Earlier this week, videos circulated all over the internet as parents of Bethel Baptist High School in Kaduna welcomed 28 students who were released by bandits after reports of parents selling properties and raising cash as a ransom for the students.
According to reports, Joseph Hayab, one of the senior officials at Bethel Baptist High School, told newsmen that “The bandits released them yesterday (Saturday) and we were able to send out church buses to go to where the captors dropped them to pick them up,”
“Five children escaped on July 21 but only two were found by the police. The other three made it to the school on their own,” he said.
“They escaped from the bandits when they were sent to collect firewood for cooking. The bandits released a student two weeks ago on health grounds.”
He added that said 34 children were now free, while 87 were still being held captives by the bandits after reports emerged that the bandits reportedly asked for N60 million before releasing the 28 students.
The students were kidnapped on the 5th July, after armed bandits kidnapped 140 students from the school in Kaduna, also clocking the 10th mass kidnapping of students since December, a rot that has brought shame to Nigeria’s education institution and has seen the FG show little or no effort into actually combating the menace.
Recall, in a report earlier this month, Nairametrics stated that “The school children kidnapping menace requires strong state action in fighting insecurity. Some ideas already proposed include the deductions from the Federation Account for the Nigeria Police Security Trust Fund which should be shared between the states and FG to fight insecurity, as stated by Seyi Makinde, because Education is one of the major pillars for human capital development, and Nigeria needs a skilled population especially in an era of dwindling foreign investments and oil revenues. The government needs to prioritise the lives and safety of Nigeria’s youth in words and in deed.”
However, judging by reports from the parents, the government still has not learnt anything, despite this being the 10th mass school kidnapping in 8 months.
There is a bigger and cynical elephant in the room that nobody is addressing, and it is the psychological trauma that these events are bringing upon the children. The thought of being abandoned by their government to an unknown fate which could as well be death, that their parents would be frantically running helter-skelter to raise funds to secure their release, possibly selling properties acquired over a lifetime of work; is a lot for children in their preteen and teenage years to deal with.
States in northern Nigeria, a region already burdened by millions of out-of-school children, are announcing the closure of schools while nobody has still been held accountable for the multiple mass school kidnappings escalating daily.
The Nigerian state, by its inaction, continues to fail a generation, subtly assenting to Boko Haram’s mission of “western education” being a sin. By doing nothing to end the menace of school kidnappings, choosing rather to bury its head in the sand like the proverbial ostrich and shut down schools in affected areas, the government is inadvertently legitimizing Boko Haram’s primary agenda.
The FG has done too much talking and needs to let students know by its actions that they should not study in fear. The government must show its commitment to education and the lives of the nation’s next generation by giving the victims of these unfortunate kidnap incidents justice. Leaders must be held accountable for their failures. Arrests and prosecutions must be made. Policies need to be made to give states more power to preside over their own security (state policing). These things must be done and they must be done as a matter of urgency.