Amid continued confinement of 39 students of Federal College of Forestry Mechanisation, Afaka, Kaduna State 17 days after they were abducted by armed bandits, no fewer than 8 members of Redeemed Christian Church of God, Region 30, Trinity Sanctuary, Kaduna, were on Friday abducted by gunmen. Saturday PUNCH gathered the victims were on the church bus travelling for a programme when they were attacked.
A Facebook user, Eje Faraday, around 7pm broke the news on his page with a picture of the white vehicle. “All passengers in this bus were just kidnapped along Kachia Road, 63 km from Kaduna,” he wrote. A credible source and official of the church confirmed the report. He said, “They were 8 in the bus. They were going to Kachia in preparation for the Let’s Go a Fishing Easter programme. Gunmen took them out of the bus and put them in their own operational vehicle. They have yet to contact the church.”
State Police PRO, Mohammed Jalige, said he was still making enquiries on the incident. He said, “I have contacted our officers along that axis. Actually, we have 3 divisions in that area. I have responses from 2 DPOs, who said they were not aware of the incident. I am just waiting for the response of the 3rd DPO. When I get it, I will let you know.” RCCG Head of Media and Public Relations, Pastor Olaitan Olubiyi, did not answer calls to his mobile, which rang several times.
MEDICAL EXPERTS RAISE ALARM
Meanwhile, medical experts have raised the alarm that abducted students of Federal College of Forestry Mechanisation may suffer panic disorder, nightmares and other manifestations of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The experts comprising psychologists, psychiatrists and mental health advocates, in separate interviews with our correspondents, warned that when eventually released or rescued, the students could suffer depression, difficulty with attention in class, lack of trust and other mental issues.
Parents of the students had on Monday protested and given Kaduna State and the FG 48 hours to rescue the students, lamenting they were worried about the health of their children, some of whom they said sustained injuries during their abduction. A parent who spoke on behalf of others during the protest, Mr Friday Sani, said, “We are by this press conference demanding that government rescue our children by all means and within 48 hours so that the process of their rehabilitation can commence because the longer they stay in captivity the worse the situation will be.”
Bandits had on the night of March 11 abducted no fewer than 30 students from the school, located opposite Nigerian Defence Academy on Airport Road. State Commissioner for Internal Security and Home Affairs, Mr Samuel Aruwan, said in a statement that checks by government revealed 39 persons were missing, comprising 23 females and 16 males. He, however, gave assurance that security agents were working hard to rescue the students, noting that troops of the Army from 1 Division prevented bandits from taking away more students and that they were able to rescue 180 persons.
The state governor, Nasir El-Rufai, had insisted his government would not negotiate with the bandits, who demanded N500m ransom. The bandits also warned that the students would not go home alive should any attempt be made to rescue them. He said, “We will not engage with bandits or kidnappers. Private citizens like clerics and clergymen can do so in their individual capacities, to preach to them and ask them to repent. We also want them to repent but it is not our job to ask them to do so.”
But in an interview on Friday, a consultant clinical psychologist at Ladoke Akintola University of Technology, Ogbomoso, Oyo State, Dr Oluwafisayo Adebimpe, told Saturday PUNCH that the students might suffer panic disorder, nightmares, night terrors, being suspicious of others, hyper-vigilance, lack of trust and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). She added, “The longer the duration of their being captive and exposed to uncertainty of their fate, whether they would be released or not will definitely create anxiety, panic and fear which overall is more likely to have an effect on them.
“Whatever happens, some would be prone to certain behavioural changes such as PTSD. Some could have some phobias, usually resulting in staying away from some specific situations or places. They may isolate themselves and become solitary. Due to this life-threatening experience, they may have panic disorder, abrupt surge of extreme fear and discomfort, as a result of severe anxiety. Some might have difficulty with attention and concentration in educational pursuit.”
Also, a psychiatrist and mental health advocate, Dr Maymunah Kadiri, said kidnapping of schoolchildren may pose mental health implication both in the short-term and long-term. Kadiri said, “Apart the fact these students are young, experiencing things like this at this stage of their life poses real mental health implications, both in the short and long term. Some might be going through a lot from the kind of background they are coming from, I mean some were already traumatised maybe due to childhood experiences while some are prone to developing mental illnesses.
“The residual imprint of this in them could pose a huge issue on their mental health. Such could include dissociation, depression, sense of hopelessness, anxiety and difficulty with trust. It could also affect their future relationships with others.” The mental health advocate however stressed that PTSD could be managed if the students were made to undergo counselling and cognitive behavioural therapy after being released by the kidnappers.
She said, “Although, it is challenging to move on from tragic events, there are quite a few ways to cope when dealing with the emotional after-effects of a distressing experience. Counselling and cognitive behavioural therapy are the most highly recommended method of managing PTSD and other psychological disorders. In some cases, medication may also be prescribed.” He explained that when a crime like kidnapping of students occurs, trauma clean-up is a natural first step towards healing.
Also, a Senior Registrar in the Dept of Psychiatry, Lagos University Teaching Hospital, Idi Araba, Dr Said Raji, said the students would have been subjected to a devastating experience, adding it was pertinent to give them adequate attention upon release. “Being kidnapped is traumatic and it can be devastating if their health is not properly managed. Psychologically, it could lead to depression. Some of them if not properly counselled after their release could even contemplate suicide.
“Apart from that, they could also become disillusioned with the state as they would have the feeling that the state failed them. It might be difficult for them to return to normal life after their experience. Recall that some of them were abducted without having full clothes on. Some ladies merely used wrappers to cover their chests. Now, they have been in custody for over 2 weeks. He pointed out that the video released by the bandits could have worsened their trauma.
Speaking on the issue of mental health, a consultant psychiatrist at the Federal Neuropsychiatric Hospital, Yaba, Dr Dapo Adegbaju, explained that it is usually triggered by a hopeless situation, adding that the victims would cope with the situation differently. He added, “Some people might be depressed and the longer it progresses, the more likely the person might break down. Some may face psychological trauma. Parents will face worse issues because they are susceptible to blood pressure and other health-related diseases. It will worsen any physical condition they may be experiencing.”
He advised that when the students return, they might have PTSD, which is like reliving the experience over and over again and that this could affect their day-to-day activities. “They would need psychological intervention, else it could last a lifetime.”
A senior lecturer at the Dept of Psychiatry, College of Medicine, University of Lagos, Dr Charles Umeh, also identified some of the negative behaviours kidnapped schoolchildren might exhibit after being released by their abductors. “Detention usually has negative emotional consequences on victims, including paranoid ideation, acute stress disorder, depression, psychoactive substance use, suicidal ideation, low self esteem, anger, irritability and aggression.”
Another expert, Dr Obi Igbokwe, a psychiatrist, said if the schoolchildren were not looked after, they could live with the trauma for the rest of their lives. He said, “Most, if not all, will likely suffer from PTSD and the symptoms include often reliving the traumatic event, which is often through nightmares and flashbacks, and they may experience feelings of isolation, irritability and guilt. They may also have problems sleeping and find concentration difficult. If not identified and treated, it could stay with them for the rest of their lives.”
A psychologist at Neuropsychiatric Hospital, Aro, Ogun State, Dr Imisioluwa Ibikunle, said the abducted persons could ddevelop PTSD as a result of the trauma. “Some of them may have PTSD and if not properly treated, it can lead to mental health challenges. Some may break down with psychiatric problems, especially those genetically predisposed to mental health challenges. Once released, they need medical attention.” The psychologist recommended group therapy for both parents and the students.
Meanwhile, prior the abduction of the Kaduna students, there had been no fewer than 3 separate mass abductions of schoolchildren in Zamfara, Niger and Katsina states, all in quick succession. Even though the pupils have now been released, it heightened fears among parents and citizens, especially as it underscores rising level of insecurity in the country.
On February 26, no fewer than 317 pupils of Government Girls Science Secondary School Jangebe, Zamfara State were kidnapped by armed bandits. They were later released on March 2. In Niger State, 27 students, 3 teachers and 12 members of their families were abducted by bandits February 17 but were released February 27. In similar fashion, gunmen had on December 12 stormed Government Science Secondary School Kankara in Katsina State, abducting 344 students. They were later released December 17. In addition, there have been other incidences of kidnapping in different parts of the country.
The President had in response to the wave of kidnapping said the bandits were not too powerful to be defeated but that government had to exercise restraint due to the innocent lives in their custody. He added that government would not allow the destruction of the school system.
In a statement by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, the President said on February 26, “Let them not entertain any illusion that they are more powerful than the government. They shouldn’t mistake our restraint for the humanitarian goals of protecting innocent lives as a weakness or a sign of fear or irresolution.”
Meanwhile, the Minister of Defence, Major General Bashir Magashir (retd.), said on Monday that the country was in a critical situation. “We are in a critical situation that requires the understanding, buy-in, support and collaboration of important stakeholders and key players in this strategic option and national task,” he added.
FATHER DIES OF SHOCK DAYS AFTER WATCHING DAUGHTER SPEAK IN VIRAL VIDEO.
Ibrahim Shamaki, father of one of the kidnapped students, Fatima, who pleaded in the viral video released by the bandits on March, 13, is dead. Shamaki was said to have died as result of trauma of his daughter’s abduction.
Following an order from one of the kidnappers that a female should speak, Fatima had in the video said in Hausa that their abductors had warned that should anyone try to rescue them none of them would go back home alive. The bandits had demanded N500m ransom.
A source who pleaded anonymity told one of our correspondents on the telephone in Kaduna on Friday that Fatima’s father died in a hospital in Maradi, Niger Republic, after he was taken there for medical attention. He said the remains of the deceased would be brought back to the country and buried today (Saturday) in accordance with Islamic rites.
On March 11, bandits in large numbers invaded the federal institution opposite Nigerian Defence Academy along Kaduna International Airport road and abducted at least 39 students of the school.