Three attacks on educational institutions by suspected terrorists in less than three weeks and the mass kidnapping of students were enough to terrify anyone.….CONTINUE.FULL.READING>>>
Parents, teachers and student bodies are asking the government to step up efforts to secure schools after gunmen invaded the Federal University Gusau, Zamfara State on September 22 and carted away 24 female students.
Whereas 13 of the captives were reportedly rescued by security forces, another set of suspected terrorists struck in neighbouring Katsina State less than two weeks later.
In the attack on the Federal University in Katsina which took place on October 4, five female students were taken away.
The third attack carried out by gunmen on October 10 at Nasarawa Varsity led to four students being kidnapped.
Three mass kidnappings under the Tinubu administration that took office on May 29, 2023 and promised to end the spate of insecurity across the country apparently give cause for concern.
In retrospect, about 41 students have been kidnapped under the less than five months old administration even if some of the captives have been rescued.
But winding back, no fewer than 204 students have been abducted in 16 incidents by gunmen since the beginning of the year 2023 while 18 captives, according to reports, were rescued by security forces.
The figures represent reported cases in the media as confirmed by the police and eyewitnesses.
Sunday Vanguard learned that many other unreported incidents may have taken place, especially in Niger, Zamfara, Kaduna and Katsina states where banditry is raging. Thus, the total sum may well be above 204 kidnapped students if all cases were captured.
Meanwhile the Federal Ministry of Education said government was doing its best to address mass kidnapping of students in the country just as it spoke on the ‘Safe Schools Initiative’.
The security situation previously had not been particularly rosy as kidnappers had stuck at will in schools, carting away students in the process.
It all started in April 2014 when Boko Haram terrorists abducted 276 schoolgirls from their dormitories in Chibok, Borno State.
On February 18, 2018, nearly 110 schoolgirls were kidnapped by terrorists in Dapchi, Yobe State.
On December 11, 2020, suspected gunmen launched an attack on Government Boys Science Secondary School in Kankara Local Government Area of Katsina State and abducted over 300 students.
On February 17, 2021, suspected bandits abducted 27 students and 15 others at Government Science School, Kagara, Niger State.
On February 26, 2021, bandits kidnapped 317 female students of Government Girls Secondary School Jangebe, Zamfara State in an early morning raid on their school.
The highest number of schoolchildren kidnapped so far this year was witnessed in Zamfara (106) followed by Kaduna and Nasarrawa (25) respectively.
Findings also show that the North-West is the worst hit with 136 victims followed by North-Central with 34, and South-East 20. The South-West and South-South recorded the least casualties with nine and five in that order while the North-East recorded no incident.
Authorities blamed Boko Haram terrorists, armed herdsmen, bandits, and unknown gunmen for the abductions. The criminals have been notorious for mass kidnappings of students from schools in recent years.
Fast growing industry
Nigeria’s kidnap-for-ransom industry is growing, and it’s not just the well-off who are at risk.
The new targets are the poor innocent schoolchildren.
Recent reports have shown that criminals are often driven by financial motives to kidnap children and others and hold them for ransom.
Security experts say the inability of the Federal Government, through the security agencies, to stem the development has led to a surge in kidnappings.
Sunday Vanguard notes that after each mass abduction, state and federal governments condemn the attack in strong terms, with promises to rescue abductees.
‘Matter of national concern’
Critical stakeholders in the education sector, who spoke with Sunday Vanguard, asked government to do the needful before the issue of mass kidnapping gets completely out of hand.
The respondents included parents and teachers under the aegis of the National Parent and Teacher Association of Nigeria, NAPTAN, the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, and the National Association of Nigerian Students, NANS.
NAPTAN President, Alhaji Haruna Danjuma, said the development has become a matter of national concern.
“We are not at peace with what is happening. There is levity on the part of the government”, Danjuma said.
“Parents are doing their best to give their children good education, but now they have no rest regarding the safety of those children. Abduction of students has increased beyond our imagination.
“What is happening? Is it that our security agencies have relaxed? We wonder why government would provide schools but fail to provide security cover for students and their teachers.
“If schools are protected as they should be, bandits won’t have access to them. The government should sit up. Also, the array of security personnel deployed to politicians and public office holders should be reduced and such sent to our schools to provide cover.
“Bandits and kidnappers cannot have access to our politicians and public officeholders, but they can go to our schools and pick up students, teachers and others effortlessly. That is not fair enough,” he noted.
South-West Coordinator of NANS, Comrade Alao John, for his part, said the government should up its game and improve security apparatus around schools nationwide.
“We are concerned about the development and we are not happy about it. Students want to be educated and not become victims of abduction”, John said. “Government should not give in to these bandits, they should be crushed. Our schools should be safe. Out security agents should focus more attention on schools areas.
“Students should also go out in groups and avoid areas prone to attacks. Also, students should inform their colleagues where they are going to and pass information about any unusual movements around them to the appropriate quarters and agencies”.
In his response, the Chairman of ASUU, University of Lagos, UNILAG, Chapter, Prof. Kayode Adebayo, described the situation as a national calamity.
“It is a serious matter. Government has been making promises all this while. What strategy do we have as individuals to protect ourselves?” Adebayo said.
“It is a serious issue and it is like those bandits and kidnappers have laid siege to the education sector and they want to kill it.
“Economic hardship does not make one a criminal. Government should wake up to its duties and responsibilities. Have the abductors not declared war on the education sector? Government should not fold its arms and continue to allow these miscreants to have a free reign.
“People are no longer safe anywhere. People cannot move from one place to the other without fear. How many kidnappers have been arrested? People continue to pay ransom to regain their freedom and we watch as if that is okay”.
‘Safe Schools Initiative’
Reacting, the Director of Press Affairs, Federal Ministry of Education, Mr. Ben Goong, said government is doing everything possible to stem the ugly tide.
“The Safe Schools Initiative is one of the steps taken by government to tackle the menace”, Goong told Sunday Vanguard.
“We are complementing the efforts of security agencies, whose duty is to protect and secure places such as schools. I think those security agencies are in the best position to say what they are doing about the issue”.
Timeline of reported students’ abduction since January 2023
January 20: Kidnappers abduct six pupils in Doma, Nassarawa.
February 14: Kidnappers abduct 15 National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) members in Ihiala, Anambra.
February 28: Nine children kidnapped by a 16-year-old teenager in Lagos State.
March 25: Two children abducted in Suleja Local Government Area of Niger State.
April 2: Bandits abduct two students in Bungudu, Zamfara.
April 8: Bandits abduct over 80 children between the ages of 12 and 17 in Tsafe Local Government Area of Zamfara State.
April 3: Eight students of Government Secondary School, Awon in Kachia LGA, and an unspecified number of residents in Kaduna State kidnapped.
April 21: Gunmen abduct a student of a polytechnic in Enugu State.
April 4: At least 10 students of Government Secondary School in Kaduna State abducted during an attack
May 16: Kidnappers abduct about five National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) members in Emuoha, Rivers.
May 27: Kidnappers abduct four children in Njaba, Imo.
June 14: Gunmen abduct seven students of the University of Jos.
August 24: Gunmen attack school, killing one and kidnapping seven students and one teacher in Chikun, Kaduna.
September 22: 24 female students abducted from their hostel at the Federal University Gusau, Zamfara State.
September 26: Gunmen abduct a student of Isa Mustapha Agwai Polytechnic in Lafia, Nasarawa State.
October 4: Suspected terrorists kidnap five female students of Federal University in Katsina
October 10: Gunmen abduct four Nasarawa Varsity students….CONTINUE.FULL.READING>>>