Kaduna, Nigeria’s “Centre of Learning,” is host to many military institutions and formations, including the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA) and 1 Division, Nigerian Army. The military presence notwithstanding, many schools, like communities in the state, have been attacked by bandits and remain crippled, Abdulgafar Alabelewe reports.
Armed Forces Command and Staff College, Jaji; Nigerian Air Force Base; Air Force Institute of Technology (AFIT), Ground Training Command, Depot Nigerian Army in Zaria, the Nigerian Military School (NMS) in Zaria, Defence Industries Corporation (DICON), Nigerian Army School of Artillery in Kachia, and Nigerian Navy School of Armament Technology and Command Engineering are among military institutions in the Kaduna State.
Others are the State Security Service Training Academy, Police College, the Nigerian College of Aviation Technology (NCAT) in Zaria and Borstal Training College.
The security institutions, formations and about 50 other higher institutions of learning earned Kaduna the Motto, “Centre of Learning.” Some of the institutions are the prestigious Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, Federal Government owned Kaduna Polytechnic, Federal Training Centre, Federal College of Education (FCE), Zaria, National Teachers Institute (NTI), Kaduna State University, Nuhu Bamalli Polytechnic, Zaria, Hope and Anchor College of Education, Umar Bun Khatab College of Education, Kaduna, Ameer Shehu Idris College of Advanced Studies, Zaria, Kaduna State College of Education, Gidan-Waya, Kafanchan, and National Open University of Nigeria, Kaduna Study Centre.
Others include the Nigerian Institute for Trypanosomiasis Research, Kaduna, Nigerian Institute of Transport Technology, Zaria, School of Midwifery, Kafanchan, Shehu Idris College of Health Sciences and Technology, Makarfi, School of Midwifery, Kaduna, Federal College of Forestry Mechanisation, Kaduna, Division of Agricultural Colleges (DAC), Zaria and Institute of Agricultural Research (IAR) Zaria among others.
Kaduna tops the chart of banditry, terrorism cases
Considering the myriad of security institutions and formations dotting the landscape of the state, Kaduna should ordinarily be among the most secured in the country. But, the reverse is, however, the case, as Kaduna is one of the North-Western states topping the chart of banditry and terrorism cases.
Thousands have been killed, kidnapped, injured and hundreds of others raped, while thousands of animals have been rustled. Educational institutions have not been spared in the terrorists’ acts of the group, popularly referred to as bandits.
Schools at the receiving end
The bandits have caused several schools to close down, relocate, stop boarding system or lose students after hundreds of students, teachers and lecturers were kidnapped at different times. The schools at the receiving end were: Engravers College, Kakau Daji in Chikun Local Government Area, Good Shepherd Major Seminary, Kakau, Federal College of Forestry Mechanisation, Afaka, Igabi Local Government Area, Bethel Baptist High School, Mararaba Damishi, Chikun Local Government, Greenfield University, Kasarami, Chikun Local Government Area and Nuhu Bamali Polytechnic, Zaria Local Government Area among others.
Ransoms were paid in hundreds of millions of Naira before students and teachers of the aforementioned schools regained freedom. Some of the learners abducted from Greenfield University and Good Shepherd Major Seminary did not get out of the terrorists’ captivity alive.
Bandits dared, breached NDA, neighbourhood security
Just while Nigerians were still questioning where the armed groups got the gut to operate freely in Kaduna, amidst the assembly of security outfits, the bandits dared the military in August 2021 by breaching the security of the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA), where they killed two officers and abducted a Major after breaking into their quarters.
The attack on NDA came after several government and private facilities in the neighbourhood of the military university’s headquarters had suffered similar attacks. Notable among those institutions are: the Kaduna International Airport and the College of Forestry Mechanisation, which is opposite the Defence Academy.
Unconfirmed report had it that the bandits terrorising the area were camping peacefully in the bushes not too far from the NDA, a situation which made it possible for them to freely attack villages behind the airport and the academy without any reasonable resistance from the military and other security forces.
Reason security of Kaduna not better than other states
Some security experts and analysts have, however, argued that the reason security of Kaduna is not better than that of Niger, Katsina and Zamfara, despite the numerous security institutions, is that most of the formations are either training or service providing institutions, rather than combatant establishments.
A retired Army Officer and member of the National Institute, Major Muhammad Bashir Galma, said 1,000 of security institutions like the NDA cannot improve the security situation of Kaduna because they don’t exist to tackle threats of banditry and insurgency.
“Institutions like the NDA and the Command and Staff College are mere training institutions. Their mandate is to train officers for the armed forces, not a combatant formation. So, because they have not been able to provide security for communities and facilities around them, does not mean they have failed.
“However, that does not mean that they cannot help at all. But, we must also understand that, there are personnel responsible for security of the institutions themselves and even if there is security alarm or shout for help outside their premises, there is a chain of command that has to be followed to get order to respond to such alarm. You don’t expect them to just hear shout and abandon their gate and go there,” Major Galma (retd) explained.
Establishment of NDA Demonstration Battalion
The recent move of the Defence Headquarters to establish the NDA Demonstration Battalion, an armed formation set up to provide security for Afaka general area and environs can be described as a confirmation of the arguments that NDA and many other military institutions around were not originally designed to respond to threats like banditry and terrorism.
Even as the NDA Demonstrators Battalion and other security measures put in place by the government and security agencies have continued to battle bandits, trademarks of sorrow, tears and blood left by the terrorists in many schools are still indelible.
Part of the school security measures put in place by the state government is the directive issued to both public and private schools across the state to establish school-based security committee and engage security guards to maintain security alertness of the school environment.
While schools in the metropolis and city centres of Kaduna, Kafanchan and Zaria have enjoyed peace and stability, their counterparts in the suburbs and outskirts of the cities live with fear of bandits and cannot operate boarding house system or any other activities that will keep teachers and students in school beyond 6:00pm.
Terrorism worsening situation of girls’ education
A Kaduna-based civil society actor and girls education activist, Yusuf Goje, said security challenges occasioned by banditry and terrorism have worsened already bad situation of girls’ education in Kaduna State.
Goje said the state government, civil society organisations and community leaders had over the last few years worked tirelessly to improve girls’ enrollment in schools across the state, stating the security challenges have compounded the initial barriers against girls’ enrollment, like absence of or poor toilets and WASH facilities in schools.
The education expert said with banditry, several communities have been displaced, with school children having to leave their communities and abandon schooling.
“In some cases, the schools in some safer communities become the IDP camps for refugees from other communities, and that automatically affects the activities in such schools because learning can no longer take place as expected.
“So, the security challenges have affected the education sector seriously, especially in the rural communities that have suffered banditry and it has worsened the case more for girls, because even when relocation happens, parents feel more comfortable when boys have to walk kilometres to other communities to school. But, they cannot risk such for girls because of their vulnerability,” he explained.
How learning is being affected
Some of the teachers, who spoke to The Nation, argued that even schools in the metropolis have their fair share of the negative impacts of the security challenges. Mrs. Hajara Yahaya, a Head Teacher in one of the private schools in the New Millennium City area of Kaduna metropolis, said though, her school was not directly affected by insecurity, banditry has virtually put a stop to most of their out of the classroom teachings.
According Mrs. Yahaya, “the security challenges have really affected education in Kaduna State negatively. Schools have been attacked, students and teachers kidnapped and even killed in some cases. Even for those of us, I mean schools in highly populated environments that are not affected directly, we are also affected psychologically. Each time you hear of a school being attacked, it has a way of sending fear to your psyche. At such times, teachers and students lose concentration because everyone would be feeling like it can also happen in our own school.
“We have also had instances where our students and pupils are directly affected from home. My school is located in Millennium City and most of the pupils and students come from new communities and layouts that are just coming up. So, some of these communities have been attacked by bandits. I remember a case of one of our students in the secondary section, who was kidnapped at home alongside her father. The girl spent weeks out there in the bandits’ captivity. You can only imagine what such pupil must have lost within the period and the effects and the trauma of such incident on the pupil. “Apart from that, you know teaching and learning do not take place 100 per cent in the classroom. Therefore, we do take students and pupils on excursions not only for leisure, but to have physical contact with things we teach them in the classroom. The security challenge has affected that. Both teachers and parents are scared of allowing children go to unfamiliar places. For example, we use to take our children on journey by train from Kaduna to Abuja. That is currently not possible because terrorists attack the train and damaged it. Those are some of the ways the banditry has affected us as a school,” she said.
How terrorism is building future tormentors
Mr. Ayo Hamza, a teacher and Principal Consultant with Speed Educational Consult, a continuous education and tutorial centre, is worried about the future of children who may have been dropped out of school due to the security challenges, as he expressed fear that, even those who are not currently affected may be tormented by the uneducated people in the future.
According to him, “Though, students in the metropolis have not been very much affected by banditry, education does not work that way. We should rather have a general concern; whatever affects a part has a way of affecting the others. Those people who are in the troubled areas and not enjoying education as they ought to, might be a challenge to those in the town enjoying education now.
“At Speed Educational Consult, we do not only operate schools and tutorial centres, we offer consultancy services to schools. So, in the course of our work, we have observed that teachers see it as punishment and witch-hunting when they are posted to rural areas. And you know, no matter how good a teacher is, he will not be able to deliver effectively when he feels a sense of insecurity.
“Talking about how the security challenges have affected the students in the city. Remember there is a ban on the operation of motorcycles as part of measures to curb banditry. Students started coming very late to school and when you ask them, they have a very good justification that they didn’t get tricycle and they had to trek down to school in some cases. That loss of hours is a serious setback for students.
“Also, there was a time that a break was declared by the state government to battle the insurgents in certain areas of the state. The question is, are students going to have make-up classes to enable them level up with their counterparts in the other parts of the country? So, like I have said, the challenges have affected every student in the state one way or the other,” Hamza argued.
Talking about the security situation at Nuhu Bamalli Polytechnic, Zaria, where students and lecturers were kidnapped in June 2021, a student, Elkanah Yohanna, said with proper fencing of the school and presence of soldiers, situation is presently calm around the polytechnic’s main campus. But students had to be relocated from the hostel to the campus in Gaskiya area of Zaria metropolis.
Elkanah lamented that the situation has affected the students economically, as they now have to spend huge amount on transportation to the main campus daily, while those who could not get the hostel accommodation even spend more by renting houses in the town and still spend money to get to school every day.
The need for strong intelligence-gathering to tackle banditry
Speaking on the way to have a secured Kaduna State, Major Muhammad Bashir Galma stressed the need for strong intelligence-gathering aided by members of the communities. He said even as Kaduna is blessed with 1 Division of the Nigerian Army, security of the state will be a mirage if communities are not ready to support the military and other security agencies with information about the bandits and terrorists movements.
According to him, “to the military, bandits are not stationed in one place. They are scattered all over the place as the areas we are talking about here are versed. Today, you see them around Giwa. Tomorrow, they are around Birnin-Gwari, next tomorrow, they are on Kaduna-Abuja road. So, you cannot just face the bush and say you are looking for bandits. In fact, if you are not careful, they get information about your own movement and ambush you.
“So, the military needs intelligence information from the communities. The bad situation presently is that once some people or communities are not touched or attacked by the bandits, they just allow the bandits to have free movement. They don’t share information with the security agencies. This is the information that the military and other security agencies need to tackle these criminal once and for all,” he said.