As a result of the recent kidnapping of three female pupils and five staff members, including a Turkish national, by unknown gunmen in the Nigerian Tulip International Colleges (formerly known as Turkish International School), last Friday, parents and school owners are seeking emergency meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari over the increasing state of insecurity in the nation’s schools.
Parents and teachers who spoke through the National Parent-Teacher Association of Nigeria, the National Association of Proprietors of Private Schools among others, said an urgent meeting was necessary to stem the tide of an evil wind blowing in schools across the country to prevent it from becoming epidemic.
NTIC’s spokesperson, Cemal Yigit, had said in a statement last Saturday that at about 9.30pm, some armed men gained entrance to the girls’ section of the school through different means and held hostage three female supervisors, a female cook, a female teacher (Turkish) and three students.
On Monday, the abductors had demanded a N1.2bn ransom for the release of the abductees and later reduced it to N750m.
Representatives of school owners and parents, who spoke to Saturday PUNCH, expressed anger and concern about the development, noting that they were seeking an audience with the President, especially as the abducted victims have yet to regain freedom.
The Parent-Teacher Association of Nigeria, the National Association of Proprietors of Private Schools and the All Nigeria Confederation of Principals of Secondary Schools, said the situation was worrisome and required urgent attention.
Earlier in March, 2016, three pupils of Babington Macaulay Junior Seminary, Ikorodu, Lagos, were abducted by gunmen. On October 6, 2016, four pupils and two teachers were also abducted at the Lagos State Model College, Igbonla, Epe.
In both cases, the victims did not secure their freedom until after five days.
The Deputy National President of the National Association of Proprietors of Private Schools, Chief Yomi Otubela, said the association would like to meet the President on the issue, given the risk being faced by pupils in many schools.
He said even though education is under the concurrent list in the constitution and governors are responsible for how education is run in their states, in accordance with the National Policy on Education, issues that are sensitive as the safety of lives of students and schoolchildren demand urgent national intervention.
“We want to meet with the President because this is about the future of the leaders of tomorrow,” he said.
Otubela explained that one of the issues they would like to discuss with the President is the need for the government to provide armed security men around all schools in the country.
He said, “Last year, we held a press briefing where we asked government to see how they could provide armed security in all the streets that have schools, both private and public schools.
“This has yet to be done and it is one of the issues that would be on our agenda.”
However, he said given that the government had “failed to secure the citizens,” respective PTAs and school managements had been advised to raise funds and provide security for themselves.
“If some parents can pay as much as N1m as tuition per year, they should be able to look for 10 to 20 per cent of that amount to secure that child. That is the truth,” he said.
Similarly, NAPTAN National President, Mallam Danjuma, said his organisation had resolved to write a letter to the President, requesting an audience with him over the fate of schoolchildren in the country.
Danjuma said paramount on the agenda of issues they would like to discuss with the President is insecurity in primary and secondary schools.
Already, he said NAPTAN had fixed a meeting with the Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu, in February.
Danjuma said, “We are very worried about insecurity in our schools. Recently, we lost four of our students in Maiduguri and some teachers. It’s sad.
“It’s like kidnappers and Boko Haram are focusing their attention on our schools.
“Our stand is clear. When our students and teachers were kidnapped in a school in Lagos, I clearly called on the federal and state governments and proprietors of private schools and faith-based schools to stand firm and make necessary provision for tight security, to protect the lives of our children and teachers.
“Some of what we have in some schools are old men who cannot even pursue small children. The PTAs don’t have much to engage the services of security men. But we are managing with the little that we have. And that is one of the issues we are discussing with the minister in February.”
Also, the President, All Nigeria Confederation of Principals of Secondary Schools, Lagos State Chapter, Mrs. Omotunde Lawson, said that school principals were concerned about the increasing state of insecurity in schools, especially secondary schools.
She said, “ANCOPPS will appreciate it if the President can grant us audience. This is an emergency. We are very concerned about the spate of kidnapping in our schools.”
Also, the National President of the ANCOPPS, Mr. Anselm Izuagie, said, “The school system belongs to all of us. We are all in the system and it appears no one is free from all these hazards of the society. So, we are ready to join the other bodies to meet the President on the matter.”
Meanwhile, highbrow secondary schools in Lagos and Ogun states have started putting security measures in place to improve on the safety of their students and teachers, investigation by Saturday PUNCH has revealed.
For instance, when Saturday PUNCH visited one of the highbrow schools at Ofada, Ogun State, the school’s administrator said the school, after learning about the NTIC incident, had begun strategising on improving the security of the students and teachers.
Although he wouldn’t disclose what specific security moves were being made, he said the school was “definitely” planning to prevent a similar occurrence in the school.
“Of course, we are aware of the NTIC case and definitely, we are working on safeguarding the lives of our students and teachers,” he said. “When an incident like that happens, it is expected that parents would panic over the situation, but we have measures in place — which I wouldn’t disclose so as not to give enemies some hints — to forestall something like that from happening here.”
Another school on the Abeokuta-Sagamu Expressway, Ogun State, did not allow one of our correspondents to enter into the school premises, saying visitors could only be allowed into the school based on prior appointments.
In the meantime, when one of our correspondents visited one of the most highly-rated secondary schools in the country located in Epe, Lagos, there was an increased presence of armed security personnel at the entrance and premises of the school.
At least, five armed mobile policemen were seen in another school visited by Saturday PUNCH, while a patrol van, belonging to the Nigeria Police Force, was also stationed outside the main gate.
At one of the security posts, one of our correspondents observed a newspaper photocopy of the kidnapping at the Nigerian Tulip International Colleges pinned to a board, while there were also other literatures dwelling on security also at the section.