Over a hundred students were reportedly kidnapped the night of Monday, February 19, from Government Science and Technical College, Dapchi, Yobe state. No group has, as yet, claimed responsibility for the latest school kidnap, but it has all the trappings of the work of the terror group Boko Haram. It first attacked a girls secondary school, Chibok, in neighbouring Borno on February 14, 2014. The gang looted the school’s foodstore and took away 270 students.
The attack on the Dapchi college came in a similar fashion. Residents reported that the insutgents, armed to the teeth, came in several vehicles after dusk. They set off the sirens, apparently to give the impression that they were regular Nigerian troops out on patrol. Some of the girls guessed believed otherwise and ran into the nearby bush. Others were, however, not as lucky as they fell into the hands of the bandits.
Dapchi is a deja vu case all over again: an initial official denial, followed by misinformation and guessing. First, the home state government denied Boko Haram was responsible. When it was confirmed that the group took away the girls, the government said 90 were kinapped but 50 had been rescued by soldiers. It turned out to be untrue. Angry parents and other relations demonstrated their frustration.
Worse still, the school authority, the police and government could not agree on the number of the kinapped. Some gave 90, some 105 and others 111. It was not until Sunday, a good 6 days after, that federal government gave a defenitive figure of 110. This was after a visit to the school by minister of information Lai Mohammed. Even so, the list given to journalists had 105 names. If duplications are taken out, we shall end up with a smaller number.
Apart from President Muhammadu Buhari who deplored the attack, calling it what it truly is, “a national tragedy”, government functionaries including the information minister politicised it. They said it was the handiwork of political opponents bent on giving the government “a bad name”. Who does not know Boko Haram has been active in the northeast for the past 10 years? And that its targets are mostly schools, markets and places of worship? When did the group transform into a political party? The last thing the grieving parents want to hear is that some imagined political enemies snatched away their daughters. This is sheer callousness on the part of the government officials. We condemn it. If they have no comforting words to say they had better shut up.
It is shocking that kidnapping of schoolgirls by Boko Haram has happened again, in the same zone, after Chibok in 2014 and Buni Yadi. It is obvious we went to sleep after we recovered from the initial shock. What has happened to the federal government’s much publicised school rehabilitation programme for the northeast? One of its promised goals is improved security in schools. Is it another white elephant?
If we did not know before, it should be crystal clear, by now, that Boko Haram is not just interested in taking girls to carry its IEDs and as wives for its fighting men. It is more interested in wrecking the school system and the future of the girl child. We would be giving it the carte blanche if we left schools undefended. A stitch in time saves nine, they say.
We are re-running this editorial that was printed yesterday because the printer’s devil took out a good portion of it. We apologise for the embarrassment.