Abducted child with mother. Source: Global Information Network - Photo: 2024

Limited Rescue Seen of Abducted Nigerian Schoolchildren 

By Lisa Vives, Global Information Network

NEW YORK | 25 March 2024 (IDN) — The nightmare is over for some of the 287 Nigerian schoolchildren seized from their school and marched into the forests by an armed group.

Nigeria’s military said in a statement that 76 girls and 61 boys had been freed in the northern state of Zamfara, and were being taken back to Kaduna. The military did not confirm the total number of children abducted on March 7, or provide further details about the operation.

The children were abducted by motorcycle-riding gunmen on March 7 from their school in Kuriga, a small town in the state of Kaduna. Terrified families watched helplessly as the children, aged 12 or younger were driven away.

It was the latest in a long series of kidnappings that have plagued Africa’s most populous nation.

President Bola Tinubu had vowed to rescue the children “without paying a dime” as ransom. But ransoms are commonly paid for kidnappings, often arranged by families, and it is rare for officials in Nigeria to admit to the payments. According to Sahara Reporters, the kidnappers were seeking one billion naira for the students’ release.

Since the 2014 abduction of 276 schoolgirls in Borno state, town of Chibok, by Boko Haram, an armed group, many of the girls were released, reportedly in exchange for ransoms, but 98 of them are still missing, according to Amnesty International.

The latest abduction comes days after some 200 people were kidnapped in Nigeria’s Borno state – at the center of the Boko Haram insurgency. The victims, who had ventured into the countryside to collect firewood, have not been rescued yet.

The armed men on motorbikes—referred to locally as bandits—had been menacing the community for some time, with the security forces said to be unable to deal with the threat. Kuriga had been persistently attacked by gangs seeking to kidnap people and make money from ransom payments.

The scale of this latest abduction and the fact that it involved children as young as seven has been overwhelming for many here.

“We watched them carrying our children away just right here and there’s nothing we could do. We don’t have military, we don’t have police in the community,” a mother was quoted to say through tears.

Kidnap gangs, known as bandits, have seized thousands of people in recent years, especially in the north-west.

Chris Ewokor of BBC News in Kuriga managed to get more of the story from 17-year-old Musa Garba (not his real name). The teenager said he had to slither on the ground like a snake to avoid being detected by his kidnappers.

“We saw motorbikes on the road. We thought they were soldiers before we realized they had occupied the school premises and started shooting,” Musa told the BBC reporter.

“We tried to run away, but they chased us and caught us. They gathered us like cows into the bush.”

Musa said he kept looking for ways to escape and tried to encourage others to join him but they were too afraid.

“After all was quiet, I started dragging myself like a snake on the ground.” Once it was totally dark, he got up and walked off until he got to a village where he got help.

In the last decade and a half, people in northern Nigeria have come under intense attack by armed militant groups.

A second force, linked to the Islamic State group, has also emerged. [IDN-InDepthNews]

Photo: Abducted child with mother. Source: Global Information Network

IDN is the flagship agency of the Non-profit International Press Syndicate

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