Abductions of school children are becoming increasingly common in Nigeria.
On March 12th, 39 were abducted after gunmen attacked the Federal College of Forestry Mechanization in Mando, Kaduna, according to Kaduna police.
A ransom video was then shared. It showed some of the students visibly distressed. In one video, an abducted student calls on the government to cooperate with their captors, while a figure in the background points a gun at his head and back.
It is the third mass kidnapping from an academic institution in northern Nigeria in 2021 alone.
The students, who were forcefully taken away from their hostels could be seen in the video asking the government to be diplomatic in its engagement with the gunmen.
The student calling for cooperation, whose last name is given as Emmanuel, also says that a forceful rescue operation will be met with severe consequences from the criminal gang. He added that “many of us here have been injured — badly injured… time is going…most of us here are having health issues.”
In a statement, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari vowed a swift response to the kidnapping, saying he would not let the country’s educational system be destroyed by the bandits. He ordered the military to return the students to their families.
“Our military may be efficient and well-armed, but it needs good efforts for the nation’s defense, and the local population must rise to the moment,” Buhari said, vowing “an early end to the ordeal.”
He also undertook an action that was requested from him for a while now.
President Muhammadu Buhari finally announced the appointment of four new military chiefs.
This is the first time the Buhari administration has changed security chiefs since 2015 when it came into power, despite declining security and calls for fundamental change.
The Nigerian military has engaged in a long battle with Boko Haram insurgents. But there seems to be no evidence in sight of progress made in the fight.
Rather, there has been a significant rise in insecurity across several states on Nigeria’s northern borders including Sokoto, Zamfara, Kaduna, Katsina, Borno, among others.
In a motion sponsored by Senator Mohammed Ali Ndume, the representative of Borno South, the Senate passed a resolution calling on the president to fire the security chiefs.
Bashir Salihi Magashi, Nigeria’s current defense minister, drew widespread criticism when he asked Nigerians to learn to defend themselves and not to be cowards in the face of rising insecurity.
Speaking in the wake of the March 12th kidnapping, the defense minister said, Nigerians shouldn’t be “cowards.” “It is the responsibility of everybody to keep alert and find safety when necessary. But we shouldn’t be cowards. At times the bandits will only come with about three rounds of ammunition, when they fire a shot everybody runs…I don’t know why people run away from a minor thing like that. They should stand.”
There are some positive news.
On March 14th, security forces have foiled an attempt to kidnap hundreds of schoolboys in northwestern Nigeria, a state official said.
“Between the late hours of Saturday night [March 13-14] and the early hours of today, suspected bandits stormed the Government Science Secondary School, Ikara … in an attempt to kidnap students,” Samuel Aruwan, state home affairs commissioner said of the foiled attack in a statement.
“Fortunately, the students used the security warning system in place, and were thus able to alert security forces in the area”, he said.
He said a joint security force, comprising soldiers, policemen and vigilantes, deployed to the school and “engaged the bandits, forcing them to flee”.
The military managed to rescue 180 students, including eight staff members, after a fierce battle with the gunmen.
Heavily armed gangs in northwest and central Nigeria have stepped up attacks in recent years.
They have recently turned their focus to schools, where they kidnap students or schoolchildren for ransom.
Aruwan said all 307 students in the school targeted on Saturday had been accounted for after a headcount.
“The attempted kidnap was foiled completely and no student was taken from the school.”
Meanwhile, Islamist attacks also continue.
Militants have killed about 30 government soldiers in a series of clashes in northeast Nigeria since Wednesday, military and civilian militia sources said on March 14th.
Four attacks claimed the lives of at least 27 soldiers and 10 members of the Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF), including a unit head, the sources told Reuters.
CJTF are local groups of armed men who protect the areas where they live, mainly against Islamist insurgents. They are not members of the military but often fight alongside soldiers.
These are being carried out by Boko Haram and by ISWAP, who are also fighting against each-other for superiority.
On March 14th, 19 people were killed in the attack by the Boko Haram terror organization in the northeastern state of Borno in Nigeria.
Terrorists attacked a military convoy in Gudumbali in the Lake Chad region, killing 15 soldiers and four Joint Task Force members.
Army spokesman Mohammed Yerima said in a statement that several soldiers were also injured in the attack.
Nigeria is struggling against the militants in the Lake Chad area and there appears to be little progress, despite the shuffling of defense chiefs.
- On March 14, the Nigerian army launched Operation Tura Takaibango in Lake Chad region against the ISWAP
- On March 14, the Nigerian army reportedly killed several members of Boko Haram in Daban Masara area. At least 3 Nigerian Army soldiers killed in the operation
- On March 14, 15 Nigerian Army soldiers and 4 civilian JTF (militia) allegedly killed by ISWAP in Gudumbali area
- On March 14, the Nigerian security forces reportedly prevented an attempt to kidnap hundreds of schoolboys in Ikara town
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