By Gambo Dori
AT the tail-end of this page last week I raised two issues. The first had to do with the disappointing level of coordination not only between the commands of military formations sent to the states to undertake security functions with the police but also with the State Governors themselves. The second alluded to the low level of security in the public schools with particular reference to schools in the battle-weary areas at risk of attacks by the Boko Haram insurgents. When the two vexatious issues get thrown together especially in states prone to attacks by insurgents, the schools, which are after all their primary targets, become vulnerable to wholesale killings and kidnappings as it happened in the frontline states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe States.
As expected, the piece generated plenty of interest. Since I am on all the platforms of the social media, I was contacted by many readers giving their opinion on the two issues we raised. For the space available I can only reproduce two that are representative of the opinions expressed:
Ibrahim Mai Sule: ‘It is most disappointing, the disharmony between the security organs, the police and the military as regards the Dapchi affairs. May Allah help to see these abducted girls returned safely back to their parents. Amen.’
Saleh Marimaina: ‘The back of Boko Haram will be seen when the local people cooperate with the military by providing the required information about the hideout of the terrorist group. Boko Haram terrorists are not ghosts. They are humans living among us but many of us are unwilling or afraid to unmask them.’
I share Ibrahim Mai Sule’s disappointment at the reported disharmony between the security forces on one hand and with the State Governor on the other. One of the main loopholes the Boko Haram terrorists utilized to attack Dapchi and abduct the school girls was the absence of the normal army checkpoint on the highway that was unfortunately moved without the knowledge of the police command who would have been expected to fill the space. To worsen matters the State Governor who would have asked for some contingency arrangements to be made was not in the know.
Unfortunately, many State Governors have this kind of horror stories to tell on the shambolic management of affairs between the security forces in their states and themselves leading to calamitous happenings. I guess all the agitations for state police were as a result of frustration of State Governors when faced with emergency situations in their states which they in most cases found that they were powerless to contain. With the dire security situations we have in many states there is the glaring need for some reappraisal and tinkering with the chain of command of security forces. This tinkering should allow for some control over the deployment and movement of security forces by State Governors within their domain. It might not reduce the clamour for state police but certainly it might help to bring some immediate order into the fight against the insurgents.
Saleh Marimaina raised the need for the locals to cooperate with the military by providing useful information when needed. Certainly Boko Haram elements are no ghosts. They are relations and associates in the locality and any information about them to the security forces would always help to reduce the carnage. It is this kind of community cooperation that is needed to protect vulnerable schools in the insurgent-prone areas of the country.
This is what the Safe Schools Initiative sought to achieve at the wake of the abduction of Chibok school girls in 2014. The initiative was an idea of Gordon Brown a former British Prime Minister and later a UN Special Envoy for Education. The idea was to provide better fortification to vulnerable schools and provide them with better communication gadgets to enhance their security. The initiative also aimed at building community security groups to promote safe zones for education consisting of teachers, parents, police, community leaders and young people themselves. 500 schools in the Northern States were marked to be used as pilots.
Gordon Brown was an august presence at the launching of the initiative in 2014 which held at the World Economic Forum in Nigeria. It was a good platform to launch such an initiative because it had immediate attention of Government, businessmen and politicians. As expected it garnered a lot of promises. The initiative targeted $100m as take-off grant. Even though that amount was not achieved, a princely sum $20m was said to have been raised.
Then after all the fanfare, it became clear that very little happened in the direction of securing the exposed schools. Apparently no money came from both the Federal Government and the business community. However the international community raised and forwarded some $1.7m which was used for some purchases such as prefabricated classrooms that were handed over to the schools. But for the protection of the schools there was really nothing to show for all the hype. Probably for this and many other reasons the new administration that took over in 2015 decided to subsume this initiative into the wider Presidential Committee on North-East Initiative (PCNI).
The PCIN have been quiet over the initiative though I have lately come across a news item to the effect that over 2000 students from states in the north- east ravaged by the Boko Haram insurgency are currently benefitting from scholarship under the Safe School Initiative, supervised by the PCNI across 43 schools in the northern parts of the country. This was said to have been disclosed last week by Tijjani Musa Tumsah, the PCNI Vice-Chairman while on a routine visit to the Federal Government Girls College Bajoga in Gombe State.
Be that as it may, the unfortunate incidence that culminated in the abduction of the Dapchi school girls is a pointer to the fact that the Safe School Initiative needs to stand alone. Even Gordon Brown who initiated the idea said so in a recent statement that there is need to revisit the original concept of the initiative and provide more security to the vulnerable schools. It is not only the physical structures that need to be revamped, there is clearly need for community participation to ward off the insurgents from the schools. Meanwhile, the armed forces should carry on with the job of getting the abducted girls back.
Mr BANKOLE: WOODWORK MASTER
GENERATIONS of students who passed through Government College, Keffi, dating back to the late 1950s would hardly have forgotten Mr Bankole, the woodwork master. I heard that he died recently at the age of 96 and was buried in Keffi where he decided to remain even after retirement.