The horrific abduction of 94 children and eight staff members from a school in the Nigerian state of Kebbi on June 17th has reportedly cost the lives of three Nigerian children. The school principal broke the news on June 20th that the lucrative ransom business has cost the lives of more innocent children. Since 2011, the International Crisis Group reports that at least 8,000 people have been killed, predominantly in Zamfara. Authorities claim the latest kidnapping is the third kidnapping in just three weeks in Northern Nigeria. Just one week earlier, ten people were kidnapped, and one was killed in Northern Nigeria, increasing the total of abducted people by over 800 since December of 2020. Authorities claim they have rescued eight students and three teachers as of June 20th, killing one kidnapper.
According to a Reuters article, the kidnappers have been hiding behind students within the bush, using students’ phones to make calls and demanding 60 million Naira (equivalent to 146,341 USD) in ransom. However, the incident was not random, nor were the school officials unaware of a potential attack. According to a teacher communicating with Reuters, the school was made aware that an attack was going to occur at their school but chose to keep the school open despite warnings.
Nigeria continues to have a rampant and increasingly luxurious kidnapping business. The Nigerian government has failed to provide security to students and people, especially in the rural regions of Northern Africa. As the Financial Times note, there are multiple reasons for the growing kidnapping industry. First, there is explosive population growth with a combination of high unemployment, giving individuals an incentive to commit horrendous acts to boost their income. Also, the security forces are underfunded, and bandits can easily obtain weaponry. The primary reason for these kidnappings is ransom. The Guardian reports that a Nigerian Bureau of Statistics (NBS) shows 23 million people, which equates to 33 percent of the working-age population, we’re looking for work at the end of 2020.
Schools have been the primary target for the ransom attacks, which has left millions of young children without a place to learn and grow. The government holds the responsibility to protect students, ensuring their growth can continue, giving them the essentials needed for a better life for themselves, which ultimately helps the country. With an educated youth, both girls and boys, the future generation can reduce poverty and help their country prosper. As the United Nations notes, Tanzania experienced a reduction in poverty once there were high-quality educated people within society, which better equipped the country to have sustainable development. The Nigerian government must provide protection and security to schools and communities to ensure youth can be the change that is desperately needed.
The government has struggled to address this increasingly normalized ransom business. Government officials claim they do not give ransom money, as Deputy governor Ahmed Mohammed Ketso stated in early June that “we don’t pay ransom to abductors. We are trying to negotiate to see how we can bring them back safely.” However, reports show that Nigeria does pay ransom to bandits, as shown when the Katsina State government paid 30 million Naira (roughly 76,000 USD) to recover the schoolboys from the Kankara abduction that occurred on December 11th, 2020. The government feeds into the ransom business by paying kidnappers instead of providing security to prevent the kidnapping from occurring in the first place.
Samuel Okunade, who is pursuing a post-doctorate at the University of Pretoria, explains that when the government cannot protect its citizens, “then people will lose trust in (the) government” and ultimately try to protect themselves.
It is essential that the government protects youth and enables them to learn and grow. Without education, the youth could continue to face the inequality and economic hardship of the older generation once they grow up.