Nasir el-Rufai, governor of Kaduna state, says kidnappers are now collaborating with “some elements of Boko Haram” to hold people for ransom.
He spoke 24 hours after gunmen abducted six schoolgirls and two staff members from a boarding school in Kaduna.
A source had said the kidnappers are demanding a ransom of N50 million.
While addressing state house correspondents on Friday, el-Rufai confirmed that the kidnappers had made contact with the parents of the victims but refused to disclose the ransom they are demanding.
He said his administration has made adequate arrangements to beef up security in state schools, adding that the kidnappers of the students and teachers succeeded because the school was in a remote place.
“First, I must say it is most unfortunate and tragic. For us in Kaduna for this kidnap of children and teachers to happen. The report I got is that six students of a private secondary school were kidnapped along with two teachers,” he said.
“As at this morning (Friday), the kidnappers have made contacts with the parents, and we have got the parents of the kidnapped children and the relations of the teachers to be in one place so that, there is one line of communications with the kidnappers to facilitate their release.
“However, from the moment of the kidnap, the security agencies, all agencies, from the DSS to the Police, the Nigerian Air force, and the Army have been on the matter and I am confident that not only are we going to secure the release of the students and their teachers, but we are going to get the kidnappers by the grace of God.
“It is always a moment of sadness when young people that are trying to get an education become victims of these criminals. But kidnapping has become widespread that for many people, it is not news. For us in Kaduna, this is one of the biggest tragedies and we are doing everything to manage the situation to get the children and their teachers safely and pursue these kidnappers with everything that we have got.
“I get updates every three hours on this and the last update I got is that they are in touch and they are discussing to resolve the matter. 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.
SCHOOL ATTACKED BY KIDNAPPERS IS ‘IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE’
“And we have reinforced security around our schools. This school called Engravers Academy is in the middle of no where until yesterday, two days ago, when the kidnapping happened, I didn’t know the school. It is right in the middle of the bush along Abuja/Kaduna road. It’s in the middle of no where really, that’s why it was vulnerable. Other schools are protected and no one should have any doubts that if your child is in Kaduna state. we are doing our best to protect him or her.”
On efforts to prevent recurrence, the governor said adequate arrangement was on ground to protect all the schools in the state.
“We already have this arrangement in place, this school fell the crack because it is quite isolated. It’s in the middle of nowhere, kilometers off Kaduna that is why it was vulnerable,” he said.
“But other schools are being watched and we do regular surveillance, we use the Nigerian Air Fforce planes, we use drones. We do regular surveillance all across the state and we get intelligence as to likely targets. So, with the help of security agencies, we are doing the best we can on this. Of course, you can never get this 100 percent.
“Security challenges evolve, you close this chapter, the other one opens, so it’s work in progress. And the reason why we are here is to continue to address those problems with the best resources available and we are getting the cooperation of all the federal agencies.”
‘I WON’T WITHDRAW MY CHILD FROM PUBLIC SCHOOL’
Asked whether he regretted sending his child to public school, he said, “My child should not safer or more protected than any other child in Kaduna state. I took an oath of office to protect everyone, and my child is just one of the two million children we have in primary schools in Kaduna state.
“And I have no intention of reviewing that. For me, taking my child to a government school was not only a commitment I made but a clear expression that I have confidence in the quality of our public schools for my child to attend. And we have already given directives that all the staff of the ministry of education who are in charge of managing our education system must have their own children in public schools.
“We are not going to require every political appointee or government employee to have his children, that is their choice but those that manage our educational system must have their children in public schools for them to ensure that public schools work. That is why, some people have said it’s political and all that. I don’t care.
“I will not play politics with my child or his future, it’s ridiculous, but of course, this is the environment in which we live, in which whatever you do, you will have those who are opposed to it and those who are for it, it’s life. No, there is no consideration of changing this.
“All our schools in Kaduna will have enhanced security protection, because we have got intelligence of the likelihood of this danger three months ago but I don’t want to into details. But, any bandit that comes to Kaduna to try to do this, has a very high chance of getting killed, so, we are prepared.”