The authorities should put necessary measures in place to secure schools across the country in view of the emerging security challenges
The kidnapped students and staff of the Nigerian-Turkish school, Isheri, in Ogun State, were set free last week. The Ogun State police command said on Tuesday that the five students and three staff, who were abducted on January 13 from the school compound, were “rescued unhurt this evening.” Various details have emerged on how the kidnap victims regained their freedom.
And there have been reports about the payment of ransom to the kidnappers by the parents of the girls and the school. Though, the police would not admit that money was paid for the release. But there is a lesson in the kidnap incident for everyone: increased security consciousness. Society needs to think ahead in terms of security for the learning and teaching environment.
The federal and state governments as well as the managements of schools should devise appropriate strategies for the security of the learning environment in response to the emerging security challenges in the country. Nigeria has in recent times seen too many threats to the security of life and property in its schools for the authorities to sit back and watch the situation deteriorate.
In October last year, a gang of kidnappers stormed Government Model College, Igbonla, Epe, in Lagos State, and abducted two students, the school’s vice principal, and a teacher. The victims, who were abducted on October 6, were released on October 11after unconfirmed reports of ransom.
Two hundred and seventy six schoolgirls were abducted on April 14, 2014 from their hostel at Government Girls Secondary School, Chibok, in Borno State, by Boko Haram terrorists. Though 57 of the girls managed to escape from the terrorists, who also burned down many building in the school, four were later found, and 21 were released, 195 are still missing.
On February 25, 2014, about 60 boys were killed at the Federal Government College, Buni Yadi, in Yobe State, by gunmen suspected to be members of the Boko Haram terrorist sect. The students were massacred with explosives and guns while they were sleeping in their dormitories. The 24 buildings of the school were also burned down by the assailants.
Boko Haram terrorists entered the male dormitory of the College of Agriculture, Gujba, Yobe State, on September 29, 2013 and killed 44 people, including students and teachers. And two teachers and seven students lost their lives on June 16, 2013 during an attack by Boko Haram insurgents on Government Secondary School, Damaturu, in the Yobe State capital.
The Boko Haram Islamist group, which is the architect of the attacks on schools in Born, Yobe and other states in the North-east, had voiced its animosity towards educational institutions long before the bloody assaults. And reports from the areas where the attacks took place indicated that there had been notes of alarm about the likelihood of such assaults on schools. So the attacks cannot be said to be completely without warning. Yet the authorities failed to take adequate steps to protect the institutions.
The same thing applies to the Lagos incidents. With the upsurge in cases of kidnapping for ransom, necessary measures ought to have been put in place to protect critical targets like schools.
The recent bitter abduction experiences should spur the authorities into more proactive measures to secure the school environment. The Nigeria Police, which is the country’s chief internal security organ, should liaise with other security agencies, like the Department of State Services and Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, to ensure security at the educational institutions, especially, those located in remote areas. There should be a deliberate deployment of intelligence around the school environments with the involvement of the communities where the institutions are located. With a robust intelligence network in neighbourhoods where schools are located, the authorities would most likely learn of any imminent attack forming in those areas.
Besides, in building and giving approval for the building of schools, the federal and state governments should take security into consideration. The move by the Lagos State government to ensure the perimeter fencing of its schools is commendable. It should be emulated by government at all levels as well as owners of private educational institutions.
With the current security situation in the country, there should be a deliberate effort to secure the learning and teaching environment all across the country. And everyone should be involved.