Abubakar El-Rufai, the seven-year-old son of Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State, who was enrolled in 2019 at the Kaduna Capital School, has been absent from school for several weeks till now, according to findings by SaharaReporters.
SaharaReporters learnt that the boys absence from the school is strongly linked to the rising abduction of schoolchildren in northern Nigerian schools by ravaging bandits, of which Kaduna State has had an ugly share, and still has yet-to-be-released abducted pupils.
SaharaReporters, after visiting the school premises on Monday, established from pupils and teachers, who are presently in the first term, that young El-Rufai had not come to school since resumption, amidst the rising insecurity and threats to the lives of schoolchildren.
Our correspondent, who arrived at the school around 10am, did not see Abubakar till the school closed by 1pm and pupils started trooping home.
SaharaReporters also noticed some security lapses in the school, located on Isa Kaita Road, Ungwan Sarki area of the state, which may have contributed to the reasons why the young boy was no longer regarded to be safe on the premises.
On September 23, 2019, Governor El-Rufai had made a public show of his son’s enrolment in the school, saying he decided to enrol his son in a government primary school to lead by example and commit to the education sector in the state.
Reforming the Education sector in Kaduna is a continuing struggle against decades of neglect. But the @elrufai govt has a strong commitment to fix public education and raise the standard of public schools so that private education will become only a luxury. pic.twitter.com/mkKPKAjZZI— Governor Kaduna (@GovKaduna) September 23, 2019
Abubakar is in Basic 2B at the Kaduna Capital School – a class of about 50 pupils before COVID-19 pandemic struck last year.
Schools started resuming in the state from February 1, 2021, after the pandemic-induced long break – the senior secondary school classes first and later primary school pupils on March 22.
Teachers, Pupils Confirm Young El-Rufai Absent From School Since Resumption
Some pupils and two teachers, who spoke with SaharaReporters, confirmed that the young El-Rufai had been absent from school since resumption.
“He does not come again. I have not seen him. I don’t know if he is still a pupil,” one of the pupils stated.
“His class is in this two-storey building, which is for the primary school. But he has not come since we resumed,” another pupil noted.
“You know the security situation around public schools in the state; he may have been withdrawn by his parents to prevent any embarrassing situation of abductions or bandits’ attacks,” a teacher noted.
“His parents may have enrolled him in another school or who knows, he may still be back, perhaps after the schools are safer. The governor has a strong stance against bandits – he is not willing to be seen to be paying ransom. So he would have assessed the situation and concluded that he has to protect his son from any occurrence,” another teacher stated.
Coincidentally, El-Rufai's wife, Hadiza, on Monday insinuated that her husband had told her that if she ever got kidnapped, he would not pay ransom to secure her release.
On her Twitter handle, Hadiza Isma El-Rufai (@hadizel), said, using asterisks in place of what is believed to kidnapping and ransom, "At my farm today. Anyone thinking of ********** me should not bother. The man has already warned me that he will not pay any ******."
At my farm today. Anyone thinking of ********** me should not bother. The man has already warned me that he will not pay any ****** pic.twitter.com/8zKr1ggi6K— Hadiza Isma El-Rufai (@hadizel) March 29, 2021
Big Hole In School Fence
SaharaReporters observed one of the security lapses in the ancient school – established in 1957 – which is a big hole in the fence – wide enough to take human beings not willing to go in and out through the gate.
It is not clear how long the hole has been there but it is synonymous with the holes through which bandits have gained entrance into some schools where there have been abductions.
Although some renovation works were being carried out around the fence of the school, it is not clear if the hole will be blocked in the process.
School Lacks Armed Security Personnel
Also, the Kaduna Capital School lacks any armed security personnel. At the gates are two elderly men – probably in their 70s, sitting on rickety iron chairs.
The governor’s son’s school lacks armed security personnel and in the event of an attack, it could easily cave in to bandits or other such intruders.
The school has a boarding facility but it is not clear if the boarding house is presently operational or pupils have been asked to leave for their houses.
A staff member noted that the state government must intensify the security architecture around schools in the state at this time, including the Kaduna Capital School.
He said, “We may say KCS is in town – it is in the heart of the town. But some bandits are also in town; and when they strike with heavy weapons that the police cannot match, who will help us out? That is why the government must not leave anything to chance.
“Every public school should have a police patrol vehicle stationed or at least, armed policemen’s presence to forestall. Shutting down public schools in some states of the north is not only detrimental to educational development but also cowing in to the demands of the bandits.”
SaharaReporters observed a large stretch of bush behind the classrooms of the KCS, which could also serve as a hideout for criminals.
Series Of Unresolved Schools Abductions In Kaduna
Kaduna State has experienced abductions of public school pupils by gun-wielding bandits recently with the state government emphasising that it will mete out violence to the criminals and not negotiate to pay any ransom.
Only on March 12, the bandits stormed the Federal College of Forestry Mechanisation in Mando, Kaduna, at about 9.30pm, shooting indiscriminately before abducting the students.
The Kaduna college was said to have about 300 male and female students – mostly aged 17 and older – at the time of the attack.
The Kaduna State Commissioner for Internal Security, Samuel Aruwan, had said 39 of the students were missing while the army was able to rescue 180 people after a battle with the gunmen.
“Further checks in the wake of the attack by armed bandits indicate that 39 students are currently unaccounted for, including 23 females and 16 males,” Aruwan had stated in a release.
Not done, on March 15, the attackers also stormed Rema Primary School in the Birnin Gwari Local Government Area of the state, abducting three teachers and pupils – but the pupils were later freed.
Also, security forces only last week thwarted a gang that had stormed a government secondary school in Ikara town, headquarters of the Ikara Local Government Area of the state.