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Armed Groups Kidnap Hundreds Across Northern Nigeria

Seek Victims’ Safe Release; Improve Protection for At-Risk Students, Communities

Children play at the LEA Primary and Secondary School Kuriga two days after 287 students were kidnapped, Kuriga, Kaduna State, Nigeria, March 9, 2024.  © 2024 Sunday Alamba/AP Photo

Various armed groups have kidnapped hundreds of people, including 287 schoolchildren, across northern Nigeria in a series of alarming attacks since late February. The kidnappings are the latest indication of Nigeria’s spiraling security crisis, as communities continue to face severe threats from Islamist insurgents like Boko Haram in the country’s northeast and other criminal groups in the northwest.

On February 29, suspected Boko Haram insurgents abducted over 200 internally displaced people, many of them children, in the Ngala Local Government Area of Borno State.

Then, on March 7, criminal gangs known as “bandits” kidnapped 287 students, including many girls, at the government secondary school in Kuriga town, in northwestern Kaduna State. Two days later, bandits broke into a boarding school in Gidan Bakuso village in Sokoto State and kidnapped 15 children as they slept.

The abductions have continued. Most recently, on March 18, over 87 people were reported to have been kidnapped in Kajuru community in Kaduna State.

Mass kidnappings by insurgents and other criminal groups have been a problem across the country’s northern regions since Boko Haram abducted 276 schoolgirls from Chibok in 2014, an atrocity that garnered wide international attention.

Government security forces have said they are working to obtain the safe release of the victims but face difficulties reaching remote forest areas where they are being held. Bandits have demanded 1 billion naira (about US$600,000) as ransom for the schoolchildren kidnapped in Kaduna, but Nigeria’s President Bola Ahmed Tinubu has directed that no ransom be paid.

The Nigerian authorities should seek the safe release of those kidnapped, put in place adequate measures to prevent more kidnappings, particularly of vulnerable students, and hold perpetrators to account. 

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