‘Boko Haram destroyed 900 schools in Borno’

New Telegraph, July 17, 2014

Borno State Governor, Alhaji Kashim Shettima, yesterday painted a grim picture of the state of education in his state that is the epicentre of the insurgency unleashed on Nigeria by Boko Haram.

According to him, the terrorist group has destroyed about 900 schools in the state since 2011 and killed 176 teachers. The governor spoke in Abuja at the inaugural meeting of the steering committee of the Safe School Initiative.

Besides Shettima, representatives of Yobe and Adamawa states would also briefed the committee on the impact the insurgency has had on education in their domains.

Also during the inaugural meeting, security and counter-terrorism experts from donor agen-cies presented a road-map for the safety of schools. The Safe Schools Initiative is considering a short, medium and longterm strategy for making schools safer, especially in the North-East, where Boko Haram has concentrated its terrorist attacks.

The committee is considering options to rebuild confidence in parents, pupils and other stakeholders to rejuvenate education in the terror-stricken states. The meeting was part of measures aimed at ensuring a smooth implementation of the safe school project and some of the options being discussed by the committee for immediate implementation are visual, temporary and mobile schools; school at home, in a box, container and tents as well as longer term strategies for rebuilding schools.

The committee underscored the need to work with parents, the community and other stakeholders in designing sustainable safe schools solution. A technical committee was set up to work out the details and modalities for implementing key decisions. It had its first meeting immediately after the steering committee dispersed.

The technical committee is chaired by the Director General of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), Alhaji Sani Sidi and has as members commissioners of finance in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states, representatives of the National Security Adviser (NSA) and World Bank, among others. The decisions of the Safe School Initiative will be funded from $20 million that had been raised for the project. The Federal Government contributed $10 million out of the amount while investors in the private sector provided the balance.

Also, an Indicative Grant of $1 million from the African Development Bank as well as a Norway’s contribution of 10m Norwegian Krone (or $1.5m) had been secured for the project. Earlier, Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, had expressed the determination of the Federal Government to guarantee safety in schools nationwide. She also said the $20 million would be used to enhance the security of schools through the establishment of village security committees to help in community policing.

“This initiative will make our schools safer and we will not relent until the girls are found because we want them to come back to see that our schools are safer with a more conducive environment for learning.

“The international community has shown a strong support for this project, so this initiative would complement ongoing efforts by the government to secure the country,” she said while referring to the incidence of the abduction of over 200 schoolgirls from Chibok, Borno State, which served as an impetus for the establishment of the initiative. She, however, added that the plan to set up the initiative had been on before the abduction, but the incident only helped to fast-track its establishment.

According to her, the goal of the initiative is to make schools better and safer while that the involvement of the international community, the private sector and the Federal Government underscored the seriousness President Goodluck Jonathan attached to the security challenges in the schools.

Yesterday’s meeting of the steering committee was attended by Okonjo- Iweala; Shettima; Secretary to the State Government of Adamawa State Prof. A. L Tukur; President, Dangote Group, Alhaji Aliko Dangote; Chairman, THISDAY Newspapers and President, Newspapers Proprietors’ Association of Nigeria (NPAN), Mr. Nduka Obaigbena, among others. Meanwhile, the Federal Government yesterday shed more light on how it would spend the $1 billion foreign loan it is seeking to curtail insurgency.

It said beyond its avowed determination to contain the Boko Haram insurgency, the money would be spent to strengthen the capacity of the Nigerian Armed Forces to meet future security challenges.

Director General of the National Orientation Agency (NOA), Mr. Mike Omeri, made the clarification yesterday in Abuja, during the regular briefing at the National Information Centre (NIC). Fielding questions from journalists on whether the huge facility was specifically for the prosecution of the war against the Boko Haram sect, Omeri, who doubles as the Coordinator of NIC, said: “The loan is not to fight the Boko Haram alone; it was based on the armed forces’ request to update their equipment.”

According to him, the armed forces need to “restock” and upgrade their equipment to withstand future territorial and internal challenges.

“We understand they need to restock, and the whole request is not for government to go and collect cash from anybody; it is a long-term arrangement, which most countries of the world are known…it happened in the United States. “This long term means the Federal Government will use it for the purpose it is meant for; not just Boko Haram.

It is a long term facility that could involve government-togovernment,” he added. He also expressed concern over the rising trend of some Nigerians getting “radicalised” in Britain. “We are worried that some of those involved in this act (terrorism) in Nigeria, have British connection; they got radicalised in that country,” he said. He, however, added that the government was “not in any way accusing the British Government of involvement.” A British court had sentenced two Britishborn Nigerians, Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale, to life imprisonment, for hacking a British soldier, Lee Rigby, to death.

Apart from the duo, the suspected mastermind of the April 14 bomb blast at Nyanya Park in Abuja, Aminu Sadiq Ogwuche, who was recently extradited to Nigeria from Sudan, was said to have studied at the University in South Wales, where he is suspected to have been radicalised.