By Garba Muhammad
KADUNA, Nigeria – Gunmen on motorbikes stormed a primary school in the northwestern Nigerian state of Kaduna and kidnapped three teachers but no children, a state official said on Monday after the fifth school abduction in three months.
It was the first attack on an elementary school in a wave of such attacks in which more than 700 people have been abducted since December.
Samuel Aruwan, Kaduna state’s commissioner for internal security, said in a press briefing that Rema Primary School, in the Birnin Gwari Local Government Area, was attacked at around 8:50am (0750 GMT) on Monday.
He said children fled as gunmen, referred to locally as bandits, entered the compound shortly after pupils arrived.
“This led to two pupils going missing. We are happy to inform you that the two missing pupils have been found,” Aruwan said. “We can also confirm that no single pupil was kidnapped from the school.
“The government can confirm that three teachers… have been kidnapped.”
Nigeria’s kidnapping scourge began with the seizure of 270 girls from a school in the northeastern town of Chibok by the Islamist insurgent group Boko Haram in 2014. Around 100 of the schoolgirls have never been found.
Armed criminal gangs in Nigeria’s widely lawless north have since carried out many copycat attacks seeking ransom.
The presidency said late in February that President Muhammadu Buhari had urged state governments to “review their policy of rewarding bandits with money and vehicles, warning that the policy might boomerang disastrously”.
Attempts by the military and police 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 providing incentives.
Nigeria’s federal government has said it will “take out” abductors after criticising local deals to free victims.
A presidency spokesman said he did not have the details of Monday’s kidnapping.
Armed men attempted to kidnap more students in Kaduna state overnight on Sunday, as 39 others from an earlier attack in the state remain missing.
The rampant banditry has become a political problem for Buhari, a retired general and former military ruler who has faced mounting criticism over the rise in violent crime, and replaced his long-standing military chiefs earlier this year.
Buhari held talks with security officials and regional elders last week about Nigeria’s multiple security challenges. Afterwards, national security adviser Babagana Monguno said the government would take a tough stance against criminal gangs.
(Reporting by Garba Muhammad and Tife Owolabi in Yenagoa,; Writing by Chijioke Ohuocha,; Editing by Alexis Akwagyiram and Ed Osmond)