Armed gangs have been causing havoc in northern Nigeria, where they kidnap villagers, students and motorists for ransom, with security forces unable to end the practice.

Kingsley Femi Fanwo, Kogi’s information commissioner, said the students were studying when gunmen attacked the Confluence University of Science and Technology on Thursday night.

He said a search and rescue operation by security agents and hunters who know the local terrain was underway.

Kidnappings at schools in Nigeria were first carried out by jihadist group Boko Haram, who seized more than 200 students from a girls’ school in Chibok in Borno state a decade ago.

The tactic has since been adopted by criminal gangs without any ideological affiliation seeking ransom payments.