On late Thursday, March 11th, approximately 30 students were reportedly abducted by gunmen from a forestry college in northwest Nigeria’s Kaduna state. The incident marks at least the fourth mass kidnapping in the country since December.
According to Samuel Aruwan, the Commissioner for Kaduna State Ministry of Internal Security and Home Affairs, a group of armed bandits broke into the Federal College of Forestry Mechanization at approximately 11:30 P.M. on Thursday night. After a distress call, police and military forces were able to rescue 180 students in the early hours of Friday, but “about 30 students, a mix of males and females, are yet to be accounted for.”
With dozens of students yet to be rescued, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called for “the immediate and unconditional release of those students that remain in captivity.” Having already strongly condemned the recurrent mass abductions of students in Nigeria, Guterres underscored that “schools must remain safe spaces for children to learn without fear of violence” and that “those responsible for [the kidnapping] must be brought to justice.”
Last week, almost 300 schoolgirls were freed after being abducted from their boarding school in northwest Nigeria’s Zamfara state in late February. Weeks prior, an additional abduction occurred in the north-central state of Niger, where 42 students, teachers, and family members were kidnapped from a boarding school. Moreover, in December, more than 300 schoolboys in the northwestern state of Kasina were abducted.
The recent round of kidnappings has been attributed to rising insecurity, crime, and infiltration by armed organizations in Nigeria. Government officials have cited that organized armed groups often kidnap students for ransom and the release of their members held in jail.
As fears continue to grow that a so-called “kidnapping industry” is rapidly expanding across the northern region of Nigeria, the country’s President Muhammadu Buhari has pledged that the government is “working hard to bring an end to these grim and heartbreaking incidents of kidnapping.”
“The new direction of government is to come out with full force. We have decided to apply the full weight of the law. We will come down on them wherever we locate them and take them out,” Nigeria’s National Security Adviser Babagana Monguno declared at a press conference following the most recent abduction.
Now more than ever, the Nigerian government must follow through with its promises and dramatically increase efforts to provide a safe learning environment for all students. The abductions and violent attacks on schools and other educational facilities constitute a grave violation of children’s rights and, thus, should be treated as a humanitarian crisis. If a strong national response is not implemented immediately, education in northern Nigeria will continue to be under attack.
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