According to sources, the recent kidnappings of schoolchildren in Northern Nigeria by terrorists prompted the closure of over 600 schools in an effort to ensure the safety of the population while combating the scourge.
In what has proved to be a conundrum for state governors, Niger, Kano, Kaduna, Katsina, and Borno are among the states that have imposed varying degrees of educational lockdowns.
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In retrospect, these leaders at the helm of affairs should have expected this dangerous downturn following the Nigerian Army’s reclamation of the Sambisa Forest, which culminated in the near-obliteration of Boko Haram insurgents, who then scampered across numerous Northern states, bent on wreaking havoc through banditry and abductions.
Boko Haram’s rebellion in northeastern Nigeria has been well-documented for some time. However, it took the kidnapping of over 340 schoolboys in Kankara, Katsina State, in December 2020 for many people – even within Nigeria – to realize how bad the insecurity has become in the country’s neglected northwest.
The kidnappers arrived on motorcycles at an all-boys secondary school in Kankara, Katsina State, and spent an hour rounding up students who didn’t manage to flee before marching them into Rugu forest in neighboring Zamfara State.
The kidnappers claimed to be Boko Haram in a video message, which the jihadist group verified. However, the connection was quickly disproved. The gang was described as known “bandits,” one of a slew of armed gangs that have killed, raped, and pillaged their way across the northwest, displacing over 200,000 residents.
The schoolboys’ six-day ordeal came to a peaceful conclusion. The kidnappers were surrounded by the army and unable to flee, so they released them – despite the government saying no ransom was charged. However, the raid highlighted people’s absolute vulnerability to bandits who can do anything they want.
The Federal Government’s acceptance of the Boko Haram insurgents’ ransom demands, which the insurgents then used to purchase more weapons for their criminal activities, added to the insidious cycle. There doesn’t seem to be any end in sight.
Nigerian officials, like many others, often refuse paying ransoms. However, schoolchildren and robbers have challenged their claims.
Many Nigerians claim they wish the government would shield them from kidnappings in the first place, rather than paying ransoms it can’t afford or allowing risky and costly rescues.
However, the police are seen as being in the pockets of those who can afford to pay for protection.
Since the military is overburdened, the defense minister has urged villagers to protect themselves against bandits. Those who did not, he said, were cowards.
“Is it solely the military’s responsibility?” The defense minister, Maj. Gen. Bashir Magashi, asked reporters a few hours after an assault on a school in Kagara on Feb. 17. “It is everyone’s duty to be vigilant and seek protection when possible.
“However, we must not be cowards,” General Magashi said. “Occasionally, the bandits would arrive with three rounds of ammunition. All flees when the shots are fired. We used to stand ready to combat any provocation that came our way when we were younger. I’m not sure why people are afraid of small stuff like that.”
According to a recent study on the economics of abductions published by SBM Intelligence, a Nigerian intelligence network, as abductions have become more indiscriminate, the number of deaths associated with them has increased dramatically, with perpetrators seeing their victims’ lives as expendable.
“When there is such widespread kidnapping of children, particularly defenseless, harmless children, the ransom value would be high due to international pressure to rescue them,” said Confidence McHarry, a security analyst who worked on the SBM Intelligence report. “Everything is in your favor as the abductor.”
According to the study, kidnappers were charged at least $18 million between June 2011 and March 2020.
Following the kidnapping of the Chibok girls, a “Safe School Initiative” was initiated to improve school security in north-eastern Nigeria by erecting fences around them.
At least $20 million ($14 million) has been promised for the three-year initiative, which has the sponsorship of former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown, the UN Special Envoy for Global Education.
As part of the program, several container schools were designed as temporary learning areas, although it is unknown if any fences were built in the communities affected.
In Nigeria, where one-third of primary-age children do not attend school, children’s educational opportunities are jeopardized.
According to Muhammad Galma, a former army major and security expert, the kidnappings in northern Nigeria “are the end of some students’ academic lives.” “No parent will put his or her child’s life in jeopardy solely for the sake of education.”
To summarize, Boko Haram and related groups are a horrifying example of Hobbesian human nature, in that they use terror, instability, violent disorder, and indiscriminate crimes to obtain and retain control.
This is a lesson that has been replicated throughout history, with the values of the Enlightenment era—ideals enshrined in education that are still cherished today—opposing it most vigorously.
Enlightenment begins with education, and Boko Haram is denying these schoolchildren their dignity by denying them the right to be educated and think for themselves.
Encouragement of knowledge and enlightenment, on the other hand, is not only a motivation for ending terrorism, but also a strategy for fighting it.
The most strong tool against obscurantism, extremism, authoritarian religious ideology, and terrorism is enlightenment.
Training would weaken extremist groups’ legitimacy, empower people to think for themselves, and eradicate extremist thought.
Of course, this will be accompanied by inclusive governance, efficient government, and economic opportunities, all of which are enhanced by education. What makes the difference is education that fosters and empowers an autonomous, vital, and entrepreneurial mindset.
Since they know that quality education leads to liberation, Boko Haram is working hard to keep enlightenment out of the hands of the people.
For this independence to be achieved, Africa needs a new generation of transformational leaders and independent thinkers to foster enlightened education.
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