How safe are Nigerian Campuses?
BY ADEBAYO CALEB
‘I begged for them to kill me because the pain was too much to bear’, the victim of Abia State University August 16 gang rape testified. This young girl was molested sexually for over an hour by persons suspected to be cultists. That incident was only a demonstration of the fact that our campuses as not as safe as we think them to be.
A beehive of activities is almost always an easy target for criminals and criminality. The campus could be said to be a small city of its own, with students as its citizens.
However, unlike the use of armed forces and the police force in the country, the campus mostly limits its security to trained campus security men and a few policemen who most of the time don’t wield guns. It is due to this that the students of Nigerian campuses are left vulnerable to the menace of criminal-minded individuals.
Safety remains the pursuit of every human being on earth. In everything we pursue, we do it to either enjoy safety now or at a realisable future date. The greatest fear of any person is that his environment is no longer safe for him; that his life is no longer secure where he is. If this is the fear of the Nigerian student, then there is a problem we need to solve.
Cultism has proved a major concern for even existing security agencies on campuses. This ranges from the fact that the cultists possess, in many cases more deadly and functioning weapons than the campus security agencies to the fact that many of the cult groups engage supernatural powers in their activities.
Also, many of cult members are users of hard drug, and can act in unthinkable ways when they are under the influence. What is now dominant on many Nigerian campuses is fear- the fear of moving about after dark so as to avoid rape, robbery or hold-ups by cult boys.
The incidents of armed robbery and theft have also shown that the campuses are not secure enough. Theft has proved to be a fast growing enterprise on our campuses, and despite activities of student union security committees and campus security.
A recent incident of a male student disguising as a female Muslim student, garbed in hijab, who used the disguise to steal blackberry phones from the female hostels has also shown that students are dynamic in inventing newer methods of perpetrating criminality. Security officials should also be proactive in providing newer approaches to tackling criminality.
Majority of students on campus are youth between the ages of fifteen and thirty-five. During this period of life, the youth have an unquenchable thirst for adventure. Hence they delve into joining cults, and engaging in anti-social activities like drinking, smoking, taking of drugs etc. In the same stride, youths can be equally useful at this stage of their life if they decide to. It is due this dynamic nature of the major population of our campuses that the security on our campuses has to be beefed up.
It is also inevitable that the security situation in the country spills over into the campuses. Where the citizens of Nigeria are not safe, the campuses cannot be safe. This is simply a clarion call for an improvement of the efficiency of security agencies in the country
The question that comes to mind now is ’Who is to blame for the insecurity on our campuses; the student, the security agencies, the university management or the government?’ For instance, who do we blame for the ABSU rape incident? While it is important to know where the problem is so as to properly fix it, it is more important to fix the problem than the blame. There is no doubt that everyone has a role to play as regards their individual safety.
For instance, the student who is much aware of incessant cultist activities which take place from the hours of 8pm on his campus, and decides to go and watch a football match at 9pm has just put his safety at risk. The management of the Universities also have a part to play in ensuring security on campus.
Many times, the lack of basic infrastructure like street lights on campuses has proved disastrous to safety conditions. Again, the lackadaisical attitude of security personnel may be caused by the meagre pay they receive, which is no incentive for them to risk their lives before a juju-wielding cult group.
Many of these security personnel are also not properly equipped; they lack cars to carry out their duties, as well as lack functioning walkie-talkies for communication. Special anti-cultism agencies should also be set up within the campuses to combat cultism. These should be properly addressed by the management of universities, because our safety concerns all of us.
It is my contention that Nigerian campuses are just not safe enough for us and without an assurance of safety in a learning environment, the primary purpose of being a student becomes defeated. We all have a duty to make sure that our campuses become a safe place to reside.