(Morning Star News) – A day before the Kaduna governor said kidnappers terrorizing the state are working with Boko Haram, Muslim Fulani herdsmen on Thursday (Oct. 3) kidnapped six teenage girls and two staff members from a Christian-run high school in north-central Nigeria, sources said.
Suspected to be herdsmen who have carried out numerous kidnappings and attacks in southern Kaduna state, the armed Fulani at 12:20 a.m. invaded Engravers’ College in Kakau Daji village, in Chikun County Local Government Area near Kaduna city, as students and staff members fled into the bushes, the sources said. The eight victims were taken away at gunpoint.
Kaduna Gov. Nasir el-Rufai told media on Friday (Oct. 4) that “bandits,” the term used by officials and Nigerian media wary of connecting the kidnappings to their fellow tribal Fulani, are working alongside elements of Islamic extremist group Boko Haram.
“We have been receiving intelligence some three months ago that the bandits have connected with some elements of Boko Haram, and they will be targeting schools to kidnap children because they know that that is what makes the news,” El-Rufai said.
Shunom Giwa, vice principal of Engravers’ College, said that five armed herdsmen appeared at the door of his house and spoke with each other in the Fulani language.
“They asked me to lie down, and I did as instructed,” Giwa told Morning Star News by phone. “They then attempted to enter my bedroom and, fully aware that my wife and children were inside, I stood up to distract them, but they asked me to lie down again, which I did.”
A few minutes later, he said, another set of the armed Fulani herdsmen appeared at his house with Joel Adamu, the school’s vice principal academics, and they ordered his colleague to lie on the floor beside him.
“When I discovered that their attention was on my colleague, I just ran into the bush, and on realizing I was escaping, they shot at me, but fortunately they didn’t get me,” Giwa told Morning Star News. “They searched for me without success, and when they couldn’t get me, they started looking for where the students were.”
As the assailants went to the school hostel and forced the door open, Giwa tried to distract them by shouting, “Police, JTF [Joint Task Force] security come, there are kidnappers here!” he said. “On hearing me shouting, they began to shoot at to my direction again. I then ran and jumped over the fence and ran out of the school.”
He remained hiding behind the fence until the sound of barking dogs signaled to him that the assailants must be leaving, he said. He headed toward a school official’s house where female students had gathered after hearing gunshots.
“When we recovered from the shock of what was happening, we started doing a head count to know which students were missing,” Giwa said. “We found that Joel Adamu, the vice principal of academics, the house mistress and six female students were abducted.”
The school, which is open to both Christian and non-Christian students, has a secular curriculum in accordance with Nigeria’s Ministry of Education but includes a Christian perspective, and students take Christian Religious Knowledge as a subject, an official told Morning Star News.
The school has a student population of 100, with rampant insecurity in the state compelling some parents to withdraw their children from the school, Giwa said.
The kidnappers have contacted school officials with their demands for ransom, he said. Initially they demanded 30 million naira (US$82,327) per student before negotiating lower, according to local reports.
“We are trusting God for the protection of the captives and hoping they would be released without being hurt,” Giwa said.
The 15-year-old daughter of Julde Juli was among the abducted students.
“I was shocked on receiving the news of the kidnapping of my daughter and other students,” he told Morning Star News. “I just pray that nothing happens to them, and that they come out alive. I trust that our God is sovereign over all things. We are trusting that through divine intervention our children would be rescued.”
The high school has suspended classes, school Director Samuel Amamchukwu told Morning Star News in a text message.
“We can’t continue with academic activities while the six students and two staff are in captivity,” he said.
Remaining students have returned to their parents, he said.
The village lies in the kidnapping belt of the state and is on the route to Kwanti village, where Morning Star News last year reported the displacement of many Christians due to kidnappings by armed Fulani Herdsmen, according to area residents.
Kaduna State Police Command spokesman Yakubu Sabo said authorities are making efforts to rescue the captives.
“The Command immediately mobilized combined teams of anti-kidnapping, SARS, and conventional police to the area for possible rescue of the victims and arresting the perpetrators of the unfortunate incident,” he said.
Kaduna state Commissioner for Information, Internal Security and Home Affairs Samuel Aruwan said in a statement on Friday (Oct. 4) that Gov. El-Rufai has dispatched a government delegation to sympathize with the school community and assure them that security agencies are working to rescue those abducted.