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Kinsley Omose

Years back when my last child was still in a private primary school, I was a member of the school’s management board and a constant thorn in the flesh of other board members and the management over how the school was being administered.

One day, a fire incident occurred in the school’s assembly hall due to faulty electrical wiring that could easily have resulted in the death of some of the pupils who were in the hall at that material time but were saved through the timely action of some staff members.

The school hall was completely burnt to the ground and although no one was hurt, I knew my child’s time was up in that school because I saw no reason why I should leave my child in an environment where, in my opinion, human life was not valued.

I promptly withdrew my child at the end of the first term and transferred him to another school and stepped down as a member of the management board; to me, it was clearly time to stop fighting to correct the wrongs in the system and save my child.

When Amnesty International raised questions over the abduction of secondary school girls in Dapchi by Boko Haram claiming that advanced warnings were given to the military hours before the attack on the school but with no response, I was totally shaken up.

The military promptly issued a statement denying Amnesty’s claim but they were unable to explain why for the hours it took Boko Haram to invade the school and abduct 110 school girls and driving away in a convoy of trucks, shooting, they were unchallenged.

The military also failed to explain how a convoy of trucks filled to the brim with Boko Haram members was able to drive from their base through to Dapchi and also from Dapchi back, triumphantly, to their base this time with 110 abducted schoolgirls, passing towns and villages without being confronted.

Then, the drama started, first it turned out that the military team which had been providing security in Dapchi had been posted out of the town shortly before Boko Haram had invaded the hostels of the secondary school and abducted the girls.

Next came more dramatic revelations, that even as the military team was being withdrawn from Dapchi town, it appeared the police in the town and the other security agencies were not informed, leaving the town naked and the schoolgirls exposed to Boko Haram attacks.

The obvious question then would have been, if the police who were in Dapchi were not told the military team in the town was being redeployed, was it the Governor of Yobe State, who was in Damaturu as the Chief Security Officer, who was informed?

Then, President Muhammadu Buhari declared the abduction a national tragedy, issued a public apology to the parents of the abducted schoolgirls and then stormed Dapchi to console the parents promising that all efforts would be made to free the girls but he also took advantage of the condolence visit for some photo opportunities.

In Dapchi, President Buhari declared that the security response of his administration to the abduction of the 110 school girls was quicker than how former President Jonathan responded to the abduction of the over 270 Chibok school girls, and this was even before any of the Dapchi school girls had been rescued.

Not long after President Buhari’s visit to Dapchi, Boko Haram drove into the town in a convoy of trucks, again without any confrontation, to drop off 105 of the abducted schoolgirls claiming that five of the girls had died from suffocation due to no fault of theirs during the drive back to their base.

The Federal Government in turn issued a statement that there had been “back-channel” communications with Boko Haram and with the help of some of the friends of Nigeria had succeeded in securing the release of the abducted girls without any conditions and without the payment of any ransom.

The timely directive of President Buhari to rescue the abducted girls by any means possible was credited as being responsible for the relatively short period these girls were in captivity when compared to the over three years that over 100 of the abducted Chibok school girls have now been in captivity.

This timely release did not seem to apply to one of the Dachi school girls who is still being held by Boko Haram for refusing to convert to Islam and our expectation is that the same back-channel means and friends can again be activated to secure her release.

Multiple questions are swirling in my head regarding what is turning out to be the Dapchi abduction saga but like what I discovered in the account I related at the beginning of this write-up, when the lives of schoolchildren become expendable, it is time for the parents to take action to save their children.

From what I can see in the North-East, starting from the incident in the Boys’ Secondary School, Buni Yadi, the Girls’ Secondary School in Chibok, and the recent attack at the girls’ school, Dapchi, the lives of schoolchildren, especially the female ones, are expendable both to Boko Haram and the government.

But then again when you consider the number of schools that have been destroyed by Boko Haram, the number of students killed, and the failure of the security agencies to adequately protect these schools, it is time parents took responsibility for the safety, protection and welfare of their children.

While, with Boko Haram, these parents know what to expect, it is no longer safe for them to assume that the government, whether at the federal, state or local government level, has the best interest of their children at heart.

The default position of parents in the North-East should no longer be to trust government when it has to do with the security of their children in schools especially for those of them attending female boarding secondary schools.

Omose, a political activist and lawyer, is based in Lagos

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