Just when Nigerians thought that school girls’ abductions have become a thing of the past, over 150 students of Islamiyya School, Tegina in Rafi Local Government Area of Niger State were abducted recently.
The bandits have demanded N200 million ransom before they can release the children. According to the state government, 11 children among the kidnapped victims were released ‘because they were too small and could not walk. Among these children a three-year-old, who was among the released, later died after he was abandoned for not keeping up with their pace.
Sadly, almost a month after, most of the children are still in the hands of the bandits. Parents of the 136 abducted pupils have resorted to begging in Churches and Mosques to raise funds for the ransom demanded by the kidnappers. It is indeed a horrifying experience.
The unfortunate situation in this case, unlike other abductions, is that the Tengina pupils are aged between three and 11 years. Since the abduction of school girls from Government Secondary School Chibok in 2014, abduction of school children has become a regular occurrence. In the last one year, insurgents and bandits have attacked and abducted not less than 800 students across the country. The scenario is disheartening and, certainly, frightening.
As a newspaper, we are worried that constant, attacks on schools and the kidnap of pupils and students will increase the number of out-of-school children a figure that is conservatively put at 10.5 million across the country. Even more disturbing is the inexorable fact that it will affect adversely the number of girl-child enrolment in schools.
It is instructive to note that a Safe Schools’ Initiative was launched in 2014 during the World Economic Forum on Africa by a coalition of Nigerian business leaders working with the United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education, former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, and the Global Business Coalition for Education and World at School.
Basically, the idea was to ensure that students are not only safe going to school but are also provided with an environment that is conducive for learning, growth and development devoid of fear.
Interestingly, in our opinion, the sum of $30 million was raised at the launch of the Initiative, but years after, the idea of safe schools appears elusive as more schools, especially in the northern part of the country, with an abysmally low literacy level, have continued to witness attacks and abduction of students.
Experts are apprehensive that the spate of attacks especially on schools and the kidnapping of students have not only made learning less encouraging but also continues to ignite fear in the minds of both parents and students. In our considered opinion, it will not be out of place to interrogate the whereabouts of the Safe Schools Fund. It is, indeed, a matter of utmost urgency.
Also, the constant attacks by bandits brings to the fore the futility of negotiating and granting amnesty to bandits and insurgents. The amnesty deal for bandits in Katsina and Zamfara has virtually collapsed. Recently bandits went on a killing spree in Zamfara state.
It is not our intention to put the security agencies on the spot, but it is inexplicable how easily the bandits in Zamfara relocated to Niger. Recently, in an apparent response to this dilemma, the Director General of State Services, Mallam Yusuf Magaji Bichi, in exasperation, said that his agency meticulously give the state governors their security reports. What is alarming is that in spite of these warnings, the worst still happens.
The Niger State Governor Abubakar Sani Bello had revealed that some politicians in government are aiding and abetting criminals engaged in kidnapping and banditry by providing information to them. He, however, declared that his administration would not be intimidated by the bandits and their cohorts. More than that, he asserted that the government will not pay ransom for the Tengina pupils. But what is the viable option? Time is running out. All efforts should be made to protect the schools from the barrage of attacks.
From the foregoing, we call on the federal and state government to do everything within their powers to rescue the pupils. They are too young to be left that long in the hands of the bandits and without the protection and care of their parents or guardians. For their sake, the government should bend over backwards and do something to help them regain their freedom.
We find it disheartening that the Niger State governor was echoing the sentiments expressed by his Zamfara counterpart, Bello Matawalle, who said some politicians were sponsoring banditry in his state. In the light of this disclosure, we urge the governors to take the bull by the horn and name and shame the sponsors of the bandits in their states. The full weight of the law should be meted to the bandits and their sponsors. The state should never surrender its sovereignty to non- state actors.
108 Abducted Islamiyya Pupils Are Girls – Investigation(Opens in a new browser tab)