Police say a hundred individuals in northwest Nigeria have been rescued 42 days after gunmen kidnapped them in their community. Dozens of women with little children were among the victims. The Zamfara state hostages are the most recent victims of Africa's most populous country's widespread kidnapping issue.
Despite increased military action and growing public anger, kidnappings have increased this year. Since December, over 1,000 kids have been taken from their classrooms, frequently hundreds at a time. After murdering a police officer and two community leaders, terrorists targeted five villages in Zamfara over the weekend, forcing at least 60 people into the woods, according to authorities.
Nigeria battling with the surge of kidnapping incidents
The offenders are referred to as "bandits" by the authorities. According to researchers, the gangs have made a dismal profession out of kidnapping Nigerians for ransom and operate mainly without a guiding ideology, but some have looked into collaborating with extremist organizations in the country's northeast, notably Boko Haram.
Police spokesperson Muhammed Shehu said the 100 victims were rescued from a Zamfara woodland hideaway late Tuesday. Rows of women, sitting on the ground while clutching newborns, were photographed and published in Nigerian media.
According to information from SBM Intelligence, a consultancy in Lagos, kidnappers abducted at least 2,371 individuals across Nigeria in the first half of 2021. This equates to around 13 individuals every day.
The kidnappings took place mostly in the northern states, with abductors demanding tens of millions of dollars in ransom. Estimates of payments made are difficult to measure because transactions are often done in secrecy, as per The Washington Post.
The victims, most of whom are nursing moms, were released Monday after being held captive for six weeks, according to Mohammed Shehu, a Zamfara police official. He stated that their release was unconditional and that the state did not pay a ransom.
Armed men stormed Manawa Village in Zamfara's Mutunji District on June 8, forcing the victims into captivity. As kidnap for ransom becomes more common in the region, Zamfara; other bordering northern states have also seen many major kidnappings this year, CNN reported.
Hundreds of kids have been kidnapped and freed by ransom-seeking criminal groups, but many state governments refuse to pay the money. Many abducted kids are still being kept captive by kidnappers.
In recent months, gunmen have targeted schools due to their perceived susceptibility to assaults. To prevent additional raids, several academic institutions in northern Nigeria have been temporarily closed.
What is the root of Nigeria's kidnapping crisis?
As instability in Northern Nigeria disproportionately impacts women, there has been a dramatic increase in child marriage and teenage pregnancies. Because of the development of these armed gangs, several northern Nigerian states, such as Borno, Kaduna, Zamfara, Katsina, and Niger, have been particularly vulnerable to school kidnappings.
According to Crisis Group, schools are commonly referred to as "easy targets" by experts since they typically have few or no fences, inadequate protection, and security personnel who are few and poorly trained. In addition, mass kidnappings of school children rouse a lot of attention. They tend to elicit more public anger and attract more national and international attention.
Per Global Citizen, the media attention also ensures government involvement in talks, which might result in ransom payments worth thousands of dollars. Experts claim the majority of these mass kidnappings are motivated by ransom money and other rewards provided by government authorities to "repentant" gang members.
In northern Nigeria, school kidnappings are a significant danger to education. The region already has the country's poorest educational records, and repeated school assaults have prompted six states to close most or all of their schools until security is restored.
It may also have an impact on school enrolment rates, which are already low due to cultural hostility against "western education" in the North. Furthermore, these kidnappings may propmpt teachers and other school personnel to resign and look for work elsewhere, preventing more children from receiving a decent education.
The United Nations' Global Objective 4 asks for excellent education for everyone, but this goal will be impossible to fulfill if school assaults continue to obstruct children's access to education and put their lives in danger.