By Damilola Oduola
ON Tuesday, 20th April 2021, Mrs Lauretta Attahiru reportedly helped to convey her son’s baggage to the nearest bus stop where he was to get a direct bus going to his school, Greenfield University. As she bid her son farewell, little did she know that it was going to be the last time she would be seeing him. Barely 24 hours later, Mrs Attahiru received the most distressing call of her life: her son had been kidnapped and some of his schoolmates had been gruesomely murdered. For most persons living in Nigeria, the year 2020 was a turbulent year that was fundamentally defined by the coronavirus pandemic, the nationwide lockdown, the nine months ASUU strike, the bloody #EndSARS protests and the abduction of the Kankara boys. So, during the New Year’s Eve, it was not surprising to see many praying to leave the turbulence of 2020 behind while gathering momentum to confront the New Year with renewed hope and vigour.
Many welcomed the year 2021 with thanksgiving and with great expectations but what most weren’t prepared for was the kidnapping crisis (among other crises) that was about to hit Nigeria. Barely two months into the New Year, Nigeria experienced its first major kidnapping crisis with the abduction of about 42 students from the Government Science Secondary School Kagara, Niger state and barely ten days after, about 300 girls were abducted from the Government Girls Secondary School, Jengebe, Zamfara State. On Thursday, 11th March 2021, another set of 39 students were kidnapped from the Federal College of Forestry Mechanisation, Afaka, Kaduna State and on Tuesday, 20th April 2021, about 23 students and staffs of Greenfield University, Chikun Kaduna State were kidnapped. Sadly, on 23rd April, 2021, the kidnappers executed three of the Greenfield students and on 26th April, 2021, two more of the university students were killed.
The kidnapping of the Greenfield university students and staff, which makes it the fourth kidnapping from an academic institution in 2021 and the fifth since December 2020, simply reveals to us that Nigeria is indeed experiencing a kidnapping crisis that is expanding to become a national epidemic. But then, the question that bothers one is: what is the Nigerian government doing about the kidnapping crisis in Nigeria? The Federal Government which controls the military and the police has largely responded to the crisis by initiating military actions. On Thursday, March 11th 2021, President Muhammadu Buhari during a meeting with the service chiefs and some traditional rulers mandated the armed forces and security agencies to implement the shoot-on-sight order against anyone found with illegal AK-47. However, some states government have responded by initiating negotiations with criminal groups, offering amnesty among other incentives and paying ransoms to criminal groups. Nevertheless, the recent surge in kidnapping cases has shown that these responses have not been productive and thus, there is an urgent need for the adoption of more effective strategies that will yield positive results.
While we must admit that the president’s shoot-on-sight order is a step in the right direction, the reality on ground tells us that there is a lot that needs to be done. Firstly, there is the need for the federal and the states governments to come together to develop and coordinate a common and consolidated security strategy that will be effective against kidnapping and banditry in the country. This simply means that the federal security agencies which include the Nigerian Army, the Nigeria Police, the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps ,among other security agencies, should work together with regional security operatives such as Operation Amotekun, Civillian Joint Task Force, Ebubeagu and other local vigilante groups to fight kidnapping and terrorism in the country. Secondly, federal and regional security operatives should work together with hunter groups and members of the community in gathering intelligence and mapping out the land areas of the criminal groups. Also, individuals must remain vigilant at all times and not hesitate to report any suspicious activities or share useful information to the security operatives. More importantly, the Nigerian government should identify and address the root causes of kidnapping such as poverty, unemployment, social injustice and economic inequalities.
At this point, it is no longer news that we are in a war against forces that do not have regard for human lives and peaceful coexistence. Hence,as Nigerian citizens, it is up to us to rise up to the occasion to resist these forces that will to threaten our existence and the existence of our loved ones. When we join our hands with the government and the security operatives to fight this war, then we can be assured of eventual victory against the enemies of our peace and security. However, in recognition of those that have been lost to this war, may yourdeparted souls continue to rest in peace. To Abubakar Sanga, Dorothy Yohanna, Precious Nwakacha and Shaheed Abdulrahman– students of Greenfield University who were murdered in their prime– may you find it in your hearts to forgive those who have failed to protect you. To those still in captivity, may you find your release and may you live to tell the tale another day. To parents, like Mrs Lauretta Attahiru, who may have lost their child(ren) or loved ones to this war, may you find comfort for your hearts and may you find the fortitude to bear the avoidable loss. To every concerned Nigerian citizen, may we emerge from this war unscathed and may we live to see our country emerge victorious. May the labours of our heroes past not be in vain and may our cherished nation become great again.
- Oduola is a postgraduate student of philosophy at the University of Ibadan.
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