Katsina varsity students count days in kidnappers’ den – Punch Newspapers

It has been five days since Habiba Shantali, Mariam Musa and Yusuf Abdulazeez – all students of Al-Qalam University, Katsina State, were whisked away by heavily armed bandits in the Dutsinma area of the state.

But the fear that enveloped the university community when the news of the abduction of the students, who hail from the Borgu Local Government Area of Niger State, has yet to peter out.

While Shantali is a 200-level Political Science student, Musa and Abdulazeez are 400-level students of Microbiology and Mathematics, respectively.

Apart from the fact that the three students share the same local government area, fate also brought them together on Sunday, 14 January, 2024.

The trio had earlier travelled home at different times but met at a motor park in Minna and opted to travel by road back to the campus at Al-Qalam University, katsina.

Perhaps, for the sake of comfort and to arrive early for school, they chose to use a smaller vehicle rather than the Niger State-owned mass transit bus that was also headed for Katsina on that day.

According to the President of the Niger State Students, Al-Qalam University, Katsina chapter, Sheu Madiu, the vehicle the trio were travelling in was waylaid by gunmen suspected to be bandits around Dutsinma on Sunday night.

Madiu added that the three students along with other passengers in the vehicle were abducted by the gunmen, maintaining that prayers were being said for the safe release of their colleagues as nothing had been heard about them since then.

“Our three colleagues travelled home to Niger State and they were returning to Katsina on Sunday when they were abducted by bandits around Dutsinma on Sunday night. In fact, we were not aware of their abduction until the following day when Abdulazees’ mother called to inquire whether he had arrived on campus.

“Also, the passengers on the Niger State mass transit bus confirmed that the Sharon bus that our three colleagues travelled in left Minna ahead of the state mass transit bus.

“Upon the receipt of the news, we met and informed the management about it. Unfortunately, up till now (Thursday), we have not heard anything either from the bandits or even from the parents of the three colleagues. We have, however, intensified our prayers for their freedom.”

When contacted, the spokesman for the Katsina State Police Command, ASP Abubakar Aliyu, said the command had not received any official report on the incident.

“We have not received any official report on the abduction. We shall get across to you whenever we get the report,” Aliyu told our correspondent.

However, in a statement on the incident on Thursday, authorities of the university said the victims last contacted their families in Zaria while in transit.

The statement signed by the institution’s spokesperson, Akilu Atiku, read in part, “We wish to address recent reports circulating in the media regarding two (three) students of Al-Qalam University, Katsina, said to have been kidnapped on their way to Katsina from Niger State to resume studies. The students were among the passengers travelling in a commercial vehicle at the time of the abduction.

“The last contact with their families was at Zaria while in transit. Information regarding the circumstances of their abduction is still scanty as the reported incident did not happen at the university. However, the university has contacted the families of the students who confirmed the incident.”

But the mood at the university when visited on Thursday was that of general anxiety especially among the students.

Although academic and other activities were going on unhindered on the campus, the incident was still a topic of discussion among the employees and students.

It was further gathered from the students that the highway in the area where it was speculated that the three students were abducted on Sunday was notorious for banditry and other crimes.

Some of the students also revealed that those who were conversant with the highway had abandoned the route for alternative routes, even as they alleged that some of the commercial drivers who plied the highway were informants for bandits.

One of the students, Abullahi Muntari (not real name for security reasons), said, “I come from Zaria. My parents live in Zaria. I used to take the Katsina-Dutsinma-Kankara-Zaria highway. However, my parents directed me to make use of the Kaduna/Kano/Katsina route after bandits attacked us at Yantumaki and kidnapped us.

“My parents paid N3m to ensure my freedom. That route where our colleagues were kidnapped (Dutsinma-Yantumaki-Kankara highway) is a dead zone. Bandits operate there any time of the day even though there are soldiers on a joint military operation along the route, especially at Yantumaki. But, what I learnt was that some of the drivers are informants for the bandits.

“Unfortunately, some travellers who are not conversant with the Katsina route still ply the highway. They are, in most cases, those who easily fall victim to bandits’ attacks. Many people now use the Kano- Kaduna highway or the Charanchi-Malumfashi-Hunkuyi route when travelling out of Katsina, instead of using the Dutsinma-Yantumaki-Kankara route.”

However, a final-year Mathematics student, Muhammed Ali (not real name), said unless the Federal Government came to the aid of Katsina State in tackling banditry by deploying more troops and security equipment to the state, residents would continue to witness the avoidable attacks.

“There is no day that bandits don’t operate along the Katsina-Dutsinma-Kankara route despite the presence of security agents. It is apparent that the security agents are overwhelmed with banditry and other crimes in the state. I just pity them,” he added.

Another student in the Department of Computer Science, Ahmed Ahmed (not real name), called on neighbouring state governments to provide a safe means of moving students from their respective states to the university and back home during school holidays.

“The security situation in Katsina now, especially along major highways that link Katsina, is still not good. States whose students are here (at Al-Qalam University) should arrange for special vehicles for their trips, especially at the end of each semester. The states can even charge the students a token for this and I know parents would readily pay.”

However, a Katsina-based businessman who did not want to be named appealed to the Federal Government to deploy more troops to all the highways.

He said, “It is an open secret that the bandits and criminals have informants who monitor the highways for them. The only solution is to increase the number of troops on the highway. The governments, especially the Federal Government, should look into this area.”

The post Katsina varsity students count days in kidnappers’ den – Punch Newspapers first appeared on Nigeria Newspapers Online.