Kidnapped Nigerian Schoolgirls Are Freed
It was a mixed welcome when the 279 schoolgirls were released after their kidnapping from a boarding school in the northwestern Zamfara state of Nigeria. Hundreds of girls dressed in light blue hijabs and barefoot were sitting at the Government House office quietly talking to one another. After the meeting, the girls were escorted out to waiting vans to be reunited with their parents. Both the police and the military worked on a joint-operations to rescue the girls. However, according to the Governor of Zamfara state, a “repentant former bandit “not only located the girls and their abductors in the forest but also negotiated their release.
Kidnappings have been rampant in Nigeria in recent years. Abductors hope to get rich after demanding ransoms from family members. The most notorious kidnapping was committed by terrorists in April 2014, when 276 girls were abducted by the original Boko Haram faction led by Abubakar Shekau. Around 100 of those girls are still missing. Among other things, Boko Haram is opposed to western education, so it often targets schools. Earlier in February 2014, the group murdered 59 boys at a boarding school in Buni Yadi, Yobe state, while telling the girls to go home and never to attend school again.
The event in Zamfara was the fourth mass school abduction since December 2020. There is a sense of desperation, not only in northwest Nigeria where banditry has festered for years but across the country, as kidnappings for ransom surge and general insecurity worsens. Finally, Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari last week said that the government would not “succumb to blackmail by bandits and criminals who target innocent school students in expectation of huge ransom payments.” He has asked the government to review its policy of making such payments. Hopefully, the government will formulate a policy that addressed kidnappings for ransom effectively, regardless of the religion or ethnicity of the victims or perpetrators, and that will discourage further kidnappings and give students, their parents, and the general public some sense of security.