The nation was, once again, jolted recently when some daredevil kidnappers invaded Government Science School, Kagara in Rafi Local Government Area of Niger State. They not only abducted 27 students and 15 workers of the school, but also killed a student in the process. Luckily, the state government has secured the release of the students and their teachers. However, the Kagara incident was quickly followed by the abduction of 297 schoolgirls from Government Girls’ Secondary School, Jangebe, in Talata Mafara Local Government Area of Zamfara State. Fortunately, the schoolgirls were released on Tuesday. Coming soon after similar abductions in different parts of the country, it is increasingly becoming apparent that some schools in the north are no longer safe for students.
A catalogue of the exploits of criminals in recent times is frightening. In December last year, for instance, bandits kidnapped over 300 students from Government Science Secondary School in Kankara, Katsina State. They released the boys after six days in a forest in Zamfara State. In April 2014, Boko Haram terrorists abducted some 276 schoolgirls from their school in Chibok, Borno State. Over 100 of the girls were rescued a few years after, but many of them have remained in captivity. In February 2018, the same Boko Haram insurgents invaded Government Secondary School in Dapchi, Yobe State, and kidnapped 110 schoolgirls. Four of the girls died, but 105 of them were later released. One of the girls, Leah Sharibu, is still being held hostage.
Outside students, many other Nigerians have fallen victims to the spate of insecurity in the country. In Niger, Zamfara, Kaduna, Edo and many other parts of Nigeria, kidnapping people for ransom has become a lucrative business. The criminals collect millions of naira with which they buy more sophisticated weapons and continue to make life unbearable for the average Nigerian. They do this with impunity, emboldened by the fact that nothing happens to check or bring them to book. Little wonder Nigeria emerged the third most terrorised country in the world for the sixth consecutive year in 2020.
Insecurity has worsened because the government and security agencies have failed to surmount the security challenge. The best the government has done is to condemn every abduction and promise to bring the perpetrators to justice. After the recent abduction of Kagara schoolboys, President Muhammadu Buhari, condemned the action and dispatched a team of security officials to coordinate the rescue operations. The kidnappers demanded huge ransom and even reportedly rejected the sum of N2.7 million the parents of the boys promised to pay. They threatened to starve the students to death.
Staying a day in the kidnappers den could be traumatic not to talk of staying for days or weeks. The experience may haunt them for life. This will seriously affect school enrolment, especially in the North that is already backward in education. Besides, a nation that cannot protect her schoolchildren or citizens cannot attract foreign investors. It cannot also attract positive international ratings, be it in the area of corruption, poverty, terrorism and so on. It will continue to be haunted by poor image in the international arena.
It is sad that the government has failed in its primary responsibility of protecting life and property. It has equally failed to rein in bandits and other criminals terrorising innocent Nigerians. The worst is that some senior officials of government complicate matters with their unguarded comments. Information and Culture Minister, Lai Mohammed, reminded us the other day that kidnapping of schoolchildren occurred even in the United States and other advanced countries. Defence Minister, Major-General Bashir Magashi (retd.), wondered why Nigerians had become cowards and not defending themselves against bandit attacks. They fail to acknowledge that it is the sole responsibility of government to protect life and property.
With the way things are going, the government should begin to check if there are fifth columnists among its ranks. At a point in the life of his administration, former President Goodluck Jonathan lamented that Boko Haram sympathisers had infiltrated his government. It is possible that there are people in the Buhari government sabotaging its efforts to tackle insecurity. We cannot understand why there is proliferation of illegal arms and ammunition in the country.
It has become inevitable to hearken to the clamour for community or state policing. Every crime is local and we believe that local police will be in a better position to tackle any crime in their locality. All they need is to be well equipped to do the job. It is also time to strengthen the intelligence unit of our security agencies. If we have effective intelligence network, it will be easier to detect a crime before it happens. It will also be easier to locate the den of the bandits and take the war to them rather than being reactive.
With regard to schools, we wonder what has happened to the safe school initiative launched in 2014 to promote safety of pupils, teachers and facilities in our schools. That initiative should be revived. We can’t continue to allow things to deteriorate because the lives of our citizens matter.