On Monday, 5th July 2021, Nigerians were again rudely shaken by news of the abduction of 121 students of Bethel Baptist High School, Maramara in Chikun Local Government Area of Kaduna State.
These latest victims of marauding bandits have joined the long list of schoolchildren that have been abducted in Nigeria.
The statistics are increasingly disturbing. According to the United Nations International Children’s’ Emergency Fund (UNICEF), 950 students have been kidnapped across Yobe, Katsina, Niger, Kebbi, and Kaduna States, from December 2020.
The eight students and two staff of Nuhu Bamali Polytechnic Zaria, Kaduna abducted on June 11 were only released on Thursday July 8 after 29 gruelling days in the den of kidnappers. A five million naira ransom was reportedly paid before they were allowed to go home. . Yet to be released are the 136 students of Salihu Tanko Islamiyya School, Tegina, Niger State kidnapped on May 30. Also languishing in the hands of their abductors are the 83 students and seven members of staff of Federal Government College, Birnin Yauri, Kebbi State kidnapped on June 17.
These students and educational staff are still being held captive several days after they were kidnapped. Their families are still under emotional trauma over their missing loved ones. The thought of this is just harrowing enough and then imagine how the families are feeling! Then imagine how scared and traumatised the victims are, not knowing what their fate will be even as they are harassed and tortured by the horrendous situation.
It is gravely becoming the norm that increasingly, millions of naira is being paid by desperate parents and relatives to secure the release of their children. Young people who the federal, state and local governments continue to be unable to protect.
Once again, with this Maramara abduction, the National Association of Seadogs (Pyrates Confraternity) is saddened by the fact that the authorities were yet again caught napping as abductors successfully kidnapped another group of schoolchildren
It is baffling that in all these incidents of abductions and in some instances, rescue and release of victims, no suspect has been apprehended by security operatives. It is increasingly scandalous and incongruous that harmless protesters exercising their fundamental human rights are vigorously suppressed by the security agencies, who disappointingly keep displaying apathy towards clamping down on marauding bandits. We keep trying to understand how this is so. With every new kidnapping, it is becoming glaringly difficult to explain other than acquiescent negligence.
President Muhammadu Buhari, has to see that the failure of the security agencies to effectively deal with these attacks on schools is portraying his administration as being weak, ineffectual and currently unable to inspire confidence in its citizens.
Our President must understand that the persistent government negligence in ensuring the safety of Nigerians is a failure of governance and dereliction of constitutional responsibility. This significantly erodes the legitimacy of the government itself with the failure of protecting its people.
It is of utmost urgency for the President to correct this impression and declare a state of emergency on insecurity of all schools especially in the northeast, northwest and north central regions of Nigeria. This would ensure coordinated and collaborative efforts to end the menace of abduction of schoolchildren. A state of emergency on security of schools would bridge the communication gap between states and the Federal Government on directives to heads of security agencies to take swift actions against criminal elements.
We have previously stated that the Safe School Initiative (SSI) launched after the 2014 Chibok girls’ abduction should be revived. Also, the Safe School Fund (SSF) mooted by Governors Kayode Fayemi and Aminu Tambuwal of Ekiti and Sokoto states respectively should be moved from the drawing board to a point of action. Both laudable policies require swift implementation with all sense of responsibility to salvage education in northwest, northeast and north central Nigeria.
Our security agencies need to pay more attention to intelligence gathering as a proactive remedy to checkmate attacks on schools. Investment in smart technology and surveillance is absolutely critical. Traditional rulers, community leaders, Parents Teachers Association (PTA), youth groups and residents of the various communities should be enlisted in intelligence gathering to forestall any future attacks.
In addition, school authorities would need to beef up their internal security system by engaging security agencies for training of their security team, teachers and students to prepare them for emergencies. A training of such nature would also afford each school to develop a risk assessment that would come handy when faced with threat. The foiled kidnap attempt of students of Faith Academy also in Chikun Local Government Area in Kaduna State on same day the Bethel Baptist School incident happened, made possible by the school security team with the help of the Nigerian Army is a good reference point on the need for training and collaborative efforts with security agencies. We say kudos to the Nigerian Army for helping make the difference for the students of Faith Academy. If we can replicate this across the problem spots, it will be a massive and veritable step to checkmating this problem.
The unrestrained attacks on schools have very dire implications for education in the northeast, northwest and north central regions of Nigeria. Already the United Nations Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), has raised the alarm that “constant attacks on schools has made parents to no longer prioritise education”. This development is devastating both in the short and long terms for a society that is grappling with various security challenges. We must do all we can to ensure these devilish marauders do not triumph over the Federal Republic of Nigeria.