ICYMI

March 16, 2024

Students’ kidnap: Tomorrow’s leaders now today’s targets

Plateau

•Prioritize school safety over legislators’ luxuries —Sam Amadi
•Investigate security heads, improve intelligence —Deji Adeyanju, ACF
•Gov’t must protect our children at all cost —School heads, parents, others
•I’m scared to come to school, don’t know if it’ll be my last —School principal

By Ezra Ukanwa, Abuja

As the scourge of insecurity continues to plague the nation, there have been serious concerns from different quarters regarding the safety of students in their various schools. This is coming on the heels of a recent report by the Federal Government that schools in 14 states, including the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, are at risk of attacks by bandits and insurgents.

Commander of the National Safe Schools Response Coordination Centre, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, Hammed Abodunrin, confirmed this last week, saying that the data of at-risk schools had been collected for intervention and these schools include Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Benue, Yobe, Katsina, FCT, Kebbi, Sokoto, Plateau, Zamfara and three others.

Saturday Vanguard reports that in recent years, there has been a sharp increase in attacks on educational institutions, with horrifying incidents of kidnappings, shootings, and other violent acts becoming all too common. These attacks not only traumatize the victims but also disrupt the education of the affected students, depriving them of their right to learn and grow in a safe environment.

The Chibok incident remains a big stain and pain in the history of Nigeria. As if that was not enough, Saturday Vanguard also reports that no fewer than 465 pupils, teachers, and women abducted in the past week are still in the custody of their captors.

Fifteen pupils of an Islamiya school in Sokoto State were kidnapped in the early hours of last Saturday, less than 72 hours after 287 schoolchildren and teachers were abducted from the LEA primary school and the Government Secondary School both at Kuriga, in the Chikun Local Government Area of Kaduna State. However, 28 of them were on Sunday reported to have escaped from captivity.

A few days before the Kaduna incident, 200 female Internally Displaced Persons were taken away by terrorists in Borno State. The women were kidnapped in Ngala, the headquarters of Gambarou Ngala in Borno state while fetching firewood in the bush. On Sunday, there were reports that nine of them had regained freedom, leaving 191 in captivity.

Last Thursday, an unspecified number of people in the Gonin-Gora area within the Chikun Local Government Area of Kaduna were kidnapped which provoked residents to block the Kaduna-Abuja Expressway in protest. Against this background, parents, stakeholders, and concerned citizens have expressed their worries, wondering why the government was not taking stern measures to at least protect the school children and their teachers.

More so, parents, who spoke to SATURDAY VANGUARD, were especially worried about the safety and well-being of their children while they are in school, as others are in serious doubt of their children safely returning from school seeing the recent increase of abduction of children from schools.

We’re not always sure our children would return home —Parents

Some of the parents who spoke to SATURDAY VANGUARD, called for increased security measures, such as the deployment of more security personnel, the installation of surveillance cameras, and the fortification of school buildings to prevent unauthorized entry.

A parent residing in Mararaba, Nasarawa state, Augustina Nwachukwu, said: “Our children’s safety should be the government’s top priority. It’s terrifying to think that we can’t always guarantee their safety when they leave for school.”

Another parent, Audu Ruth, said: “I get worried every day when my child leaves for school. The government needs to do more to ensure that our schools are safe environments for our kids”.

Hassan Mustapha, a parent, described the situation as unfortunate, saying: “My children’s school is in Nasarawa state and I am very concerned because even Nasarawa is not secured. Nasarawa is very porous but what can one do? To be honest, leaving my children in the school where they are right now is like gambling with their lives and my conscience hits me every now and then.

We don’t have to beg the government to do the right things for us. We elected them so they should know what bites us and what makes us restless at night. It will take them little or nothing to protect our children. They failed to protect farms, now they also want to fail to protect our children. So, what have they been protecting when they say they are responsible for protection of lives and property?”

Gov’t must protect our children at all cost —School Heads

The proprietor, Precious Foundational School, Karu, Abuja, Pst. Remijus Ukanwa, wondered why the Federal Government found it difficult to ensure school environments are well protected from unfriendly forces. He, however, called on the government to take the lives of children seriously by providing needed manpower and infrastructures to protect them during hours of learning.

He said: “Nigeria currently is gradually becoming something else. Gone are those days when people even walked freely at night and were safe, but now our kids can’t even go to school in broad daylight and the parents are scared that they may not return home. This is not a good sign. It will actually cost the government little to put in place necessary measures to ensure that these schools are adequately protected. They should come up with policies, and anything available to protect the leaders of tomorrow.”

Also speaking, one of the principals of a government-owned secondary school in Asokoro, who preferred anonymity, said: “I am scared myself to come to school daily because I am not sure if that is going to be my last day. The accounts of abductions are too scary and sordid. Young teenage girls who came to school to learn are taken away and made wives, isn’t that pathetic? Until today, we still have Chibok girls roaming the forest and giving birth to terrible men. Truth be told, both present and past administrations must wake up and save, not just the kids, but education and the future of Nigeria.”

The headmaster, Kings and Queens School, Karu, Ademola Tunde, said: “I don’t think the government is doing enough to protect our children. If they claim to be doing enough, the recent events in some of the states shouldn’t have happened. I believe that the recent abduction should be a wake-up call for Tinubu to push his security heads to protect lives and property.”

Failed internal security, intelligence gathering responsible for abductions—Deji Adeyanju

Human rights activist and convener of Concerned Nigerians, Deji Adeyanju, also expressed his concerns about the impact of insecurity on the future of education in the country. He blamed the increasing security challenges in the country on poor intelligence gathering and lack of will by security heads to ensure that the country is safe despite having all the security infrastructures needed to do the job.

He emphasized the importance of education in shaping the leaders of tomorrow and argued that the current wave of attacks on schools is not just a threat to the safety of students but also to the future development of the nation. His words: “The numerous and unending abductions can be attributed to failure of intelligence gathering in the country and failure of the security agencies completely. Majority of the security agencies have lost touch with their primary responsibility, especially the DSS who are saddled with the responsibilities of intelligence gathering. Majority of security agencies have become more like willing tools in the hands of political actors, serving as errand boys to politicians.

The police that are also saddled with the responsibilities of protecting lives and properties have become orderlies to big men, oil companies and politicians. And that is why you see the lacuna in securing the lives and property of the citizenry as a whole. Whether we like it or not, these abductions were heightened under the Goodluck Jonathan administration and it appeared that we had seen the end of it during the immediate past regime. But now, it has become a new thing.

Almost N4 trillion was allocated to national security in the 2023 and 2024 budgets and even in the previous budgets but what was done with it? It is unfortunate that the people saddled with responsibilities of national security are not held accountable.

No results have been shown for all the funding that several agencies get from the international community. That is why we have these recent abductions in Kaduna, Borno, Sokoto and Kaduna. Even the security agencies encourage people to pay ransom to bandits and kidnappers and this encourages the bandits to carry out more abductions.

Prioritize schools’ safety over legislators’ luxuries—Sam Amadi

Also, a former governorship aspirant in Imo State and director of Abuja School of Social and Political Thoughts, Sam Amadi, highlighted the importance of ensuring that schools across the country are equipped with the necessary infrastructure to keep students safe. He emphasized that the billions of dollars allocated in purchasing luxury items such as cars for legislators, was a misplaced priority at a time when school safety should be a top concern.

Amadi urged the Federal Government to re-evaluate its spending priorities and allocate more resources towards ensuring the safety of schools across the country. He said, “I think it is difficult to advise this administration because first you don’t even know if this administration cares about those children. This save school project started under Jonathan after the terror attack in the North East where school children were kidnapped at Chibok and I know that the civil defence, road safety and other paramilitary heard about this save school project and I also spoke with the Civil Defense headquarters about this at workshops. So, it is a good idea but the question is, how is the safe school project implemented.

We know that school children in the North are targets as a result of the campaign against education and also they are soft targets that these bandits can abduct for for sexual satisfaction and marriage. So, why are those children not protected? Like the FCT here, we spend so much money buying vehicles for legislators and earmarking billions for the new official quarters of the vice president instead of prioritizing and enhancing the security of those schools considering the importance of education in economic development and considering the value of life of these children. So, because of their illegitimate means of coming to power, because of political disorientation and lack of responsiveness, the political leaders don’t really care about investing in the safety and welfare of the people”.

Declare state of emergency on insecurity now —Arewa

The Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), through its spokesperson, Prof. Tukur Muhammad-Baba, urged president Ahmed Bola Tinubu to as a matter of urgency declare a state of emergency on insecurity.

He stressed the need for community to be properly engaged, as well as the involvement of local leaders and traditional rulers in intelligence gathering and conflict resolution. His words: “What is most frightening about the problem is not that it is occurring. It is the fact that it is expanding and getting more brazen, getting more serious. Let this government assess and realize the danger this menace poses to the corporate existence of Nigeria. This is only next to a civil war that has been declared on the people of Nigeria by these uneducated miscreants. The government should therefore declare a state of emergency on security and work with the state governments, local governments, traditional rulers and community leaders to bring an end to this malady. The communities should also be trained on how to protect themselves”.

Benue: School authorities, teachers apprehensive

By Peter Duru, Makurdi

Benue no doubt has overtime recorded incidents of armed banditry and attacks by armed herdsmen in various communities across the state. These attacks have also led to the sacking of schools in some of the affected communities. Many schools have however put measures in place to ensure that cases of kidnappings and abduction of children and students as well as teachers are not recorded in their schools.

According to the Principal of Trinity Model Academy Makurdi, Andrew Dugeri, the development which has left not a few school heads and teachers in fear has also adversely affected school enrollments. He pointed out that his school which has been in existence for 17 years has not recorded any security challenges or threats since its establishment. He said: “But I hear on radio and watch on television about the threats.

And I must say that I feel very bad as a parent and school administrator when you hear of these attacks where children and even teachers are picked from schools. The impact no doubt has been very negative. In fact, no parent will be happy that his child went to school and never came back. So when we hear of such news as parents we are concerned and as stakeholders we are worried. As managers of schools, it has affected us indirectly, in that school enrollment is no longer the way it used to be. We have noticed a downward trend. Many parents are now afraid that their children may go to school and never come back. So it is a worrisome development. But as a head of school we have done quite a number of things to reassure parents and ensure the safety of students.

First, we have a perimeter fence round the school to ensure that people don’t gain easy access to the school premises. Second, we work in conjunction with law enforcement agents. Luckily our school is strategically located close to sensitive security formations. Just some few meters away is the State Command of the NSCDC and we work hand in hand with them. And less than one kilometer away we have the Zonal Police Headquarters and also a Divisional Police Office. We also have security guards at the gate who must conduct proper search on all visitors. These are some of the measures we have put in place, but we may not be able to disclose all for sensitive security reasons. But we ensure that we profile people properly as they come in and leave the school.”

Plateau: The fresh threat is frightening —Teachers
By Marie-Therese Nanlong

In Plateau State, a teacher, Rebecca Mang said, “some schools in some communities in the state have been converted to personal homes by armed men and some internally displaced persons who have been chased from their homes. The fresh threat is frightening. Already we have some young people roaming the streets and not being in schools. If the attacks are sustained, it means more parents will be reluctant to send their wards to school.”

Another teacher with Government Secondary School, Hei-Rayfield, Jos who did not want to be identified said, “In 2023, when various schools in the FCT received threats from the bandits of an invasion, most parents picked their children and wards before the schools were authorized to close. These threats would affect the school calendar and most children especially those in the rural areas would be withdrawn for fear of attacks and thereby increase the number of out-of-school children in the country.”

A Head Teacher with a private school, Mayfair Academy, Anthony Manu maintained, “This is very embarrassing to us as a country. We have seen or heard of what is happening in Afghanistan and other places. Are we heading that way? We have a few security personnel in my school who have had military training in the past but I just imagine, if the school is invaded in the manner of that happened in Kaduna, Chibok, Dapchi and other places, what can they do? The government at all levels should rise and ensure this rumour doesn’t become a reality because it is an affront and a deliberate act to continue to keep the Northern poor in perpetual illiteracy.

The rich in the north would send their children abroad, the poor would keep their children at home and the culture of perpetual illiteracy continues.”

The State Commissioner for Information and Communication, Musa Ashoms noted that, “It is sad news, especially in a region where we have battalions of out-of-school children. Schools should be safe haven for pupils and students but insecurity has made the system and environment so scary. The security of our lives whether at home or in school is sacrosanct, as a state we must rise to the occasion and kill this monster that has threatened our corporate peace”.

Bauchi

As we teach in the classroom, our eyes and ears are also outside —School teacher

By Charly Agwam

Some teachers in Bauchi State have expressed confidence in the security architecture of the state, saying that Bauchi schools are relatively peaceful because of the synergy between the state government and security outfits. A staff of Leaders International School in Rafin-Zurfi area of Bauchi metropolis who pleaded anonymity said that even though they are not letting their guards down, they have robust relationship with security agencies that assures children’s safety.

“We have a very good relationship with security agencies in Bauchi. More so, the governor is working very closely with the security agencies in the State and is supporting them in carrying out their job. But this is not to say that we are letting down our guard. We are also very vigilant.

As we teach in the classroom, our eyes and ears are open. We usually admonish the children to report any suspicious characters around them because security is everyone’s business. Everyone should be involved to make sure that bad elements amongst us don’t steal our peace. I sympathize with the parents of the children who were recently abducted. I pray for their peaceful return,” she said.

Another Bauchi teacher, Andrew Ayuba told Saturday Vanguard that his school has a programme that equips students to protect themselves in the event of a threat. “We are always prepared even though there has not been any issue like that here. You see, we have equipped our students with knowledge to protect themselves in the school environment, and we are also collaborating with local vigilante groups, in the event of any breach of security in our schools,” Ayuba noted.

Adamawa State

The end to development is around the corner—Prof Kassim

By Umar Yusuf, Yola

Dr Mathew Alabura, the Principal of Government Secondary School, Jambutu, which is one of the oldest secondary schools in Yola, the state capital described the frequency of attacks by the bandits as worrisome and condemnable.

He reasoned that the growth and development of any society depends largely on the educational level of its citizens adding that any attack on students and facilities of higher institutions of learning is an attack on the string that binds us together. He lamented that, “the North is most hit by this phenomenon due to the educational gap and disparity with the other zones of the country. Those of us in the North are already on the lowest rung of educational ladder and attacks in our schools have led to the present drop in school enrollment”.

Dr. Mathew Alabura, a specialist in peace and conflict resolution suggested that government at all levels should wake up from their slumber and address the issue of kidnapping and abduction of students and pupils or else, one day no child will be prepared to go to school any more if their safety is not guaranteed in such schools.

Similarly, a foremost educationist in Adamawa State, Professor Salihu Kassim observed that with the spate of attacks on schools by bandits, “the end to development is around the corner.” According to him, “a situation where pupils and students are not safe in schools makes the educational system useless. The teachers are equally not safe, even the infrastructures are not left out. We should have a national dialogue on the way out of kidnapping and attacks on institutions of learning before it is too long”.

Niger

Drop in school enrollment due to bandits’ attacks

By Wole Mosadomi

The attacks by bandits on Government Science College, Kagara and Islamic primary school in Tegina both in Rafi Local Government Area of the state a couple of years ago which led to the abduction of students and pupils of the schools had a serious set back on education in the state as enrollment of pupils especially in public primary schools and government secondary schools nosedived and it is yet to improve. As result of these abductions, parents have withdrawn their children from schools in the affected local government areas frequently invaded by bandits and these local government areas include Shiroro, Rafi and Munya. Many primary schools have remained close since 2021 leading to the drop out of many children from schools.

The Niger State Commissioner for Humanitarian Affairs, Ahmad Suleiman Yumu in an interview said 11,113 school-aged children were out of school in the state in the last eight years. “Due to insecurity in some local government areas of the state, over 400 primary and secondary schools are estimated to have been closed and these include the designated nomadic schools,” he revealed.

This development has led to the out-of-school children to be engaged in child labour especially in mining sites and others in street hawking as well as begging to survive. Some of the parents who spoke with our Correspondent from Rafi, Munya and Shiroro Local Government Areas on condition of anonymity said they were ready to send their wards back to school if their safety would be guaranteed by government. Between 2021 and 2022, bandits laid siege on Zazzaga, Chibani, and Kuchi in particular, disrupting farming which has contributed to the fear of children going to school and their parents going back to farming because thousands of people were displaced and hundreds of school children were forced to drop out as government shut schools for the safety of the children. According to one of the parents, Usman, “even with some of the schools reopening, we are only putting the safety of our children in the hands of God because there are no formal security arrangements on the ground to forestall unforeseen occurrences. The vigilante in collaboration with the security agents have succeeded in blocking the routes of the bandits preventing them from gaining easy access to the affected Communities. Some public primary and government secondary schools within Minna, the state capital are prone to attacks as they are very porous.

The perimeter fences of some of the schools have collapsed while their gates are wide open for any visitor to drive in unchallenged. However, the state Police Command said there was no cause for alarm as they were up to the task to provide security to the students and teachers across the state.

The Public Relations Officer of the Command, Superintendent of Police Wasiu Abiodun said The Nigeria Police Force Safe School Initiative was aimed at providing adequate security for our schools.

“We shall partner with other security agencies to achieve this due to manpower requirement and where we may not deploy physical security men, we shall ensure vehicular patrol coverage to cover schools within an area. Stakeholders such as parents, teachers, school authorities, MDAs of the government also have major roles to play in making our schools safer, and we shall partner with them appropriately,” the PPRO assured.

Kaduna

More security operatives need to be deployed to schools

By Ibrahim Hassan-Wuyo

Since the abduction of the Bethel Baptist School students in Kaduna, the Federal School of Forestry Afaka incident and the killing of Greenfield University students among others by bandits, Kaduna state government has taken some measures to protect schools in the state including the recruitment of over 7000 local vigilante personnel. A visit to one of the LEA Primary Schools in the state, revealed that even though there were security measures put in place to protect the students from any untoward development, there is need to deploy more operatives and also have the Federal Police in place who would be equipped with arms for adequate protection of the school children.

A staff who craved anonymity said, “The situation is calm here in the state capital but I don’t think it’s the same outside the state capital as you can see in the case of Kuriga. We need more security operatives to be deployed. But again, if they are not well armed, nothing much could be done during an attack,” he said. Comrade Lucky Enonofe of the National Association of Nigeria Students,NANS , said attack on schools by bandits “ is a heinous act, a clear indication that there is still much work to be done in securing Nigeria’s educational institutions”. According to him, “the safety and well-being of our children should be a top priority for the government at all levels, irrespective of their political or religious affiliations. It is crucial that we come together as a nation to tackle this menace before it gets out of hand.”

Nasarawa

Public schools secured to prevent attacks

By David Odama

LAFIA — NASARAWA State government said proactive measures have been put in place to ensure the safety of pupils, students and the general environment of schools in the state in response to the increasing cases of kidnapping, banditry and other criminal activities in some parts of the country.

State Commissioner of Education, Dr John Mamma stated this while responding to alarming revelations that 14 states including the FCT were at risk of attacks by bandits and insurgents.

According to the Commissioner, some of the measures put in place include fencing of all public schools across the 13 local government areas of the state and deployment of state owned security guards to mount surveillance in all public schools in the state. “Governor Abdullahi Sule in his desire to ensure the security of lives and property have since directed that all public schools in Nasarawa state be fenced and secured to prevent attacks. We are conscious of criminal activities in the country hence the prevention of our institutions of learning”, the Commissioner stated.

Our correspondent who visited some schools in the state Capital, Lafia and some parts of the state observed that more than 85 percent of public schools have been secured by the perimeter fencing with other measures put in place. Some administrators, teachers and stakeholders in education who spoke on the issue however expressed divergent views. A retired School administrator, Said Babas Usman said though Nasarawa state has had its share of kidnapping and other forms of banditry in institutions of learning, he however commended the state government for being proactive in providing facilities such as water in most of the public schools as well as preventive measures through fencing of schools in Nasarawa state. On his part, the Principal of Government Secondary School, Mararaba Gurku, Salah Zubairu explained that enough preventive measures have been provided by the state government to prevent institutions of learning from being prone to attack as obtained in some parts of the country.

Also speaking, the principal of Government day secondary School Masaka, Mrs Rosemary Auta expressed gratitude to Governor Abdullahi Sule for ensuring that schools in Nasarawa were fenced to protect the pupils, students and teachers. A secondary School teacher in Lafia, Mrs Amina Jubrin said in the past, they were living in fear as a result of kidnapping and banditry.

Kano

Boarding schools in border areas still shut

By Bashir Bello

In Kano State, some boarding schools in the border areas of the state were still shut down. Recall that sometimes during the second term of former governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje’s administration, he ordered the schools to be shut down for fear of attack then.

Speaking on the recent development, a stakeholder in the Kano State education sector and coordinator, Kano Safe School Network, KSSN, Hassan Ibrahim Gama said a lot of measures were in the pipeline to improve safety and security of schools. Gama said, “The condition of our schools are literally safe. Although, some of the boarding schools sharing border with Kaduna, Katsina and Jigawa states have been closed.

Presently, we have a network formed by civil society organizations called Kano Safe School Network to ensure safety of our schools. Some committees will be set up in the state, LGAs and in the schools which will improve safety and security in the schools. Meanwhile, the Vice Chancellor of Bayero University, Kano, Prof. Sagir Abbas during the university’s 38th Convocation ceremony penultimate Saturday, expressed fear that the institution was prone to insecurity due to lack of perimeter fence across the school.

According to him, “despite the various challenges, we employed the services of the military to provide security in the night in the students hostel and staff quarters. We have employed the services of Nigeria Hunters and Forestry Security Services. We have provided them with all the necessary kits to do their job. Their presence on the New Campus is beginning to yield positive results.

We have increased the number of outsourced security to guard new facilities or replace retired or deceased security personnel. We have increased the number of Civil Defence personnel, especially at the solar plants. We have secured and mounted over 500 solar streetlights. We have applied for 1,000 more. The greatest security challenge on the New Campus is the lack of perimeter fencing. During the last convocation ceremony the Visitor promised to assist in that regard”.

Zamfara

Zamfara assures safety of students, teachers

By Idris Salisu, Gusau

The abduction of over 200 Students of Government Girls Secondary Schools (GGSS) Jangebe and that of Government Day Secondary Schools (GDSS) Kaya Maradun local government in 2021 by the bandits forced the closure of all 76 schools in the state before security measures was taken by the government in all the tertiary institutions in the state.

At Ibrahim Gusau Secondary School, the Principal who craved for anonymity said though the got the information about the impending bandit attacks in some states including Zamfara, they remained calm as they were always at alert day and night for any attacks. According to him, apart from the collaboration between the state government and the security agencies in the state to man the schools, there was additional deployment of Community Protection Guards (CPG) that were recruited recently.

At Danturai Primary and Secondary School, one of the teachers who also craved for anonymity told Saturday Vanguard that despite the threats of bandits’ attack they were confident of their safety as security personnel were protecting the students and teachers of the school.