There should be a system of engagement between government, the security agencies and other concerned stakeholders to ensure the security of school children, says the author*
Chibok school girls’ abduction
The abduction of the Chibok school girls in 2014 would go down in the history of Nigeria as one of those unfortunate tragedies whose memories still strongly echo in the minds of the Nigerians.
For parents and families whose kids and wards were abducted in Chibok, the consequence of that atrocious incident cannot be underestimated. It had been terribly devastating news for their families and parents who had to resign to fate after almost all efforts to secure the release of their children in captivity had proved futile for the past five years.
From mass kidnapping to a million-dollar industry
Today, however, mass kidnappings have metamorphosed from just a statement of insurgency into a full-blown million-dollar industry. Initially, the Boko Haram Insurgents targeted school children to use them as leverage for negotiations with the government; but recently, they’ve adopted a new dimension. The attackers, who now include terrorists and bandits now target schools with large attendance and kidnap a large number of students at a time to hold them for ransom—which communities or the government are more likely to pay for in exchange for the students’ safe release.
Though the government has continually promised holistic management of the situation, not much is seen happening in this regard. According to several sources of interest in the matter: the growing arms in the North East and seemingly ‘overstretched’ security forces have proved to be a major impediment in managing the already parlous situation. The government more often than not has resorted to excuse its inactions behind an array of excuses in response to harsh public criticisms with efforts to obtain more public confidence behind promises to do more to protect the people.
Blanket amnesties and other benefits including scholarships and sponsorship abroad have been recently proposed for the bandits (as they are called) and insurgents in order to gain leverage to negotiate for the release of abducted school children. Disconcerted citizens now live in fear and justified anxiety of the new trend and stay hopeful the rain does not fall on their roof whilst their kids are away at their schools and places of learning.
Security analysis of the situation points that the government’s inability to effectively manage the crisis and the failure of its security apparatus to arrest the trend has turned mass school kidnapping into a lucrative business venture.
Though this policy has come under harsh public criticisms, security analysts believe the government has no clear and proper strategy in dealing with the crisis. The president in his attempt to secure public confidence had exempted his support in the payment of ransom or incentives to secure the release of abductees citing the high tendency for the policy to backfire with disastrous consequences.
Eroding Public Trust
Politically, the failures of government to deliver on its promises of security has continually eroded public trust and confidence in the Buhari-led administration, and in fact, parents and locals have now resigned to self-help and are determined to find solutions for themselves and protect their wards and kids rather than rely solely on government commitments.
The government itself has also scored poorly on security and the inability to provide adequate protection for school children in the northern region has become an even foremost yardstick for discussing its progress on tackling insecurity in the country. Analysts believe the government’s inability to keep the situation under control and mitigate the tendencies for future attacks may seemingly increase the dangerous profile of these gangs and even encourage their recruiting potential.