The news for the reopening of schools, including universities in the country, is as one of the best news received by students and their parents, after months of staying at home. However, for students of the University of Maiduguri (UNIMAID), the development came with mixed feelings -excited to go back to school and the fear of Damaturu-Maiduguri road, the only way linking Maiduguri to other states of the federation.
Almost all the roads linking the Borno State capital with other states are not accessible, due to the activities of insurgents. They include the Maiduguri-Damboa road, which is still considered a `no go’ area as a result of the activities of Boko Haram insurgents.
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The Madagali-Buniyadi road used by those coming from Adamawa axis is also not secure. Thus, the only option left for returning students is the horrible Damaturu-Maiduguri way.
In February last year, Boko Haram insurgents ambushed motorists and passengers at Auno village near Maiduguri, killing about 40 people.
On January 2nd, 2021 it was reported that more than 50 motorists, and passengers including a United Nations humanitarian worker, were abducted by suspected terrorists along the deadly Maiduguri-Jakana-Damaturu highway.
It is sad that despite the horrific incidents that happened and are still happening on the road, the authorities have not come out with any action to secure students who will be plying the road to go back to the institution.
Many parents and guardians may stop their children from going back in view of the terrible incidents occurring on the road. Withdrawing students from the university at this time is indeed a great setback to the education sector in the country.
The university is the largest institute of higher learning in the North East. Therefore, any action that will be taken on this road will determine the fate of tertiary education in the entire region.
In order to guarantee the safety of both staff and returning students, the federal government may wish to partner with airlines to airlift them. Staff and students could be asked to gather at Gombe International Airport for the journey to Maiduguri. If the federal government cannot do that, the North East Governors Forum should adopt that strategy or come up with another solution to ensure the safety of their citizens, because most of the students are from the region.
The affected states may also liaise with troops to be escorting the students from their various states. Security should be beefed up along the way, especially from Benishiekh to Maiduguri including patrolling the road and sometimes, escorting the students.
One of the responsibilities of every government is the protection of lives and properties of its citizens, we therefore expect the government to take all the necessary measures to ensure the safety of all students and staff of the University of Maiduguri as academic activities resume on January 18, 2021.
As a concerned Maidite, it is my hope and prayer that the authorities concern will act accordingly to avoid putting the lives of innocent students in danger.
Tasi’u Dan Hassan wrote from Katsina.