School security: Makinde’s timely intervention

ON Monday, March 15, Oyo State governor, Mr. SeyiMakinde, took a step that once again placed the security situation in the country under the spotlight. He inaugurated a Security Task Force, in his words “a war room,” to address the insecurity frontally in the state. His words: “This (war room) became imperative because of the challenges that we are apparently facing, security-wise. The members have been carefully selected. The Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Matters, for instance, is supposed to be our link with our traditional institutions and with the local government areas, stakeholders at the local government levels. We want to take this opportunity to ask for support from our people, from the traditional institution to our political stakeholders and also the different ethnic nationalities that are residents of Oyo State. We do not support ethnic profiling. We are looking for criminals and we know that if we are not careful, what goes around will come around. We have been hearing about the kidnapping of school children and their teachers and we do not want that to happen in Oyo State. So, we are seeking for every support that we can get.”

As noted by Governor Makinde’s Special Adviser on security, CP FataiOwoseni (rtd), at no point does the new task force intend by action or omission to supplant the activities of the security agencies in the state.  Rather, Owoseni said, the task force intends to work in a way that is complementary to whatever it is they do. Owoseni said: “We intend to identify the various communities, contacts, and markets in our states in order that we can enumerate who is where and who we need to contact. Thirdly, the governor also stated that there is a need to have a meeting with all our traditional rulers within the week because all security matters without them will probably come to naught.” To say the very least, the security situation in the country is dire. In the past few weeks in particular, schools in the Northern part of the country have become sites of grievous crimes. Bandits and kidnappers have turned school premises into terror fields, abducting and subjecting hapless students to harrowing experiences, perhaps taking a cue from the abduction in 2014 of 276 schoolgirls from Chibok Secondary School in Borno State by BokoHaram terrorists. Between December 2020 and this month, more than 600 students have been abducted from schools in the North-West. Recently, within just ten days apart, some  300 students were abducted from the Government Girls Science Secondary School in Jangebe, Zamfara state, while 27 boys and their teachers were taken from a school in Kagara, Niger State. There were successful rescue operations, but the message was unmistakable: schools are under terrorists’ radar.

The ugly situation in schools has of course led to other collateral damage. On Sunday February 21, the  Nigerian Air Force’s Beechcraft King Air B350i crashed while returning  to Abuja after reporting engine failure, killing all the seven passengers on board. As noted by the Chief of Air Staff, Air Vice Marshal IsiakaAmoo, the deceased personnel had been in Minna, Niger State, for days conducting intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions in connection with the efforts to secure the release of the 42 students and staff abducted from the Government Science College Kagara, Niger State. From the foregoing, it is clear that Governor Makinde’s decision to place security of schools in Oyo State under security cover is quite the right step to take. By placing emphasis on preventing the replication of the ugly situation in the North in Oyo State, the governor is, in my view, inviting all Nigerians to take school security and the safety of school populations much more seriously. This is, in a way, hardly surprising given his government’s widely acknowledged embrace of proactiveness in policy making and execution. For instance, shortly on assuming office, he requested for the location of a Mobile Police Unit in the OkeOgun area of the state. Given the threats that the state has had to contend with from that axis, it is evident that Makinde’s prognosis was spot on.

But then, there are still issues of intricate concern, including effectiveness and sustenance. Governor Makinde would need to follow through on his plan and ensure that the envisaged objectives are met. In this regard, it is worthwhile recalling that in the wake of the Chibok episode, the Federal Government had indeed unveiled a “Safe School Initiative” to bolster security in schools in North-Eastern Nigeria by building fences around them. At least $20m was pledged for the three-year project, which was supported by the United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education, Gordon Brown, the former UK prime minister. Many container schools were built as temporary learning spaces as part of the scheme,. Although arguably not without successes, the 2018 episode in which 110 schoolgirls were abducted from the Government Girls Science and Technical College, Yobe State, put a damper on some of the successes earlier recorded.

Happily, though, the optics from the Oyo State are quite salutary. Time and again, Makinde has been proven to be a man of his word. As an educationist, I suspect that the  adoption of voluntary policing involving collaboration between state and non-state actors in a complete architecture, better policing of entry and exit points, including the use of checkpoints at the major entry and exit points, as well as monitoring from a control room with state -of-the-art equipment are pragmatic and proactive steps that can keep Oyo State, and in particular its students, safe. Make no mistake about it: terrorists want a foothold in the South, particularly the South-West. They want to launch terrorist attacks, including the kidnapping of school children. Foiling their devious plans requires vigilance and Governor Makinde deserves a pat in the back for his apprehension of reality.

  • Dr. ibrahim, an educationist, writes in from Abuja.

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