…We don’t enjoy our spouses because they are always on patrol –Women

 

From Noah Ebije, Kaduna

•Primary School, Kuriga.                                                         •A dilapidated structure of the primary school

 

The abduction of over 200 students/pupils by bandits last week in Kuriga primary and secondary schools in Chikun Local Government Area of Kaduna State has exposed how the local guards, otherwise known as vigilance group, have been trying to safeguard the community even at their own risk.

•Children in Kuriga calling for security and peace in the community

 

However, the kidnap saga seem to rubbish their efforts, indicating that they laboured in vain as the bandits overpowered them in broad daylight right in the heart of the community and took away school children into the forest.

A teacher, Sani Abdullahi, who escaped abduction, noted that the bandits were out to abduct the entire 700 population of the two schools, but without success.

•Gov. Sani

Abdullahi said: “I resumed at the school today (Thursday) at exactly 7:47am. I entered the acting principal’s office and signed. All of a sudden, the acting principal asked me to look behind and when I turned, we discovered that bandits had surrounded the school premises.

“We became confused, we didn’t know where to go. Then, the bandits asked us to enter the bush. So, when we entered the bush, I was lucky to escape alongside many other students.

•Musa

“I returned to the village and reported what happened to the community. So, immediately our vigilantes and personnel of Kaduna Vigilante Service (KADVS) followed the bandits, but the vigilantes did not succeed. In fact, the bandits killed one of the vigilantes, we just buried him immediately.

“It was when we came back from that pursuit that we briefed the Village Head and we started making efforts to know the actual number of pupils and teachers taken away by the bandits.”

On their own part, some of the wives of the local guards have cried out  following the incident as they claimed that their respective husbands do not have time for them again because of the patrol they do day and night to secure the community.

One of the housewives, Hadiza Kuriga, said: “Now, it has become a sad story. Children can no longer go to school, our husbands cannot sleep at night; they were patrolling the community. But they were overpowered by the bandits who took away our children.

“My daughter was ill. She managed to eat her breakfast and went to school that day. Now, she’s in the bush with bandits.”

Another woman in the community, Hauwa Abubakar, lamented that “the primary school is the only thing we can boast of having from the authorities.”

It was observed that the dilapidated structures of the schools are eyesore and  obviously begging for the attention of relevant authourity.

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Interestingly, prior to the bandits’ attack, the community in collaboration with the vigilance group considered it wise to move the secondary school from a lonely site closer to the primary school which is in the heart of the town. This for easy surveillance by the local guards.

So, on hearing of the attack by the kidnappers on that fateful day, the vigilantes swung into action, thinking that it would be an easy task dealing with the rampaging bandits since the attack was in  broadlight.

Perhaps, the local guards underrated the sophisticated weapons of the bandits, while they  paraded dane guns, clubs and knives.

Governor Uba Sani is apparently not happy that the vigilantes are not properly armed.

Sani said: “I am one of the prominent voices on the issue of security. When I was in the Senate, I moved the motion for the creation of state police. We have realized that there are not enough boots on ground. That is why we feel that with state police, every community, like Kuriga, will have people in the police and they would be armed with AK47 rifles. That is the only way we would be able to protect the lives and property of the citizens.

“The vigilantes are not as armed as the bandits, because the bandits do have AK47. That is why the bandits are constantly causing us destructions. They come in to humiliate, kill and abduct our citizens.”

According to a resident, Malam Shehu Audu, “the situation is very unpleasant.The vigilantes here are not well equipped. The security operatives are stationed at Udawa town which is far. We also have communication network problem here.”

Kuriga town is over two hours drive from the state capital along Kaduna/ Birnin Gwari highway. There are two major towns: Buruku and Udawa before getting to Kuriga from Kaduna.

According to recent reports, it is always very lonely traveling on that highway without sighting oncoming vehicles for hours, except for few military check points.

It was gathered that other villages along the highway have since been deserted by the residents because of frequent kidnapping activities. Most of the residents have migrated to the three major towns of Buruku, Udawa and Kuriga.

A source told Daily Sun that following recent security beef up before kidnap in that axis, the bandits were believed to be in a great apprehension and needed human shield against military onslaught.

“They (bandits) may have thought it wise to kidnap this large number of students to use them as human shield. Otherwise, I see no rationale behind this nature of kidnapping. How can the bandits maintain these children in term of their welfare and health needs? How will they feed them in this hard time?

“As I am talking to you, don’t be surprised that these bandits must have shielded themselves with these school children. So, it will be difficult for security operatives to bombard them because if they do that, they will automatically endanger the lives of the embattled children.

“I want to think that the only time the bandits are likely to demand for ransom is if the military capture all of them (bandits) alive, and afterwards, there may be negotiation for ransom before releasing the victims,” the source said.

However, the state government has denied hiring a private negotiator to facilitate the release of over 200 students abducted in Kuriga town. A national daily (not Daily Sun) had reported that the state government had hired a private negotiator  to ensure safe return of the kidnapped victims.

But in a swift reaction through a press statement,  Sani’s chief press secretary,  Muhammad Lawal Shehu, described the publication as an outright false and mischievous report.

“The attention of the Kaduna State Government has been drawn to an outrightly mischievous and false report in a national daily of March 9, 2024 stating that the Kaduna State Government has hired a private negotiator to facilitate the safe return of school children abducted in Kuriga community, Chikun Local Government Area of Kaduna State.

“We wish to state categorically that the Kaduna State Government did not hire any private negotiator, neither are we contemplating to make such a move. The hiring of a private negotiator only exists in the fertile imagination of the reporter. The Kaduna State Government has a clear policy on non-negotiation with terrorists, bandits and other criminal elements.

“We urge members of the press to be cautious in the way they craft and publicise their stories on security in order not to jeopardize the efforts of government and security agencies in degrading criminal elements laying siege to our communities.

“If the said national daily had made efforts to contact the Kaduna State Government, they would have got the correct information. The press are our partners in progress. Our doors are always open,” Shehu said.

Meanwhile, Gov. Sani has assured parents of the kidnapped pupils that the children will return home unhurt. While addressing the community members when he visited the scene of incident, the governor  promised to establish a police station and build a permanent camp for the military in the community.

The community members who trooped out to receive the governor at the village head’s palace applauded him for personally coming down to Kuriga to identify with them during the trying moment

“In my capacity as your elected governor, I am assuring you that, by the grace of God, all the children will return unhurt.

“Before coming here, I spoke with the National  Security Adviser (NSA), Malam Nuhu Ribadu, and we are making efforts, the security forces have swung into action and by God’s grace, we will rescue the children.

“We will do whatever we need to do to ensure safe return of these children, even if it means coming to Kuriga to stay with you. The essence of government is protection of citizens lives and property. We recognize the fact that, we are holding this position in trust for the people and by God’s grace, we will protect the citizens’ rights.”