FG Bemoans Use of N’East Schools for Military, IDP Shelters

May 4, 2018

Senator Iroegbu in Abuja

The federal government has stepped efforts to ensure that schools in Nigeria, especially those in the North East are not being used for military purposes, shelters for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and therefore, a constant target for terrorist attacks.

This is even as stakeholders in the education and security sector have raised alarm over the safety of the schools across Nigeria.

The Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu stated this yesterday in Abuja during the inception workshop on the review of the Legal Framework on the Protection of Education from attacks in Nigeria.

Adamu who was represented by the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Education, Mr. Sonny Echono, said the aim is to maintain the neutrality of the neutrality of the academic institutions in line with the United Nations (UN) guidelines for protecting schools and universities from military use during armed conflict.

The Guidelines for Protecting Schools and Universities from Military Use during Armed Conflict states that “Parties to armed conflict are urged not to use schools and universities for any purpose in support of their military effory2. While it is acknowledged that certain uses would not be contrary to the law of armed conflict, all parties should endeavour to avoid impinging on students’ safety and education…”

 “The consequences of attacks on education, armed forces/armed groups occupation of schools and other education institutions include high student drop-out rates, reduced enrollment, lower rates of transition to higher education levels, overcrowding, and loss of instruction hours. Adolescent girls and boys are at higher risk of joining armed groups or criminal gangs; and levels of exploitation and abuse; including trafficking and sexual violence increase,” he said.

According to the minister, safe schools provide lifesaving information, mitigate the psychological impact of war, and can protect children from trafficking and recruitment by armed groups. In the long term, a good education promotes peace and helps young people to develop the skills and qualification they need to build lives for themselves and prosperity for their communities.

Adamu noted that the conflict in the North-east Nigeria is a unique situation where the systemic destruction and targeting of Education has been both a key objective and a tragic outcome of hostilities.

According to him, over 2, 295 teachers have been killed and 19,000 others displaced in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa States in the last nine years.

He disclosed that an estimated 1,500 schools have been destroyed since 2014, with over 1,280 casualties among teachers and students, adding that “the crisis has further devastated the education system and children, teachers and schools on the frontline of conflict.”

 He said: “International organisations and civil society groups have more work to do as well. Better collection of data is still needed, particularly differentiating between the numbers of schools used by the military purposes and those that are attacked, looted, or used as shelters for IDPs.

“All of us have to advocate for widespread endorsement of the Guidelines for Protecting Schools and Universities from Military Use during Armed Conflict, and commitment to implementing them.

 “Attacks on education are therefore, not only a humanitarian and development issue. They are also also social, political, and moral issue, to which we are obliged to respond.”

 In the same vein, the Country Representative, UNICEF, Mr. Mohammed Fall, remarked that schools should be places where children feel protected at all times.

Fall stressed that “we must ensure children, particularly girls, can go to school without fear.

 “Since 2009, across the northeast, almost 1,400 schools have been destroyed with the majority unable to open because of extensive damage or because they are in areas that remain unsafe. Over 2,295 teachers have been killed and 19,000 have been displaced.”

At UNICEF, he said, we acknowledge the efforts by the Government of Nigeria in making the schools safe and more resilient to attacks.

The Country Representative also commended the Minister of Education “for endorsing the signed Safe School Declaration as well as the Education in Emergencies Working Group Nigeria for bringing together this group of stakeholders to further increase buy-in and ownership for domesticating the Declaration in Nigeria. These are important steps in ensuring children in the conflict-stricken areas can go to and stay in school.

“Education, especially for girls, is the single most important way to bring hope, peace and prosperity not just for this generation, but for also for future generations.”

Also speaking, the Country Director, Plan International Nigeria, Dr. Hussaini Abdul, called for a broader action and approach to the school safety in Nigeria.

Abdul warned that “the safety of schools is a major national crises and whatever legal framework we are putting in place must be design to respond truly as a national problem”.

He noted: “From the report we received this morning about the incident, it is very clear that Nigeria has a major problem when it comes to the safety of our schools.

“As much as we work very hard to respond to insurgence and the crises in the North East of the country in ensuring schools remain safe and secured, it is also important for us to have the bigger picture of the entire situation in the country and recognize that this crisis is actually not peculiar with the North-east.”

“In other parts of the country, we experience cases of children being kidnapped in schools. We have issues of fire disasters resulting to children dying, so what policy or framework we are putting in place must be able to protect the children and education workers and from them and injury in schools, that is very important.

“We must plan for education continuation in the face of hazard. That is very key as we must know how to safe guard sector investment because without investment in education sector we cannot not strengthen the safety and security of children at school,” he added.

Abdu also advocated for the strengthening of the disaster resilience of the citizenry to engage, while working to ensure that school and children remain safe with our education tailored to be able to build resilience across the people within that sector.

According to him, “it is a two way thing that the education must not be designed in a manner that you only receive the security, but that you become part of the safety and security”.

instructions to arrest him and take him to Kano police command because of an advertorial his newspaper ran that annoyed a top politician. He was released later that afternoon.

 “This trend of harassment and intimidation has created a climate of fear, whereby journalists are perpetually afraid of being arrested for doing their job. Journalists have a responsibility to the public, not the government, and must be allowed to do their job,” Ojigho said.

The organisation added that across Nigeria, there are reports of people being threatened, and often arrested, for merely sharing their opinion via social media, pointing out that in July 2017 Muhammed Kime was arrested by the police in Damaturu Yobe State for a Facebook post critical of a federal lawmaker.

It also disclosed that the recent response of Nigeria’s security agencies to the exercise of the right to freedom of peaceful assembly has been violent citing the case of the unarmed members of IMN who were protesting the unlawful detention of their leader, Sheik Ibraheem El-Zakzaky, at Unity Fountain in Abuja on April 16 and were dispersed with live bullets, tear gas and water cannon, adding also that more than 115 protestors were arrested and many injured.

“IMN members have been peacefully demanding the release of their leader since December 2015 – the military killed more than 350 of them during those clashes in Zaria. The persistent use of excessive force by the police to disrupt IMN protests is clear indication that the repression of IMN members is set to continue,” Ojigho added.

Amnesty also reported the case of the members of the “Bring Back Our Girls” movement, who were on April 23 and 24, denied access to Unity Fountain where they have been holding a daily “sit-out” since 2014.

According to Amnesty, the police used tear gas to chase away the activists, in spite of the fact that their advocacy has always been peaceful.

“Using the police to prevent these peaceful assemblies violates international and Nigerian laws. It is also worrying that police have always used excessive force on citizens exercising their rights,” Ojigho said.

 “Security forces’ arrest of journalists and violent disruption of peaceful protests are draconian responses to people exercising their rights,” Ojigho added

Amnesty International called on the Nigerian authorities to take urgent steps to end the use of excessive force by security forces to disperse peaceful protests and arbitrary arrests, intimidation and harassment of journalists and bloggers.