Protesters gather during a demonstration against Fulani herdsmen killings, in Abuja, Nigeria March 16, 2017. | (Photo: REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde)
Muslim Fulani herdsmen have kidnapped six teenage girls and two staff members at gunpoint from a Christian-run high school in north-central Nigeria amid escalating violence in the region.
Sources told Morning Star News, a nonprofit persecution watchdog outlet, that armed Fulani invaded Engravers’ College in Kakau Daji village, in Chikun County Local Government Area near Kaduna city, on October 2 as students and staff members fled into the bushes.
Eight victims — Joel Adamu, the vice-principal of academics, the house mistress, and six female students — were taken away at gunpoint.
Shunom Giwa, vice principal of Engravers’ College, said that five armed herdsmen appeared at his house and ordered him to lie down. A few minutes later, another set of the armed Fulani herdsmen appeared at his house with Joel Adamu, the school’s vice-principal of academics, and they ordered his colleague to lie on the floor beside him.
“When I discovered that their attention was on my colleague, I just ran into the bush, and on realizing I was escaping, they shot at me, but fortunately they didn’t get me,” Giwa said. “They searched for me without success, and when they couldn’t get me, they started looking for where the students were.”
“When we recovered from the shock of what was happening, we started doing a headcount to know which students were missing,” Giwa said. “We are trusting God for the protection of the captives and hoping they would be released without being hurt.”
The kidnappers have contacted school officials with their demands for ransom, initially demanding 30 million naira (US$82,327) per student before negotiating lower.
While the school has a secular curriculum, it includes a Christian perspective, and students take Christian Religious Knowledge as a subject. The school has a student population of 100, with rampant insecurity in the state compelling some parents to withdraw their children from the school, Giwa said.
Julde Juli, whose 15-year-old daughter was among those kidnapped, told Morning Star News he is trusting God with his daughter’s future.
“I was shocked on receiving the news of the kidnapping of my daughter and other students,” he said. “I just pray that nothing happens to them, and that they come out alive. I trust that our God is sovereign over all things. We are trusting that through divine intervention our children would be rescued.”
Kaduna State Police Command spokesman Yakubu Sabo said authorities are making efforts to rescue the captives.
“The Command immediately mobilized combined teams of anti-kidnapping, SARS, and conventional police to the area for possible rescue of the victims and arresting the perpetrators of the unfortunate incident,” he said.
Kaduna Gov. Nasir el-Rufai told media that with the latest spate of kidnappings, Fulani “bandits” are likely working alongside elements of Islamic extremist group Boko Haram.
“We have been receiving intelligence some three months ago that the bandits have connected with some elements of Boko Haram, and they will be targeting schools to kidnap children because they know that that is what makes the news,” El-Rufai said.
Boko Haram, whose name means “Western” or “non-Islamic” education is a sin, made headlines in 2014 after abducting 276 schoolgirls from the remote northeastern town of Chibok in Borno state.
Fulani herdsmen are believed to be responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of Nigerians since the country’s President Muhammadu Buhari, who hails from the Fulani tribe, took office in 2015.
In September, herdsmen kidnapped and killed a pastor’s wife in Nigeria’s Kaduna state after breaking her legs so she could not escape. Earlier in September, suspected Muslim Fulani herdsmen shot and killed Baptist pastor Alhamdu Mangadus of Nasara Baptist Church in Asso as he worked on his farm.
Nigeria is the 12th most dangerous place in the world for Christians, according to Open Doors’ annual World Watch List.