Lecturers urge new president to solve security crisis
The university community has urged President-elect Muhammadu Buhari, a former general, to find urgent short- and long-term solutions to security challenges in the region when he is sworn in as the country’s ruler on 29 May.
In an interview with University World News, Dr Musa Abdullahi, a sociology lecturer at the University of Maiduguri in the northeast, painted a gloomy picture. As regional coordinator of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, or ASUU, he has first-hand knowledge of the unenviable plight of institutions.
“Insecurity surrounding campuses is traceable to violence perpetrated by Boko Haram,” he declared. Buhari must tackle the problem – insecurity was high on his campaign manifesto.
Abdullahi listed some of the security challenges facing tertiary institutions in the region.
He said the College of Administration in Konduga, which is affiliated to the University of Maiduguri, had been closed as a result of a series of attacks by Boko Haram militia.
“In one of the attacks, 32 female students were abducted by Boko Haram from the college female hostel. This took place months before the abduction of secondary school pupils in Chibok. The College of Administration remains closed for security reasons,” he affirmed.
El-Kanemi Basic Studies in Bama, also affiliated to the University of Maiduguri, had also been closed until further notice.
Criminology Professor Etannibi Alemika of the University of Jos confirmed that insecurity at the University of Maiduguri was acute – to the point that the university had to fly three PhD candidates to Abuja so that he could examine them on their work.
“The incoming administration must commission security experts to come up with viable solutions to secure campuses. There must be a dynamic collaboration between the university authorities and surrounding communities to protect campuses,” he declared.
Alemika pointed out that as a consequence of chronic insecurity, the best higher education students and staff in the northeast were leaving in droves.
Adamawa state hard hit
Tertiary institutions in Adamawa state have also endured terror attacks. At Adamawa State Polytechnic in March 2013, Boko Haram entered the campus, lined up students and killed some 100 of them before disappearing into mountains near the border with Cameroon.
Molem Ishaku, a history lecturer at Adamawa State University in Mubi and chair of an ASUU local chapter, recalled that in May 2014 Boko Haram invaded the campus and indiscriminately killed around 70 students and staff, including academics.
“The university had to relocate to a temporary campus in Yola, capital of Adamawa,” he said. It was now in the process of moving back after the liberation of Mubi. Ishaku quickly pointed out, though, that there were still security challenges in the area.
He put forward two intertwined solutions. First, the borders with neighbouring countries must be secured to prevent insurgents from infiltrating into Nigeria. Second, current efforts by soldiers to flush out Boko Haram from the Sambisa forest must be accelerated.
“Buhari must consolidate the gains of the Nigerian army in its efforts to destroy Boko Haram’s camps in Sambisa forest. Until this task is completed, we are not safe. Those insurgents that attacked our campuses came from this notorious forest,” affirmed Ishaku.
John Lamido, a political science lecturer at Gombe State University, said his institution had enjoyed relative peace because of the vigilance of security agencies.
“Boko Haram elements planted explosives in the senate chamber to kill as many teachers as possible. However, the explosives were detected by vigilant security forces,” he said.
Ahmed Ibrahim Karage, a lecturer in the department of business administration at Yobe State University and chair of the local ASUU chapter, suggested that the new government should investigate the sponsors of insurgency.
“Those behind it must be brought to book and punished as a deterrent to people who think they can sponsor insurgency and get away with it,” he argued.
One of the disturbing trends in the violence by Boko Haram is the deliberate destruction of schools, which are of course integral chains in the supply of qualified candidates to the region’s tertiary institutions.
Schools are being systematically destroyed by Boko Haram for two reasons.
First, commanders of the sect indulge in the capture and enslavement of young girls, for whom their lust appears insatiable. Second, the sect hates formal schools because it sees them as vehicles of ‘Western education’ and values that are antithetical to ‘Islamic values’.
Beyond the provision of security for tertiary institutions, lecturers have advised the Buhari administration to commission university researchers to look into how Boko Haram came into existence and was ‘allowed’ to flourish to the point that it became a threat to the existence of Nigeria.
“Two issues are involved here. First, the Buhari administration must, as a matter of urgency, provide education for young girls and boys for them to live a meaningful life and not be used as fodder for irresponsible politicians,” said a retired political scientist who did not want to be named.
Second, Buhari must monitor what goes on inside small mosques that appeared to be engaged in a campaign to poison the minds of young boys who become foot soldiers of Boko Haram.