No fewer than eight members of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, Region 30, Trinity Sanctuary in Kaduna, were on Friday abducted by unknown gunmen.
Saturday PUNCH gathered that the victims were travelling for a programme in Kachia when their Church bus was attacked.
A social media user, Eje Faraday, broke the news on his page with a picture of the white vehicle at about 7.00pm
“All the passengers in this bus were just kidnapped along Kachia Road, 63 km from Kaduna,” he wrote.
A credible source and an official of the church, who spoke on condition of anonymity, also confirmed the report.
He said, “They were eight in number on the bus. They were going to Kachia in preparation for the church’s Let’s Go a Fishing Easter programme. The gunmen took them out of the bus and put them in their own operational vehicle. They have yet to contact the church.”
The state Police Public Relations Officer, Mohammed Jalige, said he was still making enquiries on the incident.
He said, “I have contacted our officers along that axis. Actually, we have three divisions in that area. I have got responses from two divisional police officers, who said they were not aware of the incident. I am just waiting for the response of the third DPO. When I get it, I will let you know.”
The RCCG Head of Media and Public Relations, Pastor Olaitan Olubiyi, did not answer calls to his mobile, which rang out several times.
Meanwhile, medical experts have raised the alarm that the abducted students of the Federal College of Forestry Mechanisation may suffer panic disorder, nightmares and other manifestations of post-traumatic disorder.
The medical experts, comprising psychologists, psychiatrists and mental health advocate, 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 Federal Government 48 hours to rescue the students, lamenting that 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 other parents during the protest, Mr Friday Sani, said, “We are by this press conference demanding that the 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 the Nigerian Defence Academy on Airport Road. The state Commissioner for Internal Security and Home Affairs, Mr Samuel Aruwan, said in a statement that checks by the government revealed that 39 persons, comprising 23 females and 16 males, were missing.
He, however, gave an assurance that security agents were working hard to rescue the students, noting that troops of the Nigerian Army from 1 Division prevented the bandits from taking away more students and that they were able to rescue 180 persons.
The state governor, Nasir El-Rufai, had insisted that his government would not negotiate with 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 the 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.
She added, “The longer the duration of their being in captive and exposed to the uncertainty of their fate whether they would be released or not will definitely create anxiety, panics 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 post-traumatic stress disorder. Some could have some sort of phobia, 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 a panic disorder, an abrupt surge of extreme fear and discomfort as a result of severe anxiety. Some might have difficulties with their attention and concentrations 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 from the fact that these students are young, experiencing things like this at this stage of their life pose a real mental health implications, both in the short and long terms.
“Some of them 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 experience 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 difficulties with trusting again. It could also affect their future relationships with others.”
The mental health advocate however stressed that post-traumatic stress disorder 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 post-traumatic stress disorder 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 Department of Psychiatry, Lagos University Teaching Hospital, Idi Araba, Dr Said Raji, said the students would have been subjected to a devastating experience, adding that it was pertinent to give them adequate attention upon release.
Raji said, “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 two 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. The 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, eguilt.t could last a lifetime.”
A senior lecturer at the Department of Psychiatry, College of Medicine, University of Lagos, Dr Charles Umeh, also identified some of the negative behaviours that kidnapped schoolchildren might exhibit after being released by their abductors, PUNCH reports.
“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 post-traumatic stress disorder 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 concentrating difficult. If not identified and treated could stay with them for the rest of their lives.”
A psychologist at the Neuropsychiatric Hospital, Aro, Ogun State, Dr Imisioluwa Ibikunle, said the abducted persons could develop post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of the trauma.
She said, “Some of them may have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder 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 they are released, they need medical attention.”
The psychologist recommended a group therapy for both parents and the students.
Meanwhile, prior to the abduction of the Kaduna students, there had been no fewer than three 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 the citizens, especially as it underscores the rising level of insecurity in the country.
On February 26, no fewer than 317 pupils of the 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, three teachers and 12 members of their family were abducted by the bandits on February 17 but were released on February 27.
In a similar fashion, the gunmen had on December 12 stormed Government Science Secondary School Kankara in Katsina State, abducting 344 students. They were later released on December 17.
In addition to these, there have been other incidence 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 the 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.
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