A Look At High Profile School Abduction Cases In Nigeria
In April 2014, the Nigerian government condemned the kidnapping of 276 girls from their school dormitory in Chibok, Borno State. Six years after, the Nigerian government again has condemned the abduction of 317 schoolgirls from a Government Girls Science Secondary School in Jangebe, Zamfara State.
Nigeria has over the years experienced a steady rise in violent killings, sexual violence, mass kidnappings and abduction of school children by bandits mostly in the north.
From 2014 till date, Nigeria has recorded five high-profile school abduction amongst many others.
Chibok Girls (2014)
In April 2014, 276 teenage girls were kidnapped from a Secondary School in the town of Chibok in Borno State, Nigeria.
The Boko Haram insurgents later claimed responsibility for the kidnap and demanded for a prisoner exchange.
On October 14, 2016, Boko Haram handed over 21 Chibok schoolgirls to authorities after a series of negotiations. Another missing girl was found in January 2017, 82 more girls were freed in May 2017, One of the girls was rescued in January 2018 and an unknown additional number of girls escaped on January 29th, 2021.
Till data, an estimated 112 girls are reportedly still being held captive by the the Boko Haram militants .
Dapchi Girls (2018)
In 2018, Boko Haram attacked another secondary school in Dapchi, kidnapping a total number of 110 students.
The source claimed five girls reportedly died in captivity and the rest were returned except the lone Christian girl Leah Sharibu who refused to abandon her faith and convert to Islam.
The girls were returned in March of the same year.
Kankara Kidnapping (2020)
In December 2020, over 344 pupils were kidnapped from an all boys’ secondary school on the outskirts of Kankara, Katsina State, northern Nigeria.
On December 14, 2020, Katsina state Governor Aminu Bello Masari said negotiations were ongoing for the release of the students. An audio message was reportedly released on December 15, from Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau, claiming responsibility for the kidnap. However, no proof was provided by the man in the audio.
Information minister Lai Mohammed debunked Governor Aminu Bello Masara’s statement while insisting the boys were kidnapped by bandits. Officials from Katsina and Zamfara states later said the abductions were carried out by criminal gangs, consisting mostly of former Fulani herders who wanted to take revenge against others through the kidnapping.
The kidnapped students were released on December 17 (6 days after their abduction) amidst varying accounts of which bandit group was truly responsible for their abduction.
A video trended some days later of one of the boys relating how they were told to say they were kidnapped by Boko Haram.
Kangara Abduction (2021)
On Wednesday, February 17, 2021, 27 students at the Government Science College, Kagara in Niger State were abducted by armed men dressed in military regalia.
Three staff members and 12 members of their families were also abducted at the school and a child trying to escape was shot dead by the armed men described as men dressed in military uniform.
The boys were released on Saturday, February 27 (10 days after their abduction). However, despite varying news in the media, the government has denied paying an alleged 800 million naira ransom for the release of the kidnapped students
Jangebe Girls (2021)
On Friday, February 26, 2021, Zamfara State Police Command announced the abduction of 317 girls from the Government Girls Science Secondary School, Jangebe.
According to the state’s information commissioner, Sulaiman Tunau Anka, heavily armed bandits arrived at the school in vehicles and forced the schoolgirls to walk into the surrounding bushes. 50 girls reportedly escaped the abduction.
How Has The Nigerian Government Responded ?
The Buhari administration was stepping in at the wake of the Chibok girls kidnapping and one of his campaign promises was to ensure the release of the remaining abducted Chibok Girls by Boko Haram terrorists.
According to data by the Nigeria Police Force, 886 kidnappings were recorded in the same year the Buhari administration began.
Despite the yearly increase in security budget, the administration has been unable to combat the growing rate of abduction incidents especially abduction of school children.
Data from Trading Economics showed that military expenditure in Nigeria increased to 1,907 USD Million in 2018 from 1621 USD Million in 2017 both years with cumulative violent crimes totalling at 10,591.
In 2018, Amnesty International reportedly accused the Buhari administration of failing to act on several intelligence tips that alerted them about the plot to kidnap the girls in Dapchi which led to death of 5 students.
That same year, The governor of Yobe State, Ibrahim Gaidam, blamed Nigerian Army soldiers for removing a military checkpoint from the town which lies approximately 275 km (170 miles) northwest of Chibok, where over 276 schoolgirls were kidnapped by Boko Haram in 2014.
While the government annually continues to condemn the steady rise in student abduction in Nigeria, it would seem that the Nigerian government is more focused on giving varying accounts on their progress or lack of it rather than coming up with a workable plan on returning the kidnapped children safely to their parents as well as curbing the rising rate of abduction as was promised.
The Ransom Issue
While the federal government continually presents itself as a non-ransom paying government, international bodies have countlessly shown the inconsistencies in the governments true stand.
In the case of the Dapchi girls abduction, the Nigerian government through its information minister Lai Mohammed told its citizens that no ransom was paid to Boko Haram.
Adding that the girls were unconditionally freed because the abductors felt morally burdened by their act.
‘’It is not true that we paid ransom for the release of the Dapchi girls, neither was there a prisoner swap to secure their release,
“What happened was that the abduction itself was a breach of the ceasefire talks between the insurgents and the government; hence it became a moral burden on the abductors. Any report that we paid ransom or engaged in prisoner swap is false,” he said.
However, in a report titled “22nd Report of the Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team, pursuant to resolution 2368 (2017) concerning Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant – ISIL – (Da’esh), Al-Qaida and associated individuals and entities.”, the United Nations said the girls were freed by Boko Haram terrorists in exchange for a large ransom payment.
The Nigerian government has continued to deny this allegation.
For the Kankara Boys Abduction, again Lai Mohammed denied the government of Nigeria paid any ransom for the release of the boys. He insisted that a joint rescue mission was launched by the Nigerian police, air force and army and this lead to the release of the boys by their captors.
However, reports claim that three victims of the attack said the kidnappers told them a sizable sum was paid for their release.