Boko Haram’s kidnapping of nearly 300 schoolgirls from Chibok, Nigeria terrified the world; leaders and individuals from all over condemned the organization for its complete disregard for human rights. Now making headlines is another attack against victims not necessarily often thought about: schoolboys.
On Monday, November 10, a suicide bomber killed at least 46 schoolboys and injured another 80 who were attending an assembly in the northeastern Nigerian town of Potiskum in the state of Yobe. The schoolboys were between the ages of 10 and 20. Yobe governor Ibrahim Gaidam closed all public schools in the area, announcing, “Urgent action must be taken right now to restore a fast-waning public confidence by doing whatever it takes to stop the escalating violence.”
A man dressed as a student, wearing the school’s uniform, entered the assembly ground just before 8:00 a.m. He was supposedly carrying a heavy bag, which is against school rules. When questioned about it, he responded that he was using the bag to carry books. Then, a bomb went off.
Three weeks ago, Nigerian officials announced that they had reached a cease-fire with Boko Haram, yet the terrorist organization has managed to make gains since then. Indeed, the Nigerian government’s counterinsurgency plans have not successfully deterred Boko Haram’s aggression.
According to local journalist Mohammed Abubakar, Parents congregating at the school in Potiskum said that they “no longer had confidence” in the military “because they were not able to protect their lives and property.” A nearby resident added that there was “no fencing” and “Everybody can come inside the school.”
Boko Haram has not actually claimed responsibility for Monday’s attack, though this is a common occurance in individual attacks. Many believe that they have attacked about 10 schools in Potiskum alone. Indeed, Boko Haram has targeted non-Quranic schools for quite a few years now. It claims that public schooling is a means by which colonial powers estrange Africans from Islam.
Boko Haram’s actions here are a clear violation of international human rights law. According to Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, “Everyone has the right to education … It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups.”
By denying boys’ rights to seek a non-Quranic education, Boko Haram is directly violating Article 26 and are thus violating the law. Article 28 says, “Everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized.” However, Boko Haram has created chaos in Nigeria that prevents individuals from attaining the educational and cultural life they desire.
Article 18 specifically discusses religion; it reads, “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.” The terrorist organization blazing through Nigeria completely disregards this international human rights law by killing, injuring and kidnapping people who do not subscribe to their ways
Beyond international law, the Nigerian government needs to do a better job of enforcing its laws to prevent further violence against civilians at the hands of Boko Haram. In 2011, Nigeria’s Senate passed its first anti-terrorism act, which gave the police and security forces the ability to contain a property without a search warrant. It also permitted judges to order the detention of potential terrorists for up to 30 days if it is in the interest of public safety. In 2013, the Senate passed a bill that allowed for the use of the death penalty in cases in which a person has been found guilty of terrorism.
While these laws are steps in the right direction for the Nigerian government in combatting Boko Haram, they are not enough. The government should send greater military and police forces to defend schools at risk like the one in Potiskum from potential attacks. Furthermore, it must enhance its prosecutions to ensure more terrorists face the justice system. The innocent people of Potiskum deserve better than the horrific crimes committed by Boko Haram that they are forced to endure.