Eight months after the abduction of 80 students from the Federal Government College, Birnin Yauri, Kebbi State, more than 10 of them are still being held by their captives, despite payment of ransom and prisoner swap, at different times.
Bandits loyal to a kingpin, Dogo Gide, ransacked the school on June 17, last year, and left with dozens of students and five teachers of the federal government-owned mixed boarding school.
Also, one more student of Bethel Baptist High School in Kaduna is still being held by his abductors, over seven months after he and scores of his schoolmates were rounded off at night by attackers who killed two security personnel on guard duty.
The abductions followed the first of such attacks by bandits in December 2020 when a gang led by one Auwal Daudawa attacked Government Science Secondary School, Kankara, in Katsina State, and abducted over 200 students.
Long in misery
The FGC Yauri attack, which occurred less than 20 days after the mass abduction of pupils from Salihu Tanko Islamiyya School, Tegina, Niger State, caused a stir and raised concerns among stakeholders about the safety of students, especially in schools around areas affected by security challenges.
Immediately after the abduction, a few of the victims were retrieved by security forces while others were released by the bandits as part of negotiation talks.
Dozens of the abductees were subsequently released in two batches to negotiators in October and January.
Gide, who is believed to be the bandit closest to jihadi groups due to his long association with the Jama’atu Ansarul Muslimina Fi Bilad as-Sudan, better known as Ansaru, had in a telephone conversation threatened to convert the students by training the males on gun-handling and marrying off the females.
The terrorist group, Boko Haram, had meted out similar treatment to captors, notably the Chibok girls abducted in 2014.
Persons familiar with efforts to secure the release of the victims told Daily Trust that the bandits’ kingpin had made good his pledge as he married off at least 13 of the students.
The girls were said to be given out to bandits and a few interested persons living in villages around areas controlled by Gide, along the boundary between Niger and Zamfara states.
The bandits’ kingpin is holding on two the students despite receiving huge amounts in ransom and two of his men freed as part of negotiations in October, as reported by Daily Trust at the time.
Speaking during the national campaign on out-of-school children in Birnin Kebbi, the Kebbi State capital in late January, Minister of State for Education, Emeka Nwajiuba, confirmed that 14 of the students were still in captivity.
Also, the Special Adviser on Security to Kebbi State Governor, Garba Rabiu Kamba, told Daily Trust by phone last week that there were 14 students yet to be released by the bandits.
But a source who had participated in past talks to release the students told our reporter that three more schoolgirls were released to their parents in mid-January, with all of them coming back pregnant.
“Eleven are there now; 10 girls who are married and one boy. The three he released to their parents in January came back pregnant,” said the source who craved for anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue.
Lone Bethel student in custody
Meanwhile, a 12-year-old JSS 1 student of Bethel Baptist High School, Damishi, Kaduna State, who was kidnapped on July 2, 2021 along with dozens of others, has remained in captivity, Daily Trust gathered.
The student (names withheld) is the only one left after the bandits released his schoolmates in batches following a series of negotiations. The latest release was on January 2 when two out of the three students were released to the detriment of negotiators and family members who expected release of all the three remaining captives.
‘We’re working to secure their release’
Both the federal and Kebbi State governments have said they are making efforts to secure the release of the remaining Yauri students.
Speaking at the Birnin-Kebbi event, Mr Nwajiuba said “The government will continue to do all it can to free our children who are being held for what they know nothing about,” in reference to the students.
Also, the Kebbi governor’s security adviser, Kamba, said the state government was still following up to get the remaining students freed.
The chairman of Kaduna State chapter the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Reverend John Joseph Hayab, told Daily Trust last night that efforts were still on to secure the release of the lone Bethel School student still in custody.