Police in Nigeria’s northwest Zamfara state say they are trying to rescue 73 students kidnapped by gunmen Wednesday. Within the last week, three other groups of kidnapped students in the northwest were freed, but only after large ransoms were paid.
The latest abductees included 53 male and 20 female students, all teenagers at a government secondary school in the remote village of Kaya. Police said a large number of bandits invaded the school and seized the students.
Zamfara state police spokesperson Shehu Mohammed said in a written statement that police and the military are on the trail of the bandits and have reinforced security in the village.
Following the attack, Zamfara state officials ordered closure of all primary and secondary schools in the state. They also imposed travel restrictions as well as a daily dusk to dawn curfew to prevent further attacks.
Zamfara is not the only state taking security measures in northern Nigeria, where kidnapping is rife these days.
Authorities in Kaduna, Niger and Katsina states have also introduced movement restrictions and are limiting sales of jerrycans and gasoline in a bid to stop bandits who often move around on motorcycles.
Sani Shuaib, a VOA Hausa service reporter in Zamfara state, said the movement ban is already having an impact.
"It involves all vehicles except military and security personnel. Immediately Zamfara announced it, Kaduna followed, Niger and then Sokoto too, I understand they're planning to adopt similar measures and it has started biting hard,” said Shuaib.
But security expert Kabir Adamu said lack of accountability is the reason attacks on schools have lingered.
"The security departments don't have monitoring and evaluation systems in place and so there's no form of oversight or pressure on them to meet set targets. Even where there is clear failing, no one is held accountable," said Adamu.
Armed gangs have kidnapped about 1,100 students from schools in northern Nigeria since December of last year.
The increase in crimes in the region is believed to be crippling economic activities and contributing to the poor standard of living there.
Last Friday, gunmen released 90 pupils from an Islamic seminary in Niger state where children as young as four were abducted and held for nearly three months.