Showing posts with label insecurity. Show all posts
Showing posts with label insecurity. Show all posts

Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Video - Over 350 abductees rescued in Nigeria’s Borno state



Some of those rescued were kidnapped 10 years ago. Most of the victims were women and children.

CGTN

Related story: 386 civilians rescued from Sambisa forest in Nigeria 10 years after abduction

 

At least 40 villagers shot dead in Nigeria

Armed men attacked remote villages in northcentral Nigeria, killing at least a dozen villagers during a late-night raid, authorities said Tuesday.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack which follows a similar pattern to yearslong violence in the region blamed on the fight for control over water and land between nomadic herders and rural farmers. These raids have so far killed hundreds in the region.

The local Punch newspaper cited witnesses as saying at least 40 people were killed in Plateau’s Wase district on Monday night. However, government officials told The Associated Press only 12 casualties have so far been confirmed.

It is common for official figures to be less than that of witness accounts in such attacks.

The attackers opened fire on villagers in Wase’s Zurak community, forcing many to flee into nearby bushes, Musa Ashoms, the state commissioner for information said. “We are trying to comb the area to see whether we have more casualties or people with bullet wounds,” he added.

The motorcycle-riding gunmen attacked the village following a security operation that targeted their hideouts and aimed to “wipe” them out of the area, Idris Wase, a federal legislator from Plateau’s Wase district said.

Locals have repeatedly expressed concern over how the assailants can attack villages for hours and escape before security forces arrive on the scene.

Arrests following such attacks are rare.

In December, assailants killed at least 140 residents during an attack that targeted more than a dozen communities over two days.

By Chinedu Asadu, AP 

Related story: Video - Gunmen abduct over 100 people in Zamfara state, Nigeria

 

Police rescue kidnap victims in Abuja

The Police Command in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) said its operatives on Sunday foiled a kidnap attempt and rescued victims in Dawaki area of Abuja.

The Police Public Relations Officer in the FCT, Josephine Adeh, a superintendent of police, said this in a statement on Monday in Abuja.

Ms Adeh said that the kidnap attempt was foiled following an immediate and strategic response to a distress call on the attack by unknown gunmen in Dawaki on 19 May.


She said the Commissioner of Police (CP) in charge of the FCT, Benneth Igweh, led the operatives that swiftly mobilised to the scene to foil the kidnap attempt.

“Displaying remarkable bravery and coordination, the police, in synergy with local hunters, advanced on the assailants, tactically ambushed them at Ushafa Hill via Bwari and Shishipe Hills via Mpape.

“This led to a fierce gun duel where the hoodlums were overwhelmed by the firepower of the operatives, and this forced them to scamper to safety with various degrees of bullet injuries and the victims were rescued,” she said.

Ms Adeh added that one of the rescued victims was currently in the hospital receiving medical attention.

The FCT Police command spokesperson said that the CP had reaffirmed the command’s steadfast dedication to maintaining peace and security in the FCT.

She also said that search operations were ongoing to rescue other hostages who fled the scene during the shootout.

Meanwhile, the Chairperson of Dawaki Rock Heaven Community, Tunde Abdulrahim, said the incident happened at about 7: 30 p.m. on Sunday.

Mr Abdulrahim said that the heavily armed bandits numbering about 50, consisting of men and women invaded the community and broke into about six houses.

He also said that about 20 people were abducted by the kidnappers.

Premium Times

Related story: 386 civilians rescued from Sambisa forest in Nigeria 10 years after abduction

Thursday, May 16, 2024

Worshippers locked in Nigeria mosque and set on fire

At least 11 worshippers have been killed and dozens others injured after a man attacked a mosque in Nigeria's northern Kano state, police say.

A man allegedly sprayed the mosque with petrol and locked its doors before setting it on fire, trapping about 40 worshippers, they said.

The attack was triggered by a family dispute over the sharing of inheritance.

Police say they have arrested a 38-year-old suspect.

The incident happened when people were attending morning prayers on Wednesday in Gezawa area of Kano state.

Residents said flames engulfed the mosque after the attack with worshippers heard wailing as they struggled to open the locked doors.

After hearing the explosion, neighbours rushed to help those trapped inside, local media reported.

Rescue teams including bomb experts from Kano were immediately deployed in response to the attack, a police statement said.

Police later confirmed that a bomb was not used in the attack.

The Fire Service in Kano said they were not called immediately the fire started, adding that they could have brought the situation under control much faster.

Kano Fire Service spokesman Saminu Yusuf told the BBC that they got reports of the incident after locals had put out the fire.

“In a situation like this, people are supposed to call us but we didn't get any call from the location until after normalcy had returned,” Mr Yusuf added.

Police said the suspect confessed that his actions were part of a dispute over inheritance, claiming he was targeting some family members who were inside the mosque.

“What happened is not associated with any act of terrorism, rather it was a skirmish that arose as a result of inheritance distribution," Umar Sanda, a local police chief, told journalists after visiting the scene.

"It is really unfortunate,” Mr Sandahe added.

“The suspect is presently with us and is giving out useful information."

Initial reports said one worshipper had died from the attack but the death toll later rose after more victims died while receiving treatment at the Murtala Muhammad Specialist Hospital in Kano.

More victims, including children, are still receiving treatment at the hospital, according to police.

By Wycliffe Muia & Mansur Abubakar, BBC

Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Gunmen kidnap 9 students in Nigeria

At least nine students have been abducted by gunmen during a late-night raid on their school in northern Nigeria’s Kogi state, authorities said Friday, the third such abduction amid rampant kidnappings targeting schools in the conflict-hit region this year.

The assailants invaded the Confluence University of Science and Technology in Kogi state, which neighbors the nation’s capital, Abuja, and whisked away the students from their classrooms before security forces could arrive, according to Kogi Commissioner for Information Kingsley Femi Fanwo.

The state has “activated the security architecture to track the kidnappers and ensure the abducted students are rescued and the abductors apprehended,” Fanwo added.

The official said local hunters were helping security forces in “combing” the school area, which is surrounded by bushes in the remote Osara town.

Nigeria has struggled with several mass school kidnappings since the first such incident in 2014 when Islamic extremists abducted more than 200 schoolgirls from the northeastern Chibok village, sparking the global #BringBackOurGirls social media campaign.

A t least 1,400 Nigerian students have since been abducted from their schools in similar circumstances, including at least 130 children abducted from their school in Kuriga town in the northern Kaduna state in March. Some are still held captive, including nearly 100 of the Chibok girls.

By Chinedu Asadu, AP

Related story: Video - Gunmen abduct over 100 people in Zamfara state, Nigeria

 

Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Terrorists attack military camp, kill five soldiers, injure 11 others in Nigeria

Five soldiers of the Nigerian Army were killed and 11 others injured on Sunday afternoon by terrorists who attacked a military camp in Faskari Local Government Area of Katsina State.

A member of a vigilante group, Aliyu Tukur, 30, was also killed in the attack, according to a military internal memo seen by PREMIUM TIMES.

“Terrorist attack on military camp causing grievous hurt and death of military personnel,” the memo stated.

According to the memo, the incident occurred at about 2 p.m. on Sunday when over 200 terrorists armed with sophisticated weapons and led by a terrorism kingpin, Ado Aleiru, attacked the military camp situated at the village of Yar Malamai.

“On receipt of the information, Supol Faskari, proceeded to the scene with his team and engaged the bandits on a gun battle as reinforcement (of) Air Components were also called upon and responded promptly.

“The battle lasted for over two hours after intervention from the Air Force; sadly five soldiers and one vigilante by name Aliyu Tukur, 30 years (old), of the same address, lost their lives.

“Eleven soldiers sustained different degrees of gunshot injuries, all the injured were rushed to hospital by the military, all the corpses were also removed.

“The attack led to the withdrawal of all the remaining military personnel from the village to a nearby camp 25 kilometres away situated at Ali Kere village due to heavy casualty recorded.

“The bandits also suffered heavy casualties but have succeeded in removing them away from the scene (sic). Residents of the area are currently migrating.

“Investigation has commenced further development would be communicated above for your information, please,” the internal memo stated. 

By Abubakar Ahmadu Maishanu, Premium Times

Related story: Gunmen abduct over 100 people in Zamfara state, Nigeria

Monday, May 13, 2024

Video - Gunmen abduct over 100 people in Zamfara state, Nigeria



The incident marks the latest mass kidnapping incident in the northwestern state of Zamfara. A district head and residents said on Saturday that three villages were targeted in the Friday night raids.

CGTN

Related story: Video - Abductions in Nigeria surge despite raft of measures by authorities

 

 

14 kidnapped University students rescued

Fourteen students of Confluence University of Science and Technology (CUSTECH), Osara in Kogi State, abducted by bandits on Thursday night, have been rescued

Bethrand Onuoha, the commissioner of police in the North-central State, disclosed this to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Sunday in Lokoja.

The CUSTECH students had been abducted by the bandits who invaded the institution while they were reading for their first semester examination slated to commence 13 May .

“A combined team of security operatives, including local hunters, who ran after the bandits, successfully rescued 14 of the kidnapped students.

“One of the rescued students told us that 24 students were captured.

“The security operatives will not relent. We are determined to get the remaining students back alive and unhurt,” Onuoha said.

Kingsley Fanwo, the commissioner for information, who also confirmed the rescue, said the 14 students were getting the required attention.

He expressed joy that the rescue came hours after Gov Usman Ododo visited the institution and assured parents of his readiness to rescue everyone taken.

“Our local vigilante men and security agents engaged the kidnappers in a fierce shootout and the kidnappers fled. Some escaped with gun wounds.

“They fled and left the kidnapped students who also ran in different directions to avoid being caught up in the fire exchange.

“Many of the students kidnapped, and even other people in captivity, have been rescued and taken to medical facilities for proper attention.

“Some were rescued in the early hours of today.

“The security agents are currently combing the forests to ensure that all the kidnapped students are found and brought home safely.

“It is unfortunate, however, that in the sporadic gun battle to rescue the students, a local hunter and a security operative sustained injuries. They are currently receiving medical attention,” he said.

The commissioner, however, commended the local hunters and the conventional security agents for their bravery and gallantry.

According to him, the success recorded so far was made possible by the support of Ododo who is bent on securing every Kogi resident.

He urged residents to report anyone with gun wounds to law enforcement agents.

Premium Times

Related story: Woman rescued 10 years after kidnap by Boko Haram in Nigeria

Tuesday, April 9, 2024

Video - Growing calls for Nigeria government to enforce capital punishment on kidnappers



First Lady Senator Oluremi Tinubu is one of the voices demanding the government aggressively address kidnappings in Nigeria. The country has been plagued by a surge in kidnappings, leaving communities in fear and authorities struggling to contain the crisis.

CGTN

Related stories: Kidnappings in Nigeria rise 10 years after Chibok girls abducted

Video - Nigeria ramps up security following spate of kidnappings

Nigerian Troops Rescue 16 Abductees in Kaduna

Video - Families and victims in Nigeria reeling from impact of kidnappings

Video - Kaduna state abductions raise Nigeria's insecurity crisis

President Tinubu rules out ransoms for abducted students as observers urge dialogue

kidnappers say they will kill all 287 school if $622,000 ransom not paid

61 people kidnapped in Kaduna, Nigeria

Video - At least 15 students kidnapped in Nigeria - Third mass kidnapping since last week

Gunmen abduct 287 students in northwestern Nigeria in latest school attack

Suspected insurgents kidnap 50 people in northeast Nigeria

Kidnappings in Nigeria rise 10 years after Chibok girls abducted

BWARI, Nigeria — "They pointed their guns through the window of the children's room while they were sleeping," says the 49-year-old father of four sons, describing the beginning of a three-month ordeal that has overwhelmed his family. "Then they told them to open the door or they will shoot them."

In early January, around midnight, 20 men armed with AK-47s and machetes attacked his home in Bwari, a small town surrounded by outcrops of towering granite rocks and forest, on the hilly outskirts of Nigeria's capital Abuja.

The attackers dragged him and his four sons, ranging in age from 12 to 24 years old, outside. The armed men beat them with the back of their guns and the flat edge of their blades. They tied their wrists with rope and marched them barefoot into the surrounding forest, along with 17 other abducted victims. They walked for almost 10 hours, their feet bloodied by the time they reached a hideout in northwest Nigeria.

They were held within an expanse of forests that stretches over the border into Niger, an expanse that has become a haven for hundreds of heavily armed groups. Most of the groups, referred to locally as bandits, are behind an epidemic of mass kidnap-for-ransom attacks that have proliferated across Africa's most populous country, rising during one of the toughest economic periods in decades.

This is the tale of one family that has been left deeply traumatized by the kidnapping epidemic in Nigeria. NPR has followed their story for months, but is not using the family's names because they continue to live under the constant threat of the kidnappers, whose presence haunts their lives.
 

Kidnapping epidemic

Close to 1,000 people have been kidnapped in Nigeria in the first three months of 2024 alone, amid an epidemic of attacks that has become the country's most potent security threat.

Many of the kidnaps have been committed by groups called "bandits," of which 3,000 to 5,000 are believed to be active, operating from forests in north and central Nigeria, according to security analysts.

Many of the groups are made up of ethnic Fulani young men and boys, who've become heavily armed in the wake of a historic conflict over land between Fulani nomadic pastoralists and farmers.

The groups have exploited several systemic security failings in Nigeria, including the scarcity of rural police and alleged corruption preventing security forces from being adequately armed. In recent years, armed groups have operated closer and closer to Abuja. Bwari, a satellite town 37 miles from the capital, has been overwhelmed by kidnap attacks for the last year, a sign of the growing nature of the problem.

The rise in Nigeria of mass abductions of dozens to hundreds of people, especially children, is often traced to the kidnapping by Islamist militants Boko Haram of 276 schoolgirls from Chibok town in April 2014. Boko Haram began as a religious movement but quickly developed into a brutal jihadist organization. Loosely translated from the local language Hausa, Boko Haram means "Western education is forbidden."

The attack sparked a global campaign for their release. Many of the girls were freed in exchange for the release of Boko Haram suspects from prison. According to some reports, ransoms were also paid by the government but officials have strongly denied this. Ninety-six of the girls are still missing, presumed still captive.

The international attention the Boko Haram kidnapping attracted led prominent U.S. figures like Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton, then the secretary of state, to call for their release. It put pressure on the Nigerian government to secure their freedom. But it also inspired several other mass abductions across northern Nigeria since then to the present day.
 

A life in exchange for bags of rice and beans

After the family in Bwari was kidnapped in January, the father was released in a matter of days. He was released on condition that he would raise the ransom of 5.3 million naira ($3,500), three times what the family earns in a year.

"They would beat the children and put them on the phone to talk to me and the children would be crying and begging me to bring the money quickly, that they're suffering," the father recalls.

He borrowed money and sold almost all of his possessions, his farm in Bwari, his tractor, and the bags of ginger root he'd harvested. Within a month, he'd raised the ransom for his four boys.

He delivered it in cash, stored in a hard plastic zipper bag. He handed the ransom over to armed men at a drop-off point just off an expressway in the northwestern state of Kaduna. They assured him that his boys would soon be sent back to him.

But the next day, only two of his sons were freed, leaving the eldest and youngest in captivity.

Then the kidnappers made new demands: two motorbikes, five walkie-talkies, bags of rice and beans, top-up cards for mobile data and airtime, and industrial glues, often inhaled and used as intoxicants. The items would cost a further $2,000.

"I said, how do you expect me to find the money when I've already sold everything?" the father recalls. "They said if I don't bring those items soon, they will kill the boys."
 

A town living under constant threat

Much of Bwari town is on edge. In the day, business continues as normal, but after sunset, the streets swiftly empty. A military tank is stationed near the main market, and police patrols wade through the town's streets.

"If you ask 10 people if they've been affected, maybe five will say yes," says 38-year-old Sanusi Musa, a truck driver in Bwari. His relatives were kidnapped late last year, then released a few months afterward when a ransom was paid by the father.

Many, like Musa, are fed up with the attacks and lament that insecurity is directly driven by a lack of development in poor, rural parts of the country. Musa's family was abducted alongside other victims from Kau, one of several villages within Bwari. A battered mud road runs six miles through remote countryside and forest, connecting the village to the nearest police and military post in the center of town. By car, the journey is a crawl that can take more than an hour, leaving the villages along it exposed.

"When the kidnappers came, we called the army," says Alhaji Yusuf, a community leader in Kau whose relatives were also abducted in December. "But they said it would take them too long to arrive because the road is bad. We're also begging the government to establish a police station in the village. We will even provide the land."
 

"Teach them a lesson"

A month after the father from Bwari received the kidnappers' new demands, the family managed to raise most of the additional $2,000 they needed. They pleaded with the kidnappers to accept what they'd managed to put together, including the two motorbikes and some of the food items, and the kidnappers agreed.

But they only released the eldest son. Then they made fresh demands, for $500 in cash and other items.

Weeks after the eldest son was freed and forced to leave his youngest brother behind, he sits at home wearing a beige caftan. Before he was released, he says, the kidnappers wanted to send his family a message.

He recalls the moment during his ordeal when he, his youngest brother and three other boys abducted alongside them were taken to a nearby river in the forest.

But when they arrived, they were lined up along the riverbank. One of the boys was pulled to the side.

"The leader said the boy's parents weren't taking them seriously," the eldest son recalls, "so he would teach them a lesson."

Then one of the kidnappers shot the boy.

The boy pleaded for his life. "The boy was telling him 'sorry, sorry, they will bring your money, they will bring your motorcycle and phones.'"

But they shot him again.

The kidnappers ordered the other boys to dig a grave in the sandy soil by the riverbank. The victim, drenched in blood, was still alive, barely moving.

They laid him in the shallow grave and covered him with sand. Then one of the kidnappers stood over him and delivered the final, fatal shot.

"They told me to tell my parents that if they didn't bring the items they told them, they would kill my brother too," the eldest son says.
 

Released but not free

In mid-March, 2 1/2 months after the family's abduction, the 12-year-old, the youngest son, finally came home. He and other hostages escaped after a Nigerian military patrol arrived near the kidnappers' hideout, sending the militants fleeing. During the confusion, the hostages made their escape.

They trekked for days until they reached a village.

"The people saw how he looked and took pity on him. They fed him, bathed him and paid for the transport that brought him back to us," the father says, describing the conflicting moments of joy and anguish when the last of his children returned.

The 12-year-old came home bruised across his body and far thinner than in January. Now he barely speaks or looks at anyone in the eye.

Freedom has come at immense cost for the entire family.

"I've sold everything I have," the father says. "I don't have any work, I can't pay my children's school fees. All I can do is pray and rely on Allah."

The attack has also made them retreat from their community in Bwari, unsure of whom to trust. During the abduction, one of the armed men covered his face, leading the family to believe he was someone they knew, as the kidnappers knew intimate details about their lives.

"It has reached a stage where you don't even know who to trust anymore, because you don't know who is your enemy and who is not," the father says.

And despite their freedom from captivity, the torment goes on. The youngest son's escape made the kidnappers angry, his eldest brother says. The kidnappers still call the family and demand the ransom they were denied, or else they will strike again.

"So I have been released," says the eldest son, "but I'm not really free."

By Emmanuel Akinwotu, npr

Related stories: 

Video - Nigeria ramps up security following spate of kidnappings

Nigerian Troops Rescue 16 Abductees in Kaduna

Video - Families and victims in Nigeria reeling from impact of kidnappings

Video - Kaduna state abductions raise Nigeria's insecurity crisis

President Tinubu rules out ransoms for abducted students as observers urge dialogue

kidnappers say they will kill all 287 school if $622,000 ransom not paid

61 people kidnapped in Kaduna, Nigeria

Video - At least 15 students kidnapped in Nigeria - Third mass kidnapping since last week

Gunmen abduct 287 students in northwestern Nigeria in latest school attack

Suspected insurgents kidnap 50 people in northeast Nigeria

Friday, April 5, 2024

Nigeria movie released to mark 10th anniversary of the kidnapped 276 Chibok girls

Not a day goes by without Lawan Zanna remembering his daughter Aisha in prayers. She was among the 276 schoolgirls kidnapped 10 years ago when Islamic extremists broke into their school in northeastern Nigeria’s Chibok village.


“It makes me so angry to talk about it,” said Zanna, 55, whose daughter is among the nearly 100 girls still missing after the 2014 kidnappings that stunned the world and sparked the global #BringBackOurGirls social media campaign.

The Chibok kidnapping was the first major school abduction in the West African nation. Since then, at least 1,400 students have been kidnapped, especially in the conflict-battered northwest and central regions. Most victims were freed only after ransoms were paid or through government-backed deals, but the suspects rarely get arrested.

This year, to mark the 10th anniversary of a largely forgotten tragedy, members of Borno state’s Chibok community gathered Thursday in Nigeria’s economic hub of Lagos to attend the screening of “Statues Also Breathe,” a collaborative film project produced by French artist Prune Nourry and Nigeria’s Obafemi Awolowo University.

“This collaboration aims to raise awareness about the plight of the girls who are still missing while highlighting the global struggle for girls’ education,” Nourry said.

The 17-minute film opens with an aerial view of 108 sculptures — the number of girls still missing when the art project began — that try to recreate what the girls look like today using pictures provided by their families, from their facial expressions to hairstyles and visible patterns.

The film captures the artistic process behind the art exhibit, first displayed in November 2022, featuring human head-sized sculptures inspired by ancient Nigerian Ife terracotta heads.

In the film, one of the freed women talks about the horrors she went through while in captivity. “We suffered, we were beaten up. (But) Allah (God) made me stronger,” she said.

It also conveys a flurry of emotions as heartbroken mothers reminisced about life when their daughters were home.

“When it is time for Ramadan (...) Aisha adorns my hair with henna and all sorts of adornments,” one of the women in the film said of her missing child.

But Aisha has not been home in 10 years.

Another scene shows a woman hesitating when asked to go and see her daughter’s face that was sculpted. “If I go and see it, it will bring sad memories,” she said, her weak voice fading away.

Nigerian authorities have not done enough to free the remaining women and those who have regained their freedom have not been properly taken care of, according to Chioma Agwuegbo, an activist who was part of the #BringBackOurGirls campaign.

“We have normalized the absurd in Nigeria,” Agwuegbo said of the school kidnappings in Nigeria. “10 years on, it is an indictment not just on the government but on our security forces and even on the citizens themselves.”

Analysts worry that the security lapses that resulted in the Chibok kidnapping remain in place in many schools. A recent survey by the United Nations children’s agency’s Nigeria office found that only 43% of minimum safety standards are met in over 6,000 surveyed schools.

According to Nnamdi Obasi, senior adviser for Nigeria at the International Crisis Group, “the basic security and safety arrangements in schools are weak and sometimes non-existent,” adding that military and police personnel are still “very much inadequate and overstretched.”

Authorities rarely provide updates on efforts to free the Chibok women. However, some of the freed women have said in the past that those still missing have been forcefully married to the extremists, as is often the case with female kidnap victims.

About a dozen of the Chibok women managed to escape captivity since early 2022. They all returned with children.

“I think we shouldn’t even think about them anymore,” said one of the Chibok mothers in the film. “I feel like they are already gone.”

By Chinedu Asadu, AP

Related stories: 11 parents of some of the kidnapped schoolgirls now dead

Video - New video shows schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram

Why mass kidnappings still plague Nigeria a decade after Chibok abductions

Nigerian army rescues kidnapped Kaduna students

Thursday, April 4, 2024

Why mass kidnappings still plague Nigeria a decade after Chibok abductions

In the decade since the armed group Boko Haram kidnapped nearly 300 students at an all-girls school in the town of Chibok, abductions have become a recurrent fixture in Nigeria, especially in the restive northern regions.

Just last month, on March 7, a criminal gang kidnapped 287 pupils at the government secondary school in Kuriga, a town in Kaduna state. Two days later, another armed group broke into the dorm of a boarding school in Gidan Bakuso, Sokoto state, kidnapping 17 students.

The Sokoto victims and more than 130 of the victims from Kaduna have since been released, but there is no word yet about the remaining abductees.

Meanwhile, out of the hundreds taken in Chibok in April 2014, more than 90 are still missing, according to the United Nations children’s agency, UNICEF.

“I cannot believe that it is 10 years and we have not really done anything about [stopping] it,” said Aisha Yesufu, the co-convener of the #BringBackOurGirls movement pressing for the release of the kidnapped Chibok students.

Nigeria is plagued by insecurity. In the northeast, Boko Haram has waged a violent insurgency since 2009; in the north-central region clashes between farmers and herders have escalated in recent years; and acts of banditry by gunmen in the northwest are terrorising citizens.

Across the country, the targeting of vulnerable populations has been widespread, including kidnappings for ransom or to pressure the government to meet the aggressors’ demands. Experts also say that worsening economic conditions have led to an increase in abductions for ransom over the last four years.

But as Africa’s largest economy and a country with one of the strongest military forces on the continent, many have questioned why Nigeria has been unable to nip the spiralling insecurity crisis in the bud.

“At the end of the day, it comes down to the fact that there is no political will,” Yesufu said.
 

A booming industry

Last year, charity Save The Children reported that more than 1,680 students have been abducted in Nigeria since 2014. This has significantly contributed to deteriorating absentee statistics, with one in three Nigerian children not in school according to UNICEF.

But students are not the only ones bearing the burden of the crisis as travellers, businesspeople, priests, and those perceived as being well-off are also often targets. Kidnappings have become a sub-economy of sorts, as abductors rake in millions of naira in ransom payments. Social media is also littered with public requests from people soliciting funds to buy the freedom of their abducted relatives and friends.

Since 2019, there have been 735 mass abductions in Nigeria, according to socio-political risk consultancy firm, SBM Intelligence. It said between July 2022 and June 2023, 3,620 people were abducted in 582 kidnapping cases with about 5 billion naira ($3,878,390) paid in ransoms.

This year alone SBM Intelligence said there have already been 68 mass abductions.

The abductions are not confined to the north, where banditry and armed religious groups are prevalent, but have also been seen in the south and the southeast. Even Abuja, Nigeria’s capital territory, has not been spared, and in Emure Ekiti in the relatively peaceful southwest region, five students, three teachers and a driver were kidnapped on January 29.

The roots of hostage-taking in Nigeria can be traced back to the 1990s in the Niger Delta, where the country gets most of its oil; at the time, armed groups started abducting foreign oil executives as a way to pressure the government to address their concerns about oil pollution in their communities.

But in recent times, hostage-taking has become a booming industry, said Olajumoke (Jumo) Ayandele, Nigeria’s senior adviser at the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED). Perpetrators now mostly target socially classified vulnerable groups such as children and women, she said, to elicit public anger and press their demands for ransom payments or the release of their arrested gang members.

When a ransom is demanded, the payment is expected to be made by the victims’ relatives, or in some cases the government – and delays or non-payment can sometimes be deadly. One of five sisters kidnapped in Abuja in January was brutally killed after a ransom deadline passed, sparking a national outcry.

“The groups that have used this strategy are able to gain local and international attention to really show their strength and amplify what they want to state authorities,” Ayandele told Al Jazeera.

Although the Nigerian government has said it does not negotiate with terrorists in dealing with the spiralling security crisis, experts say this may not be true.

“We have heard and we have seen some state governments negotiating with some of these groups and some of these bandits,” said Ayandele. In many cases, this has only emboldened the criminals.
 

Why can’t Nigeria stop the abduction of pupils?

Experts say that complex, multilayered issues are at the heart of the worsening insecurity crisis. These include socioeconomic factors, corruption and a lack of cohesiveness in the security structure – where there is no rapid response to attacks and ineffective collaboration between the police and the military.

Over the last decade, Nigeria’s economic situation has all but nosedived as the country grapples with high inflation, rising youth unemployment, and the loss of currency valuation. The fortunes of citizens have hardly improved, and 63 percent of people are in multidimensional poverty. Experts say this has pushed many into criminality.

“The economic hardship during this period has only increased and different policies drive different dimensions. As a result, this has led to kidnapping being seen as a viable and profitable endeavour,” said Afolabi Adekaiyaoja, a research analyst at the Abuja-based Centre for Democracy and Development.

The security architecture in Nigeria is also centralised, with authority concentrated in the hands of the federal government and no real state or regional policing independent of that. Experts say this has hindered the ease with which security agents can operate. It has also led to calls for state policing, especially amid criticisms that security agencies do not collaborate effectively.

At an army level, soldiers have complained about low remuneration and substandard weapons. The Nigerian military has been dogged with accusations of corruption, sabotage, connivance and brutality in the past, and this has fractured relationships with communities and potential sources of intelligence.

“This inability is not down to the military alone – there is a cross-government failing in security response,” Adekaiyaoja told Al Jazeera.

“There needs to be a stronger synergy in communal buy-in in securing facilities and also escalating necessary intelligence … There should be a renewed focus on necessary and frankly overdue police reform and a stronger synergy between intelligence and security agencies.”

Nigeria’s insecurity plagues all six of the country’s geopolitical zones, with each facing one or more of the following: armed fighters, farmer-herder clashes, bandits or unknown gunmen, Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) separatists, oil bunkering and piracy. This has kept the armed forces busy.

“Our security forces are spread thin. We have six geopolitical zones in Nigeria and there is something that is always happening,” said ACLED’s Ayandele.
 

What is the toll of the crisis?

Abduction victims who have been released have reported harrowing conditions while in captivity. They are often threatened with death and barely fed as they endure unhygienic, unsavoury living conditions, including sleeping out in the open and trekking long distances into forests where they are kept.

The girls especially are vulnerable to rape and even forced marriages. Adults’ testimonies claim they are routinely beaten and tortured until the captors’ demands have been met.

Experts say the experiences leave victims with serious psychological wounds and trauma.

The fear of their children being abducted has led many parents in hot zones in the northeast and northwest to pull their children out of school entirely to avoid the risk. This is despite the government’s introduction of free and compulsory basic education in schools.

According to UNICEF, 66 percent of all out-of-school children in Nigeria are from the northeast and northwest, which also represent the poorest regions in the country.

“No parent should be put in a situation where they have to make a choice between the lives of their children and getting their children educated,” said #BringBackOurGirls movement’s Yesufu, adding that education is under attack in Nigeria.

As a result, she said illiteracy is then weaponised by the political class, who use people’s lack of information and knowledge to manipulate voters during elections.

But for some girls, the consequences may be even more dire than just losing an education, Yesufu said, as some parents decide to marry their daughters off early to avoid them getting kidnapped or worse. More than half of the girls in Nigeria are currently not attending school at a basic level, and 48 percent of that figure are from the northeast and northwest.

Education is crucial to national growth and development. But Nigeria’s continuing abduction crisis is posing serious challenges to schooling in the worst-affected regions of the northeast and northwest – and experts worry it may have broader implications for the country in the near future.

“This is just a ticking time bomb because when you don’t have a populace that is educated, they can be easily radicalised or recruited into these non-state armed groups,” Ayandele said.

“We don’t know what can happen in the next 20 years if we don’t address this education problem as soon as possible.”

Al Jazeera

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Monday, April 1, 2024

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Nigeria's federal government says it's doing everything it can to protect communities amid a recent surge in school kidnappings for ransom. 

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Gunmen kidnap 15 children in dawn raid on school in Nigeria

Gunmen kidnapped at least 15 students from a school in Nigeria's northwestern Sokoto state in a dawn raid on Saturday.

The kidnapping came days after some 300 students were abducted by a gang in northern Kaduna state.

The gunmen forced their way into the school premises in the Sokoto village of Gidan Bakuso and started firing shots sporadically, waking and causing panic among the students, who ran for cover, said school owner Liman Abubakar Bakuso.


"They succeeded in abducting 15 of my students, the oldest being 20 and 15, but all the others are below 13," Bakuso told the Reuters news agency, adding that a woman had also been kidnapped.

"We are in a state of panic and have been praying hard for their safe release.”

Police in the state have not yet publicly commented, the news agency reported.

Kidnappings at schools in Nigeria were first carried out by jihadist group Boko Haram, which seized more than 200 students from a girls' school in Chibok in Borno state a decade ago, causing global outrage.

But the tactic has since been adopted by criminal gangs without any ideological affiliation seeking ransom payments, authorities say.

Nigeria's security forces are stretched fighting an Islamist insurgency in the northeast, leaving vast swathes of land unpoliced and armed gangs to roam freely.

In Kaduna, the state governor told the BBC at least 28 of the schoolchildren kidnapped earlier this week had managed to escape their captors.

Until Thursday's abduction in Kaduna, Nigeria had witnessed a lull in mass kidnappings from schools since July 2021 when some 150 students were seized by armed men.

By Josh Salisbury, Yahoo News 

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Tuesday, March 26, 2024

Kidnapped Edo PDP chairperson freed

The Chairperson of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Edo State, Tony Aziegbemi, abducted on 15 March in Benin, has been freed.


The News Agency of Nigeria gathered that Mr Aziegbemi reunited with his family at 3 a.m. on Tuesday after 10 days in captivity.

Clem Aziegbemi, on behalf of the family, said the PDP leader was released unhurt.


“As a member of the Aziegbemi family, we say thank you all for your great show of love and solidarity with us all through the period of the abduction of our beloved son, brother, cousin, and leader, Dr Tony Aziegbemi.

“Thank you, all…. We are most grateful for all your valuable contributions through prayers and steadfastness. God bless,” he said.

Mr Aziegbemi was ambushed at the Bishop Edokpolor Boulevard Junction, off Country Home, GRA Benin City, while returning from the Government House, where he held a meeting with Governor Godwin Obaseki

His abduction came less than a month after his party conducted a primary election for the 21 September governorship election in the state.

When contacted, the police spokesperson in Edo, Chidi Nwabuzor, said the police would soon issue an official statement on the development.

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According to local officials, unknown gunmen launched an attack at a busy market in Madaka village, in the Rafi local government area, on Thursday, setting shops and vehicles on fire. Reports say several women and children were also abducted.

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Nigerian army rescues kidnapped Kaduna students

The Nigerian army on Sunday rescued students and staff who were abducted by gunmen from a school in the country's north earlier this month, the military said, days before the deadline for a ransom payment.

School officials and residents had said 287 students were taken on March 7 in the town of Kuriga in the northwestern state of Kaduna. A military spokesperson said 137 hostages - 76 of them female and 61 male - were rescued in the early hours of Sunday in neighbouring state of Zamfara.

"In the early hours of 24 March 2024, the military working with local authorities and government agencies across the country in a coordinated search and rescue operation rescued the hostages," Major General Edward Buba said in a statement.

A security source said the students had been freed in a forest and were being escorted to Kaduna's capital for medical tests before being reunited with their families.

Kaduna Governor Uba Sani earlier put the number of kidnapped at over 200. Given the discrepancies in numbers reported, it was unclear if any hostages remained captured. Some Kuriga elders said Sani had told them all hostages had been freed.

Jibrin Aminu, a spokesperson for the Kuriga parents, said he would clarify numbers on Monday when families had been given the chance to "take account of their kidnapped children."

The rescue took place just days before a deadline to pay a 1 billion naira ($690,000) ransom for their release.

Abductions at Nigerian schools were first carried out by jihadist group Boko Haram, which seized 276 students from a girls' school in Chibok in northeastern Borno State a decade ago. Some of the girls have never been released.

But since then the tactic has been adopted by criminal gangs without ideological affiliation.
Kidnappings by criminal gangs demanding ransoms have become an almost daily occurrence, especially in northern Nigeria, tearing apart families and communities that must pool savings to pay ransoms, often forcing them to sell land, cattle and grain to secure the release of their loved ones.

By Ahmed Kingimi, Reuters 

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Nigeria’s Senate is trying to take the initiative in curbing a relentless wave of armed militia assaults in the north. Recent violence left communities shattered, families displaced, and a cloud of fear looming large. Benue State, in Nigeria's North-Central region bore a significant brunt of the attacks.

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Nigeria considering state policing to combat growing insecurity

 

Nigerian Troops Rescue 16 Abductees in Kaduna

Nigeria’s military on Tuesday said troops have rescued 16 abductees in northwest Kaduna state after exchanging fire with insurgents who attacked a local community on Sunday night — one of two kidnap attacks in the area over the weekend.

According to a military statement posted on X, troops responded to a tip about the operation Sunday night of nonstate armed groups in the Tantatu community in Kajuru district.

The military said the attackers had taken several hostages before they arrived, exchanged fire with them and saved 16 of the abductees.

According to local media reports, 87 people, including women and children, went missing from the Sunday attack — barely 24 hours after gunmen captured 16 people from their homes in Dogon Noma, another community in Kajuru.

The army said troops are still searching the forests for missing people. The latest string of kidnappings in Nigeria in recent weeks is stoking fears of rising insecurity.

Security analyst Chidi Omeje says worsening economic problems and lack of governance in remote areas are to blame.

"These guys are becoming more audacious because they see the window of opportunity, and they're just exploiting it,” Omeje said. “It's very obvious that the response of the security government and security agencies are not effective enough to contain these infractions. But these are just the symptoms. The real issue here is the growing poverty and despondency in the people."

The deterioration of security in Africa's largest country comes amid a worsening economic crisis.

Kaduna state has been a hot spot of recent incidents. Just over a week ago, 287 school students were abducted in the state, and days later, another 61 residents were also kidnapped.

The latest incidents prompted authorities last week to order the establishment of a mobile police force base in the state.

But security analyst Kabir Adamu said what is needed the most is a change of strategy.

"There are gaps within the security architecture,” Adamu said. “The farther away you go from the city center, the bigger the gaps. It shows clearly that protection, especially in the rural areas, is almost nonexistent for the dwellers."

Kaduna is home to many military training institutions and installations.

Omeje said authorities need to revise the deployment of police officers to where they're needed the most. He said that there are many ungoverned areas while 60% of the nation’s police are devoted to VIP protection.

“Ten percent or so are in administration in the offices, then you're left with about 30% doing the real policing work,” Omeje said. “We have to be intentional about going back to the normal internal security structure."

President Bola Tinubu, who is implementing bold economic reforms, vowed last year to address insecurity if he was elected president.

On March 14, 16 soldiers, including high ranking officers, were killed and decapitated in southern Delta state. They were on a mission to quell conflict between two communities in the Bomadi region.

The Nigerian military has launched an investigation.

By Timothy Obiezu, VOA

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