The ancient city of Zaria in Kaduna State has been in the news lately but certainly not for the right reasons.
It has been in the news over issues of criminality and criminal conspiracies ranging from kidnapping of both students and other residents and culpable homicide, among others.
More worrisome is the recurring attacks and kidnapping of students, especially at Nuhu Bamalli Polytechnic.
In November 2020, two houses were invaded at the Polytechnic Staff Quarters by suspected bandits during which three persons were kidnapped while some others sustained gunshot injuries during the attack.
In that attack, Engineer Bello Atiku, who is the Head, of Department of Computer Engineering of the college, and two of his children were kidnapped while another worker, Sunusi Hassan, was shot in the hand and narrowly escaped being kidnapped by the bandits. Again, just recently, the gunmen invaded the same school and, this time around, not only kidnapped several persons, including students but terminated the life of Ahmad Muhammad, a higher national diploma (HND 2) student of statistics of the institution. The bandits, who invaded the school at about 10pm of Thursday, June 10, 2021, also kidnapped two lecturers, Mr Habila Nasal and Malam Adamu Mohammed Shika, while a wife and two children of Malam Ahmad Abdul were also kidnapped but released thereafter.
Hajarah Abdul Ahmed, wife of a worker of the institution, and her two children who were kidnapped and later released by the gunmen, in her account said after the gunmen abducted her, they walked in the bush for quite a distance and suddenly the leader told her to take her children and go back. Hajarah, who was also pregnant then, took her two children and walked back through the bush and returned to the staff quarters, while thanking God for her release.
The woman who spoke in Hausa said, "I don't know why I was released. After trekking for long in the bush, their leader asked me to go back with my children and I trekked through the bush with my children back to the quarters, but I still don't know why I was released."
A brother to the HND 2 student who lost his life in the attack, Shamwilu Abdulhamid, described the death of his brother as painful, but accepts it as an act of God. He said that the deceased was shot in the waist and was rushed to the hospital at about 12am the same day, but that he later gave up shortly after 1am.
The deceased's sister, Hafsat Abdulhamid, said his brother's death came when he was struggling to acquire education to become self-reliant, adding that the entire family, including their sick mother, has taken the loss as the will of Allah, just as they called for fervent prayers to rid the society of the menace of kidnapping.
Following the recent happenings, students of Tertiary Institutions in Zaria have continued to express fear over the high rate of kidnapping and banditry prevailing within and outside the metropolis. A cross section of students, especially those at Nuhu Bamalli Polytechnic, Zaria, which has been shut down following the killing of one student and abduction of two lecturers and about ten other students, expressed deep concern over the unfenced, porous and vast land of the school which exposes the polytechnic community to apparent danger.
They said that even when the school resumes, students will continue to live in an atmosphere of fear due to the unsecured vast land surrounding the school.
Commenting on the issue, Bello Mohammed Bello, the president, Students' Union Government of the Polytechnic, said unless adequate security personnel are deployed, the reoccurrence of such attacks in the school is a possibility.
He, however, commended the effort of the Emir of Zazzau and the management of the school for providing some military personnel after the recent attacks. He expressed hope that such arrangement will not be cosmetic in nature or for a brief and short time only.
He appealed for more deployment of troops that would stay permanently, considering the outskirt location of the institution.
A student of the Federal College of Education, Zaria, Kafilat Usman Dauda, said students of the teachers' institute are living in palpable fear due to what happened in the polytechnic.
She said most of the students are afraid that after the polytechnic attacks, their Institution could be the next possible target for the bandits. She called on the school management to take proactive measures to secure the lives and property of staff and students.
Similarly, students of the two campuses of Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, are also living in panic following the prevailing insecurity in the city.
Jaleelah Sani, a 200 level Law student at ABU, Zaria, said the students' fear was heightened when a student was shot dead and others abducted at Nuhu Bamalli Polytechnic, Zaria.
"Apart from that you know, we had some few cases of abduction also in ABU in recent time, but those ones took place at the staff quarters of the main campus in Samaru.
"I can tell you that students, both in Kongo and Samaru, became more scared when they realised that the bandits had extended their nefarious act of kidnapping to students.
LEADERSHIP Weekend reports that it is not only students that are afraid of attack, but also the staff.
The chairman, Academic Staff Union of Polytechnic (ASUP), Zaria chapter, Engineer Aliyu Musa Kofa also shares in their fears and calls on relevant security agencies to up their game of providing the required protection.
Meanwhile, the recent attack and kidnap has led to the Management of Nuhu Bamalli Polytechnic, Zaria, suspending all academic activities of the institution indefinitely as contained in a statement signed and issued by Mahmud Aliyu Kwarbai, information and protocol officer of the polytechnic. It further directed all students to vacate the institution.
While the news of the attack and kidnap of students and lecturers of Nuhu Bamalli Polytechnic Zaria was still fresh in the minds of people and efforts to secure their release was ongoing, the bandits struck again, this time abducting 12 persons in the new settlement of Kofar Gayan/Kofar Kona axis of the ancient city of Zaria, just days after the polytechnic attack. In that attack, eight persons were kidnapped from one house, while mostly males were handpicked from about five other houses in the same area.
An eyewitness and a daughter of one of the victims, Hafsat Habib Kusfa said the bandits broke into their home at about 12am and went from room to room, brought all the occupants out and assembled them in the premises of the house. She explained that the gunmen who invaded their house were all carrying guns and some machetes, and also spoke Fulani language among themselves and Hausa language when they wanted to talk to the captives.
According to her, after some arguments the gunmen told her to go back into the house to take care of smaller children and a nursing mother, who is her stepmother.
"Thereafter, they went along with my father, mother, sister, and my brothers. All in all, they went away with eight people from our residence. We also saw some of their colleagues bringing out other people, mostly males from our neighbourhood and they later went away with them.
"About seven gunmen stormed our residence; those that I saw with my eyes and two of them outside were around age 30 each, while those that came to pick us from our rooms were between age 15-20." Hafsat explained.
She confirmed the release of her father and mother in the morning of the night they were kidnapped, but that they had to be immediately hospitalised because none of them could speak.
"From their condition, it was evident that they received severe beating from their abductors thereby rending them ill," she said.
Aside that, it was reported a former bank manager was also abducted at his residence at Graceland area of Kwangila, Zaria, at about 9pm a day after.
The Emir of Zazzau, Ahmed Nuhu Bamalli, has expressed concern at the persistent nature off of attacks carried out by bandits in the emirate and the state as a whole.
He, therefore, called for more deployment of troops to enhance maximum security of lives and property of citizens in the area. He called on the residents to be more security conscious and secure themselves going forward.
Emir Bamalli said the increasing rate of banditry activities in the emirate and the state in general had becoming so alarming, with gunmen striking the ancient city of Zaria almost on a daily basis. He lamented that the attacks had persisted and was widely spreading to most parts of the emirate.
LEADERSHIP Weekend reports that insecurity has also forced thousands of people in Zaria to come together and perform two Raka'at prayers to seek Allah's intervention on the prevailing security challenges in the area. The prayer session, popularly known as "Al-Qunut," was organised by the Muslim community at Azaran Dabuwa, Kofar Gayan area of Zaria.
The two Raka'at prayers were led by Imam Tanimu Abubakar and supported by prominent Islamic scholars from Kusfa and other parts of the town.
With the recurring attacks on academic institutions and abductions of students and lecturers in Zaria and Kaduna State, the beleaguered residents are hopeful that the security agencies will do everything within their powers to stem the tide before it takes a more worrisome dimension.