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CWA # 560, 26 September 2021

NIAS Africa Monitor
Africa’s Stolen Future:Child abductions, lost innocence, and a glaring reflection of State failure in Nigeria

  Apoorva Sudhakar

Who are the perpetrators? Why are they targeting students or children? What has been the state response? In what ways has the state failed to secure educational institutions which are supposed to be a safe space for children? What has been the impact of mass abductions from schools? Lastly, is there a way forward? 

Headlines from Nigeria have been flooded with updates on a series of mass abductions which has been on the rise since December 2020. As of August 2021, more than 1,000 students have been abducted and released, and details of some students remain unclear. 

The incidents bring forth a few questions; who are the perpetrators? Why are they targeting students or children? What has been the state response? In what ways has the state failed to secure educational institutions which are supposed to be a safe space for children? What has been the impact of mass abductions from schools? Lastly, is there a way forward? 

A brief timeline outlines the gravity of mass abductions in Nigeria, albeit the students, in most cases, have been freed after the government negotiated with the kidnappers. 

I
Zamfara, Katsina and beyond: 
A brief outline of mass abductions

A mass kidnapping in December 2020 gained international attention when more than 300 schoolboys were abducted from the Katsina State, which is also the home state of the President, Muhammadu Buhari. The boys were released on 18 December 2020 after negotiations. 

Meanwhile, a voice note claiming the attack made its way to the media. The speaker claimed to be Abubakar Shekau, the former leader of Boko Haram, and said “What happened in Katsina was done to promote Islam and discourage un-Islamic practices such as Western education."  The State Governor, however, blamed ‘bandits’ for the incident. He said the bandits were following the style of Boko Haram which is infamous for the 2014 Chibok abduction incident. 

A day later, on 19 December, 84 children, mostly girls, were abducted from an Islamic school in the same state; they were later rescued by the police. 

On 26 February 2021, it was reported that unidentified gunmen had abducted more than 300 girls from the school in Zamfara State in northwest Nigeria. However, the State Governor clarified that some of the girls had escaped, thereby bringing down the total number of abducted girls to 279. The incident unfolded over the wee hours of the day; despite a military checkpoint being just four minutes away from the school, the gunmen arrived on 20-odd motorcycles and directed the abducted girls into the forest, said a CNN source.  On 2 March 2021, Governor Bello Matawalle, announced the release of the girls. He said the government had engaged in peaceful negotiations with the kidnappers for the release. 

Similarly, a week prior to the above incident, on 17 February 2021, one student was killed and 42 people, including 27 students, were abducted from another school from the Niger State, again in northwest Nigeria. However, they were released ten days later, on 27 February, after ‘peaceful negotiations.’ 

On 11 March 2021, unidentified gunmen raided the Federal College of Forestry Mechanisation, located near a military base, in Kaduna state. Initially, around 180 students and staff were reported to have been abducted by the armed mob. However, the Nigerian army was able to rescue most of them; as of 14 March 2021, 39 students are still missing. 

This was the first instance wherein college students were targeted for mass abductions. In other cases of mass abductions, the kidnappers targeted students from boarding schools. 

Similarly, in April, 20 university students were kidnapped in Kaduna; one person was killed during the kidnapping; five students were killed in captivity; the rest 14 were released a month later in May. However, in May, 136 students were abducted from an Islamic seminary by bandits; 15 managed to escape, six died in captivity, and the rest were released in August. 

In June, 80 people, including students and teachers were kidnapped in Kebbi state; three students died in captivity; details of the rest are unclear as of August 2021. 

In July, 140 students were abducted from a Christian school; 15 were released on ransom; 56 were rescued and details about the remaining have not been specified as of August 2021.

 

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