Senator Iroegbu and Michael Olugbode There are clear indications that the recent abduction of over 200 secondary schoolgirls in Chibok may have prodded the Borno State Government to opt for the relocation schools in attack-prone areas of the state to relatively safer and more peaceful towns.
Acknowledging that the education sector of the state remains the worst hit by the insurgency, the state's Commissioner for Education, Musa Inuwa Kubo, disclosed that the impact of the crisis has been negative. "It is just that we have taken it as a challenge and cannot afford to fold our arms and do nothing on account of the insurgency," he said. "We do not know when it is going to be over so we are trying to survive the situation before us."
Also, security measures have been taken by the government to ensure the safety of its schools with the deployment of both plain clothes and uniformed officers. This is in a bid to reopen schools, which had been temporarily shut down about a month ago even before the Chibok school abduction.
"We at our end are doing the best we can especially to fortify the schools and when we do that we believe the students will come back to school," Kubo continued. "But definitely there are some areas that are still battling with the insurgency; we cannot take the risk of opening the schools in those areas for now. The most volatile areas, the areas that are prone to attack at any given time, the schools have to remain closed."
The state government, according to the education commissioner, considers the spate of attacks on schools as a challenge and cannot for that reason afford to close down schools indefinitely. "We are trying as much as possible and we are praying hard, God knows when this problem came in and when it is going to be over. It is our prayer that God brings peace back to Borno state again so that we can continue with our lives uninterrupted."
He expressed hope that the abducted schoolgirls could still be found. This is even as he acknowledged that, in some areas that are prone to terrorist attacks, schools have to remain closed and that it may be difficult to convince all the students to return to schools.
Asked if he believes the abducted girls would be found, Kubo said: "It is my hope and fervent prayer that, certainly, we will have them back. That is why we are doing our best to look for them. It is everybody's prayer that these students be returned to us very soon. We have not lost hope and are appealing to everybody to continue to pray along with us for these girls to be returned back home."
In a veiled appeal to the abductors, he said: "All efforts should be made not necessarily through the use of force but we have been appealing to those that are concerned. Whoever that is concerned should please come out to state what his grievances are and let us solve this thing so that life can continue. This insurgency is not only affecting education but it is affecting the entire life of our people.
"Those people keeping them should for the reason of humanity return them. These girls are innocent and have not committed any crime against anybody and in the light of that, we are passionately appealing to them so that they release them to their parents."
Meanwhile, the parents of the abducted schoolgirls from the Government Secondary School, Chibok have resorted to prayers to secure the release of their wards. They have, in the same breath, also joined their voices to those calling on the federal government to seek foreign assistance to resolve the crisis.
The parents' decision to seek divine intervention into the abduction quagmire re-echoes the call last Monday by religious bodies for a nationwide prayer and fasting by both Christians and Muslims for the safe return of the abducted schoolgirls.
There are indications that the Borno State Government may have also joined the prayer train, THISDAY investigations revealed. This is following its disappointment that the federal government, to which it had looked up to for strategies aimed at freeing the girls, seems helpless.
The military was said to have put on hold the option of an all-out offensive on the notorious terrorist enclave, Sambisa Forest, where the abducted schoolgirls are believed to have been taken. According to a security source, the decision to explore other strategies was to avoid unintended consequences in the bid to free the girls. It is the thinking of the security experts that the security of the abducted girls may be jeopardised were the terrorists to be attacked.