The story of Hanifa Abubakar is a pathetic one. She was a five-year-old child killed by the proprietor of her school, Nobel Kids Academy, which is at Kwanar Dakata in Nassarawa Lical Government Area of Kano State. From available reports, the school’s proprietor, Abdulmalik Tanko, abducted Hanifa late last year and took her to his house. He later contacted her family demanding a ransom of N6 million. Despite collecting N100, 000 as part of the ransom, he still went ahead to kill the innocent girl. The police reportedly arrested him while trying to collect the remaining part of the N6m ransom he demanded.
Hanifa’s gruesome murder typifies the killing of innocence and a reflection of the moral decadence and insecurity that pervade our society today. In recent times, many schools have been raided and many children killed by bandits and terrorists in Nigeria. Late 2020, bandits invaded Government Science Secondary School in Kankara, Katsina State, and abducted some 300 students. They took the students to a forest in Zamfara State. Happily, the children were released alive after six days in captivity.
From Kankara, the terrorists moved to Government Science Secondary School, Kagara, in Rafi Local Government Area of Niger State where they abducted about 27 students and 15 workers. One of the students was killed during the operation but the rest were released after some days in captivity. In April last year, bandits kidnapped 23 students of Greenfield University in Kaduna State. They demanded N800 million as ransom even as they later killed five of the students. Many schools, especially in the North, have been affected by terrorist activities of this nature.
In April 2014, 276 schoolgirls were abducted from their school in Chibok, Borno State, by the terrorist group, Boko Haram. Over 100 of the girls were released after over two years but many of them are still in captivity. Some of them died in the process. According to the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF), terrorists and bandits in Nigeria attacked no fewer than 25 schools, abducted 1,440 children and killed 16 of them in 2021 alone.
Obviously, children are soft targets. Terrorists easily kidnap them to achieve their sinister motives. But the manner Hanifa was kidnapped and killed looked more like what happens in horror movies. Tanko reportedly dismembered the little girl after killing her with rat poison and then buried her remains in a shallow grave on the school premises. Her family is traumatised. Her mother reportedly fainted and was admitted to the hospital.
Many Nigerians have called for capital punishment for the killer proprietor. Joining the call, President Muhammadu Buhari’s wife, Mrs. Aisha Buhari, shared a video of a sermon by an Islamic scholar, Abdallah Gadon Kaya, who demanded that Abdulmalik be killed openly the way he murdered Hanifa to serve as a deterrent to others. Mrs. Buhari expressed full support for the position of the cleric.
No doubt, we have a lot of ungoverned spaces in Nigeria and the country is turning to Somalia where law and order have no meaning. The spate of insecurity, especially killing of children, has further exposed the underbelly of Nigeria. It demoralises investors and gives our country a very bad image in the world. Consequently, many countries have warned their citizens to beware of coming to Nigeria. There is fear in the land and some families that can afford it are relocating. We cannot continue this way.
Government is reminded that its principal function is to protect life and property. President Buhari and Governor Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano State have promised justice for Hanifa. The immediate reaction of the Kano State Government was to close down the affected school indefinitely. Government also withdrew the operational certificates of all private schools in the state. The operators of the private institutions are expected to revalidate their operational certificates. We support the closing down of the affected institution. However, government should quickly decide the fate of the schoolchildren as the school is shut down, so that their education would not be jeopardised. We also understand the anger that propelled the shutting down of all private schools. However, punishing all private schools in this circumstance appears too draconian. What the government should do is to make sure there is adequate security in schools.
We wonder what has happened to safe school initiative launched in 2014 and aimed at promoting the safety of pupils, teachers and facilities in our schools. Nigeria is losing it and there is no value for life anymore. The killers of Hanifa must not go unpunished. Already, the police have arraigned the suspected killer together with two others, namely Hashim Isyaku and Fatima Jibrin, before a Kano Chief Magistrate Court sitting at Gidan Murtala in Kano. They were reportedly charged with criminal conspiracy, kidnapping, concealing and keeping in custody a kidnapped person as well as homicide, contrary to Sections 97, 274, 277 and 221 of the penal code. They have also been remanded in a correctional centre custody and the case adjourned to February 2, 2022.
While we call for adequate protection of all school children, government must ensure that this type of incident does not recur.