondary schools.
“With this thing that is happening the parents and the students will become demoralised to go to school and the parents will not trust their wards to go to school because there is no security.
“If government cannot secure schools in this country and teachers, definitely NUT will have to sit down and look at the whole issue holistically so that we will take a decision.
“The union condemns the activities of bandits and we are calling on government to adequately make provision to secure all our schools.
“The issue of the Safe School Initiative which commenced in 2014 after the abduction of the Chibok girls obviously has been jettisoned over the years. Government must be proactive to ensure that the safe school initiative is fully implemented.
“If government allows this trend to continue, which has been occurring frequently, will demoralise the parents. No parents will want to undergo the trauma of the child or ward being taken away from the school. The children too, their interest in education will be dampened and by extension, education system in Nigeria will suffer further decline and it will not augur well for the overall development of the country.”
Zamfara shuts all boarding schools
Governor Bello Matawalle of Zamfara State yesterday ordered the immediate closure of all boarding schools in the state in a reaction to the abduction of the Government Girls Secondary School,Jangebe students.
The governor,in a broadcast,said efforts were on to strengthen security around all schools int eh state.
His words: ” As a father, I feel the pains of the parents and guardians of the abductees. My heart is with you at this moment and will always be with you throughout the rescue mission. I also want to use this opportunity to appeal to the parents and guardians to exercise more patience and continue to pray for the success of the ongoing rescue mission.
” Despite this seeming setback, my administration will ever remain focused on its strategy of disarmament. A single bullet in the hands of the non-state rogue elements could result in severe harm to the innocent. I am of the conviction that the large cache of assorted weapons recovered through the disarmament process has made Zamfara State safer despite the recent unfortunate incidents. The type of dangerous weapons recovered through the disarmament process would make the heart of any person of conscience to cringe.
” My dear good people of Zamfara State, this is not a moment to trade blames. The recent twist in the spate of banditry brings to the fore the need for the adoption of a uniform strategy across all the affected states. We can only defeat this formidable challenge through a united response. Politics or any other difference should not stand in the way of the fight against insecurity. The fundamental objective of governance is to secure the lives and property of the governed. My administration will never relent in the pursuance of this fundamental objective.
” I appeal to the people of the state to remain calm and resist the evil machinations of those who would want to exploit the current situation to achieve political ends. Insha Allah, with our collective resolve, we would emerge out of this situation stronger.
” I also call on people to be more security conscious and report any suspicious individuals or activities to the relevant authorities.
” As we are making efforts to strengthen security around our schools, I have directed the immediate closure of all boarding secondary schools across the State.
10 boarding schools also shut in Kano
The Kano State Government yesterday ordered the immediate closure of 10 boarding schools in a pro-active move following the incessant abduction of students from boarding schools in the north.
Shut are Government Secondary School, Ajingi;Government Girls Secondary School, Sumaila; Government Girls Secondary School, Jogana; Government Girls Secondary School, Gezawa; and Government Secondary School, Kafin Maiyaki.
The rest are Maitama Sule Science Secondary School, Gaya; Government Girls Unity School, Kachako; Government Girls Secondary School, Kunchi; Government Unity College, Karaye; and Government Girls Arabic College, Albasu.
Education Commissioner Sanusi Kiru said government took the decision on the strength of an analysis and assessment of the abduction of boarding students during night hours in some Northern states.
He advised parents whose children are in the affected schools to go and pick them immediately.