KADUNA, Nigeria – Gunmen in Nigeria’s northwestern Kaduna state kidnapped a number of students from a college late on Thursday, a police spokesman and a state government official said on Friday, in the fourth mass school abduction since December.
The Federal College of Forestry Mechanization sits on the outskirts of the state capital, Kaduna city, near a military academy.
Kaduna state’s security commissioner, Samuel Aruwan, confirmed the attack but did not provide a number for those taken.
“Yesterday night around 11:30 p.m. we started hearing sporadic gunshots,” said local resident Haruna Salisu, speaking by phone.
“We were not panicking, thinking that it was a normal military exercise being conducted at the Nigerian Defence Academy.
“We came out for dawn prayers, at 5:20 a.m., and saw some of the students, teachers and security personnel all over the school premises. They told us that gunmen raided the school and abducted some of the students.”
Sani Danjuma, a student at the college, said those abducted were all female students, but authorities were unable to confirm this.
Salisu said she had seen military personnel taking the remaining students into the academy, which was surrounded by soldiers.
Banditry has festered for years in northwest Nigeria, rendering large swathes of the region lawless.
The trend of abduction from boarding schools was started by the jihadist group Boko Haram, which seized 270 schoolgirls from a school at Chibok in the northeast in 2014, around 100 of whom have never been found.
It has since been taken up by armed criminal gangs seeking ransom; the Jangebe abduction was the third mass school kidnapping in northern Nigeria since December.
Within the last few weeks, 279 schoolgirls were freed after being abducted from their boarding school at Jangebe in northwest Nigeria’s Zamfara state, and 27 teenage boys were released after being kidnapped from their school in the north-central state of Niger, along with three staff and 12 family members. One student was shot dead in that attack.
Military and police attempts to tackle the gangs have had little success, while many worry that state authorities are making the situation worse by letting kidnappers go unpunished, paying them off or, as in Zamfara, giving them amenities.
President Muhammadu Buhari has said the practice of paying ransoms has encouraged kidnappers.
(Additional reporting by Tife Owolabi in Yenagoa, Alexis Akwagyiram in Lagos, and Maiduguri Newsroom; Writing by Kevin Liffey; editing by Philippa Fletcher)