Showing posts with label kidnapping. Show all posts
Showing posts with label kidnapping. 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

 

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

Monday, May 20, 2024

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

No fewer than 386 people, mostly women and children, have been rescued by the Army in Sambisa forest ten years after their abduction.

The acting GOC 7 Division, AGL Haruna, made this known while speaking to newsmen at the outskirts of Sambisa forest in Konduga LGA after welcoming the troops that conducted the 10-day operation.

Mr Haruna, a brigadier general, said the operation tagged “Operation Desert Sanity 111” was to clear Sambisa forest of the remnants of all categories of terrorists as well as provide some of them eager to surrender as observed the opportunity to do so.

“Our effort is to ensure that we clear remnants of terrorists in the Sambisa and give those willing to surrender the opportunity to surrender.

“With this operation, we envisage many of them will surrender as they have started.

“We also rescued some civilians; as of yesterday, we rescued 386 and I am sure the number will increase by today,” Haruna said.

The GOC, who addressed the troops on the message of Chief of Army Staff, lauded their performance and professionalism exhibited during the operation and urged them to sustain the tempo.

Some of those rescued from Sambisa forest, who spoke, said they were in captivity for 10 years.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that troops from 21 Special Armoured Brigade, 26 Task Force Brigade, and 199 Special Forces participated in the operation.

Premium Times

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

14 kidnapped University students rescued

 

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

 

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

Monday, April 22, 2024

Video - Nigeria President says no to ransom payment amid spike in kidnappings



Nigerian President Tinubu says ransoms will no longer be paid to kidnappers who have made the crime a business in the West African nation. He made the declaration during the commemoration of the 10th anniversary of the kidnapping of 276 school girls from the town of Chibok in the country's northern region.

CGTN

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

Gunmen abduct 287 students in northwestern Nigeria in latest school attack

 

 

Friday, April 19, 2024

Woman rescued 10 years after kidnap by Boko Haram in Nigeria

Nigerian troops have rescued a pregnant woman and her three children 10 years after she was abducted by Boko Haram militants when she was a schoolgirl in the town of Chibok.


Lydia Simon was rescued in Gwoza council area, about 95 miles (150km) east of Chibok, from where 276 schoolgirls were seized in April 2014. As many as 82 are still missing a decade after the high-profile mass kidnapping.

Announcing the news on Thursday, the Nigerian army did not give details of the rescue other than to say Simon was found in the community of Ngoshe.

Chibok and Ngoshe are in Borno state, birthplace of the 15-year old insurgency that has since spread to neighbouring Cameroon, Chad and Niger, uprooting about 2 million people across the region.

The army statement said Simon was five months pregnant. It was accompanied by a picture of her and her three children born in captivity, who appear to be between the ages of two and four. She has yet to be reunited with her family.

The Chibok abduction was the first of a series of mass school kidnappings in Nigeria, shocking the world and triggering a global social media campaign tagged #BringBackOurGirls. Ten years on, many of the abductees, now adults, have been freed or escaped, but jihadist groups and bandits continue to target schools for mass abductions.

Since the Chibok attack, more than 2,190 students have been kidnapped, according to the Lagos-based geopolitical risk consultancy SBM Intelligence. It said mass abductions had become “an increasingly favourite sport for Nigeria’s teeming armed groups”.

As many as 57 of the women from Chibok escaped in the hours after their kidnapping by jumping off the trucks used to abduct them. In May 2017, 82 others were released after the government reportedly paid million-dollar ransoms. Those who returned in recent years were mostly found abandoned in the forests.

Some Chibok parents and security analysts have said there is little evidence to show there is a special military operation to free the remaining women. It is not known if they are all still alive.

Some of the recently freed women were either raped by the insurgents or forced into marriages, according to Chioma Agwuegbo, an activist who was part of the #BringBackOurGirls campaign.

“We have heard their stories about the amount of trauma and violence they have faced. Somebody who was kidnapped 10 years ago is not returning as the same person,” Agwuegbo told Associated Press.

The cause has largely been forgotten by many of the politicians and celebrities who championed it. On 14 April, the anniversary of the abduction, the local activist collective that began the campaign and held rallies for years in Abuja, the Nigerian capital, said it was still seeking justice for the missing women after “this decade of shame”.

Simon’s rescue was symbolic of the enduring hope that pervaded her home town, said the Abuja-based analyst Idayat Hassan, a non-resident fellow with the Africa programme at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies.

“It’s symbolic that 10 years after, we still got another of the girls,” Hassan said. “It keeps our hope alive.”

Simon’s family are waiting to be reunited with their long-lost relative, as are the villagers of Chibok.

“The government has not told us anything [and] we are waiting for an official call,” said Yakubu Nkeki, the chair of the Chibok girls’ parents’ association.

By Eromo Egbejule, The Guardian

Related stories: Video - Families of missing Chibok girls remain hopeful of reunion in Nigeria

Kidnappings in Nigeria rise 10 years after Chibok girls abducted

Monday, April 15, 2024

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



kidnappings in Northern Nigeria have grown into an industry worth millions of dollars.

Related stories: 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

 

Video - Families of missing Chibok girls remain hopeful of reunion in Nigeria



About 90 girls kidnapped from a government secondary school in Chibok, in Nigeria’s Borno State in 2014 remain missing. A total of 276 girls were taken. Many abductees have returned home and are trying to resume normal life. However, relatives of the girls still missing anxiously wait and hope for a reunion with their kin.

CGTN

Related stories: 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

 

Video - Mass abductions negatively impact food production in Nigeria



Farmers in northern Nigeria have abandoned their commercial farms and turned to small-scale subsistence farming close to their homes to avoid being the victims of kidnapping. Insecurity in the region is an issue. Kidnappings for ransom are increasingly common.

CGTN

Related stories: Video - Mass abductions impact education in Nigeria

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

Kidnappings in Nigeria rise 10 years after Chibok girls abducted

Video - Nigeria ramps up security following spate of kidnappings

 

 

23 university students,staff released in Nigeria seven months after abduction

Security agents on Sunday announced the rescue of 23 students and workers kidnapped in September at the Federal University Gusau in Zamfara State, North-west Nigeria.

Security sources said they were rescued by security agents near Kuncin Dutse, a village in Tsafe Local Government Area of Zamfara. The Coordinator of the National Counter-terrorism Centre, Adamu Laka, a major general, reportedly coordinated the operation.

PREMIUM TIMES they were further gathered that the rescued persons had been handed over to the security authorities in Abuja. Mr Laka is expected to present them to the National Security Adviser, Nuhu Ribadu, on Monday.

The victims were evacuated to Abuja for debriefing and medical check-ups before being reunited with their families, PREMIUM TIMES learnt.

Earlier last month, nine of the female students were released after 178 days in captivity.

The 23 persons released in the latest development include 15 students and eight workers of the university. A woman abducted in Funtua in Katsina State was also rescued, a source told PREMIUM TIMES, asking for confidentiality because he was not invited to address the press.

One of the parents of the abducted students also confirmed the release of her daughter to DW Hausa Service late Sunday. She said her daughter called her and informed her that she was being moved to Gusau, the state capital.

The released students spent over 200 days in the terrorists’ camp following their abduction in September at their off-campus hostel in Sabon Gida, a community adjacent to the university campus in the state capital.

Some of the victims were rescued by security officials a few hours after their abduction. It was not immediately clear whether more or how many of the students were still being held by the terrorists.

The Zamfara State government is yet to speak on the latest release of the students.

The spokesperson for the Federal University, Gusau, Umar Usman, said he was yet to be briefed about the development when our reporter asked for his comments.

By Abubakar Ahmadu Maishanu, Premium Times 

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

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

Thursday, April 11, 2024

Video - Mass abductions impact education in Nigeria



Teachers and others employed in the education sector want Nigeria's government to do something to reduce kidnapping incidents at the country's schools. They say the abductions are violations of a child's right to an education.

CGTN

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

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

Video - Security experts call for deployment of more police, soldiers to volatile areas in Nigeria



Nigeria is struggling to contain rising cases of kidnappings for ransom. Security experts say criminal elements are taking advantage of vacuums created in ungoverned spaces to profit from the kidnappings.

CGTN

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

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

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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Wednesday, April 3, 2024

NYSC member, eight others rescued by Nigeria military

The Joint Task Force (JTF) in the Niger Delta, Operation Delta Safe, says its troops on Monday rescued nine kidnap victims abducted by gunmen on 29 March along the Ugheli-Patani axis of the East-West road.

The Commander of the joint military force deployed to the Niger Delta, John Okeke, confirmed the development to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Monday night.

Mr Okeke said that 10 suspected kidnappers were arrested in the rescue of the victims who included an NYSC member and a Navy rating.


“In continuation to ensure safety of lives and property in the Niger Delta Region, the gallant troops of the Joint Task Force South South Operation Delta Safe (OPDS), comprising troops of Quick Response Force (QRF) of Headquarters OPDS, Land, Maritime and Air Components on Monday, April 1, 2024, rescued nine kidnap victims.

“The freed victims were kidnapped on 29 March 2024, along Patani-Ughelli Road in Delta State.

“During the rescue operation, 10 suspects in connection with the kidnap incident were arrested. Amongst the rescued victims is a Naval Rating and an NYSC member,” Okeke said.

The JTF Commander subsequently warned criminal elements within the Niger Delta region to desist from their nefarious activities as there will be no haven for them in the region as troops will not leave any stone unturned in ensuring a conducive environment for the safety of lives and properties.

Mr Okeke also commended the troops for their gallantry and efforts in the rescue operation.

He urged the general public to always provide useful information to security agencies on criminal activities within their communities.

Premium Times

Related story: Video - Nigeria ramps up security following spate of kidnappings