Quietness was the name to describe the atmosphere within and outside the premises of Nuhu Bamalli Polytechnic, Zaria, Kaduna State on a humid Wednesday afternoon when our correspondent visited the school.
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Except for a number of motorcycle riders and a fruit seller who camped outside the school’s entrance, one might think the school was on break.
Actually, it was on break due to the coronavirus pandemic, but activities resumed on November 2 for students to take their examinations which were earlier postponed. Our correspondent learnt that only National Diploma II and Higher National Diploma II students were asked to resume first to take their examinations starting on November 23.
The polytechnic, established in 1989, was named by the Kaduna State government after a former Minister of Foreign Affairs, the late Nuhu Bamalli. His son, Ahmed Nuhu Bamalli, also a former Nigerian Ambassador to Thailand, is the Emir of Zazzau.
Tucked in a serene environment along the Kaduna-Zaria Road, the polytechnic, with vast land and trees that made it look like a conservation centre, wore a quiet look on the day our correspondent visited. Only a few students, most of them walking in twos and threes, were seen within the premises.
Our correspondent walked up to a lady walking out of a building, donning a long blue hijab, her bag closely kept to her body. She wouldn’t wait a minute to speak with a ‘foreigner,’ she said.
“I’m sorry I can’t speak on anything; the school management are the ones to speak with on any issue,” she told our correspondent while walking briskly to her hostel. It was past 2 pm.
Her action was perhaps understandable. Just four days earlier, around 9 pm, bandits invaded the school’s staff quarters and kidnapped a lecturer at the Department of Computer Engineering, Mr Bello Atiku.
The bandits also attempted to kidnap a worker at the school’s registry named Sunusi Hassan. But he narrowly escaped with a gunshot wound on his hand. However, the bandits made away with two of Hassan’s children.
Since Saturday when the incident occurred, our correspondent found that the issue has been the main subject of discourse within the school – both among the students, lecturers, and non-academic staff members.
Some students who spoke with Sunday PUNCH confirmed that the incident had thrown them into a panic, with some of them unable to read even as it was just a few days to their examinations.
An HND II student of the Department of Urban and Regional Planning, David Isah, said even though he had started seeing some operatives of the Mobile Police Unit of the Nigeria Police Force, he still had fears.
“Somehow, the incident has created fear in my heart. I live on campus and the fear of being kidnapped grips me in some way,” the 23-year-old Kaduna State indigene said.
“But I think the school has taken some security measures to forestall a recurrence. For instance, I have been seeing some operatives of MOPOL. I see them patrolling the school at night. Their presence gives me a bit of relief,” he added.
For Solomon Adeleye, an HND II student of the Department of Mass Communication, the kidnap has made him feel insecure within the school environment.
Adeleye, an Oyo State indigene but born and bred in Kaduna, said the fear in him had made it difficult for him to comprehend anything he read in preparation for his examination.
He said, “To some extent, some of us students feel we are not secure in the school environment because of what happened. If something like that could happen within a school environment, it means we have reasons to be afraid.
“Considering that we are about to take our examination, some of us are scared of reading in school. Anytime it’s getting to 2 or 3 pm, I get scared that someone might just invade the school premises and kidnap us.”
Adeleye said his fears could only be allayed when he started seeing stringent security measures being put in place to protect the students and everyone else.
“I would like the school authorities to tighten security on campus and at the various hostels, especially between now and when the examination will be over, for us students to feel safe,” he said.
Maimunat Zakari, also an HND II student of the Department of Mass Communication, said definitely, she was living in panic.
“I have fears. You know when something like this [kidnap] happens, there will be panic. Although the rector and the school management generally have calmed us down, the fears won’t just go away like that,” she said.
Zakari added that she couldn’t wait to graduate from the school.
“If not for the coronavirus pandemic, I would have graduated last month. But here I am – still in school. I like journalism and I can’t wait to practise it,” she said.
Any noise at all at night wakes up Eglah Solomon, also an HND II student, these days. She said she felt unsafe and scared, and unable to prepare for the examination starting on Monday – all because of the incident that took place.
“I am very scared to even go out and visit friends because I don’t know what will happen next. We don’t expect this kind of situation (kidnapping) to happen within the school premises. I feel unsafe and it’s scary,” she said, adding, “I have not been able to read and comprehend anything in the past few days. When it’s dark, any noise at all wakes me up, and I think some intruders have come.”
Similarly, an ND II student, simply identified as Muhammad, of the Department of Computer Engineering, whose lecturer (Atiku) was still in the kidnappers’ den, said he felt unsafe and unable to prepare for his examination.
He said, “The fact that my lecturer was kidnapped makes me sad. Lecturers are not multi-millionaires or wealthy people, so to speak. So it baffles me that kidnappers would be hunting for lecturers.
“Really, I have not been able to study well since Sunday morning when I heard the news. Meanwhile, we are starting our examination on Monday. Seriously, I am still in shock and fear. If a lecturer could be kidnapped and a non-academic worker was also almost kidnapped by the bandits, I don’t know if students are safe.”
Another ND II student, Aliyu Mustafa, said the kidnap incident had definitely thrown him into a state of panic and made him unable to prepare well for the examination.
“Before now, I used to go to the class to study but I can’t do that anymore because of the sad situation. Even when I do, I try to leave as early as 2 or 3 pm. Staying till evening in class is not safe. It doesn’t even matter if we are many in the class studying. Should the bandits appear, we don’t have anything we can use to protect ourselves. It’s a scary situation, I must say,” he said.
Another ND II student of the School of Sciences, Mohammed Aliu, said he wished the school would shut down for the time to address the insecurity on campus.
“Honestly, from my interaction with fellow students, many of us are afraid. The school is isolated along the road, and these days, bandits seem to have taken over the Kaduna-Zaria Road and some other areas within the state. I surely have fears and they are affecting my studies.
“I hardly comprehend when I study, yet I have an examination to take next week. Sincerely, I don’t know how I will pass the examination– considering that we’ve also been on a long holiday due to the COVID-19 pandemic and some of us barely studied while on the forced break,” Aliu said.
“If possible, the school authorities should close the school for the time being and strategise on how to ensure adequate security of our lives. If a lecturer could be kidnapped, I don’t know if students are safe. It’s just my opinion, though,” he added.
We’re serious about student’s safety –Official
The Information Officer, Nuhu Bamalli Polytechnic, Mr Abdullahi Shehu, said the school management was doing everything possible to ensure the students’ safety, while urging them not to be afraid.
“Nothing will happen to the students, Insha Allah (if God wills). Security agencies have promised the students and staff of adequate security and that a recurrence would not happen,” Shehu told our correspondent in an interview.
He also said the incident would not force the school to be closed, saying the examinations would hold as scheduled.
He said, “The polytechnic is serious about the students’ safety and we are appealing to them to be calm; we are doing everything we can to protect their lives. Security operatives are already being deployed within and without the school premises.
“God willing, the students will take their examinations successfully. Nothing will disrupt the examination timetable. We won’t shift the examinations, and we are not closing the school.”
Asked if the kidnappers had contacted the school authorities to make any demands, Shehu replied in the negative.
He said, “For now, I can’t say they have demanded any ransom; we’ve not heard from the kidnappers.
“But just to clarify some reports, the lecturer kidnapped lecturers at the Department of Computer Engineering; the two children kidnapped alongside him are not his. They are the sons of a non-teaching staff member who works at the registry.
“The registry worker was shot in the arm and is presently receiving treatment at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. I learnt he is responding to treatment. He narrowly escaped being kidnapped.”
Shehu said on the day the kidnap took place, the school management, state Commissioner for Education, state House of Assembly members and some security agencies came to the school and visited the victims’ houses, as well as the students at their hostels, to address them and assure them that the security of the school would be improved.
“It’s not the first time such an incident would occur; this was the second time we would witness an incident like this at the polytechnic. The first took place in January 2019. The kidnappers took a female lecturer; she spent around three weeks with the kidnappers before she regained her freedom,” he said.
“I can’t say why they targeted our lecturers,” he added.
Asked if he thought some lecturers were also living in a state of panic over the event, Shehu replied, “Obviously, there must be fear or panic because this is an unusual event. It is sad for a lecturer to be kidnapped.”
The Public Relations Officer, Kaduna Police Command, ASP Muhammad Jalige, said the police had deployed operatives to the school premises to ensure the safety of the students and the staff members.
“We have deployed many security operatives to the area and we are making efforts at rescuing the victims unhurt, as well as arresting the perpetrators,” he said.
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