Easter tragedy in Gombe – DAILY TRUST EDITORIAL

The apparently wilful killing of eight children in Gombe last week while they were on a Boys Brigade procession during Easter was an unspeakable national tragedy and a reflection of how the value for human lives is diminishing among Nigerians. The tragedy was compounded by the fact the mass murder was committed by an officer of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, ASC Adamu Abubakar, who was himself killed by a mob at the scene.

From the accounts, the Boys Brigade of ECWA Churches in Gombe was on a procession for the annual Easter Rally late Sunday night when the officer, with a friend in his vehicle, rammed into them around Alheri junction and Biu Road. What the officer did led to the death of eight members of the Boys’ Brigade members, among them Jessy John, Irimiya Amos, Joseph Paul, Sunday Samuel, Ruth Samson, Paulina Yusuf, Keziah Amos and Joseph Daniel.

ASC Abubakar was said to have had an altercation with the boys on procession, which was amicably settled. But he reportedly made a U-turn, switched off his car’s headlights and rammed into the procession from behind. He deliberately and needlessly killed those young ones and left the church, family members and the entire Gombe State mourning the death of their loved ones.

It is very disturbing that an individual like ASC Abubakar found his way into a security service in this country. From an investigation conducted by this newspaper, it was discovered that ASC Abubakar was attached to Gombe State Government House, and that he had even worked as an orderly to the state’s Commissioner for Education, Dr. Habu Dahiru. To show how influential he was in the NSCDC, the late ASC Abubakar was said to be an ‘unofficial’ aide of the commandant, Hajiya Altine Sani Umar. It is really shocking that such a reckless officer, who reportedly attempted to kill his girlfriend over a disagreement, was retained in an outfit that is supposed to defend the ordinary Nigerian.

The Commandant of NSCDC in Gombe, Hajiya Altine Umar, claimed to have launched an investigation to “find out what led to the unfortunate incident.” Unfortunately, the outcome of such investigation cannot bring back to life the innocent children killed in the reckless act. It is, however, an opportunity for the NSCDC to purge itself of complacency over the kinds of individuals it recruits into the service.

NSCDC has an enormous responsibility, if the roles it plays in the security sector are compared with those played by its counterparts in other parts of the world. The cardinal assignment of NSCDC is the maintenance of peace. The NSDC Act states that in carrying out this assignment, members of the service are charged with the responsibility of protecting the Nigerian public from criminals. They are also supposed to rescue the civil population in case of emergencies. It is an irony, therefore that ASC Abubakar would be the officer who, instead of protecting youths, would be the one to deliberately kill them. It seems such an officer endured in the service because, in Nigeria, NSCDC is seen as an avenue for taking youths out of the burgeoning unemployment market, and many of them may not have been tutored on their relevance in the country’s security architecture.

We call on the service to properly screen the candidates it recruits into its fold. Those already in the service should also be screened to ensure that officers who do not realise the important role the NSCDC should play in the society are taken through a refresher course, while those who lack discipline are sent packing from the system. On its part, Gombe State Government should visit the family members of these young ones who are in pains at the moment and console them. The task of commiserating and helping these families should not be left to ECWA church or the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) alone. Also, government should erect a monument in Gombe to immortalise these young ones who died unnecessary deaths.

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