Students of Government Science Secondary School, Kankara, Katsina State, yesterday gave a distressing account of the night they spent in the bushes following the Friday’s siege on their school by bandits.
Many of the students are still missing while their parents said they are in distress. They called on relevant authorities to rescue their wards.
Daily Trust on Sunday reports that hundreds of motorcycle riding bandits, armed with sophisticated weapons, attacked the boys’ school in Kankara town of Katsina State at night.
During the attack, hundreds of students scaled through the fences of the school in search of safety while the rampaging bandits kept shooting and asking the fleeing students to return.
The attack on the school took place a few hours after President Muhammadu Buhari landed in Katsina and proceeded to Daura, his hometown for a week-long private visit.
The siege at the Kankara science school was one of the several attacks in towns and villages in Katsina State between Thursday and Friday, where bandits killed some people and abducted others to unknown locations.
*Gunshots like a dream
An SS1 student, Kabir Isah, who was amongst those who spent the night in the bush after they fled, said the whole incident was like a dream.
According to him, “We left classes after our night prep around 9:30 pm and retired to our dormitories. At about 10:30 pm, after some of us had gone to bed, we began to hear gunshots and the senior students rushed to our hostels to wake us up.
“While some of them said we should run for our lives, others said we should gather in the hostels first to monitor the situation before the next line of action.
“When we heard the sounds of the gunshots getting closer, we all ran towards the fence and jumped over to the bushes. The gunmen then began to call us back, saying that nothing will happen to us,” he said.
“We ran for some hours into the bush and gathered somewhere under the trees and sat until when we heard the early morning call to prayer,” he said.
He said those trapped in the school lost their phones and money to the bandits.
Kabir told Daily Trust on Sunday that most of the students sustained injuries while jumping over the fence and running into the bus.
“But we thank God that we are back home because we learnt that others were kidnapped by the attackers,” he said.
A prefect who does not want his name mentioned, said the Friday night incident was like a film.
“Some of us thought it was the end of time…The gunshots were thunderous. I think the attackers wanted to kill everyone, maybe just to hit the headlines because as students, we don’t have anything to give them.
“And almost all of us are children of the poor and so, I was wondering whether they wanted to abduct us for money or just to kill us the way they are killing people without any reason,” he said.
Another student who gave his name as Yunusa, said: “We ran and ran for hours in the bush. Whenever we wanted to stop, we had no option but to continue because we were afraid and traumatized. It was when we got exhausted that some of us gathered under a tree waiting for the dawn,” he said.
Mukhtar, another student in the school said he will go back to his parents until the security situation is improved. “You have to be alive before you can become something in life. Honestly, I am disappointed that this is the state where the president hails from.
“From what we are seeing, there is the likelihood that one day every other person would be killed in Katsina and neighbouring states by bandits who now rule like emperors.
“We spent the night in the bush and some of us that returned are just lucky. I am sure some of those that missed their bearing would end up in the bandits’ den. It was traumatic because there was no water for us to drink and we were all exhausted,” he said.
*We want our children back – Parents
Some parents who spoke to Daily Trust on Sunday said they are worried and confused over the situation and called on the government to do everything possible to secure the release of their children and wards.
A mother, Iklima Idris Bakori, said, “My son was taken away…Is it because we are poor that this is happening to us. If not, why is this happening?”
Another parent, Mustapha Barde, whose son, Abbas Mustapha, 14, was abducted, called on the government to do everything possible to secure the release of their children from the bandits.
“They should please be careful so that during a confrontation with the bandits our children are not killed. My son just finished his exams and will be going to JSS 3,” he said.
Usman Galima, whose son Usman was also kidnapped stressed the need for parents whose children were abducted to intensify prayers for their safe return and for God to keep them safe wherever they are.
Umma Haruna Bakori, whose son Mujtafa Usman was among students taken away, said, “I pray to God and call on others to help us pray as well so that they are returned to us peacefully and in good shape,”
Alhaji Muntari whose two children Abdullahi and Muhammad were among those missing students, said one has returned.
“I have seen Abdullahi, he has returned but Muhammad, who is in JSS 2, is yet to return,” he said.
Explaining how he heard of what happened in the school, he said, “I got wind of the abduction on Friday night but couldn’t go to the school vicinity because of the sporadic gunshots across the town.
“I couldn’t sleep from 10 pm. After the morning prayers at about 5.30 am, we began to troop to the school along with others.
“I am still disturbed about the whereabouts of our children though some of them have started coming back.
“I am hoping to see my second soon back with us,” he said.
* How the bandits approached the Kankara school
Sources said the attackers reportedly shot one of the security guards at the school gate while the other was nowhere to be found. The guard who was shot was taken to Kankara General Hospital where he is responding to treatment.
A resident of Kankara, who spoke under condition of anonymity, told Daily Trust on Sunday that there were reports that the attackers were sighted on their bikes late Friday evening which had put the people of the area on alert.
“They arrived Kankara some minutes after 10 pm in about 150 motorcycles and some of them went straight to the school while others blocked the road leading to the school from Kankara town, apparently to prevent anyone from going there to render help.
“Those who blocked the road were earlier engaged by members of a vigilante group and within a short time, the police arrived with reinforcement,” he said.
People in Kankara town told our correspondent that the bandits had made an earlier attempt to attack parts of the town but were repelled by troops of Operation Sahel Sanity stationed in the town.
The police spokesman in Katsina, SP Gambo Isah, confirmed the incident, saying when the school was attacked, two policemen engaged the gunmen at the gate in a gun duel which gave the students the signal to run for safety.
“One of our men was shot but he is responding to treatment. The DPO in Kankara together with reinforcement from other divisions are working to search for other students who are yet to return.
“As of now, we cannot ascertain whether some of the students were kidnapped or not, but as I said, our men are on top of the situation,” he said.
Isah explained that policemen in search and rescue operation have found about two hundred students in the forest and returned them to safety, adding that the rescue team was still searching the forest in the hope of finding more students who had escaped the bandits’ attack.
*Normalcy will return – Masari
Governor Aminu Bello Masari yesterday visited the scene of the incident to assess the situation and assured that normalcy will return.
The governor, accompanied by his deputy, Alhaji Mannir Yakubu and other government officials met with the school officials, some parents, traditional and religious leaders as well as security officials.
The governor, who could not control his emotions, pleaded with the people to be patient and show restraint and understanding, assuring them that government will do everything necessary to ensure the release of all the abducted students.
He said already, security officials including the military, police and DSS have swung into action and were on the trail of the abductors.
He also ordered for the immediate closure of all boarding secondary schools in the state.
Also, President Buhari yesterday asked the army and the police to go after the attackers.
Buhari in a statement issued by his spokesman, Garba Shehu, condemned the bandits’ attack and implored the school authorities to carry out an audit of the student population.
The president also said parents who took away their children and wards from the school after the incidence should notify the school and police authorities to have a full account of the school population.
“I strongly condemn the cowardly bandits’ attack on innocent children at the Science School, Kankara. Our prayers are with the families of the students, the school authorities and the injured,” the president said.
*Call off holiday, search for abducted Katsina students
The PDP yesterday urged President Buhari to call off his holiday and search for the abducted students in his home state of Katsina.
Addressing a press conference at the PDP National Secretariat yesterday in Abuja, the party’s National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, said Buhari should lead the search for the rescue of the students.
“The PDP demands that President Buhari should immediately quit his needless holidaying in Daura and go in search of, and rescue the abducted students, particularly having earlier admitted that the issue of security is his exclusive responsibility.
“The time of the attack buttresses the fact that President Buhari, as the commander-in-chief, is incapable of securing our nation; the very reason there have been widespread calls by patriotic Nigerians that he should resign.
*12 killed in another attack
In another development, heavily armed men attacked Yar Kuka village also in Kankara LGA on Thursday where 12 people were reportedly killed and some others abducted.
A resident of the village whose daughter was kidnapped told our reporter that the bandits invaded their village around 9:30 pm and started shooting indiscriminately, killing 12 people and abducting six women.
“Three of the abducted women are married and my daughter is one, while the remaining three are young girls.”
Also on Thursday, gunmen attacked Dan Ali village in Danmusa Local Government Area where they abducted a retired education officer identified as Sani Skido.
A resident of the village said the attackers who came at around midnight, shot at the door of the room where the victim was hiding in his house. Traces of blood were seen in his room after he was taken away.
Similarly, three travellers were reported abducted on Friday by unidentified gunmen on their way from Danmusa to Maidabino village in Danmuasa.
A resident of Danmusa said the travellers, who were on their way back from Benin in Edo State, were intercepted and their vehicle abandoned at the scene of the abduction.