From Noah Ebije, Kaduna

Banditry and kidnapping have in recent times taken very dangerous dimensions in Kaduna State. Almost daily, kidnapping and killing of innocent citizens on the highways, farms, in schools and homes make the news.

The July 5 kidnapping of 121 students of Bethel Baptist High School was the highest number of students so far abducted in the state in one incident. The parents are in agony, calling on Governor Nasir El-Rufai to bring back their children from captivity. This was even as landlords have become tenants, having abandoned their houses as a result of frequent attacks by kidnappers, to rent apartments in safer places.

One parent whose child was still in captivity at the time of this report said his family was in disarray following the incident. The parent, Pastor Jibrailu Ibrahim Wobiya, a teacher at a seminary in Kaduna State, had to abandon his duty post in Makarfi Local Government Area of the state, awaiting the release of his daughter.

Wobiya, former general secretary of HEKAN Church, Kaduna, said: “My daughter is in JSS3. She was to start exams on that fateful Monday and finish on Friday, but she was among the students that were kidnapped in the early hours of that fateful day.

“I had to leave my workplace in the morning and travel to Kaduna to join other parents to see what we could do. We keep praying together on a daily basis at the school premises and holding meetings with the school authority to see how our children could be rescued.”

Another parent, Caroline Emmanuel, said: “I have only child, my only surviving child, and the government is not doing anything about it.

“One thing should be noted, bandits have been killing our people; they just entered Nissi community, kidnapped people there. The bandits have been kidnapping people and killing them anyhow. We can’t even go to the farm, we can’t do anything anymore.”

Esther Joseph, one of the affected parents, said: “Why did they not relocate the school, a school that is located where bandits are kidnapping people? They should close schools.”

However, following the release of 32 students by kidnappers, leaving behind 85 other students, one of the lucky parents, Danboyi Bege, said his entire family has been traumatised since the news of the kidnapping broke on July 5.

“I almost died. I was alive but dead when I started thinking of where my daughter was and what she was doing. I never thought I would see my daughter alive again.

“I am happy that we have some of them back. But that does not mean my pain is over. We will continue with our spiritual and physical struggles until every one of them is back and reunited with their parents,” he said.

Consoling the parents, the proprietor of the school, president of the Nigeria Baptist Conference, Reverend Ishaya Jangado, said the bandits ‘promised’ to be release the students in batches.

According to him, “I have been talking with the abductors of these children. They told me they would be releasing them in batches and they have released the first batch. We are trusting God that they will release the remaining ones in batches.”

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For some landlords in Maraba Rido, Mahuta, Nissi and Juji  areas of Kaduna, relocating to less affected places like Barnawa, Narayi, Television and Ungwan Sunday, among others, was the best option.

A landlord, Mike Audu, told Daily Sun: “I had to relocate to safer place because, almost every night we heard gunshots by bandits. Many residents have been kidnapped in the area. And many people who built and stayed in their own houses there had to relocate to rent apartments somewhere else, thereby becoming tenants. You have to save your life first before you talk of saving your house.”

Another area of Kaduna city that came under heavy attack lately by bandits was Ungwan Gimbiya, a suburb in Sabon Tasha, where bandits broke into homes three days after the Baptist School incident and kidnapped 15 residents from their bedrooms.

Fences and walls were broken to gain access to the occupants at odd hours. The bandits, a few hours later, demanded N180 million.

That was after the kidnapping of 39 students from the College of Forestry and Mechanization, Afaka, Kaduna, in March.

The Afaka victims were released after almost two months in the den of kidnappers, following payment of an undisclosed ransom by parents who were assisted by well-meaning Nigerians.

After the Afaka incident, there was the abduction of 25 passengers along the Kaduna-Kachia Road, who were travelling for an Easter retreat.

Unfortunately, the state government and other stakeholders are not on the same page as far as the process of obtaining the freedom of the victims is concerned.

While El-Rufai has taken a firm stand never to negotiate with bandits, families of the victims are saying the best way out is to pay ransom in order to secure their freedom, compared to humans losing their lives.

The governor had once said that, even if his child were kidnapped, he would not pay ransom. He has since withdrawn his child from public school, based on security reports that kidnappers were planning to abduct him from school.

One of the governor’s wives, Mrs. Asia El-Rufai, said recently at a public function that her husband would not pay ransom even if she was kidnapped.

But the Christian body in the state, under the aegis of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), has urged El-Rufai to deploy sophisticated weapons to tackle the killers and criminals, even if he would not negotiate with them. CAN advised the governor to talk less about not negotiating with the bandits, noting that, by talking too much, the governor was exposing his plans and might encourage bandits to raise their game.

The state chapter chairman of CAN, Reverend Joseph Hayab, told Daily Sun: “All we are saying is that the governor should ensure that the kidnapped students and all those kidnapped in the state are back home. We never asked the governor to negotiate with bandits, but should use the might of government to free the victims.”