Please help us, mothers of abducted Kaduna students weep during protest at NASS

From Jacob Segun Olatunji, Kehinde Akintola, Michael Ovat and Muhammad Sabiu 

MOTHERS of some of the abducted students of the College of Forestry Mechanisation, Afaka, in Kaduna State, could not hold back tears on Tuesday during their protest at the National Assembly complex in Abuja, as they begged the governments and security, “Please help us.” The protesters, including members of the Students Union Government (SUG) of the institution, lamented what they called negligence of the federal and state governments in securing the release of the children. 

Angelina Babale, one of the mothers, speaking in an emotion-laden voice said she had been enveloped in grief since the abduction of her daughter. She called on the Federal Government to intervene and pointed out that Nigerian troops carry out peacekeeping in other countries and now they are needed now to keep peace in their home country. 

Another mother, Rabi Magaji Zakariah, a widow, wept profusely during the protest, saying “I feel it. I carried him in my stomach for nine months. I trained him for 27 months.” 

Other protesters included the publisher of Sahara Reporters, Omoyele Sowore, Deji Adeyanju and members of the Civil Society Organisations. 

They chanted songs of solidarity and displayed placards demanding prompt rescue of the students. 

Some of the placards read: “Education is our right! Safety is our right! Freedom is our right! Free Afaka 29!” while the protesters who took off from the Unity Fountain chanted as they marched to the National Assembly. However, the main entrance to the National Assembly opposite the popular Eagle Square was shut down by security agents who denied the protesters entrance. Consequently, the protesters blocked the entrance to the Federal Secretariat axis of the complex which brought normal activities to a halt. 

Addressing the crowd, Comrade Abdullahi Usman, who led the parents said, “We are here to appeal to the members of the National Assembly to help us intervene to rescue our children from the kidnappers. Now they have spent 55 days in captivity and we are still counting. “There is no hope. Kaduna State government said they cannot do anything. Even the Ministry of Environment which supervises the team are not doing anything. The director general of the school is not doing anything. Even the minister has travelled to America to spend Sallah with his family.” 

The Deputy Clerk of the National Assembly, Bala Yabani, who spoke with the parents said they were empathetic to the plight of the parents and that he would convey their demands to the Senate President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives respectively. He promised the NASS would give the mater the attention it deserves. Meanwhile, one of the abducted students of Greenfield University in Kaduna State has been released by the bandits. Although the police and government authorities are yet to confirm the development, the mother of the student, Lauritta Attahiru confirmed the release of her son to Channels Television on Tuesday. She, however, refused to give details of how her son was released and whether a ransom was paid or not. Some of the parents told Channels Television that the student was released on Saturday after his mother, who is the wife of a retired Army officer from Plateau State negotiated and paid a ransom to the bandits privately before they released her son on Saturday. The parents had earlier informed that the bandits have been negotiating with them individually, asking each of them to pay as high as N20 million, before they eventually demanded a bulk sum of N100 million and ten motorcycles on Monday. 

The parents, however, appealed to the government and Nigerians to come to their aid so that their children will be rescued from their abductors. In the same development, the Parents Teachers Association (PTA) of Nigeria has called on the abductors not to execute the remaining 16 students of the school who are in their custody. In an interview with newsmen on Tuesday, the national president, Alhaji Haruna Danjuma noted that “There is need to beg all the bandits. 

Right now, the parents and relatives of the abducted students are living in fear in view of the threat. 

Some of the parents said they could not even eat since Monday when the news of the possible execution went viral. 

“This is why our association is pleading with the abductors to spare the lives of the innocent students.” 

According to him, there is the need for the abductors to extend the deadline they gave so that the parents can meet up with their demands. Danjuma said it is really unfortunate that bandits have come up with new ways of extorting money from students by abducting a large number of them in exchange for millions of naira. He urged the government to provide adequate security in order to protect all Nigerian schools so as to avert further attacks. 

Meanwhile, the leadership of the National Association Nigerian Students (NANS), on Tuesday, rose to demand that leaders and leadership of Nigeria irrespective of political parties come together and solve the rising insecurity in Nigerian universities. The president of Senate, NANS, Chuks Okafor, disclosed this in a communiqué issued shortly after addressing some journalists at the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) Press Centre, Awka, on Tuesday, on the trending insecurity facing the country, especially as it affects Nigerian students. The students’ body threatened that it would shut down all federal highways, the National Assembly complex, airport terminals and institutions of learning if the government fails to rescue the remaining kidnapped students. 

According to the communiqué, “It is regrettable that in the past few months, we have witnessed deadly attacks and kidnapping of students across higher institutions in Nigeria and at least, not fewer than over 100 students have been kidnapped by bandits with a good numbers of others still missing. 

“This ugly development has disrupted academic learning in most of the institutions under attacks. 

“Beyond the disruption of academic curriculum, these raging attacks have far-reaching impacts on the psycho-social lives of the students. 

“More critical is the fact that we are getting into another election year in Nigeria with an imminent one coming up in Anambra State on November 6, 2021. With the growing threats of insecurity as of today, the Nigerian students are worried over the fact that most electoral pooling units are located within campuses and we are further concerned over the safety of our students and success of the elections in these polling units within the campuses. 

“We therefore, call on the government and leadership of Nigeria irrespective of political party to commence immediate proactive and pragmatic actions towards this development in order to restore the confidence of the students in campuses.”

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