• Sunday, May 26, 2024
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10 years after Chibok, mass kidnappings still torment Nigeria education

Chibok girls: 10 years after, 5 pressing issues

Since the abduction of 276 Chibok schoolgirls a decade ago by the Boko Haram terrorist group, kidnapping business in Nigeria — Africa’s most populous nation — has remained steady on the rise, overrunning government efforts at protecting citizens from armed groups that have killed thousands of Nigerians.

Since the Chibok abductions, at least 1,680 students have been kidnapped by rampaging armed groups with no ideological affiliation and the kidnappings have been mainly concentrated in the northern region of the country.

Parents in the region are becoming more reluctant to send their children to school, thus increasing the number of out-of-school children in a region that is already lagging behind others in terms of development and growth.

According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), one in three children in Nigeria is out of school, totalling 10.2 million at the primary level and 8.1 million at the junior secondary school (JSS) level.

The UN education body also indicated that 12.4 million children have never attended school, and 5.9 million left school prematurely, contributing to Nigeria’s out-of-school population, which accounts for 15 percent of the global total.

Boye Ogundele, an educationist, sees no immediate end to the business of kidnapping especially that of schoolchildren because of the caliber of people behind and the fact that the federal government lacks the political will to tackle the menace.

“Until there is capital punishment for the culprits of kidnapping, banditry, and organised crimes in Nigeria, the perpetrators of the act will never stop,” he said.

“There is nothing the law enforcement officers can do, those behind the act will keep frustrating the efforts of law enforcement groups because the system itself is corrupt,” he added.

Ajibade Ayodeji, director of the entrepreneurship development centre at Babcock University believes that the key to curbing kidnapping is the government’s readiness to tackle the issue headlong.

“This can be curbed by fishing out those in charge and all accomplices. Obviously, with their mode of operation, it would not be difficult to identify those in charge, but the question remains is our government ready to do the right thing in favour of the masses and not for some cabals?” he queried.

Experts believe that the failure of the federal government to apprehend and punish kidnappers is the foundation of the surging rate of kidnappings in the country.

A source who does not want his name mentioned in print said so long as no one is held accountable for the act, nothing will change.

“Kidnappers go to schools because it is an easy way of making more money. If the political will to tackle the menace is minimal or zero there is no way Nigeria can achieve any success in curbing kidnapping,” he noted.

“The schoolchildren kidnapping is surging at an alarming rate and what still amazes many is how this is carried out without any obstruction,” he said.

Ayodeji lamented that the Nigerian government seems not to pay attention to issues as sensitive as this. He wondered how those in authority would fold their hands while gradually the educational system in the country is being crippled.

“Imagine kidnapping over 150 children. Were they moved in trucks? How did this happen and they could not be traced?” he asked.

“There are just too many questions about how this is being carried out without any form of support or deliberate “look-away” by the authorities,” he said.

The country has continued to record more abductions of students since the Chibok incident, with over 90 students still missing, according to the United Nations Children’s Agency (UNICEF).

In March this year, a criminal gang kidnapped 287 pupils at the government secondary school in Kuriga, a town in Kaduna state.

Two days later, another armed group broke into the dormitory of a boarding school in Gidan Bakuso, Sokoto State, kidnapping 17 students.

The Sokoto victims and more than 130 of the victims from Kaduna have since been released, but there is no word yet about the remaining abductees.

Across the country, the targeting of vulnerable populations has been widespread, including kidnappings for ransom or to pressure the government to meet the aggressors’ demands.

Many are, however, questioning how Africa’s largest economy and a country with one of the strongest military forces on the continent, has been unable to nip the escalating insecurity crisis in the bud.

Experts also say that worsening economic conditions have led to an increase in abductions for ransom over the years.

According to a World Bank report, “Weakened economic fundamentals led Nigeria’s inflation to reach a 24-year high of 31.7 percent in February 2024, which, in combination with sluggish growth, has pushed millions of Nigerians into poverty.

Despite having the largest economy and population in Africa, Nigeria offers limited opportunities to most of its citizens.

Weak job creation and entrepreneurial prospects stifle the absorption of the 3.5 million Nigerians entering the labour force every year, and many workers choose to emigrate in search of better opportunities.

In 2018, the Brookings Institution published a report that said Nigeria had beaten India to become the poverty capital of the world, with 105 million people living below the poverty line.

The number increased by 60.4 percent when the National Bureau of Statistics reported that Nigerians living in multi-dimensional poverty at 133 percent in 2022, compared to 82.9 million considered poor in 2019 by national standards.