Mohammed Shegabe never wanted his daughter to go to school in Zamfara, one of the most terrorised states in North West Nigeria. But Nasira was adamant she wanted to attend the Federal University, Gusau (FUGUS), located in its capital city.
“I was sad the day she secured admission into the university,” he told HumAngle. So Shegabe did what he believed any reasonable father would: he refused to give his consent. But his wife waded into the matter, he says. She insisted there were many of Nasira’s friends in the university. She and Nasira had more faith than him in the ability of the government to keep students safe
“So I let that be as it was. I was specific about telling Nasira and her mother that I had never been to Zamfara all my life. I only visited Kano, Zaria, and Katsina. This was the last thing we discussed with them before I moved to Kaduna.” Shegabe’s household was based in Suleja in the North-central part of the country.
Nasira’s first year passed successfully, and so did the first semester of her 2023/2024 academic session.
On Sept. 22, however, terrorists attacked three female off-campus hostels at Sabon Gida community on the outskirts of Gusau. They abducted more than 24 students of FUGUS and some residents of the community. According to Premium Times, a Nigerian newspaper, 13 of the victims were rescued in two separate operations by a combined team of the 1 Brigade Nigerian Army, Gusau, and other security agencies.
Unfortunately, Nasira was one of those captured.
“All of a sudden, we heard that she was abducted among other students,” Shegabe said, adding that he received the news three months after he last saw his daughter.
Since the abduction, the family has not received any news from the Zamfara state government. “We appealed to the State and Federal Government to work together and ensure the peaceful rescue of our wards,” he said.
Recently, the school authority invited parents of the abducted students and pleaded with them to keep their hope alive, Shegabe told HumAngle. “I spent a day there where we met with the VC and other concerned stakeholders. I pleaded to the university management that if it cannot successfully initiate the peaceful rescue of our daughters, then it should make its position clear and allow us to have direct contact with the armed terrorists to get our wards out.”
Shegabe pointed out that the institution’s body language showed that significant progress had not been made in getting the girls released.
Before the kidnapping, Mohammed had experienced a nightmare concerning his daughter. But, thinking it was a dream that would not become a reality, he kept it to himself. Nevertheless, he had prayed and went back to sleep that night. The next day, he was at work when a call came from home about the school attack.
“But no one among our family of 13 was sure whether Nasira was among the kidnapped victims until a day later,” he said.
Nasira is a second-year student at the Department of Political Science, HumAngle gathered. “We invested our hard-earned pension to sponsor Nasira’s education, so she can at least become educated and useful to society. Now she is abducted from a government university and the government does not care about it. We don’t know and have no idea where they are,” Mohammed continued.
“Nasira wants to become a politician with a vision to represent her community. She likes to talk and likes arguments about anything politics or public policy; so she planned to study Political Science in order to become an authority.”
The first night after the incident, Mohammed could hardly sleep. There was a terrible feeling in his heart for his daughter. But today he is hopeful that Nasira will be free again. “No right-thinking parent will ever be happy sending his child back to that school again because of the rising insecurity in the area,” he said.
Zamfara has remained one of Nigeria’s centres of terror for several years now, especially with regard to school abductions.
Epicentre of terror
In 2021, terrorists whisked away 73 students including their Vice Principal from Government Day Secondary School, Kaya, in Maradun Local Government Area (LGA) of Zamfara State. Also, just in August this year, residents of Birnin-Magaji snatched milkmaids as pawns to protest the abductions of locals. One of the most recent reported cases is the attack on a police checkpoint near the village of Gidan Giye in Tsafe LGA and the death of three police officers.
A touching side to Mohammed’s account of his mounting fear for his daughter was the premonition he seemed to suffer before her kidnap. It was so strong that in June 2023, he insisted that Nasira stop her education in Gusau despite a fresh semester beginning that same month.
Mohammed concluded with a message to the Nigerian government: “We are seriously in psychological distress. I strongly advise the state government to please come to our aid to do their best to rescue our daughter. We believe in the unity of Nigeria as such we want the government to build more confidence in us to make us happy. This is about two months and the management and the state government have not reached any of us on the situation on the ground.”
On Oct. 11, 2023, one Umar Gombe started a petition on Change.org for the release of the FUGUS students in Zamfara. He called on the government and security agencies for “swift and decisive action” to ensure the safety of the girls.
Mariam Hassan Bukar, Lead campaigner for Change.org, a Civil Society Organisation, said in a statement that Gombe’s petition “encapsulates the deep concern and distress experienced by many individuals, including myself, regarding the plight of these innocent young girls.”
She added that “it sheds light on the distressing situation and I believe spotlighting his dedication and initiative can further encourage public engagement and support in the call for the release of the abducted FUGUS girls.”
Also, Jamilu Aliyu Charanchi, a Northern Youths Leader in Katsina State accused the Federal Government of being insensitive to the plight of its citizens, particularly as regards the rescue of the students.
When HumAngle contacted Honourable Manir Haidara Kaura, the Zamfara State Commissioner, Ministry of Information and Culture, he said “government is tirelessly trying everything possible to ensure the successful release of the abducted students and return them to school.”
In a recent visit to the university, the Governor of Zamfara State, Dauda Lawal, assured parents and the school management of the university that the remaining students in captivity would regain their freedom.
Lawal maintained his stand on non-negotiation with terrorists and insisted that they must drop their weapons or face the full wrath of the law. He revealed that 12 students of the school and nine construction workers were still in captivity.
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