At a time when it looked like Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari thought he was going to spend a very quiet time in Katsina, his home state, an affront of immense proportion was perpetrated by armed bandits who stormed Government Science Secondary School, Kankara in Kankara Local Government Area last Friday night, and abducted hundreds of students. The effrontery in such an attack is no doubt a pointer to our very lax security architecture.
How can the President of the largest black nation in the world be in his village of Daura and such a heinous crime is being carried out almost down the road?
The experience of Chibok and Dapchi did not seem to have taught us anything. Kankara has now joined Chibok and Dapchi in the history of brazen and daring abduction of hundreds of school children in one fell swoop, not only in Nigeria, but also in the whole world. We thought such blatant escapades could only take place in the jungles of Cambodia, Nicaragua or Colombia. Chibok and Dapchi are on the world map for the wrong reason, and Kankara has now joined them.
Kidnapping has become something of a daily occurrence in Nigeria and from north to south, east to west, we hear of incidents of passenger vehicles being waylaid and the occupants abducted into the forest from where their abductors begin negotiating for ransom from families and associates of the unfortunate victims. Such victims are sometimes one or a dozen or a bit more in number; but when it turns to hundreds as with Chibok, Dapchi and Kankara, you wonder how our intelligence agencies do not get wind of such plans and movements, and how such huge number of persons can be transported without trace in a few hours.
Kankara has turned out to be quite unique; as at Sunday afternoon – almost two days after the brazen abduction – some of the students had found their way back home or to school, but Katsina State Govenor Aminu Bello Masari confirmed that 333 students were still missing.
According to Masari: “The school has a population of 839 and so far, we are yet to account for 333 students and we are still counting because more are still coming out of the forest. We are also calling on parents that have phone numbers to find out whether their children have gone back home, because we have discovered that in so many local governments the children have gone back but based on the records that we have, we are still searching for 333 children through parents and forests in order to ascertain the actual number been kidnapped. We as a government, we are yet to be contacted by any group or person. We prefer not to discuss this because we can be emotional.”
By Monday 14th December, there was confirmation that the abductors had contacted the authorities and the expectations are that they want to negotiate ransom for the students.
This is clearly a situation of helplessness. Negotiating for the release of citizens by paying ransom to a bunch of bandits is the lowest a nation can sink to.
Is this the only way to #BringBackOurBoys?
It seems so, because even though the government and security agencies always deny knowledge of payment of ransom by families of kidnapped persons, the truth is that kidnappers always go smiling to the bank (or wherever they keep their loot) any time they abduct Nigerians and foreigners in our country.
It is good to put yourself in the place of relatives and friends of those abducted. Parents of the missing Kankara boys would be feeling exactly how those of Chibok or Dapchi felt when those girls were abducted, because last Friday’s invasion of the Kankara school echoes the ones on Government Girls Secondary School, Chibok in Borno State in 2014 and on Government Girls’ Science and Technical College, Dapchi, in Yobe State, in 2018.
In the night of April 14, 2014, 276 girls writing West African Examination Council, WAEC, in Chibok were abducted and this resulted in the #BringBackOurGirls protests of that period. On February 19, 2018, over a hundred girls were taken in Dapchi, where some of them died and others are still said to be missing, including Leah Sharibu, a Christian girl aged fourteen at the time of her capture, who is still being held hostage because she refused to renounce her faith.
A major fallout of the attack on GSS Kakara is the shutting down of all boarding schools in Katsina State till further notice. This means that the much-touted emphasis on child education has been stopped in its track. Nigeria already has millions of out-of-school students; several years of terrorism and bandits attacks in the north-east have further ruined the education system which was the main aim of the Boko Haram terrorists who consider western education as unacceptable and forbidden. Their terrorist activities have now spread to other parts of northern Nigeria and even some of the kidnappings, killings and robberies in parts of the south have even been attributed to Boko Haram terrorists who have located to forests in the south. Of course the south has its own band of marauders who are also robbing, killing and abducting people for ransom.
The Federal Government has made promises, mostly unfulfilled, to stem the insecurity issues in the country. To say insecurity is getting worse is an understatement.
There have been several suggestions on how to immediately reinforce Nigeria’s security architecture by ‘experts’ and others who consider themselves stakeholders, and one of the proposals which the government has consistently ignored is the removal of service chiefs – Chief of Defence Staff, Chief of Army Staff, Chief of Naval Staff, Chief of Air Staff and the Inspector General of Police – who collectively have not shown they have the answers to the problems of terrorism, banditry, kidnapping and the increase in robberies and other violent crimes. Apart from the IGP, all others were appointed in 2015 by the President who continues to express his commitment to addressing security challenges in the country.
The Kankara students’ abductions have further brought out the inability of those in charge of security in Nigeria to cope with what has obviously overwhelmed them, with people already calling on the government to recruit mercenaries from countries like Israel, South Africa and Russia to deal with the problem. Others think the country should not sink as low as bringing in foreigners to help provide something as basic as internal security which even smaller countries have no problem doing.
However, in the state we are in, we do not seem to have much choice if we need to stay alive and keep the country safe; whatever needs to be done by whoever, whether from earth or outer space, must be done immediately. Otherwise, we may not have lives and property, not to talk of a country, to secure.
IMAGE CREDIT: pri.org, Twitter
Epa Ogie Eboigbe, veteran journalist, broadcaster and public affairs specialist writes on, and analyses current and historical issues with a ‘wise pen’.