On September 22, 2023, more than 24 students at the Federal University of Gusau were abducted by bandits in the Sabon-Gida community of the Bungudu Local Government Area of Zamfara State.
The bandits invaded the private female hostels of the school around 3 am and kidnapped all the students there. They also engaged the the security operatives who tried to stop them in a gun battle.
The Zamfara State Government ordered the closure of all schools in the state following the incident and vowed to rescue the abducted students.
This was not the first time bandits would attack schools and abduct students in Zamfara. In February 2021, 279 female students were kidnapped from a boarding school in Jangebe community of the state. They were later released after a ransom payment by the state government.
Also, on October 25, 2023, four female students at the Tai Solarin University of Education (TASUED) in Ogun State were raped by suspected armed robbers who invaded their hostels in Abapawa.
The robbers dispossessed the students of their valuables and forcefully had unlawful carnal knowledge of them. The victims were taken to the Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) at the Olabisi Onabanjo University Teaching Hospital (OOUTH) for treatment.
The TASUED management eventually suspended the ongoing second-semester examinations following the robbery and rape incident and called for improved security measures on campus and in the host community.
Hostels in higher institutions in Nigeria are increasingly becoming unsafe for students – from the southwestern region where students have complained of sexual violence by invaders (and one student recently found dead in a shallow grave), to the North where bandits abduct students.
According to Salihu Dantata Mahmud, the Director of Security at Salute Nigeria Initiative, the task of protecting schools at this time of insecurity is the responsibility of the government.
He advised the government to intensify its surveillance through the police, the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, the Department of State Services and others.
“It must ensure that primary, secondary and higher institutions are well secure. There should be an effective system of communication between schools and the security operatives to know what’s going on and about the movements of everyone. There’s also the need to have security operatives that will disguise in mufti to be watching the activities of people around those schools.
”Secondly, the security agencies need to have some kind of interface with the school management in form of operatives.
On the part of the students, you know security is everybody’s business. We must not say because it’s the purview and constitutional responsibility of the various security agencies that we also as individuals should not be careful,” he said.
On the parts of the students, the following safety measures were suggested by some security consultants.
AVOID ISOLATED PLACES
Avoiding isolated places is suggested as a safety measure because well-populated areas are less likely to be targeted for attacks.
“In isolated places, students may be more vulnerable to criminal activities, including hostel attacks, as there is often less visibility and assistance available in such locations. Staying in populated areas can enhance overall safety and reduce the risk of isolated incidents.
“They (students) should try to avoid isolated places. Places where they know are far from where most students are in the school,” said Mahmud.
STAY WITHIN SCHOOL PREMISES
Staying within the school premises may also provide some level of security for students, as some schools have security measures in place, such as fences, guards, and surveillance, Mahmud noted.
“They should also protect themselves by ensuring that at the point where they are not supposed to be outside the school, they should be there. And when they’re supposed to be in school, they should be in school,” he added.
He, however, observed that the effectiveness of these measures varies and may not guarantee complete protection.
“Hostel attacks are complex issues that involve broader security and societal challenges. Improved overall security infrastructure and measures at both schools and societal levels are essential for comprehensive student safety,” the security expert added.
AVOID UNNECESSARY MINGLING WITH STRANGERS
Avoiding mingling with strangers can also be a prudent safety measure to reduce the risk of hostel attacks in the country, said Detective Auwalu Bala Durumin Iya, a security consultant at QAA.
He said, “Building a strong sense of community within the school environment and fostering awareness about the potential dangers of interacting with unknown individuals can contribute to a safer environment for students.
“Students should avoid mingling with strange faces and people they don’t know, and in cases when they sense danger or sight people they’ve not seen before, they should alert or report to the school authority.”
AVOID SHARING PERSONAL INFORMATION ON SOCIAL MEDIA
Students living in hostels should also be mindful of the information they share on the social media, as many criminals use the social media to track the whereabouts and movements of their targets.
“Another important thing is you need to be smart about your social media presence. While social media is intended for you to share pictures with friends and the places you’re visiting and keep in touch with friends, it’s not always safe especially in the university or hostel.
“You need to be careful of the information you divulge on your social media page so you are not vulnerable to attackers. If you don’t know who the person is, don’t confirm any private information and never agree to meet someone you don’t know in a private residence or other unfamiliar places. If you have to take that chance, take a friend with you and always meet in a busy public space,” Iya said.
COLLABORATE WITH SECURITY AGENCIES
Hassan Soweto of the Education Rights Campaign (ERC) said Nigeria is slowly descending into a state of barbarism and its manifestation is taking different forms such as insurgency, banditry, kidnapping, armed robbery, ritual killings, sexual violence among other horrific crimes.
He stated the need for students to liaise with the relevant security personnel within their schools by providing the slightest information needed to spot any invasive move.
“We need an effective, democratically constituted and intelligence-driven security committee composed of elected student representatives and other progressive forces within the school environment to provide adequate security on the campus and students residences off campus.
“This kind of security committee can regularly liaise with the campus security and the police to share intelligence and information as well as carry out any activity to ensure that students’ lives are safe while in school.”