Eighty two of the 94 students abducted by bandits at the Federal Government College, Birnin Yauri, Kebbi State on June 17 are spending their 52nd day today with the kidnappers in the forest.
The heavily armed bandits, who came on motorcycles, entered Yauri from the neighbouring Rijau forest in Niger State, and abducted the students and staff of the school unhindered.
Some students and staff, 12 in all, have since gained freedom, leaving 82 in captivity.
Parents of the students still with the bandits remain in anguish over the fate of their children.
Their anxiety was heightened by unconfirmed reports quoting the leader of the bandits, saying they had married the females among the students out to their members and were training the males for banditry.
The parents, on hearing this, gathered at Yauri, and after a meeting, agreed to embark on prayers.
Few days ago, they also held a prayer session at Yauri for the release of their children.
At the prayer session, they expressed fear and disappointment with the state’s government, alleging that they were not being told anything positive about their children still with the bandits.
One of the parents told THISDAY recently: “We don’t even know what has happened to our children. Government is not telling us anything. We had made several attempts to engage government over our children that are still in the hands of bandits but we were turned down. We wanted to know what they are doing to rescue them. Their continued stay with the bandits is not good at all. We as parents are willing to do what the parents of abducted students in other places did if that will make the bandits release our children.”
Another parent adds: “I think it’s time government engages the bandits. We are worried about our children staying with terrorists for this long. The bandits have not made any demands from us, we wouldn’t know if they are making any demands on government. But we don’t think it is right for government to be silent on our children’s abduction. It’s taken longer than expected; we don’t even know what might have happened to them. We are worried.”
A top Niger State Government official, who spoke to our correspondent under condition of anonymity in Birnin Kebbi, said the federal government “is working with the state government to rescue the students from the bandits. “
The official adds: “Both the state and federal governments are working together to secure the students. I think it will not be right, and for security purposes for government, to disclose its strategy on its engagement with the bandits.
“Sure the government is working hard to rescue the students from their abductors and I can assure them that soon their children will be reunited with them. They should just keep supporting the government in its efforts to get the students safely back home.”
Governor Abubakar Atiku Bagudu met with parents at the premises of the school a day after they were taken by the bandits, assuring them that the state and federal governments were collaborating to rescue the students.
The distraught parents are still waiting for Bagudu to fully actualise his promise.
Ismail Adebayo in Birnin Kebbi