By Temitope Olodo
In less than 48 hours after Nigeria military shut down the northern part of the border with Cameroon, Boko Haram members demonstrated their diabolic nature by overrunning a school in Buni Yadi (remote part of Yobe State) killing over 29 students in one night.
In September 2013, a similar attack was carried out that led to the death of 40 students at an agricultural college during a night-time raid which attracted worldwide condemnation. It is a known fact that Western education is one of the prime targets of the Boko Haram sect; thus it is surprising that little has been done to improve understanding of school security.
Talking at the scene of the carnage, the Governor of Yobe State, Ibrahim Gaidam, expressed concern that military personnel around the jurisdiction were withdrawn and not available during the attack.
In 2012, 16 students were killed at the Bayero University, Kano by the same Boko Haram sect and to date more than 300 classrooms have been torched in insurgency across Northern Nigeria.
The lack of clear Counter Terrorism Strategy in Nigeria is affecting the containment approach adopted against Boko Haram and, unfortunately, due to the inability of the Nigeria Police Force to have a rapid response force to tackle insurgency within Nigeria. It is now important that educational institutions have their own counter-insurgency risk strategies with clear guidance on how best to contain sudden attacks by terrorist groups.
This is a counter-terrorism guidance for Nigeria educational establishments:
1. Schools must train teachers and support staff about evaluation and refine security plans, and test/exercise school crisis plans.
2. In hotspot terrorism areas, the school management must encourage personnel to maintain a “heightened awareness” for suspicious activity and to report same. This may include suspicious vehicles on and around campus, suspicious persons in and around school buildings including those taking photographs or videotaping, suspicious packages around the building perimeter and/or in the school, and suspicious information seeking efforts by phone or by unknown “visitors.”
Terrorist groups would carry out pre-attack survey of the area to understand accessibility and also define their exit strategy. Thus, school management must have their anti-insurgency attack protocols and ensure preventive measures are tested.
3. Provide special attention to perimeter security and access control issues. Have clearly defined perimeters for schools through the use of fences, gates, environmental design, signage, and other professional security measures.
4. Train custodial, maintenance, and grounds personnel on identifying and handling suspicious packages and items found on campus. Establish routine inspections of the building and grounds by trained facility personnel. Secure roof hatches and eliminate structural items that facilitate easy access to school roofs. Make sure that classroom windows are secured at the end of the school day. Utilize security technology and devices for monitoring and controlling exterior facilities as defined by professional security assessments.
5. Review staffing and supervision plans. Stress the importance of adult supervision before, during, and after school, both inside school buildings and on campus, and in common areas such as hallways, stairwells, restrooms, cafeterias, bus areas, and other high-traffic areas of the school campus.
6. Encourage staff to maintain a heightened awareness during recess, physical education classes, drop-off and dismissal, and other outside activities. Examine staffing levels and procedures for security personnel, school resource officers and other police personnel, and associated protection personnel.
7. Maintain a proactive effort of visitor access and control. Review security procedures for after-school and evening activities and building use. Utilize security technology and devices for monitoring and controlling interior facility access as defined by professional security assessments.
8. Verify the identity of service personnel and vendors visiting the school, including those seeking access to utilities, alarm systems, communications systems, maintenance areas, and related locations. Do not permit access and report suspicious individuals representing themselves as service or delivery personnel who cannot be verified.
9. Maintain detailed and accurate records of service and delivery personnel including a log (signed in by school personnel) of the full names, organization name, vehicle information (as appropriate), and other identification information.
10. Secure access to utilities, student hostels, and other maintenance/facilities operations locations.
11. Accessibility to school health and medical preparedness. Evaluate school nurse staffing levels. Make sure that schools maintain an adequate number and level of emergency kits and medical supplies. Maintain a stock of at least three days worth of medications for students required to have medications at school.
12. Consider offering first aid/ first responder training to faculty members who are interested in volunteering for such training so as to increase the number of trained individuals available to assist in the event of medical emergencies.
13. Conduct a status check of emergency communications mechanisms. Be sure that two-way radio units and cell phones are functioning, and have back-up batteries charged. Make sure that the public address system is fully functioning.
14. Review procedures for emergency communications with parents, notify parents in advance how school officials will communicate with them in an emergency, discuss importance of parents not flocking to the school if directed during an active crisis, review family reunification procedures and communicate other relevant information to ease parent concerns.
15. Review procedures for mobilizing mental health services for students and staff in the event of a crisis. Plan in advance how trained adults will communicate students with in a time of crisis.
16. Be familiar with community mental health resources for families and have plans for securing supplemental mental health services from outside of the school/district in a major crisis.
17. Evaluate and enforce employee screening procedures. Review guidelines for subcontractors and identify all individuals working on school property. Implement “information security” programs. Evaluate the storage, access, and security of sensitive information. Create guidelines and conduct periodic assessments of school information security protocol.
18. Identify higher-risk facilities, organizations, and potential terrorist targets in the community surrounding schools such entities might include military facilities, government offices and facilities, railroads, etc. Develop appropriate security countermeasures and crisis preparedness planning guidelines accordingly.
20. Develop, review, refine, and test crisis preparedness guidelines. Be sure to have guidelines for both natural disasters and acts of violence. Particular procedures for handling bomb threats, hostage situations, kidnappings, chemical and biological terrorism, and related information should be reviewed. Review with staff their specific roles and responsibilities consistent with your crisis guidelines. Identify back-up crisis team leaders in case normally assigned leaders are not at the building or are unable to lead.
21. In hotspot areas, the schools in that jurisdiction should setup a School Security Panel that brings together all school security managers to share best practice and develop an insurgency monitoring system.
22. The school management board must insist that Nigeria Police Force establish a Counter Terrorism Liaison Officer responsible for advising the school about security measures and best way to engage police support in time of emergency.
All the above 22 measures are preventive protocols that could be adopted in any educational institutions in Nigeria and it is important that school security managers in a given local government or town meet regularly in a network to share intelligence with the support of security services in their area.
Naturally, I would recommend the establishment of a Counter Terrorism Liaison Officer for each local government with the sole responsibility of ensuring appropriate security measures are in place.
There must be a constant review of lockdown and evacuation procedures. It is important to understand that they might have to simultaneous lockdown certain sections of their buildings while evacuating other parts of the school, so both lockdowns and evacuations may need to occur at the same time.
They will need to create a “Shelter in Place” plans to supplement lockdown and evacuation plans. Identify safe area in building to relocate students, preferably with no windows. For further information about “Shelter in Place” read my book “Nigeria Family Emergency Plan” (https://www.lulu.com/shop/temitope-olodo/nigeria-family-emergency-plan/paperback/product-21259184.html)
Finally, the Nigerian government needs to look into after care support for people that have witnessed this carnage. Some of them may need professional help for post-traumatic stress reactions, depression, anger, or other trauma-related mental health problems. Research has shown that 20% or more of people exposed to traumatic events typically develop clinically significant psychological problems.
Many more will experience less severe effects. If significant distress continues for many months, becomes more, rather than less, severe over time, or interferes with one’s daily ability to function, professional help should be considered.
Terrorists plan their attacks and select their targets carefully. However, a terrorist’s activities may be deterred through vigilance. Awareness and vigilance are the most inexpensive deterrents we have available to us in our fight against terrorism.
Temitope Olodo is a preventive counter terrorism expert based in the United Kingdom. He is the author of “Nigeria Family Emergency Plan” and “Counter Terrorism Guidance for Nigerian Religious Leaders”