• Sunday, July 14, 2024
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The many lessons of Kuriga

The many lessons of Kuriga

The Federal Government and the Nigerian Army rolled out the drums recently to celebrate the release and return of 137 pupils abducted from the LEA Primary and Government Secondary School (GSS), Kuriga, Chikun Local Government Area (LGA) of Kaduna State. Bandits reportedly abducted and kept the children for two weeks. They allegedly took them 330 kilometres away to Zamfara State.

The Nigerian Army claimed to have secured the release of the pupils without paying any settlement to the bandits in compliance with the instructions of their Commander-in-Chief, President Bola Tinubu. They returned the children safely just a few days before the deadline to pay the bandits N1bn ($680000) ransom. Coincidentally, bandits also freed seventeen students from Sokoto who were also abducted early in March.

“The military, working with local authorities and government agencies across the country in a coordinated search and rescue operation, rescued the hostages,” the government announced.

They deserve commendations—except.

Q: “One key lesson is the urgent need to address the escalating security challenges facing the country, particularly the rampant kidnappings and banditry targeting schools.”

The Army’s narrative has raised many doubts. First, no one has explained the discrepancy between the number of persons released and the initial number of 287 pupils they announced as abducted. On various platforms, citizens cynically mock the account. They wonder. Who were these bandits? When did it become so convenient for the bandits to give up their captives without exchanging firepower with the military or money?

Unfortunately, the bandits immediately took to social media to disprove the claim. They showed clips of cash they allegedly received as ransom.

The bandits committed a crime against the Nigerian state and people. Now that the Army knows where to locate them, when will they apprehend them?

Nigeria must examine several aspects of the incident. The circumstances reveal gaps in security protocols or troop deployment strategies. After similar incidents, the federal government launched the Safe Schools Initiative. Where was this initiative when the pupils of Kuriga needed it?

One key lesson is the urgent need to address the escalating security challenges facing the country, particularly the rampant kidnappings and banditry targeting schools. The incident underscores the necessity for improved security measures to protect educational institutions and ensure the safety of students and teachers.

Furthermore, the Kuriga incident highlights the importance of effective coordination between security forces, government agencies, and local communities in responding to such crises. The successful rescue operation demonstrates the positive outcomes that can be achieved through collaborative efforts and swift action in a crisis.

What qualities of intelligence and communication are available to our security forces? It must be non-existent for this group to abduct 287 pupils, the initial figure of 137, and move them across state boundaries 300 kilometres away. There were so many pupils, yet no one spotted them, not with the numerous checkpoints of the police, army, and other security forces that line our roads.

Moreover, the Kuriga abduction sheds light on the vulnerabilities within Nigeria’s education system, emphasising the critical need for better record-keeping, identification systems, and security protocols in schools. Establishing proper registers of students and teachers, implementing identification numbers, and enhancing security measures within educational facilities are crucial steps to effectively prevent and respond to future incidents.

Will the release of the 137 pupils and their reintegration into their community signify a reprieve from the security challenges of northern Nigeria? The Federal Government needs to take more concerted action against the growing wave of kidnapping and other acts of banditry. Islamist insurgents and armed gangs snatch people for cash ransom.
A report by the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project asserts that bandits seized 4000 people in Nigeria in 2023. Security experts fear that the figure is understated because of the number of kidnappings that citizens fail to report.

Nigerians deserve a better narrative for these kidnappings and releases when they happen. Gaps in the narrative leave citizens befuddled and distrustful. Distrust is one of the critical challenges the federal government claims to have discerned. It must reduce it, not escalate it.