The Kaduna State Schools Quality Assurance Authority has ordered the closures of 13 schools, most of which belong to Christian denominations or organisations, which it has identified as being “vulnerable,” following the abduction of staff and students from Bethel Baptist High School in the Chikun Local Government Area of southern Kaduna.
A letter dated 5 July and signed by the organisation’s director general states that the decision to close the schools was taken at a “meeting with the National Association of proprietors of Private Schools (NAPPS) and some key stakeholders.” Among the schools identified for closure are Deeper Life Academy in Maraban Rido, Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) Secondary School in Ungwar Maje, St Peter’s Minor Seminary in Katari, and Bethel Baptist High School.
Around 140 students and staff were abducted from Bethel Baptist High School after its premises were invaded at around 1.45am on 5 July by armed assailants, who struck on the day senior students were due to take their final examinations. Four students managed to escape.
Video footage subsequently emerged of distressed parents gathering in the grounds of the school, praying fervently for the release of their children. One of them, a widow, has four children among the hostages. According to a statement released on 5 July by the office of the Commissioner for Police Kaduna State Command, 26 students and a female teacher were later rescued by a joint team of army, air force and police operatives, who continue to search for the remaining hostages.
Kaduna state is currently an epicentre for kidnapping. The attack on the Bethel Baptist was one of four incidents which took place within a 24-hour period. At around 1 am on 4 July, gunmen abducted eight people from the residential quarters of the National Tuberculosis and Leprosy Centre (NTLC) in the Saye District of Zaria after exchanging fire with police officers. The victims reportedly included infants, nurses and security guards. Armed assailants also attacked the Katsit community in the Bajju Chiefdom of Zangon Kataf LGA of southern Kaduna at around 8pm, killing Mr Dogara Joseph (25) and injuring around three others, including a female student at the Baptist School of Health and Technology in Kafanchan. Father of four Mr Musa Banet (41) was killed while fishing in a border town between Kajju and Kaningkon. The same assailants abducted an unknown number of villagers, including a retired Department of State Services (DSS) senior officer, from the Fori community in the Kagoma Chiefdom of Jema’a LGA. Following the attacks the Bajju Development Association (BADA) stated that it had been informed that “some Fulani hamlets/settlements have become safe havens for those criminal Fulani militias to launch coordinated attacks” on communities in southern Kaduna and appealed for their arrest.
A CSW source has described Kaduna state as being “under siege from kidnappers and other criminals. This is a statement of fact. The only people relatively safe are those within the city or [Local Government] headquarters.” In a worrying indication of the dire security situation, in an interview published on 3 July the Kaduna state governor, Nasir el Rufai, who recently became a vocal opponent of ransom payments, informed BBC Pidgin that he had temporarily withdrawn his own children from the public school in which they were enrolled due to safety concerns.
In a statement issued via a spokesperson President Muhammadu Buhari urged security agents to act swiftly to rescue those abducted from Bethel Baptist High School. However, in a communique signed by its president and dated 6 July, the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) lamented that the president had “indeed lost grip on the leadership of this nation, especially in his ability to provide security for citizens” and should “seek foreign assistance before it is too late.” The organisation also asked the president to “caution His Excellency Mallam Nasiru el Rufai from talking more than acting.”
CSW’s CEO Scot Bower said: “Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Kaduna state, who continue to bear the brunt of a critical security failure. The closures and withdrawal of children from educational facilities is a desperate measure, giving the unfortunate impression of an inability to address a situation that has been allowed to spiral inexorably. This decision is likely to hurt the education and future prospects of the students concerned, while merely offering a short-term solution to a phenomenon which is part of a state wide crisis requiring a comprehensive response. As the other attacks that occurred clearly illustrate, people are no longer safe in hospitals, let alone in their own homes.”
In other news, following the merger with Boko Haram and appointment of Abu Mus’ab Al-Barnawi, the son of the late founder as its leader, the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) has continued to consolidate its control over areas of Borno state in the northeast. An Interim Council has reportedly formulated policies to bring all insurgent activities in line with Islamic State (IS) practice. The Council has also established caliphates in the Lake Chad area and the Sambisa Forest, appointing an insurgent identified by local media as Abba-Kaka, the governor of Tumbumma, which includes the Marte, Abadam, Kukawa, Magumeri LGAs of Borno state and other areas in the Lake Chad region. In this capacity Abba-Kaka is reportedly mandated to work with another sect member, identified as Abubakar Dan-Buduma, as operations commander for the ‘Timbuktu Triangle.’ In addition, the terrorist organisation has established a judiciary with sect member Ibn Umar functioning as chief prosecutor and has created mobile courts.
The Interim Council is also reported to have lifted a ban on fishing and farming in the Lake Chad area, imposed three years ago, when it accused locals of spying for the Nigerian armed forces. An insurgent named Baba Isa to Kangar has reportedly been sent to Abadam LGA in Borno state to oversee taxation and revenue, and a tax of N2,000 (approximately GBP £3.50) per bag of fish has been imposed, among other fishing levies, while traders and farmers must pay a fee of N5,000 (approximately GBP £8.80) per month.
Scot Bower continued: “These are deeply worrying developments, which come at a time when security arrangements across the country appear to be failing comprehensively, the armed forces are overstretched, and instability is increasing across the Lake Chad region. This problem can no longer be addressed by Nigeria in isolation. We therefore urge members of the international community, and particularly the governments of the United Kingdom, United States and France, to work with the countries in that region to formulate a comprehensive counter-terrorism strategy that also respects the rights of civilians and rule of law.”