The series of abductions of students in some states in Northern Nigeria is threatening the future of millions of children in the region, stakeholders told the Daily Trust on Monday.
Boko Haram fighters, bandits and other miscreants have found schools in some states in the region as soft targets and have abducted hundreds of students in recent times. States that recently witnessed the abduction of students and in some instances teachers include Katsina, Niger, Kano, Sokoto, Zamfara and Kaduna. All the incidents were attributed to bandits.
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The Boko Haram terrorists have also carried out daring abductions in Borno (Chibok where 276 schoolgirls were taken away in April 2014) and in Yobe (Dapchi where 110 girls were seized in February 2018).
While some of those abducted have been released, many others are still in captivity.
The most recent abduction was at the UBE Primary School in Rama, a village in Birnin Gwari Local Government Area of Kaduna State.
It happened 24 hours after security agents thwarted an attempted abduction of 307 students of Government Science Secondary School in Ikara Local Government Area of the state and another attack at the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) quarters in Igabi LGA of the state.
On Thursday night, bandits had invaded the Federal College of Forestry Mechanisation, Afaka, in Igabi LGA and abducted 39 students comprising 23 females and 16 males.
Security agents had earlier rescued 180 of the students but the gunmen who made away with 39 students and are now demanding N500 million as ransom.
The abduction of over 300 boys from the Secondary School in Kankara, Katsina State, on December 11, 2020; the February 17 abduction of 42 people including students, teachers and their families from Government Science Technical School Kagara, Niger State, and that of Government Girls Secondary School Jangebe, Zamfara State, on February 26, 2021, where 279 female students aged between 10 and 17 were taken away by bandits, are still fresh in the memories of many.
Governments at the federal and state levels keep insisting that no ransom was paid before those that regained their freedom returned and that those still in the custody of the kidnappers would also be freed.
But some analysts expressed fears yesterday that some miscreants have found a potent means of getting money and at the same time crippling education in the North which is already seriously trailing behind.
Their observation came at a time some parents, especially those whose children had been abducted, are threatening to withdraw their wards from schools.
The National President of the Parents Teachers Association of Nigeria (PTA), Alhaji Haruna Danjuma, yesterday, expressed worry over the rising cases of banditry attacks on schools in Northern Nigeria.
He described recent abductions of students as an attack on the country’s education and the future of Nigerian students. He said the government needed to find a lasting solution immediately to end such unnecessary attacks and abductions.
“Failure to do so will jeopardize the future of Northern Nigerian children,” he said.
“It is very disturbing to see how bandits have resolved to be attacking schools and abducting our children with impunity. Look at what happened at the College of Forestry Mechanization where the bandits are now demanding for N500 million as ransom for the 39 students in their custody,” Alhaji Haruna said.
It’s grand design to destroy education in North – ABU dons
The Dean, Faculty of Education, Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, Prof. Yahaya Korau Kajuru, said the abduction of school children is a grand design to destroy whatever success that the North has recorded in the education sector.
He said it was a ploy to stop Northern children from going to school and the implication was obvious for everyone to predict.
Prof. Kajuru said: “Unfortunately, our leaders don’t seem to understand what is going on, or they have deliberately refused to understand. There is a need for our leaders to focus and understand what is happening. Failure to do this would mean that those behind these callous acts would at the end achieve their nefarious objectives.
“We are to blame ourselves in the North because we allowed these things to breed while we watched. Our leaders are to take 90 percent of the blame. What is happening in the North, a quarter of it cannot happen in other regions. It is just annoying and unfortunate that despite all these dastardly acts, most of our leaders are quiet. They have not even started thinking of coming together to take a definite stand on the issue.”
On the fact that most of the perpetrators when apprehended usually turned out to be Northerners, he said: “Yes, we have bad eggs in the North and we have bad leaders in the North. For me, some people outside the North are using these people to destroy us, because when you destroy education, you are destroying the people. The earlier we realise this, the better for us, otherwise the future is very bleak.”
On his part, Prof. Ibrahim Ahmad Aliyu of ABU’s Faculty of Law, said even without the present bandits’ attacks on northern education, the sector was already in shambles.
He said leaders of the region seem not to be worried about the development because most of them have their children studying abroad.
He added: “Some of these people now take their children to Cotonou, Benin Republic to obtain degrees in less than one or two years. These same children would come back to Nigeria and meet lucrative jobs reserved for them. So, how can these people give a damn because bandits are attacking schools,” he asked.
Professor Musa Abdullahi of the Department of Sociology, University of Maiduguri, said the implication of school abductions could affect different aspects of life including national security, quality education and moral values of the society.
“It is an indication of a failed state and once that happens, the security architecture has been undermined. The security institutions are either non-existent or lack the capacity to respond to incidents,” he said.
He said insurgents had in the past openly discouraged their followers from acquiring western education and that recent rise in abductions in schools was depressing.
Prof. Musa said all the recent school abductions happened in public schools with crumbling structures where the majority of children in the Northern region go because their parents could not afford private schools.
“The implication is that people will no longer take their children to public schools. Government should be careful because if the children of the poor people cannot go to school and are not well fed, the rich man will not sleep,” he said.
What is happening is a calamity – Tofa
Elder statesman Alhaji Bashir Othman Tofa has said the ongoing kidnappings and the attendant fear that compel state governments to close boarding and day schools are serious calamities that have befallen the North.
The former presidential candidate said members of the Boko Haram, bandits and their sponsors and supporters might feel some sense of victory for the schools losers and the ransom paid for the kidnappings but they (bandits) too will be part of the losers in the long run.
“They will continue to live and bear children in a backward, illiterate and poverty-stricken society. Their children will be marked by the rest of society and become target of elimination by those who decide to resort to self-help, and by other gang members that may spring up for various reasons.
“Again, as society becomes intolerant of their terror, they will find out that they are a minority with no monopoly of violence. And as a new more concerned and more aggressive government is in place, their rapid end can be predicted.
“And then, there is the ultimate, inevitable judgment in the hereafter, of which there is no doubt; whether they believe it or not.”
The elder statesman advised the insurgents and bandits to begin looking for “a safe way out of this inhuman and merciless and grossly sinful activity; repent, seek a better life and true peace with God and society.”
He tasked the government to rethink its strategy and approach by asking pertinent questions, including why in actual fact, are the Boko Haram and the bandits doing what they do and with whose support exactly?
“Enemies of the North may be laughing; but I fear that the same calamities are well on their way to them if they have not started arriving already. Criminality has neither tribe nor religion. It is an evil phenotypic nature of human beings. As Nigerians, we need to feel each other’s pains and joys. We must come together and help one another. It is our country, or so I believe,” he said.
There’ll be more out-of-school children – UNICEF
The United Nations Children Funds (UNICEF), Monday, described attacks on students and schools as not only reprehensible but a violation of the right of children to education.
UNICEF Nigeria Representative, Peter Hawkins, said education was a right that any society “can ill-afford to violate.”
He, therefore, called on the government of Nigeria to take all measures to protect schools in the country so that children will not be fearful of going to school and parents afraid of sending their children to school.
“Children should never be the target of attack and yet, far too often in Nigeria, they are precisely that; victims of attacks on their schools. Such attacks not only negate the right of children to an education,” he said.
Declare state of emergency – Atiku
Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar yesterday asked President Muhammadu Buhari to declare a state of emergency on education to save the sector from collapse.
In a statement he personally signed, Atiku said: “With the latest Kaduna school abduction, I repeat my call for the Federal Government to declare a state of emergency in the education sector, and to post 24-hour armed guards at every school in the affected and neighbouring states. No expense must be spared to keep our schools safe.
“With 13.5 million children, Nigeria is already the world headquarters for out-of-school kids. This can only make things worse. It behoves on us as a nation to act decisively and excise this cancer of school abductions from our polity with clinically precise policies.
“We must also stop paying ransom at random. It is a short-term solution that will cause much long-term destruction. We must as a nation impose law and order now, or we will bequeath lawlessness and disorder to the next generation. And may God forbid that.”
Many profiting from Nigeria’s insecurity- Major Galma
A security expert, retired Major Mohammed Bashir Shuaibu Galma, said many people were profiting from the current insecurity in Nigeria and urged government to investigate the owners of huge mansions in the country to ascertain how they came about their wealth.
“There is injustice and people are practically worshiping money. A Fulani man walking on the road can just be arrested simply because he is Fulani. He will be locked up for days and by the time he is released, his cattle have wandered off. This same Fulani man is aggrieved and he takes up arms and begins to ask for ransom, he becomes so used to the ransom money that he cannot stop kidnapping,” he said.
He said people who sell weapons do not want insecurity to end adding. “They don’t want this to come to an end because that is their business and they are making huge profit and even when they rent guns out, they are making profit.”
He further said no military tactics could solve Nigeria’s security problems, saying the country needed prayers.
“Informants used by the bandits live among us, if you look at it, when ransom money is taken to the forest, do they spend the money in the forest or they come into town for safekeeping,” he queried.
We’re concerned – Education ministry
The Director, Press and Public Relations of the Federal Ministry of Education, Mr Ben Bem Goong, speaking on the abduction of students, said they were deeply concerned.
“All the variables needed to checkmate the trend are not within our control but we are doing the best we can to liaise with the security agencies to let them know where we need assistance most, our school architecture and were we perceive challenges most,” he said.
“We are already working hand in hand with the security agencies to know exactly where it is pinching us and where they can direct more efforts,” he added.
From Lami Sadiq, Maryam Ahmadu-Suka, Mohammed I. Yaba (Kaduna), Isa Sa’idu (Zaria), Clement A. Oloyede (Kano), Misbahu Bashir (Maiduguri), Chidinma C. Okeke, Olayemi John-Mensah & Haruna Ibrahim (Abuja)