Insecurity crippling education, fueling migration

...Businesses paralysed as fear spreads in FCT

As Nigeria’s security situation has taken a turn for the worse, a growing number of schools are being forced to shut down and many citizens are moving from one place to another and out of the country.

Forced by insecurity, schools, especially in parts of northern Nigeria, have been shutting down in recent years, without requiring express directives from government as safety could not be guaranteed by school managements.

A new dimension is, however, setting in as governments at both state and federal level are ordering school closures due to security concerns.

First was an order this week for some schools to be closed in Abuja, the country’s seat of government, over a threat of attack by terrorists, and then followed by neighbouring Nasarawa State.

Abdullahi Sule, governor of Nasarawa State, on Wednesday, directed the immediate closure of both public and private schools in the state as a proactive measure to protect the students against the worsening insecurity.

On Monday, the federal government ordered the immediate closure of the Federal Government College, Kwali, in the Kwali Area Council of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, over the threat of attack by bandits. BusinessDay gathered that the development has stopped the ongoing third-term examination in the school and the Senior School Certificate Examination by the National Examinations Council. A directive has also been issued to all private schools in Abuja to shut down.

Frank Anya, a public affairs analyst, fears the northern region is in danger of intellectual and economic threats if not tackled on time.

“I think it will continue across states in the North until the government is able to rectify the situation. As for impact, expect a surge in out-of-school children as schools close, increased illiteracy rate in the region most affected and mass migration to the areas with relative security,” he said.

He said this development would give rise to an urban migration surge and brain drain will continue to be on the rise.

“Places like Lagos and others will see increased migration and could worsen congestion and cost of living. Also, parents with the means in Abuja will leave Nigeria, so more brain drain from now on. For the states affected, depending on how long the order lasts, that’s more unemployment rate as teachers of the schools have no jobs to feed their children. So it lends itself to more poverty in these states,” he said.

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) had in April 2022 said insecurity had caused the closure of 11,536 schools in Nigeria since December 2020. According to UNICEF, the security challenges in Nigeria have affected the education of 1.3 million children in less than two years.

In the South, the Indigenous People of Biafra distorted learning in the South-East to a point that students were not allowed to write some of their papers in the West African Senior School Certificate Examination recently.

Insecurity continues to threaten the educational sector in the country to the extent that students, teachers, and the government are being frustrated, leading to educational decay, according to industry watchers.

Stanley Alaubi, a senior lecturer at the University of Port Harcourt, sees the insecurity threat to education in Nigeria as abnormal.

He said: “This is wrong. The insecurity threat has become a pain in the neck of the country, and it will soon engulf all sectors of the economy. Teachers don’t have students to teach again, students do not have schools to attend again. For sure, those who can afford it will seek a way out of the country.

“We need to address this insecurity or Nigeria will continue to dive deep into the ocean of brain drain. The lawmakers should sack whoever is in that position to restore sanity in society and replace him with someone else.”

Education is a critical economic sector that drives long-term economic growth, spurs innovation, strengthens institutions, and fosters social cohesion. Hence, many stakeholders believe it remains an imperative tool in the development of the country.

In Abuja, business owners, students, parents, government workers and other residents have expressed fears over terrorists’ attacks, and have therefore taken measures to protect themselves – a development that has paralysed business activities.

John Ayim, a cab driver, said one of his major places for passengers are malls, especially Shoprite, but lamented a drop in the number of people patronising the areas, especially at night.

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“For some days now, there has been a significant drop in people patronising Shoprite. I was at the Shoprite in Lugbe and I noticed a much lower patronage and traffic, despite the fact that students are now on holiday. It was the same situation for the one in Apo; this is also affecting passenger traffic,” he said.

Ayim said he had stopped working beyond 8pm for safety reasons. He also narrated how he lost a passenger simply because the passenger felt he looked like a bandit.

In the Bwari Area Council, which used to be bustling with activities up to 11-12pm, most businesses now close before 7 pm and a few others stay till 8 pm;

“There is so much tension in Bwari now. Once it’s 6 or 7 pm, most businesses start to close and people try to rush back to their various locations,” a resident who identified himself as Benjamin said.

The tense atmosphere in Bwari is largely fuelled by the recent ambush on the troops of the Presidential Guards Brigade during a patrol around the Bwari communities, which left several soldiers dead and others injured. The patrol followed intelligence report that terrorists planned to attack the Nigerian Law School in the area.

“The security checkpoints in Bwari, near the barracks have heightened their stop and search operations. There are more military personnel there now; they now search bike men and trucks,” Princess Kelechi, a youth corps member residing in Bwari, said. “I also see them patrolling around from time to time, but residents are still tense; nobody feels safe.”

Chimezie Bright, who resides in Maraba, the town that borders FCT and Nasarawa, said security presence and search operations were increased after the Kuje attack for residents coming in and out of Abuja.

“After the Kuje jailbreak, a search point was mounted around the Army Barracks, near AYA, but that was removed after some days. Now, no search operation is currently ongoing there. In fact crime rate has continued, unabated; people are robbed daily, nowhere is safe.

Grace Amos, another resident in Kuje, said, “Right now I feel very scared living in Abuja because I don’t even know what to expect. This was fuelled by the news I got yesterday. Some gunmen stormed the house where a family friend lives in Kuje; they used machetes on everyone in that compound and he bled to death because the attack happened at night. Hearing something like that is very frightening.”

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