At least 27 students were abducted Wednesday when armed men raided a state-run school in Niger State, north-west Nigeria, a government official told CNN.
The gunmen, wearing military fatigues according to witnesses, stormed the Government Science Secondary School Kagara at around 2am on Wednesday morning. One student was killed during the abduction, a resident told CNN.
The tally of people abducted from the boarding school facility could also rise as an unknown number of teachers are still missing, the spokeswoman for the Niger state governor told CNN.
“Information reaching us is that 27 students are still missing. We don’t know the number of teachers at the moment. We don’t want to put numbers that will turn out contradictory, but efforts are being made to rescue them,” Mary Noel Barje, the chief press secretary to Governor Abubakar Sani Bello, said.
“The governor has also ordered the boarding schools to close down,” Barje added.
Kagara resident Abubakar Mohammed told CNN that one student was killed by the gunmen.
“At about 2am, they stormed the staff quarters of the school,” said Mohammed, who told CNN he was at the school site Wednesday morning and saw a dead body being lifted out of the students’ hostel by police.
“They forced the children of staffers to take them to the hostel. There they abducted the students along with some members of staff. They killed one of the students in the hostel. His body is now at the police station in Kagara. Police is now everywhere in the school,” Mohammed said.
He added that residents of the community were on high alert after receiving a warning about the planned attack.
“At about yesterday evening, we heard information that bandits were coming to Kagara but we did not know where they will attack. Later at about 10pm, we heard that they were just on the outskirts of Kagara, there was panic,” he said.
President Muhammadu Buhari has condemned the abduction of the school children.
“The President has directed the Armed Forces and Police, to ensure immediate and safe return of all the captives,” Buhari’s spokesperson, Garba Shehu, said in a statement on Wednesday.
“The President has also dispatched to Minna, Niger State a team of security chiefs to coordinate the rescue operation and meet with state officials, community leaders, as well as parents and staff of the college.”
A former Nigerian senator, Shehu Sani, told CNN that the school has no perimeter fence and would have afforded easy access to militants.
Sani, who was also a student at the school, told CNN: “The town is at the epicenter of the insurgency in Niger State. Fulani bandits operate within the axis and there are thousands of people displaced in this area. The bandits of the northwest of Nigeria are becoming more lethal and destructive than Boko Haram.”
Buhari recently retired all the heads of Nigeria’s security forces and appointed new ones, amid rising insecurity and kidnappings in the country.
“The security situation in Nigeria is “overwhelming and threatens the peace of the country,” Sani told CNN.
“It is unfortunate the service chiefs were allowed to stay for so long,” he added.
This latest incident comes two months after more than 300 students were kidnapped in a similar invasion at Government Science Secondary School Kankara, in Katsina, Buhari’s home state.
The Nigerian leader was on a week-long sabbatical in the state when the incident occurred.
The students in that invasion have since been released.
This is a developing story