North-West states are currently battling with the problem of inadequate security agents to man schools as fears of bandits’ attacks rise, The PUNCH has learnt.
It was gathered that rising insecurity had started having negative impacts on the education system of the states with many of them shutting down some schools.
It was learnt that states where bandits’ attacks had led to shutting down or reduction of facilities included Zamfara, Kebbi, Katsina and Sokoto.
Recently, 136 pupils were abducted in an Islamic school in Tegina, a densely populated town in the Rafi Local Government Area of Niger State.
On Thursday, bandits overpowered 22 policemen deployed in the Federal Government College, Birnin Yauri, Kebbi State and kidnapped scores of students and four teachers.
A top security official in Zamfara State, who confided in The PUNCH, stated, “From all indications, the bandits have sources within communities. They monitor schools and ensure that their number doubles the number of policemen posted to the schools.”
State officials, who spoke to newsmen, called for deployment of more policemen in schools.
On Sunday, Zamfara State Government stated that it could not effectively secure schools without the assistance of the Federal Government.
The Director General of the Public Enlightenment, Media and Communication, Alhaji Yusuf Idris, in an interview with one of our correspondents, said security was within the purview of the Federal Government.
He added that the security agents available to man junior and senior secondary schools in the state were inadequate.
When asked if the state government could effectively secure the schools, Idris said, “This is beyond the power of the state government because as you are aware, only the Federal Government controls the security personnel. Inadequate number of security personnel is one of our major problems.”
Idris said the state government had not rescinded its decision to convert all boarding schools in the state into day schools.
He stated, “The state government has temporarily cancelled the boarding school system. The students can report to their classes during the day time and return to their homes after school hours.
“It is now clear that the abductors usually carry out their heinous activities in the night, as such, the state government has banned the boarding school system.”
Idris also said the state government has drafted security personnel to the schools that were considered vulnerable to bandits’ attacks.
It was learnt that 130 junior secondary schools in communities, which had been deserted due to bandits’ attacks, had been closed down.
Although the Katsina State Government was collaborating with security agents, it was learnt that the security agents available were not enough to guard 340 secondary schools in the state.
A top official of the state, who confided in The PUNCH, said, “There has been cooperation between the state government and security agents, but there is no way enough policemen can be posted to the schools when sometimes 100 bandits bearing AK47 can storm a school.
“With the number of policemen we have in the country, can we post 100 cops to a single school? I am praying that the madness by the bandits should end.”
A senior civil servant, who has two children in public schools and whose job involves travelling round the state, said since bandits always moved in large numbers, he doubted whether the number of security personnel in the state could cope with the situation.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, stated, “I always travel around the state because of the nature of my job and from my observation, we don’t have enough security personnel to adequately take care of our schools.
“What I will suggest is vigilance and collaboration with ward and opinion leaders who are very close to people in their communities for the sake of getting genuine information about the movement of these criminals so that authorities would be informed on time.”
Another top government official, who confided in The PUNCH, said, “The current number of security personnel in the state whether from the Nigerian Army, or the police, is not enough to tackle security situation in the state. The security personnel are already over stretched but they cannot complain publicly .So, I will appeal that more security personnel be employed and deployed in the state.”
When contacted, the state Commissioner for Education, Associate Professor Badamasi Lawal, told one of our correspondents that the state government had purchased books on security for its primary and secondary schools to improve security awareness.
He added that a security committee had been constituted for each school in addition to the perimeter fencing of the schools.