30 January 2013

Nigeria: Abu Reinforces Security Measures On Campuses Against Attacks

John Shiklam writes on the steps adopted by authorities of Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria to ensure the security of lives and property on campus, following series of terrorist attacks in some parts of the north.

Following the frequent terrorist attacks in Kaduna State and other northern states, many tertiary institutions have strengthened the security apparatus on their campuses to safeguard of live and property of students and staff.

Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria is one of such institutions that have taken the issue of security on their campuses seriously after the killing of Christian students during a fellowship at Bayero University, Kano sometime last year, as well as other attacks on students.

Though social, academic and religious activities at the Samaru and Kongo Campuses of the university were being conducted under normal atmosphere, THISDAY investigations revealed that the management of the institution is not resting on its oars to ensure security within the university community.

For instance, all vehicles coming into the campuses are thoroughly searched before being allowed into the campuses. It was learnt that students are not allowed into the university senate building with their bags and mobile phones, just as visitors are thoroughly screened and searched before they can be allowed into the building.

Also, vehicles are no longer allowed to park near the senate building, except vehicles of the vice-chancellor and other key officials of the institution. A detachment of a mobile police unit is also permanently stationed at the university for 24-hour surveillance. Some of the students, who spoke with THISDAY, said the security arrangement at the institution gave them the confident to go about their activities freely without exercising any fear.

"But the fact that the university has provided adequate security does not mean that we are 100 per cent safe, we are being careful and always on the alert. You know how the terrorists operate, but our security is in the hand of God.

"As you can see, everyone is going about their normal activities freely without fear", said one of the students, who preferred anonymity.

It was further gathered that from time to time, the security unit of the university publishes security tips in the institution's bulletin to make sure that students and staff are always alive to their security responsibilities. Public Relations and Protocol Officer of the university, Mr. Bitrus Galmaka, who gave an insight on the measures adopted to reinforce security on campus, said the university management will not leave anything to chance security-wise.

"You know ABU is a mini Nigeria and whatever touches ABU touches the whole country. We have never taken the issue of security lightly. If you come to the university on Sundays and Fridays, you will see how tight the security is.

"Like on Sundays, all the major roads leading to the two chapels in the campuses are closed. Mobile policemen move around the campus. On Fridays security is also tight around the mosques. The mobile police men also patrol the campuses."

He said the local security men search vehicles coming into the university, adding that they are very smart. "A lot of checking takes place at the main gate."

Galmaka said a contingent of mobile police is permanently stationed at the senate building, adding, "you can see that life on campus is generally normal and peaceful, as students and staff go about their activities freely. Once in a while the security department publishes security tips to students and the university community, reminding them the need to be vigilant and report suspicious characters to security men."

Also commending the university management for the measures it adopted to secure the lives of members of the university community, a senior lecturer in the Kongo Campus, who did not want his name in print, said staff and students feel quiet safe as a result of the steps taken to prevent any attack on the institution.

He however revealed that many lecturers, especially those from the southern part of the country are leaving the institution as a result of the security challenges in the north.

"For us in Kongo Campus, things are calm. The university has taken measures to ensure that there is adequate security. For example, on Sundays during our church services, the gate linking the chapel to our main gate is usually locked on and nobody passes through that gate during the period that the church service lasts.

"They normally send two armed police men to stay around the chapel until after the church service and everybody had left, but there is no such arrangement during lectures. But the university authorities are on the alert to ensure that nothing takes them unawares. During school hours, life is normal; there are no feelings of fear.

"However at the individual level, there is fear among many people, especially some of those who come from the south. Some of them are being pressurised by their relations down south to leave the university because of the security situation in the north."

The lecturer added that some of the lecturers from the south are transferring their services quietly to avoid raising any alarm. "Those who are leaving go in a very quiet and subtle way. They will find a place then gradually they relocate their family.

"I am aware of so many of my colleagues who have left in that manner. Even me, there is a lot of pressure for me to leave. My wife and children have relocated to Abuja; I am the only one that is in Zaria now. So I am just exploring the situation, I have not made up my mind yet. The source added that any lecturers, especially from the faculties of medicine and law are leaving quietly. "You will just wake up and discover that your colleague has relocated. They are leaving because of the general insecurity in the north and not because there is any security threat on campus. In fact, there is even a lot of pressure from my relations and friends asking me to relocate to another university outside the north."

Meanwhile, the Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Abdullahi Mustapha, has warned the students against religious extremism, saying that the university, in spite of its diversity, has a long tradition of religious harmony.

Speaking during the matriculation ceremony of over 6,000 fresh students of the university, Mustapha, who was represented by the Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Ibrahim Na'Iya Sada, said the institution remains a key factor in the unity of the country.

He said ABU is the only institution in the country that promotes the unity of the country by admitting students from every nook and cranny of Nigeria. He therefore urged the students to promote the long-standing tradition of the university by making friends with students from other geopolitical zones.

The vice-chancellor also advised the new students to take their studies seriously to make the university and their parents proud, adding that they should imbibe values that would benefit the university community, as the management would not tolerate any form of misdemeanor.

He also warned them against indecent dressing and urged them to adhere strictly to the university's dress code.

While also warning them against any involvement in cultism, he said, "once you are identified as a cultist, you will not be given a second chance. There is nothing like renunciation. He also advised them against students against drug abuse and bad company, saying that any student that engages in such vices is heading for self destruction.

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