Protesters have rocked Kankara in Kankara Local Government Area of Katsina State, following the abduction of students of Government Senior Secondary School, GSSS, in the town by bandits on Friday night.
The protests came on a day governor of the state, Aminu Bello Masari, told a delegation of the Federal Government that about 333 students of the school were still missing, 72 hours after the abduction, even as the state government yesterday ordered indefinite closure of schools in the state.
This is just as a grieving Aminu Dayyabu and father of one of the missing students, said his 12-year-old son, Aminu Faruq, in JSS 2, was among those yet to be rescued by security agents.
The protesters, who marched round the school and streets in the town, demanded prompt rescue of students abducted by bandits on Friday night.
Led by a woman who identified herself as one of the mothers of the abducted students, the protesters bore placards with such inscriptions as “Government must speak out;” “We want our children back;” and “We want security in Kankara.”
The protesters also chanted songs seeking the rescue of the abducted students.
School principal keeps mum
However, efforts to ascertain the actual number of the kidnapped or missing children proved abortive as principal of the school declined comments on the grounds that the governor, Aminu Bello Masari, directed him not to speak to the media.
“I have been given directive by the governor not to talk to the media. If you need any information, talk to the government. That was the directive,” he said.
Amid the protest, the Coalition of Northern Groups, CNG, threatened to mobilise students and youths to go on protest in Katsina State if the abducted students were not rescued on time.
Chairman of the North-West zone of the group, Jamiu Aliyu, who briefed the media in Katsina, said: “We condemn in totality this barbaric act and call for the immediate arrest and prosecution of the culprits.
“We equally stress the inability of the government to protect those young, innocent, vibrant students from this horrible attack as uncalled for.
“Failure of the government to rescue the missing students within the shortest period of time, CNG will not hesitate to mobilize hundreds of thousands on the streets of Katsina State for a continuous protest, until the students are fully rescued, even if it’s going to cost our lives.”
FG delegation on sympathy visit
As the protest progressed at Kankara, Governor Aminu Bello Masari was at a meeting with the Federal Government delegation, led by Minister of Defence, Major-General Bashir Magashi, retd, at Government House, Katsina.
He told the delegation which also included the service chiefs, that about 333 of the students are still missing. They were in Katsina on a sympathy visit.
The governor, who put the total number of students in the school at 839, said nobody or group has reached out to the government to claim responsibility for the attack.
He said: “Based on available records, we have a total number 839 students in the school. We are still searching for 333 students through either the forest or their parents to ascertain the actual number that has been kidnapped.
“Counting is ongoing because more are coming out from the forest and we are calling through the numbers of those parents that have phone numbers to find out whether or not their children have gone back home.
“We, as a government, are yet to be contacted by any group or persons responsible for the kidnap of the students.”
Responding, the Defence Minister said the missing children would be released in the next few hours without collateral damage to the people of the state.
Magashi called on the armed forces, the police and other security agencies to move faster to ensure the speedy and safe rescue of the students.
He continued: “We have strategies and I believe we can do it without any collateral damage to the people of Katsina State,” he said.
“We have the intelligence, the information, their whereabouts, their movements and their methods of operations. The task is easy for the armed forces and the police.
“The only thing is that we need prayers from you so that there will be no collateral damage in the event of being hostile. We assure you that all hands are on deck.”
The defence minister said the abducted students will be recovered soon, adding that security agencies are working hard to ensure their release.
He said: “So far, we have been briefed by the Police Commissioner, GOC, Brigade Commander, Air Commander, DSS, and other security officers.
“Our interest is to keep ourselves abreast with what actually happened two days ago and we believe with their briefings, this task is going to be simple for us.”
Katsina schools closed
Following the incident, the state government, yesterday, directed all schools in the state to end their third term for the 2019/2020 academic session.
The schools, which were supposed to end the session next week, have been directed to remain closed until further notice.
A statement by the Public Relations Officer, Ministry of Education, Sani Suleiman, read: “This is to inform the general public, especially principals, parents/guardians, proprietors of community and private schools that the third term for 2019/2020 academic session has come to an end.
“Therefore, all public, community, and private schools are to remain closed till further notice.”
My son still missing — grieving father
Also, a grieving father, Aminu Dayyabu, cried out yesterday that he was yet to see his 12-year-old son, who is in Junior Secondary School , JSS2.
Aminu, a resident of Funtua, who enrolled his son in the technical school told Vanguard yesterday that he was told by another student who narrowly escaped the attack that his son was among those taken away into the bush on foot by the bandits.
He narrated his ordeal: “The bandits created a chaotic atmosphere that made the children to scamper for safety. While some were found, some are still returning and some are still missing. My son is among those still missing.
“I approached one of the students who escaped the attack. I asked him if he knew my son, Faruq Aminu and his whereabouts. He answered yes, he knew him and that he was among those the kidnappers took away into the bush.
“He said he scaled through the fence to escape but my son, being a minor, couldn’t jump the fence. So, he is among those kidnapped.
“As at this morning (yesterday), the information we had was that there was deployment of security operatives in the area to go into the bush in search of the students.
“We learned the students in the school were about 800, about 250 were found and later, about 150 returned. Then it is assumed that about 400 are still missing.
“There was also a boy who escaped and who told us they took them into the bush on foot like cattle. They took them up to Powa Forest which is a far distance.
“We found majority of their shoes in the school. They took them away on their bare feet. I feel unhappy with the situation because it is better to lose my child to death than being kidnapped.