Thursday, December 31, 2020

Nigerian breaks U.S varsity record

Nigerian scholar, Lanre Sanusi, has broken a five-year record at a United States varsity, Dallas Baptist University in Texas, after completing his Master’s programme in Business Administration (MBA) at the institution.

Sanusi broke a record, becoming the only Nigerian to have graduated from the great institution over the last five years, and with a fine result.

The Nigerian, a scholar, graduated with a 3.8 Cumulative Grade Points Average (CGPA) of the 4.0 obtainable mark set by the varsity for MBA students.

Sanusi, before now, had a Master’s degree in Accounting and Criminal Justice from the University of Texas.

He is also holds an associate degree holder from Tarrant County College, a Bachelor of Science from Texas varsity, and PhD in Law and Public Policy (In-view) from Northeast University in U.S.

Sanusi hails from Ijede in Ikorodu, and Amuwo-Odofin, and has contributed to the development of democracy in the country.

He has empowered youths, assist the needy, the aged, widows with his pet project, Apo Ariyo (Joyful groceries goodie pack). 

The Nation

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Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Gunmen kidnap Nigerian Bishop in Owerri

On Sunday night, armed men kidnapped the Auxiliary Bishop of Owerri Diocese, in Nigeria, Moses Chikwe, and his driver, whose name has not been released. The Archbishop of Owerri, Victor Obinna confirmed the kidnap in a statement made available to Vatican News, on his behalf by the Archdiocesan Chancellor, Msgr.Alphonsus Oha.

“His Grace, Most Rev. Archbishop Anthony J.V. Obinna, the Archbishop of Owerri painfully informs Christ’s faithful and God’s people at large that Most. Rev. Moses Chikwe, Auxiliary Bishop of Owerri was kidnapped late evening of Sunday 27 December 2020. The said incident took place around Site and Services, New Owerri, Imo State,” Msgr. Oha announced.

A sad day for Owerri. Solidarity and appeal for prayers

In an interview with Vatican News, Tuesday, Archbishop Obinna, said he was receiving messages of solidarity and assurances for prayer from within the Archdiocese and outside the country by people alarmed that such a thing could happen to a Bishop. The Archbishop said the kidnap was a sign that the Church is not insulated from ordinary people’s suffering.

Bishop Chikwe “was kidnapped two days ago as he was returning from a visit to his residence in Owerri, a mile or two away from the city of Owerri, where he has his residence. Kidnapping has, of course, been going on in Nigeria, in different parts of Nigeria. That it has happened to my Auxiliary Bishop shows that the security situation in Nigeria is very bad. The protection, the security that the people ought to have is not very effective. We have periodically raised the alarm about the state of insecurity in which we find ourselves …..The Church is not far removed from the people. We are not insulated from the suffering of the people. We take it as part of our testimony that we have to bear,” Archbishop Obinna told Vatican News.

Police have teams looking for the Bishop

According to Nigerian media, Bishop Chikwe’s car and episcopal vestments were abandoned by the criminals near the Assumpta Cathedral premises of Owerri.

Catholic news Agenzia Fides reports that the police have activated two special teams, the Quick Intervention Team (QUIT) and the Anti Kidnapping Unit (AKU), to find Bishop Chikwe and arrest his kidnappers.

The kidnapping of the Auxiliary Bishop of Owerri comes just a week after the abduction in the State of another Catholic religious priest, Fr Valentine Oluchukwu Ezeagu, abducted on 15 December by armed men while on his way to his father’s funeral. The priest was later released on 16 December.

Bishop Chikwe, 53, was appointed Auxiliary Bishop of Owerri in October 2019.

A chilling message about personal safety

In recent years, Nigerian priests and religious women have become targets of kidnappings. Criminals kidnap religious women and priests on the assumption that congregations or dioceses will pay a ransom for the release of one of their own. The abductions of Church personnel in Nigeria has sent a chilling message about personal safety.

It is not only Church personnel who are targets of kidnappings and abductions. While Nigeria’s politicians, wealthy businessmen and women and foreign diplomats react with more armed security and blacked-out car windows, Church personnel and ordinary Nigerians do not have this option.

By Paul Samasumo 

Vatican News

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Boko Haram Landmines Kill 11 Nigerian Security Personnel

Landmines planted by Boko Haram jihadists have killed 11 security personnel, including four soldiers in northeast Nigeria, security sources said Tuesday.

Seven hunters recruited to help the military fight the Islamist insurgents were killed on Tuesday when their vehicle hit a landmine in the village of Kayamla, outside Borno State's capital Maiduguri.

"Seven hunters died in the explosion and nine others are badly injured," Babakura Kolo, the head of a local anti-jihadist militia, told AFP.

"Their vehicle hit a landmine as they were pursuing Boko Haram insurgents," he added.

Another local militiaman confirmed the incident.

Four Nigerian soldiers were killed on Monday when their vehicle hit a landmine planted by Boko Haram fighters in Logomani village near the border with Cameroon, two security sources told AFP.

There has been a sharp increase in attacks in northeast Nigeria since the start of the month.

Last week 40 loggers were kidnapped and three killed near the Cameroonian border.

On Christmas Eve, Boko Haram killed 11 people, burnt a church and seized a priest in a village near Chibok, where it notoriously kidnapped more than 200 schoolgirls six years ago.

Boko Haram and a splinter group known as ISWAP have killed 36,000 people in the northeast and forced roughly two million to flee since 2009, according to the United Nations.


Tuesday, December 29, 2020

More work needed to identify risk from Nigeria variant, says researcher

A researcher who identified a novel coronavirus variant in Nigeria has cautioned against automatic assumptions that it poses similar risks to strains that have emerged elsewhere.

The new strain was uncovered last week by scientists at the African Centre of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Diseases (ACEGID) in southeastern Nigeria.

ACEGID director Christian Happi said the variant was found in two out of 200 samples of virus collected from patients between August 3 and October 9.

The two samples were taken from the same state in Nigeria at different times.

They show a variant "different to the one that has been circulating in Nigeria, different from the one in South Africa and different from the one in the U.K.," he said in an interview with AFP.

Britain tightened restrictions after finding a new strain there that it said was more contagious than initial forms of the virus.

South Africa says a new strain detected there could explain the rapid spread of a second wave that has especially affected younger people.

Happi stressed that scientists were racing to unlock knowledge about the Nigeria strain and urged people not to "extrapolate."

"We have no idea, no evidence to say that this variant is linked to the spike we are seeing in Nigeria or not," said Happi, explaining that samples from the latest cases were being analysed for an answer.

Nigeria has recorded more than 82,000 cases of COVID-19, of which 1,246 were fatal.

Compared to the country's population of some 200 million people, this number is tiny.

However, the tally of cases has been rising by several hundred a day since the start of December. There has been a major increase in Lagos, Nigeria's economic capital, prompting the authorities there to reinstate a curfew and gatherings of more than 50 people.

But the number of deaths in Nigeria has not experienced a proportionate surge.


Happi, a Cameroon-raised, Harvard-trained professor of molecular biology, works in a state-of-the-art lab in Ede, southeastern Nigeria.

It is one of only 12 in Africa designed to sequence viral genetic code and track mutations -- telltale changes that can be used to build a family tree of the microbe.

From this, the scientists at Ede believe the variant evolved "within Nigeria, I don’t think it was imported from anywhere," said Happi.

"When changes occur, what matters most, what we’re focusing on, is the spike protein," he said, referring to the prong-like protein by which coronavirus latches onto a cell and infects it.

Happi said there was a "tendency to extrapolate" after a discovery of this kind.

But he cautioned strongly against automatically assuming that what happened in one population setting would also happen elsewhere.


"A lot of the models drawn at the onset of the pandemic, all got it wrong," he said.

"They were saying by now that a third of the African population would be dead. So people need to think," he said.

"It is very wrong to assume models based on knowledge that are not accurate or on assumptions that are dependent on data obtained from Europe or the U.S. and transpose it to a continent like Africa -- we are genetically different, we are immunologically different."

All of Africa has recorded 2.4 million cases, according to an AFP tally -- just 3.6 per cent of the global tally, although testing is also far less widespread. The continent's death toll of 57,000 is less than a fifth of that of the United States.

John Nkengasong, head of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, the African Union's health agency, also urged patience as scientists worked to understand the Nigerian variant.

"Give us some time," he said in a videoconference from Addis Ababa. "It's still very early."

Nkengasong appealed to Africans not to let down their guard, warning of the danger of a second wave of infection.

By Louise Dewast

CTV News

Monday, December 28, 2020

Nigeria is Bitcoin Leader in Africa, Says Paxful

Recent data from Paxful has revealed that Nigeria leads Africa in peer-to-peer trading in bitcoin, posting monthly volumes of over $66 million in 2020.

According to a report, the country is closely followed by Ghana, Kenya, and South Africa respectively.

With over 620,000 active Nigerian users on its platform, Paxful in the report disclosed that Nigerians traded around $15 million worth of Bitcoin in April alone, making Nigeria the leader in the African region.

“Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, and South Africa are our main markets in Africa. There’s no question that emerging markets are the future of the crypto economy.
“That’s been clear to us for some time, as we see on a daily basis how tech-savvy Africans are using Bitcoin to invest, trade, send money abroad and accumulate wealth.

“Bitcoin helps improve lives and gives opportunities for personal and entrepreneurial development. Paxful is all about bringing financial inclusion to the emerging world and we’re ecstatic to help so many people with limited access to the traditional financial services,” Paxful CEO and co-founder Ray Youssef said.

It noted that Nigeria has continued to witness a huge rise in the adoption of digital money as a means to store value, preserve wealth, trade, and settle day-to-day payments.

“Another great use case for crypto, popular with the local traders and businesses in Nigeria, is helping them hedge against weak naira partially caused by the shortage of US Dollars in the country,” it added.

Since launching five years ago, global transactions on the Paxful platform have grown by over 25 per cent from October 2019 to October 2020.
A large proportion of the transactions is attributed to the African market, with Nigeria leading the pack.

“Committed to providing users with a cost-efficient, accessible trading system on its platform, Paxful is strengthening Nigeria’s crypto market with varied payment methods that meet the needs of users.

“The company currently has over 300 payment methods all geared to meet users’ needs and includes a variety of local payment options, including BuyCoins, Bitsika, and Carbon.

“Paxful is a people-powered marketplace for money transfers with anyone, anywhere, at any time. Their mission is to empower the forgotten four billion unbanked and underbanked around the world to have control of their money using peer-to-peer transactions.

“The company has over 4.5 million users globally who you can instantly buy and sell Bitcoin (BTC) and Tether (USDT) using over 300 different payment methods,” it added.

This Day

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Gender conversion 'therapy' made me suicidal. I fear for other young Nigerians

When I was nine, my parents took me to a traditional healer. He used a razor to make three incisions on the insteps of my feet, my wrists, my elbows, my forehead and on the back of my neck. As blood started to flow, the healer rubbed a concoction of herbs into the incisions and gave me a potion to drink. He took alligator pepper and rubbed it on various parts of my body. There was a rooster, into which he cast the “demon” inside me. The rooster was slaughtered and thrown into the river, supposedly taking my sexuality with it.

In boarding school, I met a boy who I would say was my first love. We talked about everything and liked to take long walks. But he struggled. I watched him struggle to accept his sexuality. He felt there was something wrong with him but I didn’t know how to help him. For me it was different. It wasn’t just about sexuality; it was also about gender. I was born male but I have never felt like a man.

When I was 22, in university, I met a transgender woman. She was a lot more open, more cosmopolitan, more upfront about what she wanted. I’d never met anyone like her. We had a sisterhood –– fun, graceful, pure. It was as if the scales fell from my eyes.

My family was not happy about our friendship. They said I was bringing shame to the family. They took me to a Catholic priest to cast away the stubborn spirit that made me different. The priest told me that God had intended a great path for me, but some negative force had diverted me from it. He made me believe I could change. For a year, I fasted, I went to mass and took communion. I recited all the prayers as though my life depended on it. And it felt as if it did, you see, with the way everyone treated me.

But I was all right. I always was. The main issue with conversion therapy is that victims don’t talk about it. It tends to make something that is so wrong look right. The worst part is when they are able to convince you that change can happen, that there is indeed something wrong with you, that you are a mistake of nature, an anomaly. It messes you up.

The encounter with the healer was many years ago, but the memory is still harrowing. What part of me has been lost in an effort to make me fit a heteronormative, socially acceptable form? I’m 43 now. Still gay, still a trans woman. Still looking over my shoulder fearing that someone might want to hurt me. I’m much more scared than the average person. And I’m not the only one. Exposure to gender identity conversion efforts can have severe adverse effects on mental health. There are thousands of young people in Nigeria being subjected to these dangerous practices in a bid to “cure” them.

There are no structures in Nigeria to deal with these psychological scars. That’s why we need our community. We need to have conversations about safety and security, especially with regard to familial relationships and dating. We need to openly talk about the devastating impact of conversion therapy. I have contemplated suicide several times. I attempted it once; relieved that it failed.

I’ve noticed that when people have a personal experience –– they find out their partner or friend or child is LGBTQ+ –– they become less aggressive. I think my mother always knew, even as she went through the motions of trying to convert me. At some point she realised it wasn’t something she could struggle against. My father never accepted my reality, even until he died. He didn’t know how to deal with it. People need to realise that the world is not black and white; it’s in colour.

Many people, like my friend in university, left for other countries where they thought they could live freely. But nowhere is safe. Brazil, Ecuador, Taiwan, Malta and Germany are the only countries in the world that have banned conversion therapy. Nigeria is a hostile place. The Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act makes our existences illegal. I have not been able to undergo surgery here because there’s no access to medical care to support transitioning.

I know that if I look after myself, I will be fine. I’m concerned about the younger ones. The Commonwealth Equality Network is working towards decriminalisation of homosexuality in Commonwealth countries. I look forward to freedom. It may not be in my time. But we must keep fighting. Just so future generations will not live through the same things I have lived through.

The author, from 
Nigeria, wished to remain anonymous to protect her safety. 

The Guardian 

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At least 40 feared abducted in northeast Nigeria

Three loggers have been found dead and at least 40 more feared abducted by Boko Haram fighters in northeastern Nigeria.

Sources and residents told AFP news agency on Saturday that the loggers were rounded up by the fighters on Thursday in Wulgo forest near the town of Gamboru where they went to collect firewood.

“A group of more than 40 loggers left Shehuri on the outskirts of Gamboru on Thursday and never returned by evening as usual,” said a group leader Umar Kachalla, who was involved in the search.

“On Friday, we mobilised men and went deep into the forest where we recovered three bodies identified to be among the loggers, without a trace of their colleagues.”

The missing loggers were presumed kidnapped by the group, who are known to maintain camps in the forest, said Kachalla, a view widely shared by other residents.

The fighters have increasingly targeted loggers and farmers in the northeast, accusing them of passing information to the military and local armed groups.

‘Shot from behind’

“We believe the men were taken by Boko Haram who have been attacking loggers in the forest,” said Shehu Mada, leader of another armed group.

“From all indication, the three dead loggers were shot when they tried to escape as they all were shot from behind.”

The area has been without telephone services for years following the destruction of masts in Boko Haram attacks, forcing residents to rely on Cameroon’s mobile phone networks.

Gamboru loggers have suffered repeated Boko Haram attacks and abductions, especially around Wulgo forest.

In November 2018, Boko Haram seized some 50 loggers on their way to collect firewood in the forest, after killing 49 loggers in two previous attacks.

Babandi Abdullahi, a resident, said military officials had warned loggers not to venture deep into the forest to avoid the attacks.

People are compelled to take that risk because nearby vegetation has been depleted by constant logging, Abdullahi said.

According to the UN, Boko Haram and a splinter group known as ISWAP have killed 36,000 people in the northeast and forced roughly two million to flee since 2009.

Earlier this month, Boko Haram claimed responsibility for the kidnapping of more than 300 schoolboys who were taken after an attack on their school in Katsina’s Kankara village, in northwest Nigeria. All the boys have since been rescued.

Al Jazeera

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Thursday, December 24, 2020

New virus variant appears to emerge in Nigeria

Another new variant of the coronavirus appears to have emerged in Nigeria, Africa’s top public health official said Thursday, but he added that further investigation was needed.

The discovery could add to new alarm in the pandemic after similar variants were announced in Britain and South Africa, leading to the swift return of international travel restrictions and other measures just as the world enters a major holiday season.

“It’s a separate lineage from the UK and South Africa,” the head of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, John Nkengasong, told reporters. He said the Nigeria CDC and the African Center of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Diseases in that country — Africa’s most populous — will be analyzing more samples.

“Give us some time ... it’s still very early,” he said.

The alert about the apparent new variant was based on two or three genetic sequences, he said, but that and South Africa’s alert late last week were enough to prompt an emergency meeting of the Africa CDC this week.

The variant was found in two patient samples collected on Aug. 3 and on Oct. 9 in Nigeria’s Osun state, according to a working research paper seen by The Associated Press.

Unlike the variant seen in the UK, “we haven’t observed such rapid rise of the lineage in Nigeria and do not have evidence to indicate that the P681H variant is contributing to increased transmission of the virus in Nigeria. However, the relative difference in scale of genomic surveillance in Nigeria vs the U.K. may imply a reduced power to detect such changes,“ the paper says.

The news comes as infections surge again in parts of the African continent.

The new variant in South Africa is now the predominant one there, Nkengasong said, as confirmed infections in the country approach 1 million. While the variant transmits quickly and viral loads are higher, it is not yet clear whether it leads to a more severe disease, he said.

“We believe this mutation will not have an effect” on the deployment of COVID-19 vaccines to the continent, he said of the South Africa variant.

South Africa’s health minister late Wednesday announced an “alarming rate of spread” in that country, with more than 14,000 new cases confirmed in the past day, including more than 400 deaths. It was the largest single-day increase in cases.

The country has more than 950,000 infections and COVID-19 is “unrelenting,” Health Minister Zwelini Mkhize said.

The African continent now has more than 2.5 million confirmed cases, or 3.3% of global cases. Infections across the continent have risen 10.9% over the past four weeks, Nkengasong said, including a 52% increase in Nigeria and 40% increase in South Africa.

For the first time since confirming sub-Saharan Africa’s first virus case in February, Nigeria is in the spotlight during this pandemic as infections surge.

“Over recent weeks, we’ve had a huge increase in number of samples to (Nigeria CDC) reference lab,” the CDC director-general Chikwe Ihekweazu tweeted on Thursday. “This has led to an unusual delay with testing, but we’re working around the clock,“ with many colleagues cutting short their holidays and returning to work.

Nigeria now has more than 80,000 confirmed coronavirus cases.

By Cara Anna


Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Video - How can a food security crisis be avoided in northern Nigeria?


Attacked by armed bandits, and being kidnapped or forced to pay levies before they can reach their farmlands. Farmers in Northern Nigeria are caught between protecting their lives, and their livelihoods. Deteriorating security in the Northwest is reducing food reserves and adding to the nation's food crisis. It's estimated output has dropped by sixty percent. The violence is compounding challenges caused by climate change and the coronavirus pandemic. The UN has warned people in parts of the Northeast are also at risk of famine.

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Video - Organizers in Nigeria targeting to turn drifting into an official sport


Nigeria has continued its push into the world of motor sports in 2020. The country's annual car drifting competition is getting bigger. And the organisers are targeting to turn this event into an official sport for local competitions and export.CGTN's Kelechi Emekalam reports.

Jamaica welcomes historic flight from Nigeria

Jamaica yesterday welcomed its first flight from Lagos, Nigeria to the Sangster International Airport in St James.

Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator Kamina Johnson Smith was on hand to greet Nigeria's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffery Onyeama, along with other delegates who arrived on the flight carrying just under 150 persons.

The minister said that she was “truly delighted that after 400 years of shared history, Jamaica and Nigeria could celebrate this historic direct charter flight from Lagos to Montego Bay.

''The context of this flight is significant as both countries are celebrating 50 years of diplomatic relations this year."

“The fact that we have been able to make the flight happen against the backdrop of the major global challenges that defined 2020, make it that much more significant," she added.

Johnson Smith said that the pandemic has deepened the need to connect “and this makes this coming home of family even more special.

The foreign affairs minister also expressed hope that the Air Peace charter flight will "represent the start of a new era of robust cooperation between Jamaica and Nigeria and ultimately the rest of Africa and the wider Caribbean."

At the same time, she noted that "the flights hold considerable promise for increased people to people contact through tourism and increased trade and investment opportunities."

Johnson Smith praised the ministers of tourism and transport and mining for their support of the flight arrangements and expressed confidence in the programme in place.

She also shared that with collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Wellness, Ministry of National Security and other critical stakeholders, all protocols are in place to safely welcome air crew and passengers to the Resilient Corridor.

Jamaica Observer

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Monday, December 21, 2020

At least 11 injured in tanker explosion in Nigeria

At least 11 people were injured after a tanker loaded with diesel exploded in Lagos, Nigeria’s economic hub on Saturday, local police said.

The explosion occurred when the tanker rolled and collided with another articulated truck carrying goods and a salon car along the Lagos-Ibadan expressway, Olusegun Ogungbemide, head of the Federal Road Safety Corps in Lagos, said in a statement on Saturday evening.

He said about 11 passengers were involved in the crash but no death was reported, and rescue teams from various agencies were quickly mobilized to the scene for first aid.

“The rescue team of Lagos Fire service and other emergency responders are making frantic efforts to extinguish the fire,” said Ogungbemide.

The commander also urged the public to be more vigilant while driving on the road, especially during this festive period.

Deadly road accidents are frequently reported in Nigeria due to overloading, poor road conditions and reckless driving.


More students abducted in Nigeria but are quickly rescued

Gunmen in Nigeria abducted more than 80 Islamic school students in northwestern Katsina state Saturday night, but the pupils were quickly rescued by security forces after a fierce gun battle, police announced Sunday.

The foiled abduction comes less than two days after the release of 344 schoolboys who were kidnapped in the same area on Dec. 11. The incidents have highlighted the insecurity in northern Nigeria.

Saturday night's attempted kidnapping took place in Dandume, about 64 kilometres (40 miles) from Kankara, the town where the earlier kidnapping of schoolboys occurred.

The bandits had already abducted four people and stolen a dozen cows when they ran into the schoolchildren who were on their way home from a celebration, Katsina state police spokesman, Gambo Isa, said early Sunday morning. Police and a local community self-defence group rescued the children from the bandits after a gunfight, he said.

"The teams succeeded in dislodging the bandits and rescued all the 84 kidnapped victims and recovered all the 12 rustled cows." said Isa in a statement. "Search parties are still combing the area with a view of arresting the injured bandits and/or the recovery of their dead bodies."

Dandume, an area bordering the northern part of Kaduna state, is one of the region's hotspots for banditry and kidnapping, according to residents.

"Dandume is a no-go-area for many of us because of the high level of crimes and insecurity being perpetrated by armed bandits," said Saidu Lawal, an official of a local civic group in Katsina, told The Associated Press.

"Despite government efforts to open up the area by constructing roads leading from the metropolitan locations to the hinterlands of Dandume ... the banditry still persists," said Lawal. "On many occasions, the bandits block the Dandume-Sabuwa highways to attack travellers. It was based on that reason that many people have abandoned the new route."

By Haruna Umar


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Friday, December 18, 2020

Video - Freed schoolboys arrive in Nigeria’s Katsina week after abduction

More than 300 schoolboys who were kidnapped in northwestern Nigeria a week ago have arrived in Katsina city where they will be reunited with their families. They will first be checked by doctors. The boys were taken on Friday last week by gunmen, thought to be linked to Boko Haram, who raided a school. Al Jazeera's Ahmed Idris reports live outside the government house of Katsina state.

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Boko Haram kidnapped 300 children in addition to the 200 schoolgirls still missing

300 Nigerian students kidnapped by Boko Haram returning home

More than 300 schoolboys abducted last week by armed men in northwest Nigeria have been released, a government official said Thursday.

In an announcement on Nigerian state TV, NTA, Katsina State Gov. Aminu Bello Masari said the 344 boarding school students were turned over to security officials and were being brought to the state capital, where they will get physical examinations before being reunited with their families.

“I think we can say … we have recovered most of the boys, if not all of them,” Masari said. He did not disclose if the government paid any ransom.

President Muhammadu Buhari welcomed their release, calling it “a big relief to their families, the entire country and to the international community,” according to a statement from his office. Amid an outcry in the West African nation over insecurity in the north, Buhari noted his administration’s successful efforts to secure the release of previously abducted students. He added that the government “is acutely aware of its responsibility to protect the life and property of the Nigerians.”

“We have a lot of work to do, especially now that we have reopened the borders,” Buhari said, acknowledging that the Northwest region “presents a problem” the administration “is determined to deal with.”

Boko Haram claimed responsibility for last Friday’s abduction of the students from the all-boys Government Science Secondary School in the Katsina State village of Kankara. The jihadist group carried out the attack because it believes Western education is un-Islamic, factional leader Abubakar Shekau said in a video earlier this week. More than 800 students were in attendance at the time of the attack. Hundreds escaped, but it was believed that more than 330 were taken.

For more than 10 years, Boko Haram has engaged in a bloody campaign to introduce strict Islamic rule in Nigeria’s north. Thousands have been killed and more than 1 million have been displaced by the violence. The group has been mainly active in northeast Nigeria, but with the abductions from the school in Kankara, there is worry the insurgency is expanding to the northwest.

The government had said it was negotiating with the school attackers, originally described as bandits. Experts say the attack was likely carried out by local gangs, who have staged increasingly deadly assaults in northwest Nigeria this year, and could possibly have been collaborating with Boko Haram. Armed bandits have killed more than 1,100 people since the beginning of the year in the region, according to Amnesty International.

Parents of the missing students have been gathering daily at the school in Kankara. News of the students’ release came shortly after the release of a video Thursday by Boko Haram that purportedly showed the abducted boys.

In the more than six-minute video seen by Associated Press journalists, the apparent captors tell one boy to repeat their demands that the government call off its search for them by troops and aircraft.

The video circulated widely on WhatsApp and first appeared on a Nigerian news site, HumAngle, that often reports on Boko Haram.

Usama Aminu, a 17-year-old kidnapped student who was eventually able to escape, told the AP that his captors wore military uniforms. He said he also saw gun-toting teens, some younger than him, aiding the attackers.

He said the kidnapped boys tried to help each other as bandits flogged them from behind to get them to move faster and forced them to lie down under large trees when helicopters were heard above.

Aminu escaped at night. He was able to return home after being found by a resident in a mosque who gave him a change of clothes and money.

Government officials said earlier this week that police, the air force and the army tracked the kidnappers to a hideout in the Zango/Paula forest.

Katsina state shut down all its boarding schools to prevent other abductions. The nearby states of Zamfara, Jigiwa and Kano also have closed schools as a precaution.

Masari said the government will work with the police to increase private security at the Kankara school “to make sure that we don’t experience what we have experienced in the last six days.”

Only one policeman was working at the school when it was attacked.

Friday’s abduction was a chilling reminder of Boko Haram’s previous attacks on schools. In February 2014, 59 boys were killed when the jihadists attacked the Federal Government College Buni Yadi in Yobe state.

In April 2014, Boko Haram kidnapped more than 270 schoolgirls from a government boarding school in Chibok in northeastern Borno state. About 100 of those girls are still missing.

In 2018, Boko Haram Islamic extremists brought back nearly all of the 110 girls they had kidnapped from a boarding school in Dapchi and warned: “Don’t ever put your daughters in school again.”

By Carley Petesch And Haruna Umar 


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Thursday, December 17, 2020

Families of kidnapped Nigerian boys fear time running out

Families of more than 300 kidnapped Nigerian schoolboys worried they may be radicalised or held for years as security forces combed a vast forest on Wednesday for armed captors possibly from the jihadist Boko Haram movement.

According to an unverified audio clip, the group - whose name means “Western education is forbidden” - was responsible for last week’s raid on an all-boys school in the town of Kankara in northwestern Katsina state.

Parents fear time may be running out: Boko Haram has a history of turning captives into jihadist fighters.

“They will radicalise our children if the government does not act fast to help us rescue them,” said trader Shuaibu Kankara, crying as he spoke from home.

His 13-year-old son, Annas, was among those abducted from the Government Science school on Friday night.

Two other sons managed to escape, he added, when men on motorbikes with AK-47 assault rifles stormed the school and marched the boys into a forest.

Some experts feared the boys could be taken over the border into Niger or at least split into groups to make finding them harder.

Late on Wednesday, Katsina state Governor Aminu Bello Masari told the BBC Hausa service that the estimated 320 missing boys were in the forests of neighbouring Zamfara state.

Earlier in the day, an aide to Masari said soldiers and intelligence officers had been combing the Rugu forest, which stretches across Katsina, Zamfara, Kaduna and Niger states, in search of the boys.

Boko Haram and its offshoot, Islamic State West Africa Province, have waged a decade-long insurgency estimated to have displaced about 2 million people and killed more than 30,000. They want to create states based on their extreme interpretation of sharia law.

If Boko Haram carried out the kidnapping in an area where it had not previously claimed attacks, it would mark an alarming expansion beyond its northeastern base, security experts say. But it may alternatively have purchased the boys from criminal gangs in the northwest with which it has been building ties.

Vincent Foucher, a security analyst at the French National Centre for Scientific Research, said Boko Haram earlier this year released videos in which it said groups in the northwest had pledged allegiance to its movement.

The abduction echoes Boko Haram’s 2014 kidnapping of more than 270 schoolgirls in the northeastern town of Chibok. The attack gave rise to a global #BringBackOurGirls campaign.

Six years on, only about half the girls have been found or freed. Others were married off to fighters, while some are assumed to be dead.

“We pray it’s not going to be another situation of the Chibok girls’ abduction,” said Ahmed Bakori, a farmer whose 14-year-old son, Abubakar, was among those taken.

About two dozen parents came to the Government Science compound on Wednesday and prayed in the school mosque. The compound, composed of white single-storey buildings built on dusty red soil, was quiet.

Abubakar Lawal, who has two children among the captives, said he did not believe Boko Haram’s claim and would wait with patience and prayers. “The government has to do diplomacy in a way to rescue these people,” he said outside the school.

The attack is awkward for President Muhammadu Buhari, who comes from Katsina and arrived on a private visit hours before the kidnapping. Buhari has repeatedly said that Boko Haram has been “technically defeated.”

A former military ruler, Buhari was elected in 2015 in large part due to his pledge to crush the insurgency. Under his predecessor, Goodluck Jonathan, Boko Haram grew in strength and controlled territory around the size of Belgium.

Across the nation, anger and anxiety were building over the abductions, with #BringBackOurBoys trending on Twitter.

Military spokesman John Enenche said troops were determined to rescue the boys alive and had no evidence any were dead.

He gave new details of the school attack and subsequent firefight with guards. Soldiers arrived but could only shoot in the air as the assailants used the boys as shields.

Jacob Zenn, a Boko Haram expert at the U.S.-based Jamestown Foundation think tank, said the longer the boys were with their captors, the likelier their indoctrination would be. He cited the example of some Chibok girls who chose to stay with Boko Haram.

“The longer this goes on, the more pressure will grow on the government to negotiate, and the more leverage the militants will have over the government,” he added.

By Afolabi Sotunde


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Wednesday, December 16, 2020

In Nigeria, nun cares for abandoned children labeled as witches

Three years after taking in 2-year-old Inimffon Uwamobong and her younger brother, Sister Matylda Iyang finally heard from the mother who had abandoned them.

"Their mother came back and told me that she (Inimffon) and her younger sibling are witches, asking me to throw them out of the convent," said Sister Iyang, who oversees the Mother Charles Walker Children Home at the Handmaids of the Holy Child Jesus convent.

Such an accusation is not new to Sister Iyang.

Since opening the home in 2007, Sister Iyang has cared for dozens of malnourished and homeless children from the streets of Uyo; many of them had family who believed they were witches.

The Uwamobong siblings became well and were able to enroll in school, but Sister Iyang and other social service providers are faced with similar needs.

Health care and social workers say parents, guardians and religious leaders brand children as witches for different reasons. Children subject to such accusations are often abused, abandoned, trafficked or even murdered, according to UNICEF and Human Rights Watch.

Throughout Africa, a witch is culturally understood to be the epitome of evil and the cause of misfortune, disease and death. Consequently, the witch is the most hated person in African society and subject to punishment, torture and even death.

There have been reports of children -- labeled as witches -- having had nails driven into their heads and being forced to drink cement, set on fire, scarred by acid, poisoned and even buried alive.

In Nigeria, some Christian pastors have incorporated African witchcraft beliefs into their brand of Christianity, resulting in a campaign of violence against young people in some locales.

Residents of the state Akwa Ibom -- including members of the Ibibio, Annang and the Oro ethnic groups -- believe in the religious existence of spirits and witches.

Father Dominic Akpankpa, executive director of the Catholic Institute of Justice and Peace in the Diocese of Uyo, said the existence of witchcraft is a metaphysical phenomenon from those who do not know anything about theology.

"If you claim that somebody is a witch, you would have to prove it," he said. He added that most of those accused of being witches could be suffering from psychological complications and "it is our duty to help these people with counseling to come out of that situation."

Witch profiling and abandonment of children are common on the streets of Akwa Ibom.

If a man remarries, Sister Iyang said, the new wife may be intolerant of the child's attitude after being married to the widower, and as such, will throw the child out of the house.

"To achieve this, she would accuse him or her of being a witch," Sister Iyang said. "That's why you'd find many children in the streets and when you ask them, they will say it's their stepmother who drove them out of the house."

She said poverty and teenage pregnancy also can force children into the street as well.

Nigeria's criminal code prohibits accusing, or even threatening to accuse, someone of being a witch. The Child Rights Act of 2003 makes it a criminal offense to subject any child to physical or emotional torture or submit them to any inhuman or degrading treatment.

Akwa Ibom officials have incorporated the Child Rights Act in an attempt to reduce child abuse. In addition, the state adopted a law in 2008 that makes witch profiling punishable by a prison term of up to 10 years.

Father Akpankpa said criminalizing injustices toward children was a step in the right direction.

"A lot of children were labeled witches and victimized. We used to have baby factories where young women are kept; they give birth and their babies are taken and sold out for monetary gains," he told CNS.

"Human trafficking was very alarming. A lot of baby factories were discovered, and the babies and their mothers were saved while the perpetrators were brought to justice," he added.

At the Mother Charles Walker Children Home, where most of the children are sheltered and sent to school on scholarship, Sister Iyang demonstrates the Catholic Church's commitment to protecting child rights. She said most of the malnourished youngsters the order receives are those who lost their mother during childbirth "and their families bring them to us for care."

For contact tracing and reunification, Sister Iyang formed a partnership with Akwa Ibom State Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Welfare. The process begins with parental verification by gathering information about each child and their location prior to separation. With the information in hand, an investigator drives to the child's home village to verify what has been learned.

The process involves community chiefs, elders and religious and traditional leaders to ensure that each child is properly integrated and accepted in the community. When that fails, a child will placed into the adoption protocol under government supervision.

Since opening the Mother Charles Walker Children Home in 2007, Sister Iyang and the staff have cared for about 120 children. About 74 have been reunited with their families, she said.

"We have 46 now left with us," she said, "hoping that their families will one day pick them up or they will have foster parents."

By Valentine Iwenwanne


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Content warning: This story contains graphic details of abuse that some readers may find disturbing. Names marked with asterisks have been changed to protect the identity of the child victims.

One Friday in September Adara* finally went to the police station in Kaduna State, northern Nigeria, to report the rape of her 12-year-old son.

The boy had been suffering from repeated night terrors, she told officers. Upon examining him some months back, it had taken her a moment to digest what she had seen. He had a festering wound and his underwear was stained with semen, she told Al Jazeera.

Her son told her that a tailor in the neighbourhood and his friends had been abusing him in their shop since a partial coronavirus lockdown began in March. She knew the abusers. They were men in their early 20s who lived in the same community. The 12-year-old said he had been scared to tell anybody. The men gave him sweets and money and warned that if he said anything, they would kill his entire family, he said.

Adara knew a spiral of stigma and gossip would accompany her speaking out about such issues in the conservative community. Nevertheless, she decided to report the rape. But her battle had only just begun.

Hours after she left the police station, her neighbours had already heard about her visit through the community grapevine. By the time officers arrived with an arrest warrant, the five suspects had fled and gone into hiding.

A spokesperson for the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) at Kaduna State Command, which looks into child abuse cases, said the investigation was ongoing, with a manhunt on to find and arrest the alleged suspects.

Adara said the suspects’ relatives, who all live in the same area as her, told her the reputation of the community would be ruined by her report and urged her to drop the case. Meanwhile, her neighbours spread tales about her son, saying that he was “passed around”.

“The stigma is disgusting,” Adara says, speaking in her native language, Hausa. When her son goes outside to play, “neighbourhood kids tease him that he was pimped out”.

Adara faced a backlash from her family as well and has been ostracised since going to the police. “My husband’s family advised him to leave me, and now he has left. I am the only one looking after the kids,” says the mother of four.

“I know people in the community, that their children were raped and they did nothing. They said: ‘Oh, it’s a community thing’, but because I am standing up they are now standing against me,” she says.

“I want the government to fight them. This child is not just my child – it’s also the government’s child”.

Controversial new law

In September, Kaduna’s state governor, Nasir el-Rufai enacted a new law in the highly conservative, majority-Muslim state.

Males convicted of raping children under 14 will now be surgically castrated and executed while women convicts will have their fallopian tubes removed and be executed. For perpetrators who rape children over 14, the punishment is the same, but with life imprisonment instead of execution.

Under Nigeria’s federal law, rapists face between 14 years and life in prison. However, state legislators are allowed to impose their own terms.

“These drastic penalties are required to help further protect children from a serious crime,” El-Rufai said in a statement.

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), an independent Nigerian body, however, expressed concern that the law flouts the country’s 2017 Anti-Torture Act. That act outlaws “mutilation such as amputation of essential parts of the body such as the genitalia, ears or tongue and any other part of the body,” NHRC’s executive secretary, Anthony Ojukwu said in a statement.

“There can be no justification for torture, no exceptional circumstance whatsoever.”

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet called the laws “draconian”.

“Evidence shows that the certainty of punishment, rather than its severity, deters crime,” Bachelet said drawing on Nigeria’s low record on rape convictions.

According to the latest available crime data from Nigeria’s National Bureau of Statistics, in 2017 there were 2,279 cases of rape and indecent assault reported to police – but no convictions.

Nigeria’s anti-trafficking agency, the National Agency for Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), said there were just 32 successful rape prosecutions between 2019 and 2020 – alarmingly low in a country of more than 200 million people. The NAPTIP, which publishes a federal sex offenders’ register on its website, did not have separate data specifically on child rape.

Shocking abuse

The Barau Dikko Teaching Hospital at Kaduna State University cuts a large unimposing concrete structure against the city’s arid backdrop.

Dr Shuaibu Musa has been a consultant paediatrician here for almost eight years. On a Tuesday evening in September, he had just arrived home from work when an alert he received sent him right back to the hospital. A five-year-old boy had been admitted with diarrhoea. But the medical team suspected it was an assault.

Dr Musa has become used to such alerts. “The sort of abuses we see, you will be shocked,” he says.

Doctors here say they treat children who have been sexually abused every day. It is why Dr Musa and other professionals set up a committee to tackle such cases. Medically, treatment is often focused on the injuries sustained, as some attacks are violent.

On that particular night when he arrived at the ward, he discovered that the parents of the five-year-old were acting suspiciously. The father would not look him in the eye. “They said he was having diarrhoea with blood – now that’s not too common,” says Dr Musa. The symptoms were suggestive of anal rape.

Child victims of this type of rape sometimes lose the ability to control their bowel movements, which doctors had been trained to look out for. “When we probed and probed it turned out to be child sexual abuse.” The parents wanted it kept hidden but Dr Musa and his colleagues insisted on reporting it to the police. “Anytime you see one case and you allow that, it means all children there in that community are no longer safe,” he says.

Dr Musa has learned to bury the anger he feels. He has learned to remain level-headed amid the numerous assaults on children that he has had to treat: A little girl gang-raped during the Muslim Sallah festival; the abuse was so prolonged that she had lost consciousness by the time she was found. Another child forced into prostitution and whose HIV-positive baby, born from rape, was about to be sold. A father who raped his daughter and whose relatives were threatening the mother against reporting the abuse.

In all these cases the hospital had to intervene. “Primarily, our main aim is to protect the child and of course other children in the society.”

Public holidays have come to be known as the darkest days here because that is when the worst cases of abuse happen. During those days children are often in closer proximity to their abusers. Neighbours, friends and classmates are often perpetrators of child sex abuse in Nigeria, according to a 2014 UNICEF report that surveyed more than 4,000 children.

“Most of these abuses are by those [who are] around the child,” Dr Musa says. “Usually, you don’t see people coming from far to come and do abuse. It’s someone in that community.”

“Nobody wants you to report it,” he adds. “People don’t want their family names to be dragged through the mud. And because of that, they will rather keep quiet and say they will handle it within the community.” Last year, UNICEF renewed its call urging Nigeria’s federal government to create safe and secure outlets for children to report cases.

What struck Dr Musa from the patients he has treated was that many child victims went on to abuse others as adults, because psychological support was often never offered to them. Fewer than five out of 100 victims receive support, UNICEF’s report said, echoing Dr Musa’s findings.

It formed the basis of his academic paper and the implementation of a social welfare team trained to look after victims and their families at the hospital. It was also the outcome of these cases that gave him the most cause for concern. None ended in a conviction.

“The few that went to the courts ended up, according to them, settling it out of court again,” he notes.

Reverse stigma

Human rights groups see similar trends. “We’ve not been able to get a conviction out of the many rape cases that we’ve had,” Evon Benson-Idahosa says. She is the founder and executive director of Pathfinders Justice Initiative, a non-profit organisation based in Benin city and the capital Abuja that has been working to end sexual violence in Nigeria for nearly seven years.

A 2018 Nigerian study in the journal African Health Sciences found that only 34 percent of child sexual abuse cases were disclosed to anyone. For years, silencing around the issue of sexual assault has been widespread.

Society often embarrasses or blames the victim into silence, Benson-Idahosa tells Al Jazeera.

The social stigma associated with sexual abuse in the community means most families and victims do not report it immediately. Almost half of Nigerians live in extreme poverty – an indicator of the country’s immense wealth inequality. Some victims and their families, fearing stigmatisation, victim-blaming and lack of money to bring cases to court, choose not to report the abuse to the authorities.

In Adara’s case, according to documents seen by Al Jazeera, it took a while for news of her son’s abuse to reach the correct channels.

Adara told the state medical examiners who treated her son that she initially reported the abuse to a policing outfit made up of community volunteers but action was slow, and the abuse carried on. Then in September, she reported it to the Kaduna State Command. By then her son had endured six months of abuse.

She also said when they first discovered the abuse, her husband agreed to privately settle the issue with the parents of two of the suspects. They paid Adara’s husband 30,000 naira (about $79) as compensation for the crime their sons committed.

Very often, small out-of-court cash settlements are negotiated by religious leaders or town elders to resolve such issues quietly rather than put a family through public scrutiny.

Benson-Idahosa underlined the immense challenge in many communities.

“It’s actually very common that you see these cases ‘resolved’ without any conviction or even prosecution of the case at all. Because we’ve somehow managed to reverse the stigma and place it on the victim and our culture accepts that and promotes it as a way to resolve these sorts of issues,” she explains.

Calls for help

Community stigma but also limited resources can hinder victims and their families’ abilities to search for justice.

When Adara first reported her son’s abuse, detectives from the Intelligence and Investigations Team at Kaduna’s State Command wrote to state hospitals asking for a medical examination and psychiatric evaluation to be conducted. Adara, who works as a seamstress, would have to pay for the examinations herself but there was no way she could afford it. So the hospital sought the help of a local charity, the Jamar Health Foundation.

Five days later, with their help, she was able to take her son to the hospital to be examined. Adara told medical examiners that when she first discovered the abuse, she had pulled maggots from a wound in her son’s anus.

Dr Maryam Jallo, who is the founder of Jamar Health Foundation, was giving a presentation to Nigerian women on rights advocacy when news of Adara’s son reached her via telephone.

After graduating from the Windsor University School of Medicine in Saint Kitts and Nevis in the Caribbean, she headed back to Nigeria hoping to make a difference in her community and founded the non-profit organisation that has helped pay medical bills for poor patients since 2018. But this case, she says, changed her.

“I was shocked,” the 24-year-old explains, noting Adara’s son’s age. “I had never gotten a rape case.”

But this was to be the first in a series of requests Dr Jallo would receive to help children who had been sexually abused.

Two weeks later, she got another call for a six-year-old girl who needed genital stitches after being raped by her family’s landlord and a month after that, a call for an 11-year-old girl who was gang-raped – both cases were in Kaduna city.

According to Dr Jallo, in those instances, police officers quickly arrested the suspects. “That’s the light at the end of the tunnel for us,” she says. Adara’s son’s case, however, is a microcosm of a pervasive problem in Nigeria, she feels, where only a tiny fraction of rapists are brought to justice. She believes it is important that his abusers are found, arrested and punished.

Support for harsher punishments

Sitting in her small office, Dr Jallo reflects on the new bill against paedophiles. “Just because it has been passed doesn’t mean that people are actually implementing it. So, let’s go straight to that,” she says, voicing her support for the regulations that would see child rapists castrated.

At the hospital, Dr Musa also supports the law. Its enactment marks a turning point, he feels.

“With this law, that may put some fear into perpetrators of these incidents,” he says. “People don’t accept that this is happening.”

“We are making progress but it’s very slow; the community is still in denial, unfortunately,” adds Dr Musa. “If we all collectively link up to make sure that nothing goes unreported, nothing goes unpunished, then probably we will be getting there,” he says.

The federal death penalty for crimes is rarely carried out in Nigeria. More than 2,700 people are on death row, according to Amnesty International, but there have been seven executions since 2007 – the last of which was in 2016.

Nigeria has long struggled to deal with child rape. One in 10 boys and one in three girls in Nigeria experience sexual violence before the age of 18, according to UNICEF’s data. The majority of victims treated at the four sexual assault referral centres in Kaduna were children.

Last September, 300 men and boys were rescued by police from a building housing a religious school in Kaduna. Boys aged five and above had been sexually abused, tortured and held captive – in some cases for several years. Eight suspects were arrested. At the time President Muhammadu Buhari urged religious and traditional leaders to work with the authorities to “expose and stop all types of abuse that are widely known but ignored for many years by our communities”.

In Kaduna, violence against children had not been given priority until 2018, when the state adopted the federal Child Rights Act, creating special units within the NSCDC to investigate abuse.

But the problem of child rape goes beyond Nigeria’s northern states.

In the commercial hub, Lagos, 73 percent of survivors treated in 2019 at the Women at Risk International Foundation (WARIF), another referral centre, were under the age of 18. Similarly, a national survey conducted by Nigerian polling service NOIPolls, found that 72 percent of rape victims were aged between one and 15 years old at the time of the incident.

“Rape is both endemic and an epidemic in Nigeria,” says the Pathfinders’ Benson-Idahosa.

Still, she believes castration is “barbaric” and ignores the reality that most paedophiles in Nigeria are not convicted.

“We have policemen who we have had to mobilise to even pursue a case or to do their job and an NGO has to be funding that process,” she says.

Until July this year, the federal code did not even recognise male victims of rape (including boys) until an amendment substituted “woman or girl” to “any person without consent”.

Hoping for justice

Back at Adara’s home, the curtains are drawn. And the family plans to move out of the area, she says.

Over time, Adara has watched her son slowly start to recover. He has been able to sleep through the night again. But she is still struggling.

Her son’s assault shadows her thoughts, she says, while outside, the neighbours continue to mock her.

“Everyone now has their back to me.”

About her son, she says: “If he is able to go back to school, he will learn things and then he will draw past what has happened to him. My hope and prayers are that he grows up to be fine and OK.”

But Adara also knows it is one thing for a perpetrator to be reported for rape in Nigeria, and quite another for them to serve a sentence. She is enraged thinking about her son’s abusers.

“I have been hearing news that once the issue is forgotten, [the suspects] are going to still come back to Kaduna – so it’s not nice,” she says, angry about the lack of accountability.

“It’s not just about helping [my son], but also arresting the perpetrators and getting justice.”

Scrolling through her case notes about Adara and her son, Dr Jallo worries that the community is largely responsible for the paedophiles not being punished.

“An imam actually told the mum to drop the case,” Dr Jallo says. “People hide behind religion. There is this belief that you shouldn’t spread negativity. So, they are saying telling people about paedophilia is spreading negativity.”

“Communities, too, need to come together and actually expose these people and not try to support them,” she adds. “They did something horrible.

By Nosmot Gbadamosi 

Al Jazeera

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Nigeria State Says 16 Kidnapped Boys Rescued by Security Agents

At least 15 students kidnapped by gunmen from a school in northern Nigeria were rescued by the military, a state government official said.

One other student was rescued by the police while another escaped from the kidnappers, Abdu Labaran, a spokesman for Katsina Governor Aminu Masari, said by phone on Tuesday.

At least 337 students were reported missing after gunmen attacked a boys’ boarding school in the northern state of Katsina.

“The government is not into any negotiations with the bandits. It’s also not ready to negotiate, as doing so would amount to capitulation and this would encourage the bandits,” Labaran said.

Armed assailants entered the town of Kankara on Dec. 11 and opened fire before entering the boys’ school, causing students and staff to flee while an unknown number were forcefully taken away.

Nigerian Islamist militant group Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for the kidnap, Abuja-based Daily Trust reported on Tuesday, citing an audio clip it said was released by the leader, Abubakar Shekau. 

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