Nigeria: Student Dies in Crossfire as Troops Free Five Kebbi School Abductees

19 June 2021

One of the students abducted by bandits who attacked the Federal Government College, Birnin Yauri, Kebbi State, last Thursday night has died during a crossfire between the kidnappers and security agents.

The kidnappers, who stormed the school in large number, were armed with sophisticated weapons, abducted 30 students, and killed a policeman. A teacher, a vice-principal, the school's security officer, and the wife of a teacher, were also abducted.

Governor Abubakar Atiku Bagudu of Kebbi State visited the affected school yesterday, where he met with the parents, and promised that all abducted students would be freed.

The shootout that claimed the life of the student happened yesterday morning when the fleeing kidnappers ran into men of the Joint Taskforce of Operation Hadarin Daji in the North-West Zone, at a roadblock, while heading out of Kebbi State.

According to the Deputy Force Commander, Operation Hadari Daji, Air Commodore Abubakar Abdulkadir, as a result of the duel, the bandits were forced to abandon five students and a teacher.

Sadly, one of the students, who was unidentified, died in the crossfire. No further detail was given on how the death occurred.

Abdulkadir said: "In the early hours of this morning, we came across the kidnappers. They came to our blocking point, and we engaged them. At that point, they abandoned five of the students and one of the teachers. Unfortunately, I think we lost one of the students."

The Nigerian Army in a statement yesterday confirmed the death of the student but attributed the death to "exhaustion during a rescue operation as troops of Operation Hadarin Daji engaged kidnappers in a fire-fight, culminating in the rescue of five students and two teachers of Federal Government College, Yauri."

A statement issued by the Army Spokesman, Brigadier-General Onyema Nwachukwu, said troops had launched a manhunt for the kidnappers and bandits, following the abduction of the students.

"The rescue followed an initial encounter with the abductors in the early hours of today (yesterday) 18 June 2021 after trailing the kidnappers from Yauri through Riyao to Sombo community, where the kidnappers who had split into two groups fled, with one group conveying the abducted children, while the second group conveyed rustled cattle," it said.

The update on the abduction said the land troops in conjunction with elements of the Nigerian Air Force, who provided close air support during the rescue mission, intercepted the two groups at about 2.30 am.

It said the troops also recovered 800 cattle rustled by the bandits and maintained that the gallant troops were still on the heels of the kidnappers to rescue the remaining abductees still in captivity.

"The rescued teachers and students will be handed over to the Kebbi State Government. The Nigerian Army appreciates the cooperation so far from good-spirited citizens and wishes to solicit more. "The Chief of Army Staff Maj Gen Faruk Yahaya has directed the commander to spare no effort until all the abducted persons are safely rescued and reunited with their loved ones," it said.

The rescued students and teachers are currently receiving medical treatment at the Yauri General Hospital.

Bagudu Promises Freedom for Abducted Students

Meanwhile, Governor Bagudu yesterday met with parents of abducted Yauri students at the school premises, assuring them that they would be rescued soon.

He assured the parents that the state government, relevant security agencies, and the presidency were working together to rescue the student from the bandits.

He said: "We will do anything to bring the children back. We have already engaged the necessary security agencies and they are working to rescue them. All we need to do we have done. What we need from you are your prayers and support."

Bagudu said the state government was alerted two weeks ago that the bandits were sighted around the school area, adding: "We planned to move them but the school authorities said the students have two weeks left to write their final exams. For this, the commissioner of police was gracious enough to dispatch 22 men and officers from the counter-terrorism unit to the school but they were overpowered because the bandits came in hundreds."

'How Bandits Took Our Children Away'

Worried parents of the abducted Yauri students yesterday narrated to Governor Bagudu how the bandits came in hundreds, overran the security at the school, and went away with many students.

A parent and one of the cooks engaged for the security personnel deployed to the school, Mrs. Aliheri Gabonchok said she was at the kitchen when the bandits stormed the premises and started shooting sporadically.

She said: "When they came, I rushed into hiding with some of the students I could gather. I told them to lie down till the gunshot subsided. I came out when they had left, only to hear from other staff, who also escaped, that they went away with some students, school staff, and even my husband."

Another parent, Ainan Muhammed, said the bandits who invaded the school were about 400.

Another parent, Aliyu Wushishi said his five children were among those abducted by the bandits and appealed to the governor to do whatever he could do to rescue the students from the bandits.

The Emir of Yauri, Dr. Sayyanu Abdullahi charged the government to have the political will to deal with banditry.

The emir also said people in the various communities should see it as their duty to expose those serving as informants to bandits in their communities.

The royal father gave the charge when governor Badugu visited his palace in Yauri after meeting with some parents of the abducted students.

Vehicle Used for Abduction

Meanwhile, the police command in Kebbi State yesterday explained that one of the vehicles used for the kidnaping belongs to a high court judge in the state.

Nafi'u Abubakar, the Kebbi police spokesman, said the van was hijacked by bandits on Birnin Yauri road.

Abubakar said the police are yet to determine the number of students kidnapped from the school located in Ngaski LGA of the state.

He said the reports making the rounds that 50 students were kidnapped from the school were false.

The Kebbi police spokesman said: "The attention of the police has been drawn to reports made by some media stations that a police vehicle was used in kidnapping about 50 students of the FGC. A White Hilux Van with registration No. kBSJ 29 belonging to a High Court judge with the inscription of Kebbi State Judiciary, hijacked by bandits on Birnin Yauri road was the one used in the kidnapping and not a police vehicle as stated by some media stations.

"The command wishes to make it clear and set the records straight that yet to be ascertained number of students are still missing as rescue operation is still ongoing."

Though the Kebbi State Government and the school's authorities are yet to release the official number of students and staff abducted in the school, unofficial sources said, in all, 30 students and four officials were kidnapped.

"25 students and two officials of the school are still with the kidnappers," said a source close to the school.

Yauri Lawmaker Laments

The lawmaker representing the Igaski/Shanga/Yauri in Kebbi State at the House of Representatives, Yusuf Sununu, has lamented attacks by bandits in Kebbi State.

Sununu warned that the growing insecurity in Kebbi State was a major threat to food security in the country.

Sununu said the pervading insecurity in the country was becoming worrisome, saying, "gone are the days when Kebbi used to be the most peaceful in the country.

"A week ago, we had another calamity when bandits - according to eyewitnesses - numbering about 250 to 300, each with an AK-47 rifle and using very strong motorcycles, came into my constituency. They had a field day and operated for more than eight hours, going from house to house, room to room, collecting money, handsets, motorcycles, and cattle. That led to a massive influx of internally displaced persons to the headquarters of the emirate in the town of Yauri.

"However, we were able to convince people and they started going back to their respective areas. But they (bandits) left a message that they would be coming back. Taking it seriously, some people refused to go back, and in the early hours of today, they repeated what they had done earlier, and they came into the constituency, somehow around 10:30 am or thereabout. They were able to gain access after strong fights with some security guards and policemen guarding the Federal Government College, Birnin Yauri, and they made their way into the school.

"This is a cause for concern and as representative of the people, I had to come here and make a call on the Federal Government to look at Yauri's position with its neighbouring Niger State. It has direct access to Zamfara State and west of Yauri is the bank of River Niger. We fear that their major target is to enter Yauri. Now, we are calling on the Federal Government to provide adequate security. I have got in touch with security agencies. We had discussions and it has been confirmed to me that military aircraft are in surveillance in the area.

"We have to make it clear that Kebbi State and indeed Yauri holds a unique position in the food security of this country. Over 90 per cent of the land of Yauri is for rice farming. But as of today, no farmer can comfortably go back to his farm and farm and come back to sleep with his eyes closed.

"We are right now facing an influx of some people into Yauri with a higher rate of internally displaced persons. Accommodation, feeding, and other necessary logistics are being affected. The worst part of it is that a nation can only develop when it is sound educationally.

"The so-called Boko Haram is almost becoming a reality because parents cannot feel free to send their wards to school for fear of being kidnapped. As it is now, a lot of primary schools in the emirate in Yauri town are being occupied by IDPs. This tends to deter the progress so far achieved by the Kebbi State Government in terms of agriculture and in terms of promoting access to education."

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