Nigeria’s sharp descent into anarchy and nastiness is demonstrated in the recent cold-blooded killing and mutilation of a five-year-old pupil, Hanifa Abubakar, by a Kano State-based school proprietor, Abdulmalik Tanko.
Parents of the adorable child enrolled her at Tanko’s school, which later turned out to be her slaughterhouse, rather than a learning centre. They desired a sound academic foothold for the innocent girl, who sadly became a victim of Tanko’s savage predation. Hanifa’s parents were oblivious when they entrusted him with the education of their daughter, an only child. Ultimately, he became her executioner.
Reports said that Tanko, who owns two schools in Kano State; Nobel Kids Academy, and Northwest Preparatory School, kidnapped the five-year-old on December 2, 2021. Thereafter, he demanded N6 million ransom from her distraught parents 10 days after the abduction. Subjected to emotional trauma by the devastating news, the pupil’s parents struggled to raise N100,000. But unhappily, their hope that their joy-radiating daughter would be reunited with them was dashed when police investigation led to the discovery of the little girl’s remains in a shallow grave within the school compound.
The manner of her demise turns the stomach. The beastly Tanko admitted buying N10 worth of rat poison to kill her because he feared that Hanifa had recognised him and would ultimately expose him as her kidnapper. The slow, painful death the five-year-old must have experienced is better imagined.
But the 34-year-old killer-teacher, who is also a father, left no one in doubt of his bestiality. Fiendishly, he severed Hanifa’s fragile body before burial, thus compounding the despair of her helpless parents.
With the arraignment of Tanko and his accomplices, the law should take its full course and speedily too. Everyone culpable in the dastardly act should also be prosecuted. The authorities should use this case to deter other aspiring child-killers, either in Kano or other parts of the country. The state government must affirm its interest in education and disdain for illegalities by absorbing itself in the proceedings regarding the four counts bordering on concealing a kidnap victim, conspiracy, kidnapping, and culpable homicide preferred against Tanko.
Though the state governor, Abdullahi Ganduje, has pledged to do everything humanly possible to guarantee speedy dispensation of justice, he should match his word with action to give the family closure and restore confidence in his administration. This is crucial as the state has recorded another case of a murdered schoolgirl, 12-year-old Zuwaira Gambo, with the culprit already apprehended.
For Hanifa’s parents, justice appears the appropriate balm to soothe their grief. They are disconsolate and helpless. The late pupil’s father, Abubakar Abdulsalam, asserted the obvious during an interview, noting, “She was the first and the only child of the family. My wife and I were fond of her. Her permanent absence has already started to cause us sleepless nights.”
Beyond suspending the operating licences of private schools in the state and ordering revalidation of certificates, the government should also forthwith review its regulatory and supervisory roles in tandem with global practices to ensure that they deliver on their mandate of quality education. There ought to be thorough background checks on intending school owners to ensure compliance with state regulations and to prevent quacks in the state’s education space. There should be regular, scheduled, and unscheduled visits to schools by school inspectors from the states and local governments’ inspectorate departments. Parents and guardians should never become too busy to monitor their children/wards. With the rising incidents of child abuse, parents should devise means of regularly checking on their children at intervals.
The current situation deserves concerted efforts to inspire assurance in education amid the low-school enrolment and alarming out-of-school number in the North, with Kano State admitting in 2018 that it had the highest number of out-of-school children in the country with over 3.0 million. The United Nations Children’s Fund noted that about 10.5 million children aged between five and 14 children are out of school in Nigeria. That is the highest burden globally, which has been for some time. It puts Nigeria in a shameful place. This episode is worsened by the rampaging terrorists who frequently abduct school children in the region, coupled with outdated policies unfavourable to the girl-child. A transparent and swift justice dispensation to ensure comeuppance to the suspects will go a long way in promoting interest in learning and increasing school enrolment.
Kano cannot afford to delay strong laws against kidnapping to place the state on the pedestal of productivity, vigour and increased prosperity associated with inclusive education. The governor should drive the efficiency of the state penal to reflect the death penalty for kidnappers. In the recent past, those who ‘sinned’ against the state were quickly and controversially charged on religious or political grounds. They all hurriedly had their days in court. Similar action is needed in the Hanifa case to restore hope in the justice system.
UNICEF’s classification of Nigeria along with Somalia, Congo, Cameroon, and Niger based on countries with the highest cases of verified abductions in 2021 is alarming enough to nudge the affected state to concrete action. The governor should fulfil his promise to follow up the matter to its logical conclusion.