WHEN KIDNAPPERS TARGET SCHOOLS

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The security agencies could do more to contain the criminals

Kidnapping for ransom is becoming something of a career for many bandits in our country today. But the most dangerous dimension to the crime is that it is impacting negatively on the education of our children as the nation’s primary and secondary schools are increasingly under siege. In Lagos State particularly, these criminal gangs now find it very easy to carry away innocent students after which they demand outrageous amounts of money before releasing them to their parents.

Apparently in desperation, parents of the recently kidnapped students of the Lagos State Model College, Igbonla, Epe last week stormed the Governor’s Office to demand for the release of their children two weeks after they were abducted by gunmen. “Our children have been in captivity for 14 days and government has not deemed it fit to communicate with us,” said Mr. Dapo Adesega who spoke for the parents. “If you don’t communicate with us, how do we know that government cares about our plight?”

While the six students are spending their third week in captivity, it is from the same school that four students and two teachers were abducted last October. “When a school is under attack and students become targets”, said Manuel Fotaine, West Africa Regional Director of United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF), “not only are their lives shattered, the future of the nation is stolen.”

Indeed, there are concerns about the brazen manner with which the criminal gangs operate without much inhibition and there is a feeling that the security agencies appear not to be doing enough to arrest the situation. Last week, a member of the House of Representatives, from Kano State, Mr. Garba Umar-Durbunde was kidnapped and held for 48 hours before he was released following payment of ransom. A day later, one Mrs Sara Amos, her son, Jesse, and a family member, Mr. Isaac Michael were also seized by some criminals who demanded a hefty ransom of N20 million.

From the north to the south of the country, kidnappers are now on the rampage. Mrs. Theresa Sapra, wife of the Delta State Commissioner for Special Duties was released only recently after weeks in abduction, following payment of ransom. “The activities of the kidnappers are becoming nightmarish for the people who can no longer go to their farms freely, with the obvious consequences of shortage of food that will result in hunger and untold hardship,” noted the House of Representatives last week in plenary.

The danger in allowing this state of affairs to continue, as we have repeatedly warned, is to encourage recourse to self-help by citizens. Such inclination may arise not only from a feeling that the security agencies appear not to be doing enough to arrest the situation, but also that they are part of the problem as several arrests had shown the complicity of retired and serving military and police men in the crime. That some of those paid by the state to protect the people are now using their official weapons to commit such heinous crime is a dangerous development that must not be allowed to continue.

There are chilling statistics which suggest that kidnaping for ransom has become one of the biggest criminal enterprises in our country today and we believe the relevant authorities, by now, should have devised strategies for dealing with the menace. But the more disturbing trend is that they are now targeting schools where they take away innocent children. If parents can now no longer send their children to school for fear of being kidnapped, then the future of our country will be in jeopardy.