So-called bandits in military uniforms stormed another Nigerian school, kidnapping 42 individuals mostly children from a boarding school in Niger state.
The bandits overpowered a security guard before whisking away the students. One student was reportedly killed in the abduction that took place Feb. 17.
Schools have become regular targets for militant groups in Nigeria as well as criminal gangs seeking ransom money. Katsina State Governor Aminu Masari, recently said that kidnapping, especially by bandits, has become a booming business in the country.
He noted that bandits who, hitherto, engaged in cattle rustling have graduated to kidnapping on realizing that they could make thousands or millions of naira as ransom.
The latest raid on a government school comes less than three months after gunmen abducted hundreds of students of Government Secondary School, Kankara in Katsina State. The Katsina students were later freed after negotiations suspected to have involved a ransom.
In a statement released by the Nigeria Police Force, security officers described a massive search and rescue mission being carried out along with the military in which helicopters, counterintelligence unit forces and intelligence agents had been deployed.
But in a shocking press interview, Defense Minister Bashir Salihi Magashi appeared to place blame on local residents: “We shouldn’t be cowards,” he complained. “I don’t know why people are running away from minor, minor, minor things like that. They should stand. Let these people know that even the villagers have the competence and capability to defend themselves.”
Magashi’s comments drew widespread criticism.
“People cannot defend themselves with bare hands while confronted with bandits who are increasingly acquiring more sophisticated weapons,” said Isa Sanusi, a spokesperson for Amnesty International.
Nigerian authorities have a duty to protect lives and property and should not resort to “blaming the people”, Sanusi said.
Kayode Ogundamisi, a commentator on Nigerian affairs, tweeted: “Simply put, he’s saying YOU ARE ON YOUR OWN!”
“The problem is that most of the schools, the only fence at the front of the school and the back, is the bush, and these areas are very porous,” said correspondent Idris Uwaisu of the German service Deutsche Welle.