The Northern Elders Forum (NEF) has condemned the abduction of 317 school children in Zamfara state, regretting that in spite of assurances from the Muhammadu Buhari-led federal government that it will end banditry and kidnappings, the lives of Nigerians are becoming more endangered everyday.
Gunmen had in the early hours on Friday, invaded Government Girls Secondary School, Jangebe, Talata Mafara Local Government Area, Zamfara State, abducting 317 students.
In a statement in Kaduna, the Director, Publicity and Advocacy, Dr. Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, said Nigerians had “lost faith that government will reverse the successes of the criminal against defenceless citizens.”
He said the “Northern Elders Forum shares the profound shock and outrage of Nigerians at the spate of kidnappings of boarding school children in different parts of the North.”
He noted that the latest incident follows the abduction of student of Government Science School, Kagara, Niger state.
The NEF spokesman stressed that, “apart from the likelihood of similar abductions re-occurring as bandits engage in copy cat crimes in a region that is basically unprotected, these abductions will severely damage the poor state of education in the North, particularly girl-child education.”
He regretted that, “It has become painfully obvious that the federal government is unable to muster the will or the capacity to limit exposure of Nigerians to violent criminals.”
According to him, governors have been left to quarrel over causes and strategies to adopt in tackling the bandits, alleging that many of the governors are “taking steps that have dubious legal foundations, most of which merely compound the security situation.”
The statement said: “In spite of assurances from the federal government that it will end banditry and kidnappings, the life of the Nigerian is becoming more endangered by the day, and citizens have lost faith that governments will reverse the successes of the criminal against defenceless citizens.
“The forum advises particularly Northern governors to explore all lawful avenues to improve the security of citizens.
“While they should improve their support to the military, the police and security agencies, they should also explore avenues which give them more powers to secure citizens within the confines of the constitution which gives states powers to establish policing structures, including those with specialization such as forest rangers should now be pursued as a matter of national priority.”
The statement called on governors to explore issues which aid the spread of banditry at local and community levels and resolve them.
It further urged governors to also “intensify multi-pronged approaches to ending banditry and kidnappings, including measures which prevent the continuation of these criminal activities by those who show a genuine willingness to stop.”
Baba-Ahmed said, “Bandits who refuse to submit to mediation and cessation of criminal activities should be treated in accordance with the laws of the country.”
He said, citizens should organize and raise their levels of vigilance, but should resist the temptation to take laws into their hands and improve the manner they work with security agencies.
The statement urged parents not be discouraged from sending children to school, calling on governments at all levels must take firmer measures to secure schools.