Showing posts with label kidnap. Show all posts
Showing posts with label kidnap. Show all posts

Tuesday, February 13, 2024

Video - Nigerian police arrest hundreds in kidnapping crackdown

The police chief in the Federal Capital Territory said officers conducted their latest raid in Gidan Dambe. More than 300 people were arrested.


Related stories: Gunmen kill four, abduct at least 40 in northwest Nigeria

Gunmen kill four soldiers, kidnap two South Koreans in ambush in southern Nigeria


Gunmen kill four, abduct at least 40 in northwest Nigeria

Armed men killed four people, including two policemen, and kidnapped at least 40 others in an attack on Kaura Namoda, in Nigeria's northwest Zamfara state, police and residents said on Tuesday.

Africa's largest economy is grappling with a multifaceted security crisis, including kidnappings for ransom in the northwest, which has reached alarming proportions.

Zamfara police spokesperson Yazid Abubakar confirmed the attack and said reinforcements have been deployed to the Kasuwar Daji district of the town where the incident took place.

Residents, including some of the victims, told Reuters by phone about their ordeal which began with an attack on the local police station.

"Sporadic gunshots woke me up around 0100 GMT. They started with the uniformed men before they moved into our houses," Hussaini Mohammed said.

"They took more than 40 women and children, including some elderly men," added Mohammed, who managed to escape.

Hamisu Kasuwa Daji, who heads the town's transport union, told Reuters his son and two grandchildren were taken by the attackers.

"My house is adjacent to the police station. The bandits started attacking the police station, which they engaged for several minutes until they killed two policemen and two other civilians.

"Then they proceeded to my house, by which time I had already fled. After I returned home later, I realised they had taken my son and two grandsons," he said.

Gangs of heavily armed men referred to as bandits by locals have wreaked havoc across Nigeria's northwest in the past three years, kidnapping thousands of people, killing hundreds and making it unsafe to travel by road or to farm in some areas.

Widespread insecurity is exacerbating a cost-of-living crisis caused by the reforms of President Bola Tinubu who has not yet said how he plans to tackle the mounting problems.

By Ahmed Kingimi, Reuters

Related stories: Two missionary priests who were kidnapped in Nigeria released

Traditional monarch shot dead and wife kidnapped from palace in Nigeria

Wednesday, February 7, 2024

Two priests kidnapped from parish rectory in Nigeria

A religious missionary order in Nigeria is appealing for the safe release of two of its members who were abducted from a parish rectory on Feb. 1.

In a statement issued Feb. 2, Father Dominic Ukpong, the provincial secretary of the Congregation of Missionaries Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (also known as the Claretians), announced with “sadness” the abduction of Father Kenneth Kanwa and Father Jude Nwachukwu.

Kanwa, the parish priest of St. Vincent de Paul Fier Parish in the Diocese of Pankshin, and Nwachukwu, his assistant, were abducted “at the parish rectory on the night of Thursday, Feb. 1,” according to the statement.

Ukpong appealed for spiritual solidarity, saying: “We solicit your prayers at this challenging time for their safety and quick release from captivity.”

“May the Most Blessed Virgin Mary intercede for the sons of her Immaculate Heart. Amen,” he implored.

Nigeria has been battling a surge of violence orchestrated by gangs whose members carry out indiscriminate attacks, kidnapping for ransom, and in some cases, killing.

The West African nation has also been experiencing since 2009 an insurgency by Boko Haram, a group that allegedly aims to turn Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, into an Islamic country.

By Jude Atemanke, CNA

Related stories: Nigeria police did not free them, we paid ransom for the sisters, family says

Traditional monarch shot dead and wife kidnapped from palace in Nigeria


Monday, February 5, 2024

Traditional monarch shot dead and wife kidnapped from palace in Nigeria

Gunmen killed a Nigerian traditional monarch and kidnapped his wife after raiding his palace, police said, as outrage grows over a spate of abductions across the country.

Attackers stormed the palace of Oba Aremu Olusegun Cole in south-western Kwara state, shot him dead and abducted his wife and another person on Thursday.

State police said they had launched an investigation and stepped up security.

Similar attacks regularly take place in Nigeria, which is struggling with a security crisis on several fronts. Two traditional rulers were shot dead by unknown gunmen in neighbouring Ekiti state on Monday.

Last year the president, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, came to power promising to address insecurity – including jihadists in the north-east, criminal militias in the north-west and growing intercommunal violence in the centre of the country – but critics say violence is spinning out of control.

The Nigerian risk consultancy SBM Intelligence said it had recorded that 3,964 people were abducted since Tinubu took office in May.

At the start of the year, criminals abducted five young sisters near the capital, Abuja, and killed one when a ransom deadline passed, prompting a national outcry.

The Guardian 

Related stories: Nigeria police did not free them, we paid ransom for the sisters, family says

President Tinubu says ‘massive education’ of youth will help end kidnappings threatening the capital

Video - Over 100 kidnapped from four villages in Nigeria




Tuesday, January 23, 2024

Nigeria police did not free them, we paid ransom for the sisters, family says








Nabeeha, pictured second from left, was killed by the kidnappers 


Nigerian police had no role in rescuing four sisters and their cousin from kidnappers, an uncle of the girls has told the BBC.

They were taken from their home in Abuja earlier this month, along with another sister who was later killed.

The uncle said a ransom was paid and the kidnappers dropped the girls in a forest for them to be collected.

On Sunday, police said they had "successfully rescued the victims", reuniting them with relatives.

Sheriff Al-Kadriyar, the girls' uncle, said the family went to collect them after a ransom was paid.

"There's nothing like rescue on this matter, we paid ransom - even though I can't disclose how much for security reasons," he told BBC Yoruba.

The Nigerian police spokesperson has not responded to a BBC request for comment.

The case has shocked the country, with people donating to a crowdfunding initiative to help raise the money.

In total five sisters were taken hostage in the Abuja suburb of Bwari on 2 January, along with their father Mansoor Al-Kadriyar, who was later released to raise the ransom.

Sheriff Kadriyar clarified that contrary to earlier reports that six Al-Kadriyar sisters had been abducted, one of the girls was in fact their cousin who had been staying with them over the school holidays.

Twenty-one-year-old Nabeeha, a final-year university student, was killed a few days after her father's release as a warning that the ransom of $68,000 (£53,000) must be paid.

Nigeria's defence minister had urged the family not to pay the ransom, but the Al-Kadriyars said they had no choice.

A controversial law that criminalises ransom payments was passed in 2022 aimed at tackling the country's spiralling and lucrative kidnapping industry.It carries a jail sentence of at least 15 years for anyone who pays a ransom, however no-one has been arrested, and a former minister is among those who said he had helped organise the payment to the kidnappers of the Al-Kadriyar sisters.

Sheriff Kadriyar, who said he was involved in negotiating with the kidnappers, explained that the money had been handed over to them on Wednesday.

His account backs up two others given by relatives to Nigeria's Daily Trust newspaper.

They all say that the girls were released on Saturday. One of them then called the family in the early evening, giving their location.

"The kidnappers chose the day and the location we were to pick up the girls about four or five days after ransom payment," the uncle said.

A group of male relatives then headed to the Kajuru Forest in neighbouring Kaduna state to find them. Along the way they chanced upon an army unit and requested help.

These army officers escorted them to find the girls - afterwards taking them all home by around 23:30 local time (22:30 GMT).

"We are happy and we thank God that the girls were found alive," the uncle said.

His brother and nieces were now being treated at a medical facility, he said.

Kidnapping has become rife in Nigeria, with hundreds of people abducted in recent years, largely by criminal gangs who see it as an easy way to make money. It has been particularly bad in the north-west of the country.

There has been an outcry that the insecurity has reached the capital, prompting Abuja's police force to launch a special squad to tackle the kidnapping gangs last week.

The family did not want to discredit the police but wanted to make it clear how they had managed to free the girls, Sheriff Kadriyar said.

By Mansur Abubakar, BBC 

Related stories: Kidnapped sisters rescued in Nigeria

President Tinubu says ‘massive education’ of youth will help end kidnappings threatening the capital

First lady of Nigeria 'devastated' by death of kidnapped student

Monday, January 22, 2024

Kidnapped sisters rescued in Nigeria

Nigerian police on Sunday said that five kidnapped sisters have been rescued after their abduction, and the death of another sister triggered a public outcry. The sisters were seized at the start of the year by armed men who burst into their home just 15 miles from Abuja city center, according to the family.

One of the victims, 21-year-old Nabeeha Al-Kadriyar, lost her life when the ransom deadline passed.

Federal Capital Territory (FCT) police and the army successfully rescued the remaining sisters on Saturday night in the Kajuru forest in Kaduna State, a neighboring area.

“The FCT Police has rescued the victims and reunited them with their families,” a police statement said.

The incident highlights the issue of kidnapping for ransom in Nigeria, where criminal groups target various locations, including highways, residences, and even schools, causing widespread concern.

President Bola Ahmed Tinubu condemned the “recent spate of kidnappings and bandit attacks.” Since assuming office in May of the previous year, Tinubu has made addressing insecurity a major commitment.

(Story compiled with assistance from AFP) 

By Halligan Agade, CGTN

Related stories: President Tinubu says ‘massive education’ of youth will help end kidnappings threatening the capital

First lady of Nigeria 'devastated' by death of kidnapped student



Wednesday, January 17, 2024

President Tinubu says ‘massive education’ of youth will help end kidnappings threatening the capital

Nigeria’s leader said Tuesday that his government will embark on “massive education” of youth as one way to tackle the increasing kidnappings for ransom now threatening the capital city along with the rest of the country’s conflict-hit north.

President Bola Tinubu won last year’s election after promising to rid the West African nation of its security crisis. However, deadly attacks particularly in the north have persisted, with the capital of Abuja recording a spike in abductions along major roads and in homes in recent weeks.

Tinubu condemned the abductions as “disturbing, ungodly and sinister” and touted education as “the antidote to the troubles agitating the nation,” according to a statement from presidential spokesman Ajuri Ngelale.

“There is no weapon against poverty that is as potent as learning,” the statement said. “Security agencies are acting with dispatch to immediately address the current challenge (while) all required resources, policies and plans will be rolled out soon for the massive education of Nigerian youths.”

Nigeria’s security forces already are battling jihadi rebels in the northeast in addition to armed groups that often carry out mass killings and abductions in remote communities across the northwest and central regions.

Now residents on the outskirts of the capital are beginning to relocate amid a surge in abductions for ransom suspected of being carried out by gunmen from volatile neighboring states.

Analysts said Tinubu has not done much to address the security crisis.

“Nigeria is drifting towards a failing state (with) non-state armed groups challenging the state authority,” said Oluwole Ojewale, a West and Central Africa researcher with the Africa-focused Institute for Security Studies.

Although Tinubu had promised that his government will “mobilize the totality” of Nigeria’s assets to protect citizens, there has been “no tangible improvement in (the) security situation yet,” Ojewale said.

By Chinedu Asadu, AP

Related stories: First lady of Nigeria 'devastated' by death of kidnapped student

Video - Over 100 kidnapped from four villages in Nigeria

Monday, January 15, 2024

First lady of Nigeria 'devastated' by death of kidnapped student

Nigeria's first lady has joined the chorus of voices condemning the killing of a student abducted along with her five sisters, calling it a "devastating loss".

Nabeeha Al-Kadriyar, 21, was "super-bright, smart and kind", her cousin Asiya Adamu told the BBC on Monday.

Nabeeha also loved to write poetry and read books by the American author Jodi Picoult - and she was days away from graduating with a science degree from Ahmadu Bello University.

"On the day the kidnapping happened, I asked Nabeeha if we were going to the [graduation ceremony] together, and she said yes," recalls Ms Adamu. It was the last time she saw her alive.

That evening, on 2 January, Nabeeha was abducted along with her father and sisters from their home in the outskirts of the capital, Abuja.

Nigerian police have not confirmed what happened next. Witnesses say Nabeeha's uncle ran to find help but was ambushed and killed, as were three police officers. It is not known why the family was targeted.

The kidnappers demanded to be paid a huge sum of cash by 12 January, and when they did not get it they killed Nabeeha as a warning, according to a member of the family who spoke to the BBC on condition of anonymity.

Nabeeha's kidnappers handed over her body and, in accordance with Islamic rites, she was swiftly buried by her family on Saturday.
A national reckoning

News of Nabeeha's plight began to circulate over the weekend, prompting widespread grief and indignation that Nigeria's kidnapping crisis rages on despite government promises to bring it to an end.

This moment of reckoning has moved the president's wife to speak out and confirm Nabeeha's death, even though police had not yet officially done so.

Security agencies must "intensify their efforts" to end Nigeria's kidnapping and security crisis, said First Lady Remi Tinubu on Monday, demanding a "swift return of the Al-Kadriyar sisters".

Their father Mansoor Al-Kadriyar, who was freed days ago in order to fetch the ransom money, now faces an agonising wait for their return. His daughters' captors are demanding a higher sum of 65m naira ($68,000; £53,000), to be paid by Wednesday.

Hundreds of Nigerians have been kidnapped for ransom in recent years, largely by criminal gangs who see it as an easy way to make money. Close to 20 people were abducted in in the first week of 2024 alone.

No matter how desperate the circumstances, Nigerian law prohibits the payment of ransom money. However, many victims pay up because they do not trust authorities or their track record.

Even a former minister appears to share this scepticism of the Nigerian state's ability to bring the abducted back.

"I am personally not in support of paying ransom to criminals. However... I spoke with a friend who offered to pay the remaining 50 million naira," says ex-Digital Economy Minister Isa Ali Pantami, who is now a professor in cybersecurity, and a Muslim cleric.

He was one of the architects of the policy of registering all mobile phone Sim cards, in order to make life harder for kidnappers and extortionists, but says he is "frustrated" that it has not been better implemented despite allegedly enduring "threats to my life".

Nabeeha's cousin, Asiya Adamu, has also crowdfunded money from well-wishers online to help pay the ransom. She did not respond to the BBC's request to disclose the total raised, saying security officers had advised her not to so.

While she prays for the safe return of the rest of her cousins, Ms Adamu is haunted by the thought that she narrowly avoided the same fate. She tells the BBC she was due to spend time at their house that day but later changed her mind.

"My favourite memories of Nabeeha was mostly when we were in the kitchen together," Ms Adamu recalls.

"Losing her has left a void one cannot explain with words. She was a source of comfort and understanding and I've lost that," she adds.

"She had plans of going to Morocco for her Masters because she liked the place.

"I guess we make plans and Allah has the last word."

By Chris Ewokor & Natasha Booty, BBC

Related stories: Judge kidnapped in Nigeria and guard killed

Video - Over 100 kidnapped from four villages in Nigeria

Wednesday, December 13, 2023

Gunmen kill four soldiers, kidnap two South Koreans in ambush in southern Nigeria

At least four Nigerian soldiers were killed while two South Koreans were abducted during an attack by gunmen in Nigeria’s oil-rich southern Rivers state, authorities said.

The gunmen ambushed a convoy escorting the Koreans on a work trip in the Ahoada East council area, resulting in a shootout, Maj. Jonah Danjuma, an army spokesman, said in a statement on Tuesday.

“Troops are currently combing the general area to fish out the perpetrators of this dastardly act. Additionally, efforts are ongoing to ensure that the unaccounted oil workers are found,” Danjuma said.

Abductions for ransom are common in parts of Nigeria, but it has been especially widespread in Rivers and other parts of the oil-rich Niger Delta region where many foreign companies in the oil and engineering sectors operate. The region also struggles with high poverty and hunger despite its natural resources.

Hostages are usually released after the payment of large ransoms, though security forces in the past have succeeded in freeing some.

Danjuma urged locals to provide any intelligence that would help in making arrests.

By Chinedu Asadu, Reuters 

Related stories: Dozens of children kidnapped by Gunmen in Nigeria

Armed men abduct 8 in Nigeria


Monday, June 5, 2023

Dozens of children kidnapped by Gunmen in Nigeria

Gunmen in Nigeria have killed dozens of people and kidnapped a number of children in separate attacks in two northern states, police and residents said on Sunday, the latest incidents in a region dogged by armed violence.

Armed gangs on motorbikes frequently take advantage of thinly stretched security forces in the region to kidnap villagers, motorists and students for ransom.

Residents said armed men had attacked Janbako and Sakkida villages in northwestern Zamfara state on Saturday, killing 24 people. The gunmen also abducted several children who were collecting firewood in a forest in neighbouring Gora village.

Hussaini Ahmadu and Abubakar Maradun, local residents in Janbako and Sakkida, told Reuters by phone that the gangs had earlier in the week demanded villagers pay a fee to enable them to farm their fields, but villagers did not do so.

Zamfara police spokesman Yazid Abubakar confirmed the attacks but said only 13 people had been reported killed and nine young boys and girls kidnapped.

In north central Benue state, gunmen killed 25 people and set their houses on fire during an attack on Saturday on the Imande Mbakange community, two residents said. The motive of the attack was not known.

Police did not immediately respond to requests for comment. 

By Ardo Hazzad, Reuters

Related story: Gunmen kidnap dozens in Nigeria, at least 11 killed


Thursday, May 18, 2023

Four killed in attack on US convoy in Nigeria

Gunmen in south-eastern Nigeria have attacked a US convoy, killing four people, local police say.

They say two of the victims of Tuesday's attack in the Anambra state were US consulate employees, while the other two were police officers.

The attackers kidnapped three other people, and set their vehicle on fire.

Washington says no US citizens were in the convoy, which was travelling in the state plagued by violence and a separatist insurgency.

Nigerian police say the attack happened on the Atani-Osamale road in Ogbaru region.

Police spokesperson DSP Ikenga Tochukwu says security forces were currently carrying out a rescue and recovery operation.

In a statement to the BBC, the US confirmed that "there was an incident on 16 May in Anambra state", adding that Washington was working with Nigerian security services to investigate the attack.

"The security of our personnel is always paramount, and we take extensive precautions when organising trips to the field," the US state department said.

The Nigerian authorities often blame violent attacks in the region on the Indigenous People of Biafra (Ipob) movement, which is fighting for a breakaway state in the south-east of the country.

Anambra and other parts of the south-east have seen a sharp rise in attacks on security forces since Ipob launched an armed wing in December 2020.

The group has so far made no public comments on the issue.

By Chris Ewokor, BBC 

Related stories: 1,603 killed, 1,774 abducted in violent attacks across Nigeria in three months

Video - Is Nigeria's security crisis out of control?


Thursday, May 11, 2023

Gunmen free 25 people from Baptist church kidnapping

Heavily armed gangs known locally as bandits frequently carry out mass abductions for ransom in northwest and central Nigeria, holding their captives in camps hidden in forests that stretch across the region.

Armed attackers on Sunday stormed into the Bege Baptist Church in Kaduna State during morning mass and abducted 40 people.

Fifteen managed to escape, while the gunmen left with 25, Reverend Joseph Hayab, head of the Christian Association of Nigeria in Kaduna State said.

Eleven more hostages were released by their captors, bringing the number still detained to 14, Hayab told AFP on Wednesday.

"The number of those kidnapped from the church has reduced 14 after the gunmen set free 11 out of the 25 they took away," said Hayab, who is also a Baptist priest.

"They abandoned or released those they found difficult to manage due to health challenges, fatigue or age," he said.

The latest was a woman who was so exhausted that the abductors mistook her for dead and abandoned her in the bush along with her baby.

The woman regained consciousness, found her baby and returned home, Hayab said.

"To them, it is not the number of the hostages they take that matters because they know even if they take one person they will receive ransom in exchange."

He said they were waiting for the abductors to make their demands.

Kaduna police have confirmed the incident but are yet to provide details.

Abductions for ransom and intercommunal attacks have been on the rise again in the last few weeks after a brief calm period during February and March elections for the presidency and governorship posts.

Nine people, including a local chief, were also kidnapped late on Wednesday in Idon Gida community in nearby Kajuru district of Kaduna State, according to Hayab and a local official.

Bandits burst into the Christian village around 2000 GMT, taking away seven women and two men, they said.

Mass kidnappings and bandit gangs in the northwest are just one of several security challenges facing president-elect Bola Tinubu when he takes the helm of Africa's most populous nation later this month.

Nigeria's military is also battling a grinding jihadist conflict in the northeast that has killed 40,000 since 2009 as well as simmering separatist tensions in the southeast of the country, where gunmen often target police.


Friday, May 5, 2023

Two Chibok girls rescuded by Nigerian Army

The Nigerian Army on Thursday said it had rescued two additional girls from the Government Girls Secondary School, Chibok, nine years after their abduction by Boko Haram in 2014.

The Theatre Commander, North-East Joint Operation, Hadin Kai, Ibrahim Ali, a major general, disclosed this while briefing journalists at the Maimalari Cantonment in Maiduguri.

Mr Ali said that Hauwa Maltha and Esther Marcus, both serial numbers two and 103 in the list of the missing victims, were rescued on 21 April by troops of 114 Taskforce Battalion Bitta at Lagara, under the 21 armoured Brigade Bama during Operations.

He said that Hauwa Maltha, 26, and Kibaku by tribe from Jila in Chibok Local Government Area of Borno State, and her three-year-old baby were rescued.

He explained that while in captivity, Hauwa got married at Gulukos, a village in Sambisa forest, to one Salman, a cameraman to Abubakar Shekau.

“Salman later died in Lake Chad. Thereafter, Hauwa Maltha got married to one Mallam Muhammad in Gobara and had 2 children for him who later died due to sickness. Muhammad, her second husband, was killed in Ukuba terrorist enclaves in Sambisa forest during clashes between Boko Haram/ISWAP,” he said.

“Hauwa who was about eight months and two weeks pregnant during the time of her rescue delivered a bouncing baby boy on 28 April 2023 while undergoing thorough medical examination along with her baby Fatima at 7 Div Medical Hospital and Services,” he said.

Mr Ali explained that while in captivity, 26-year-old Esther was forcefully married to one Garba, also known as Garus, a Boko Haram fighter who was killed during troops’ offensive operations on terrorists’ enclaves.

“She was later married off to another insurgent, Abba, in Ukuba terrorist enclaves in Sambisa forest until her rescue by troops of Operation Hadin Kai.

“Since their rescue, they have undergone thorough medical examination along with their babies and are adequately resuscitated and will be handed over to the Borno State Government for further administration.

“These results are evident as troops have rescued about 14 Chibok girls recently.

“The girls rescued so far include; Aisha Grema, serial number 11 on the abducted Chibok girls’ list, Hannatu Musa, number 7 on the list, and Sera Luka, number 38 on the list.

Others are Ruth Bitrus, number 41, Mary Dauda, number 46, Hauwa Joseph, number 18, Falmata Lawan, number 3, Asabe Ali, number 12, Jankai Yamal, number 20, Yana Pogu, number 19, Rejoice Sanki, number 70 and Hassana Adamu, number 35,” he said.

He assured the people of the North-east in particular that Operation Hadin Kai remains resolute and determined in neutralising all vestiges of terrorist elements as well as criminals marauding the North-east and returning total and long lasting peace to the region.

“Our immense appreciation goes to the President, Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces, President Muhammadu Buhari, the Chief of Defence Staff, Lucky Irabor, and service chiefs for their strategic guidance and provision of requisite logistics and operational platforms which have spurred the continuous successes,” he said.

Premium Times

Related story: Two kidnapped Chibok girls freed in Nigeria after eight years

Wednesday, April 5, 2023

Eight students kidnapped in Nigeria

Gunmen in Nigeria’s northern Kaduna state kidnapped eight secondary school students coming from school along with an unknown number of others, authorities said on Tuesday, the latest in a wave of such abductions.

Armed gangs operating mostly in remote parts of northwest Nigeria have carried out violent attacks against villagers, schools and motorists, abducting hundreds for ransom.

Samuel Aruwan, the commissioner for internal security in Kaduna, said gunmen on Monday abducted the eight students from Awon Government Secondary School in the Kachia local government area.

It was not immediately clear where the students were taken to, but the kidnappers often keep victims in the forests and only release them when a ransom is paid.

“The management of the school has submitted the names and classes of the kidnapped students,” said Aruwan.

Insecurity is one of the issues that will confront Nigeria’s president-elect, Bola Tinubu, who is due to be sworn in, in May.

Nigeria’s military has been fighting armed groups like Boko Haram in the northeast, which has left it thinly stretched to tackle the kidnapping gangs known locally as bandits.

Many of the bandits are believed to comprise mostly ethnic Fulanis, including pastoralists and mercenaries from the region as well as neighbouring Chad and the Niger Republic.

On several occasions, they have kidnapped schoolchildren in various parts of Nigeria’s Niger, Kebbi and Yobe states. Other victims of their kidnapping-for-ransom scheme range across all social classes, from politicians and relatives to clerics, security guards and farmers.

Al Jazeera

Related stories: Nigeria pays $11 million as ransom to kidnappers in four years

Attempt to abduct hundreds of schoolboys foiled by security forces in Nigeria

Tuesday, January 10, 2023

32 people kidnapped from train station in Nigeria

Gunmen armed with AK-47 rifles have abducted more than 30 people from a train station in Nigeria's southern Edo state, the governor's office said on Sunday.

The attack is the latest example of the growing insecurity that has spread to nearly every corner of Africa's most populous country, posing a challenge to the government in advance of a February presidential election.

Police said in a statement that armed herdsmen had attacked Tom Ikimi station at 4 p.m. (1500 GMT) as passengers awaited a train to Warri, an oil hub in nearby Delta state. The station is some 111 km northeast of state capital Benin City and close to the border with Anambra state.

Some people at the station were shot in the attack, police said.

Edo state information commissioner Chris Osa Nehikhare said the kidnappers had taken 32 people, though one had already escaped.

"At the moment, security personnel made up of the military and the police as well as men of the vigilante network and hunters are intensifying search and rescue operations in a reasonable radius to rescue the kidnap victims," he said. "We are confident that the other victims will be rescued in the coming hours."

The Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) had closed the station until further notice and the federal transportation ministry called the kidnappings "utterly barbaric".

The NRC last month reopened a rail service linking the capital Abuja with northern Kaduna state, months after gunmen blew up the tracks, kidnapped dozens of passengers and killed six people.

The last hostage taken in that March attack was not freed until October.

Insecurity is rampant across Nigeria, with Islamist insurgencies in the northeast, banditry in the northwest, separatists in the southeast and farmer-herdsmen clashes in the central states. 

By Tife Owolabi, Reuters

Related stories: Video - Rail staff killed in ‘unprecedented’ attack on train in Nigeria

How I survived the Kaduna train attack hijacking and captivity

Friday, December 9, 2022

Citizens of Nigeria Uneasy about Cash Withdrawal Restrictions

Nigeria's Central Bank this week announced a new policy that restricts large amounts of cash from being withdrawn from bank accounts. The announcement comes two weeks after authorities unveiled redesigned currency in an attempt to curb cash hoarding and check corruption and crimes. But some critics say the decision will have a negative effect on small businesses.

The Central Bank’s directive this week restricting cash withdrawals from individual and corporate accounts will take effect on Jan. 9, 2023.

According to the new policy, personal account holders will be able to withdraw only 100,000 naira, or around $200, per week while companies will be restricted to about $1,000 in the same period.

The policy comes ahead of Nigeria's election slated for February 2023, with authorities vowing to tackle vote-trading and corruption.

The CBN says the initiative seeks to address excessive hoarding of cash, help fight crime, give authorities control of the legal tender, and encourage more people to use electronic means for their transactions.

But economist and director at the Centre for Social Justice, Eze Onyekpere, said it will have an adverse effect on small and medium scale enterprises, or SMEs.

"That is not the way to curb vote-buying,” he said. “Yes, it could restrict the amount people have in their hands but these amounts of money are too small considering the value of the naira, and in terms of small businesses particularly people in the informal sector who may not have gone fully cashless who have not gone completely cashless, it's going to cause them a lot of inconvenience, challenges and also may increase the cost of doing business."

The initiative allows for a monthly withdrawal above specified limits but that carries a 5% processing fee for individuals and 10% for corporate entities.

The CBN said it will sanction banks and other financial institutions that fail to comply with the measure.

In late November, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari unveiled the redesigned 200, 500 and 1000 naira notes initially scheduled for launch in mid-December.

Public finance expert Isaac Botti supports the move, saying it is the only way to ensure the new currencies are not stashed away.

"For me, it's a commendable policy because it's a way to also curb corruption and looting of public treasuries,” he said. “I don't have concerns over it affecting SMEs because they're not expected to carry out solely cash transmissions. The only concern I have is about making the system more effective to be able to accommodate cashless policy."

Onyekpere also cites the lack of internet banking services as a major hindrance. More than 40% of Nigerians, mostly in rural areas, do not have bank accounts and rely on mobile money agents for their daily transactions.

Abuja bakery owner Eseoghene Eghove said the tightening of accounts will affect her business.

"As a business owner I go to buy flour, sugar, butter and many other things. How do you pay? It is not reasonable, they'll just make things more difficult for people," she said.

The old naira bills will cease to be legal tender by the end of January. The CBN has promised to monitor the rollout of the new bills and make sure not too much money is withdrawn.

By Timothy Obiezu, VOA 

Related story: Cash withdrawals in Nigeria limited to $225 a week to curb ransom payments

Thursday, December 8, 2022

Cash withdrawals in Nigeria limited to $225 a week to curb ransom payments

Nigeria’s central bank has imposed restrictions on weekly cash withdrawals to limit the use of cash in an apparent bid to curb counterfeiting and discourage ransom payments to kidnappers.

Under a new policy announced late on Tuesday, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) said that weekly cash withdrawals for individuals had been slashed to 100,000 Nigerian naira ($225) from 2.5 million naira ($5,638).

A majority of Nigerians have no bank accounts and use informal markets where cash is preferred. This move aims to bring more people into the banking system, and will take effect on January 9, the CBN said.

“The maximum cash withdrawal per week via automated teller machine shall be 100,000 naira subject to a maximum of 20,000 naira ($45) cash withdrawal per day,” it said.

Only denominations of 200 naira and less will be loaded into ATMs, it said.

For businesses, the weekly limit has been cut to 500,000 naira ($1,128) from the current daily limit of three million naira ($6,766).

“Withdrawals above these limits shall attract processing fees of five percent and 10 percent, respectively,” the CBN said.

But in compelling circumstances individuals and businesses could withdraw a maximum of five million naira ($11,277) and 10 million naira ($22,553) respectively once a month, it added.

The central bank warned commercial lenders against violating the new cash limits, which it said were in line with its policy to promote cashless transactions.

The bank has expressed concerns in the past over currency counterfeiting, the volume of money outside the banking system and huge ransom payments to kidnappers and bandits.

Last month, Nigeria launched newly designed currency notes, another move the central bank said would help curb inflation and money laundering.

More than 80 percent of the 3.2 trillion naira ($7.2bn) in circulation in Nigeria are outside the vaults of commercial banks and in private hands, CBN Governor Godwin Emefiele said when he unveiled the new notes.

“The currency redesign will also assist in the fight against corruption as the exercise will rein in the higher denomination used for corruption and the movement of such funds from the banking system could be tracked easily,” he explained at the time.

The new notes – denominations of 200, 500 and 1,000 naira – come into use on December 15, but Nigerians have until January 31 to turn in old notes when they will cease to be legal tender.

Al Jazeera

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Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Faces of 108 missing Chibok girls sculpted in Clay in Nigeria Art Project







The faces of 108 Nigerian girls who are still missing eight years after they were kidnapped by Islamist insurgents have been sculpted in clay in a collaboration between an artist, a group of potters and university students.

The artwork, titled "Statues Also Breathe" and conceived by French artist Prune Nourry, consists of 108 life-size clay heads, made by 108 students from all over Nigeria, and now on display at an art gallery in Lagos.

Boko Haram militants abducted around 270 teenage girls from a school in the northeastern town of Chibok in 2014.

The mass kidnapping initially prompted worldwide outrage, with the slogan #BringBackOurGirls trending on social media and prominent figures including then U.S. first lady Michelle Obama pressing for their return.

Since then, about 160 of the girls have been released, some after years of captivity, but the story has faded from the headlines.

Nourry collected photos of the missing girls from their families and passed the images on to the students who created the sculptures at a one-day outdoor workshop on the campus of Obafemi Awolowo University in Ife, southwest Nigeria.

A small group of women who were among the abducted girls and were later released took part, as did some parents of the missing women.

Nourry said it was a cathartic experience for all involved.

"For the students, for all of us who felt so useless when something so incredible happened and you cannot do anything about it, the fact of being able to at least give a little thing through sculpture, through what we know how to do, was healing," she said.

The young artists took inspiration from photos of Ife heads - terracotta sculptures made in the region centuries ago and considered to be among Nigeria's most significant cultural artefacts.

They used clay from the Ife area - the substance that, according to the Yoruba ethnic group's creation myth, was used to form humans - sourced by a community of local female potters, who also contributed to the creative process.

"These girls have been in distress for eight years," said Habiba Balogun, coordinator of the Bring Back Our Girls campaign in Lagos.

"I am really happy that a project like this has come up that is really going to elevate the level of discourse and understanding, and have a permanent record in the history of this our country about something tragic like this."

Reuters, by Estelle Shirbon

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Tuesday, December 6, 2022

Service resumed for Abuja-Kaduna train service attacked by gunmen

Nigeria's state railway company on Monday resumed a popular train service between the capital Abuja and the northern state of Kaduna, suspended since in March after gunmen killed passengers and kidnapped several dozen.

Africa's most populous nation is battling insecurity in the north from armed gangs who attack villages and highways and kidnap people for ransom, and a long running insurgency that has killed thousands and displaced millions more.

The Nigerian military in October secured the release of the remaining 23 hostages from the train attack. President Muhammadu Buhari's government had said the train service would only start once all hostages were freed.

"We are starting afresh and I pray we will not have a re-occurrence of that ugly incidence by God's grace," said Ganiyat Adesina-Uthman, a lecturer who was travelling to Kaduna for the first time since March.

Passengers were required to provide national identification numbers, while armed security were on board the train. 

Reuters, by Abraham Archiga

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Monday, December 5, 2022

How I survived the Kaduna train attack hijacking and captivity





Nigeria's reopening of a vital high-speed train link nine months after an audacious hijacking is bringing back traumatic memories for some of the survivors, who are struggling to recover from their ordeal.

Gunmen mined the track between the capital, Abuja, and the northern city of Kaduna on the evening of 28 March, forcing the train carrying 362 passengers to stop.

Shots then came from all directions as the attackers surrounded the train, which had armed policemen on board, and managed to abduct 62 of the passengers. At least nine people died in the chaos and confusion.

Among those kidnapped was Hassan Usman, a barrister based in Kaduna, and his wife.

He told the BBC that the bedraggled group of abductees - made up of 39 men, 18 women and five children - were forced to trek for four days to the remote area where they were to be held captive, walking in the heat without food and only being given occasional water to drink.

The 47-year-old became the de facto spokesperson for the captives, some of whom were held for five months, and has since set up a WhatsApp group for the survivors so they can give each other comfort and support.

Seeing the smartly dressed lawyer today, it is hard to comprehend that he was the shaggy haired man in grey overclothes who pleaded for the government to heed to the demands of the abductors as other hostages beside him were flogged in a video released in July by the militants.

He says it was a harrowing experience for all the captives but particularly the women who had to deal with unhygienic conditions.

They had no sanitary pads and were forced to use rags. They all drank water from the small nearby lake where they were also allowed to bath.

"During the first few months, we were sleeping openly on bare ground which was sometimes wet, but when the rains started they made makeshift camps and allowed us inside only until the showers stopped," said Mr Usman.

The captives ate once a day at 11:00 - usually a soup made from corn flour and baobab leaves.

"We realised that the food items were being smuggled in and that getting supplies was a problem. They occasionally brought rice which we cooked with just palm oil and sometimes with beans," he said.

There were days when they were allowed a second meal at 18:00, but this was rare.

"The women did the cooking and the men did most of the chores like fetching water, firewood and washing the utensils."

'Boko Haram tried to recruit us'

For weeks, the identity of the kidnappers was unknown - with speculation that they were members of bandit groups notorious for kidnapping for ransoms in the north-west.

But Mr Usman confirmed growing suspicions that the gunmen were members of the Islamist Boko Haram militant group that usually operates in the north-east where it started its insurgency in 2009.

There have long been suggestions that the group, which says it wants to overthrow the government and establish an Islamic state, is expanding southwards.

"They told us that they were Boko Haram and they captured us to drive some of their demands from the government.

"Sometimes they gave us their phones to listen to most of what they preach," he said, explaining these included sermons from Boko Haram's first two leaders Mohammed Yusuf and Abubakar Shekau - who are both now dead.

"They even tried to persuade us to join their group and propagate their cause."

When any of the captives fell sick or needed medication, the militants would seek advice.

"They would always ask the professionals among us, the drugs needed to treat people and they mostly bought [them]," the lawyer said.

"Their charlatan doctors also administered injections to the sick especially for malaria and typhoid treatments."

At one point, the leader of the kidnappers suggested he take the younger captives to his house for better care, but the parents resisted, Mr Usman said.

'Destitute after ransoms paid'

While most of the victims of the train attack were released after their families and associates paid huge ransoms, the kidnappers held on to others to make demands of the government.

Some analysts suggest this may have included the release of militants held in prison - though this has never been confirmed.

Mr Usman said his family negotiated his release with the militants - though they have never shared the details of the agreement with him.

All he knows is that it was not a straightforward process and on the day he was to be freed it all went wrong.

"The soldiers patrolling along one axis refused to allow my people access to the meeting point to pick me."

This prompted the militants to make the torture video and he was only released the next day.

The ransoms some families paid have left them destitute - he said the sum for several of the captives was as much as 100m naira ($225,000; £184,000) each.

On the WhatsApp group, where the survivors now regard each other as one big united family, people recount their dire situations.

"Many cannot afford three meals a day, some were given a notice to leave by their landlords," said Mr Usman.

The lawyer bemoaned the lack of help given to the survivors, many of whom need trauma therapy.

"We have a Ministry of Humanitarian Services whose responsibility is to help such people - I think there is need for its intervention at the moment."

One of the women who was abducted sobbed as she spoke to me about her months in captivity.

The woman, who did not want to be named, vowed never to travel between Abuja and Kaduna again - by rail or road - as she was so traumatised by her experience.

Many thousands of people frequently commute between the two cities as government workers often cannot afford to rent in Abuja.

They chose to leave their families in Kaduna or states further north and travel home at weekends to see them.

The train, which opened in 2016, had been considered a safer alternative to the highway - the most notorious road in the country for kidnapping ambushes.

Other survivors admitted they would feel apprehensive about boarding the train again, but Mr Usman has welcomed the reopening of the 174km (108-mile) train link - due to happen on Monday morning.

His advice for the government is to ensure adequate security measures and 24-hour surveillance of the rail track.

Nigeria's defence chief Gen Lucky Irabor has sought to reassure them, saying that CCTV had now been installed and even he and the president would be able to "see everything happening on the line from their offices".

BBC, by Halima Umar Saleh

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