The abduction of about 200 school children in Tegina, Niger State, is the second most traumatic incident for the nation since the Chibok girls kidnap of April 2014.
The armed men abducted the students from Salihu Tanko Islamic School in Tegina, in the Rafi Local Government Area of the state over a month ago and till date the whereabouts of the children are unknown.
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It is indeed very sad and a shame of a nation that children, some of whom are as young as three years of age can be abducted for over a month without release or any positive development over the issue. This is totally unacceptable.
It is indeed hard to imagine the agony of the parents and the trauma the kids are going through at the moment. Many of the children may never recover from this horrifying experience even after their release.
The Tegina case is one of the many abductions of school children that have occurred recently. It came a day after 14 students from Greenfield University, Kaduna State, were abducted, during which one person was killed and several others injured.
In December 2020, bandits abducted over 300 students from a science secondary school in Kankara, Katsina State. In February, nearly 300 girls were taken by armed men from a boarding school in Jangebe, Zamfara State. There have been at least six kidnap incidents of students in Zamfara, Katsina, Kaduna, Kebbi, in the North-West and Niger in the North-Central.
We are making a special appeal to the federal government to act now and secure the release of the Tegina children. These kids must not be allowed to suffer any longer. We urge the Niger State government to also play its part. It should take advantage of the security apparatus available in the state to secure schools and the state in general. The successful rescue of students in Kebbi State should serve as yardstick on how to deal with kidnappers. The kidnap of school children is something that must be tackled immediately. It cannot be allowed to continue, as apart from the suffering that the students and their parents experience, the development is a great disincentive for education in the northern part of the country, which is already disadvantaged in that regard. Parents may no longer want to send their children to school for fear of being kidnapped, just as there is the danger of withdrawal of some children already in school. This will in no small measure set the region backward. We call on governors of the northern region to appreciate the danger of this development and come up with ways of addressing it.
Despite all the reports of attacks on schools, not many of them have been secured till date. Only recently there was a report that thousands of schools were prone to attacks. One wonders why that is still the case. Action should be taken to secure all schools across the country. We do not have to wait for the attacks to occur. Some of the attacks could have been prevented if the right thing had been done.
The rate of kidnapping is on the rise because it has become an easy avenue for criminals to collect hundreds of millions of naira in ransom money. Ways should be devised to track money paid to these criminals.
We call on security operatives and the government to work towards addressing this issue. Our security personnel can tackle this crisis; they should be given all the support needed. It is indeed embarrassing that kidnap cases are recorded almost on a daily basis across the country.
The authorities must stop the usual practice of expressing shock and making promises to eliminate kidnapping any time it happens. This offers no succour to relatives or the victims. The time to take concrete action is now.
They are criminals and should be dealt with decisively. We call on states around the forests to resuscitate their meetings and seek ways to tackle banditry holistically. We also encourage the Air Force to intensify aerial bombardments of bandits’ enclaves. Anything that can help to end this scourge should be done.