Home News 10 Years After … Bandit Attacks Dent Safe Schools Scheme

10 Years After … Bandit Attacks Dent Safe Schools Scheme

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The recent mass abduction of nearly 300 schoolchildren has raised questions about the Safe Schools Initiative which the Nigerian government launched a decade ago to prevent incidents like this from happening.

Ten years ago, the federal government launched the Safe School Initiative with the aim of protecting schools across the country from terror attacks.

This initiative was a response to the incessant attacks on schoolchildren and their teachers during which several of them were either killed or kidnapped across Nigeria by Islamic extremists and bandits, beginning with the mass abduction of 276 Chibok schoolgirls on the night of April 2014 in Borno State, the epicentre of the Boko Haram insurgency at the time.

The initiative was a response to the growing insecurity in the country, particularly in the North West and North East regions, where terrorist groups like Boko Haram and bandits had been targeting schools.

However, within the last one week, bandits have kidnapped 287 schoolchildren in Kuriga, in Chikun local government area of Kaduna State, and another 15 students from Gidan Bakuso village in Sokoto State on Saturday.

The Safe Schools Initiative was supposed to involve a coordinated effort by various security agencies, including the police, the army, the Department of State Services (DSS), and Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) to provide security for schools.

 

The government also invested heavily in improving the infrastructure of schools, including building fences, providing surveillance equipment, and training teachers and students on how to respond to emergencies.

However, despite these efforts, the initiative has failed to achieve its primary objectives.

In the past decade, there have been several attacks on schools, with hundreds of innocent school children killed, abducted, or injured.

The security agencies involved in the initiative have been unable to protect the schools, and in some cases have been implicated in the attacks.

One of the major challenges facing the Safe School Initiative is the lack of political will and commitment from government.

The government has failed to allocate sufficient resources to the initiative, and some of the funds earmarked for the initiative have been misused or cannot be accounted for.

Another challenge is the complex nature of the security situation in the country.

The terrorist groups and bandits responsible for the attacks on schools are well-armed and highly motivated, and they operate in difficult terrains, making it challenging for the security agencies to track them down and neutralise them.

The security agencies involved in the initiative have failed to protect innocent schoolchildren from terror attacks, and urgent action is needed to address the situation.

In August last year, the federal government said it would need N144.8 billion to finance the Safe School Initiative that was introduced in 2014 to protect public schools and ensure that children affected by conflict and insecurity are able to continue with education unhindered.

The National Plan would be implemented between 2023 and 2026. The plan proposed N32.58 billion in 2023, N36.99 billion in 2024, N37.15 billion in 2025, and N38.03 billion in 2026, respectively.

The federal government launched a four-year national plan on financing safe schools in December 2022 with a total investment size of N144.8 billion.

Addressing a press briefing yesterday in Abuja, national coordinator, financing safe schools in Nigeria, Halima Illya Ibrahim said a N15 billion provision had been made the national budget for implementation of the programme.

Funding of the plan is done through annual budgetary provisions from federal, state and local governments, government interventionist agencies, foreign governments and multilateral institutions, businesses and philanthropists, donor partners and others.

The plan aims to cover 50 percent of the most-at-risk public schools over the medium term of 2023-2026.

The plan will focus on achieving the following milestone: building and integrating security resilient host communities in the protection of education; strengthening the detection, deterrence, and response capabilities of the security agencies and equipping the school security, response and coordination centres in Abuja and states respectively.

According to Ibrahim, implementation of the plan commenced in January 2023 with the flag-off of the national school security and coordination centre by the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) being the lead agency for the protection of schools and government critical assets.

 

We Are Not Lead Agency But… Defence

The acting director of defence information, Brig-Gen Tukur Gusau, said the military was not the lead agency in the school initiative but was always available to provide support when needed.

He said the safe school initiative was domiciled under the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) which is the lead agency.

He, however, said the military was a partner in the initiative and would always respond promptly when called upon.

He said, “We are not the lead agency; it is the NSCDC that is the le ad agency there but, of course, if they seek our intervention we’ll always provide promptly.”

Over 61 Planned  Attacks Prevented So far

The Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps ( NSCDC) is working hard to ensure that their  mandate of  facilitating the prevention of attacks and ensuring effective protection of schools and pupils as well as host communities from violent attacks is realised, LEADERSHIP can report.

This is even as the Corps has acknowledged that despite averting over 61 planned attacks on schools in Northern Nigeria, more needs to be done to halt the ugly and very disturbing trend which is undermining children’s right to education.

LEADERSHIP learnt that two of the five rescued children picked from the Kaduna School attack so far were rescued by gallant officers of the NSCDC

Our correspondent gathered that the Corps, as the lead agency in the federal government ‘Safe School Initiative Project, is working tirelessly with all stakeholders involved to enhance security for all concerned. They gather information, refer complaints, and maintain emergency hotlines.

A reliable source at the NSCDC Safe Schools Project unit who pleaded not to be named said its officials had been able to go through the mandate by understanding their mission and understanding that the common enemy Nigeria has are the violent extremist groups.

The source, who stated that he was not at liberty to go into details, however pointed out that the improvement in the capabilities of the Corps had indeed led to most of the successes recorded by the Safe Schools Project under the President Ahmed Bola Tinubu administration.

He said, “We have a lot of intelligence and information that come out of these areas.  We leverage this information by quickly informing our co- stakeholders and, in most cases , we are able to quickly use the instruments we have, and a number of high-value targets have been destroyed.

According to him, the Safe Schools Initiative project is about the whole-of-society approach, involving many government agencies – military, paramilitary, Police, DSS,  office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), National Intelligence  Agency (NIA), Ministries of Education and Defence,

Other stakeholders, he said, are the Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Governors’ Forum, National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), NAPTIP, Ministries of Justice, Interior, Humanitarian Affairs and Foreign Affairs, Civil Society Organisation (CSOs), Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA), independent consultants and the larger society.

“So much has been achieved. This is done using kinetic and non-kinetic approaches. The kinetic means are the operations that we carry out, but we came to realise that the operations can best tackle attacks at a rate of between 20 and 30 per cent. 70 per cent of the work that needs to be done must be through non-kinetic method to build community resilience.

“As we speak, our undercover officers are attached to schools in northern Nigeria. This is largely on our realisation that to understand the terrain, then you must understand the nature of the enemy. The adversary we are fighting is a highly mobile, highly determined and fanatical foe. If you want to take them out, you must be top notch and very professional. That’s exactly what we are doing.

You must also have the right equipment. These people travel at night. They can move 50 to 80 kilometres in one night. You must have the equipment that shows you when people are traveling when they should not be, and then you take them out.

“And then, of course, the whole-of-society approach that we’ve talked about is not mainly a security agency thing; we want the civil society to come in; we also want the government and the local populace, because the insurgents live among them. We need them to be on our side,” he explained.

While noting that the NSCDC is recognised as  the lead agency with the mandate to host the NSSRCC, he added that the national document on the implementation of the Safe Schools Programme cle.arly defines the roles and responsibilities of other member agencies.

 

Police Plan Special Protection Squad

The Nigeria Police Force is set to deploy Schools Protection Squad (SPS) to tackle the abduction of school children across the country.

Force public relations officer, ACP Olumuyiwa Adejobi said the deployment is to reinforce the programme for viability in achieving the national action plan for schools protection.

He said, “The official unveiling and launch of the training programme marks a significant step forward by the Force in the commitment to safeguard the education system, children and young ones, by fostering a secure and conducive learning environment across the nation.”

Few weeks ago, the inspector general of police, IGP Kayode Egbetokun, as part of the mandate of the Nigeria Police Force to ensure the security of lives and property in the country, unveiled state-of-the-art security equipment and commenced a training programme for state coordinators of the Schools Protection Squad (SPS) and selected divisional police officers nationwide.

 

Bandits Asking For N40trn Ransom – Community Leader

The community leader of Gonin Gora area of Kaduna, John Yusuf, yesterday said bandits are demanding N40 trillion as a ransom to release the 16 residents abducted from the area two weeks ago.

Speaking with journalists in Kaduna, Yusuf said the bandits contacted family members of the victims and also demanded 11 Hilux vans and 150 motorcycles.

Recall that on February 28, bandits killed two residents of Anguwan Auta in Gonin Gora and abducted several others.

The residents of the area the following day, on February 29, blocked the Kaduna-Abuja highway for several hours to protest against the killing and abduction.

 

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