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Kankara pupils want schools protected

By Danjuma Michael, Katsina 
20 December 2020   |   3:03 am
Reactions have continued to trail the release of the 344 students of Government Science Secondary School (GSSS), Kankara, Katsina State, who were abducted by gunmen

A view shows an empty classroom with school bags and wares belonging to pupils at the Government Science school where gunmen abducted students, in Kankara, in northwestern Katsina state, Nigeria December 15, 2020 – Boko Haram on Tuesday claimed the abduction of hundreds of students, marking its first attack in northwestern Nigeria since the jihadist uprising began more than ten years ago. (Photo by Kola Sulaimon / AFP)

Reactions have continued to trail the release of the 344 students of Government Science Secondary School (GSSS), Kankara, Katsina State, who were abducted by gunmen last week Friday night.

For the students’ parents and relations, it has been wild jubilation and cries of joy over their release, after spending six days with the captors.

Even key state government officials could not hide their excitement when they granted interviews or spoke in private over how the abduction incident finally turned out. 

Before their release, Governor Aminu Masari had visited the school hours after the incident, where he found it hard to control his emotions, as he openly shed tears, lamenting the atrocity and fate of the students. 

Narrating what happened on the day of the attack, one of the men from the school’s security unit, said the gunmen took them all by surprise and had met some resistance from local vigilantes.

“… When I heard the first gunshot, I thought it was someone using a firecracker or some such thing.

“We have two policemen guarding the school’s entrance. One of them was standing close to me by the gate inside the school, while the other went outside to light a cigarette.

“Some few minutes later, I heard a loud sound, but I thought it was one of the students playing with firecracker until the policeman standing outside ran into the school and sped past us.

“The one standing by my side, on realising that it was an attack, tried to engage them in gunfire exchange, but they shot him and he was wounded in the neck.

“When the attackers came, they divided themselves into two groups, with one group gathering the children, while the other went further town to repel vigilantes.

“I managed to hide in one of the classrooms and some of the students who tried to flee the attack also hid with me. That was what saved them from being taken away,” he narrated.

As of yesterday morning, all the students except five had been moved to Kankara town for onward ferrying to their various homes.

But some of the students and their parents said they might not be sending or returning to the school anytime soon, with a call to the government to boost the school’s security.

The students were brought into Katsina Friday morning and had been lodged the day before by the Zamfara State government.

According to observers, the students’ release raises some questions, which beg for answers.

For instance, the militant sect, Boko Haram, had claimed responsibility for the abduction and had issued video and audio clips to some media organisations to prove its assertion.

In the audio message, the sect’s leader, Abubakar Shekau said the students were kidnapped because Western education goes against Islamic tenets.

In the video clip that had the students’ images, one of them was heard begging the government to rescue them, and to keep fighter jets from flying over their location.

Observers are asking if Boko Haram had begun making inroads into the Northwest, as it had hinted of its plan to spread its presence and ideology across the country.

The fact that all and not some of the students were released on the same day also raises the question as to whether another group was trying to mimic or work together with Boko Haram.

Usually, the sect’s modus operandi is to release abducted victims in batches, after negotiations had been finalised. But the Kankara incident isn’t consistent with the group’s tactics.

Moreover, the sect is not known to set victims free without having spent several days or weeks in captivity, as well as some form of financial exchange, or ‘compromise’ being reached.

Governor Masari had said no money was paid to the gunmen, and that negotiation for their freedom was made possible by a committee consulting of the national leadership of Miyetti Allah, and some security personnel.

But observers said for a group of gunmen to go through the effort of kidnapping hundreds of students, move them into the forest, stand guard over them for at least five days, and not collect any money before they were released, may be hard to swallow.

Observers are also concerned that such an attack took place on the same day President Muhammadu Buhari flew into the state for a one-week visit.

They are wondering if some highly placed persons used the armed men to score a cheap political point.