Samson Folarin, Maiharaji Altine, Olaide Oyelude and Adeniyi Olugbemi
21 June 2021
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130 secondary schools in Zamfara deserted communities shut
315 secondary schools in Kebbi lack security, says NUT chairman
No school safe until govt negotiates with bandits – Sheik Gumi
North-West states are currently battling with the problem of inadequate security agents to man schools as fears of bandits’ attacks rise, The PUNCH has learnt.
It was gathered that rising insecurity had started having negative impacts on the education system of the states with many of them shutting down some schools.
It was learnt that states where bandits’ attacks had led to shutting down or reduction of facilities included Zamfara, Kebbi, Katsina and Sokoto.
The PUNCH learnt that the bandits had devised a fresh strategy of attacking schools in large numbers to overpower security agents guarding the schools.
Recall that there have been incessant attacks on schools in Zamfara, Kebbi, Niger, Kaduna and Katsina states.
Recently, 136 pupils were abducted in an Islamic school in Tegina, a densely populated town in the Rafi Local Government Area of Niger State.
On Thursday, bandits overpowered 22 policemen deployed in the Federal Government College, Birnin Yauri, Kebbi State and kidnapped scores of students and four teachers.
A top security official in Zamfara State, who confided in The PUNCH, stated, “From all indications, the bandits have sources within communities. They monitor schools and ensure that their number doubles the number of policemen posted to the schools.”
State officials, who spoke to The PUNCH, called for deployment of more policemen in schools.
On Sunday, Zamfara State Government told The PUNCH that it could not effectively secure schools without the assistance of the Federal Government.
The Director General of the Public Enlightenment, Media and Communication, Alhaji Yusuf Idris, in an interview with one of our correspondents, said security was within the purview of the Federal Government.
He added that the security agents available to man junior and senior secondary schools in the state were inadequate.
When asked if the state government could effectively secure the schools, Idris said, “This is beyond the power of the state government because as you are aware, only the Federal Government controls the security personnel. Inadequate number of security personnel is one of our major problems.”
Idris said the state government had not rescinded its decision to convert all boarding schools in the state into day schools.
He stated, “The state government has temporarily cancelled the boarding school system. The students can report to their classes during the day time and return to their homes after school hours.
“It is now clear that the abductors usually carry out their heinous activities in the night, as such, the state government has banned the boarding school system.”
Idris also said the state government has drafted security personnel to the schools that were considered vulnerable to bandits’ attacks.
It was learnt that 130 junior secondary schools in communities, which had been deserted due to bandits’ attacks, had been closed down.
Although the Katsina State Government was collaborating with security agents, it was learnt that the security agents available were not enough to guard 340 secondary schools in the state.
A top official of the state, who confided in The PUNCH, said, “There has been cooperation between the state government and security agents, but there is no way enough policemen can be posted to the schools when sometimes 100 bandits bearing AK47 can storm a school.
“With the number of policemen we have in the country, can we post 100 cops to a single school? I am praying that the madness by the bandits should end.”
A senior civil servant, who has two children in public schools and whose job involves travelling round the state, said since bandits always moved in large numbers, he doubted whether the number of security personnel in the state could cope with the situation.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, stated, “I always travel around the state because of the nature of my job and from my observation, we don’t have enough security personnel to adequately take care of our schools.
“What I will suggest is vigilance and collaboration with ward and opinion leaders who are very close to people in their communities for the sake of getting genuine information about the movement of these criminals so that authorities would be informed on time.”
Another top government official, who confided in The PUNCH, said, “The current number of security personnel in the state whether from the Nigerian Army, or the police, is not enough to tackle security situation in the state. The security personnel are already over stretched but they cannot complain publicly .So, I will appeal that more security personnel be employed and deployed in the state.”
When contacted, the state Commissioner for Education, Associate Professor Badamasi Lawal, told one of our correspondents that the state government had purchased books on security for its primary and secondary schools to improve security awareness.
He added that a security committee had been constituted for each school in addition to the perimeter fencing of the schools.
Katsina reduces boarding schools to nine
Lawal stated, “We have also reduced the number of boarding schools to nine. We have not closed down any school because of security challenges.”
Also, the Kebbi State Chairman of the Nigeria Union of Teachers, Mallam Isa Arzika, said the 315 secondary schools in the state lacked security.
315 secondary schools in Kebbi lack security – NUT chairman
Arzika, in an interview with one of our correspondents, said what happened on Thursday when bandits overpowered 22 policemen posted to the FGGC Birnin Yauri was an opener on the level of insecurity in the state.
He stated, “Most schools in the state lack perimeter fencing and some classrooms are without doors and windows. The authorities need to brace up, on the aspect of security in our schools, now that, we have recorded an eye opener.”
Seven Kebbi schools shut
Also the NUT chairman, in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria, said no fewer than seven schools in the state had been shut own indefinitely after the attack on the FGGC Birnin Yauri, by bandits.
Arzika said those affected were schools located in the areas prone to attacks by suspected bandits.
He said that the government had directed all school principals to close any school which they believed were not safe, adding that police and vigilantes had also been deployed in the schools for monitoring and protection.
He stated, “On these proactive measures, as you all know, we are part of the system. Because principals are teachers, all the directors at the board are also teachers. It is the decision that we all took that is affecting us.
“Government has given us an order and option to take any necessary action as far as our schools are concerned; that we can close those schools which we think are not safe and prone to attacks in the areas close to the forest.
“I am not talking about only boarding schools, any school that is on the frontline and it is not safe, we would just ask the students to pack and go home, pending the time the situation normalises.”
On the FGC Yauri abductions, the NUT chairman appealed to parents to remain calm and continue praying to God.
He said: “Since the security agencies have swung into action on the bandits, we have not made fresh contact with the parents and relatives of the students and teachers still in their captivity.”
In Niger State, some parents, in separate interviews with The PUNCH, said with the rising insecurity in the state, they were afraid of enrolling children in schools, particularly boarding schools.
A Minna based mechanic, Mallam Abdulrahman Abdulsalam, said, “For now, it is better to be seeing my children around me than to allow them to be kidnapped because they are in a boarding school. The security situation in the state is nothing to write home about.”
No school safe until govt negotiates with bandits, says Gumi
Meanwhile, a respected Islamic cleric, Sheik Abubakar Gumi, has said there are about 100,000 armed bandits in the North-West alone.
Gumi said the bandits kidnapping school pupils were disappointed that he negotiated with them without the involvement of the Federal Government.
The Islamic cleric insisted that until the government engaged with the herdsmen, no school could be safe.
He stated these during an interview with The PUNCH on efforts to rescue the kidnapped pupils of Tegina Islamic School, Niger State.
The bandits had demanded N200m from the victims’ parents, but was later reduced to N150m.
Gumi said despite efforts to get the pupils out, the bandits were adamant in their financial demand.
He said, “But we are trying to talk sense to them that these are just innocent schoolchildren. We don’t even have any idea of the condition of the children. We are just saying these are young children trying to study and they did nothing, so why are you trying to take dirty money from their families?
“This (kidnap of Islamic pupils) actually proves to the nation that the bandits are not really indoctrinated, they are just looking for money and I think that this is a good prognosis. They are not targeting a religion; they are not ideologues, which are difficult to deal with. We should not forget that they are not educated, formally or informally. They are just going about with cattle, and suddenly they found a lucrative way of finding money.
“But with good engagement, education and enticements like jobs and other things, they will leave this work. But we need a partner and we need the government to understand. Individuals like me alone cannot do it.
“All those we met (have stopped kidnapping), except for one of them who is kidnapping again, and he told us his reason, that he was neglected and he thought we had the mandate to negotiate. But when he realised that we did not have the mandate from anybody, he said he was going back to his business.
“So, the earlier we go into engaging them, the better. The ones who have agreed to lay down arms, you can engineer them to take care of the rest.”
Gumi said the Niger State Government had been making efforts to get the children released, adding that the state had limited resources.
He insisted that the government could not protect schools without first finding means to end banditry in the country.
“To secure schools, why not engage the bandits. Engage them; they are not many. You can count them with your fingers. How can you guard schools? It is not possible. In the whole North-West, they may not be more than 100,000 bandits. And that is just a drop in the ocean. That is talking about those with weapons; because not all of them have weapons. Ninety per cent of those who have weapons use them to protect themselves against cattle rustlers. They are victims too. Aerial bombardments will only worsen the situation because when you start killing their children, you remember they also have our children,” he added.