“I’ve never felt this much pain in my life — it’s unimaginable .At first, they were demanding 800 million naira from the families of the kidnapped students … then they started killing the students to show they were serious,” Ojotun, whose 18 year-old sister was among students kidnapped in Greenfield University, Kaduna, had explained.
He said the kidnappers who had been in touch with his family, alongside others, were contacted servally and made to listen to the frail voice of his sister on one of those routine calls.
“The first time they killed three students. Then the second time they killed two. I kept wondering if my younger sister would be the next to be killed. They had threatened to kill her and post a film of her death on YouTube.
“The kidnappers said they know the families of the abducted students can’t raise such a huge amount of money, so they asked that we meet the governor. If the governor insists on not paying any ransom, then he should ensure that the students are rescued”, he said.
According to Ojotu, he said the parents’ forum pulled together about 55 million naira for ransom, but the kidnappers rejected as they were demanding 100 million naira.
Ojotu’s sister was among the over 20 students kidnaped on April 20, 2020 in Greenfield University, Kaduna.
Joy, on the other hand, abandoned her education due to her parents’ insufficiency to pay her tuition fee in Ipeshi Grammar school, Akoko-Edo, where she studied.
Twelve–year-old Joy had moved on to becoming an apprentice in a fashion designing shop at Akoko.
“Joy is an intelligent, wise and obedient child. She is the first of three children of her parents but due to lack of money, she had to drop out to learn fashion designing.
“Her father abandoned the house three years ago and the mother works as a cleaner but her pay is insufficient to cater for the three children”, a unanimous source spoke to the reporter.
Multiple Trauma On Education in Nigeria
Nigeria’s education system has witnessed several recurring challenges ranging from insecurity, kidnapping of students and poverty which have translated into the increasing numbers of out-of-school children.
UNICEF had reported that despite the having a compulsory primary education, about 10.5 million children are out of school.
This figure according to Nigeria’s Ministry of Education increased back to 10.1 million in 2020, after a fall by more than 3 million from the previous year. However, another report has maintained that the consistent rise in insecurity in the northern region of Nigeria has placed the number above 13 million.
Meanwhile, the National Bureau of Statistics, placed the attendance of school aged children at 58. 6 percent in October 2020. This is sustainably lower than the 74.0 percent recorded in January/ February 2019 due the the restrictions of the Covid-19 pandemic.
As restrictions on COVID-19 were relaxed in Nigeria, children like Joy could not afford to resume back to school due to the deepening effect of the pandemic and the increasing poverty rate of the country.
Kidnapping School Students In Nigeria
Data from newspaper reports and EiE Nigeria published that between February 2014 and May 2021, a total of 1422 students have been kidnapped from 12 schools in Nigeria.
On February 24, 2014, 59 students of Buni Yadi secondary school, Yobe were killed. Of the 276 Chibok government secondary school students kidnapped in Borno, 164 have returned while 112 students are still held captive.
On February 26, 2016, 3 students of Babington Macaulay junior seminary school ikorodu, Lagos were kidnapped and have returned.
While 110 Dapchi secondary and technical college, Yobe were kidnapped. 104 have returned, 5 killed and one still held captive.
On December 11 2020, 344 students of Kankara Government secondary school, Kastina were kidnapped and have returned. Also, 80 students of Islamiya school, Kastina were kidnapped on December 20 of the same year and have been released.
In 2021, about 27 students of Kagara government science college were kidnapped on February 17 and have been released. Also 317 students of Jangebe government school, Zamfara were kidnapped. Of the 317 kidnapped, 279 have been released while 38 held captive.
In March, 39 students of Mando Federal college of forestry mechanisation, Kaduna were kidnapped and have been released
On April 20, about 20 students of Greenfield University were kidnapped; 5 killed and 14 released. While 3 students of the Federal university of agriculture, Makurdi were kidnapped on April 26 and have been released.
The data showed that 162 students are still being held by kidnappers, 10 killed and 1,047 have been released. While about 200 students of an Islamic school in Tegina, in the central state of Niger were kidnapped on May 30, 2021.
These acts have been perpetrated by terrorist groups, bandits and unknown gunmen who had severally demanded for ransome running into millions of naira to release victims.
Ransom For Release
SBM Intelligence analysed data covering the period from June 2011 to the end of March 2020 using a collection of public sources, police and media reports and discovered that between June 2011 and the end of March 2020, at least $18.34 million was paid to kidnappers as ransom in Nigeria.
According to the report, “One reason why kidnap for ransom has come to stay is the economics surrounding it.
“It is important to point out that in the earlier years, there were fewer incidents, and larger amounts changed hands. Now there are a lot more incidents for smaller amounts, but the sheer number of incidents, speaking to the democratisation of the kidnap industry, means that the kidnap economy now makes more money. Crime, in this case kidnapping, does appear to pay.”
For the release of the Chibok girl, the terrorist group demanded a $50million ransom, while the United Nations claimed that the nigerian government paid a huge sum to secure the release of Dapchi girls.
Similarly, three of the Kankara boys, on their release, said their kidnappers told them they were initially paid 30 million naira, equivalent to around $76,000.
For Kagara students, a representative of the parents offered to pay the ransom of ₦2.7 million while students of Greenfield University, the kidnappers demanded a total of ₦800 million to secure their release.
Twentyten Daily, however, reported that a bill to criminalize payment of ransom to kidnappers in Nigeria has passed its second reading, as the Senate says counterproductive as it encourages more kidnapping and terrorism.
Education Budget, GDP Growth
From 2011 to 2021, the budget on education had increased from over N300 billion to over N700 billion, yet, its allocation is still very low on the total budget.
In 2011, the sector was allocated N393.8 billion — 9.3 per cent of the total budget while it got N468.3 billion — 9.86 per cent of the 2012 budget.
In 2013, N499.7 billion representing 10.1 per cent of the total was allocated; N494.7 billion – 10.5 per cent of the 2014 budget and N484.2billion – 10.7 per cent of the 2015 budget.
The education sector in 2016 got N369. 6 billion — 7.9 per cent of the total budget, N550. 5 billion was allotted in 2017, representing 7.4 per cent of the total budget; N605.8 billion in 2018 -7.04 per cent ; N620.5 billion – 7.05 per cent of the 2019 budget and N671. 07 billion (6.7 per cent) in the 2020 appropriation bill.
However, the sector in 2021 got N742.5 billion, a 6.5 percent of the total budget.
The latest report by the National Bureau of Statistics on Gross Domestic Product, the nominal growth in the Education sector in the first quarter of 2021 was –0.30% (year-on-year), down by –7.33% points from the growth of 7.03% reported in the corresponding quarter of 2020, but 5.56% points higher when compared to Q4 2020 growth rate of –5.86%.
The contribution of Education to nominal GDP in Q1 2021 was 1.75%, down from 1.97% estimated in Q1 2020 and 2.06% in Q4 2020. Real growth in Education year-on-year stood at -6.20% in Q1 2021, a decline of –6.89% points from the corresponding quarter of 2020 which was estimated at 0.69%.
However, when compared with the previous quarter’s rate of -11.43%, the sector’s growth was higher by 5.23% points. The Education sector contributed 1.94% to aggregate real GDP in Q1 2021, which was lower than 2.08% reported for the corresponding quarter of 2020 and the 2.18% recorded in Q4 2020.
Experts Suggest Way Out
To improve the situation, stakeholders said the country must intensify the Safe Schools Initiative (SSI) established in 2014 in response to the Chibok abduction.
According to a report, Dr Ibrahim Dansa, said the government should provide adequate security to schools to assure children of safety when they attend school.
He also insisted that the government should demonstrate commitment to protecting the right to education by investigating these attacks and holding those responsible accountable.
“Some of our children were about to write exams but could not continue because schools are closed, yet the government is not doing enough to ensure that students return to school,” Dansa stated.
Director of Education and Governance Research, Centre for the Study of the Economies of Africa, Adedeji Adeniran, said policymakers, school leaders and communities must come together to reverse the current education dynamics to avoid collapse
He insisted that the government should demonstrate commitment to protecting the right to education by investigating these attacks and holding those responsible accountable.