Nigeria: 10 years after Chibok, kidnappings are still happening Nigeria: 10 years after Chibok, kidnappings are still happening

Nigeria: 10 years after Chibok, kidnappings are still happening

Nigeria: 10 years after Chibok, kidnappings are still happening

His weak body stood in the doorway, exhausted and covered in dirt. For two years, the boy had been one of Nigeria's ghosts, one of at least 1,500 schoolchildren and others captured by armed groups and held for ransom.

But paying a ransom didn't work for 12-year-old Treasure, the only captive held among more than 100 schoolchildren kidnapped from their school in July 2021 in the northwestern state of Kaduna. Instead, his captors held firm and he had to escape the forests alone in November.

Treasure's ordeal is part of a worrying new development in Nigeria , Africa's most populous country where the mass kidnapping of 276 Chibok schoolgirls a decade ago marked a new era of fear - with nearly 100 of them still in captivity. Since the Chibok kidnappings, at least 1,500 schoolchildren have been kidnapped, as armed groups increasingly find it a lucrative way to finance other crimes and control villages in the country's northwest region, rich in minerals but poorly monitored.

The Associated Press spoke with five families whose children were taken hostage in recent years and witnessed a pattern of trauma and educational difficulties among the children. Parents are increasingly reluctant to send their children to school in parts of northern Nigeria, deepening the education crisis in a country of more than 200 million people where at least 10 million Children are out of school – one of the highest rates in the world.

Economic reasons
The AP was unable to speak with Treasure, who is receiving therapy after escaping from captivity in November. However, his relatives were questioned at their home in Kaduna State, including Jennifer, his cousin, who was also kidnapped during the attack on her boarding school in March 2021.

“I haven’t recovered from it, my family hasn’t recovered (and) Treasure barely talks about it ,” confides Jennifer, 26, while her mother sobs next to her. “I don’t think life will ever be the same after this whole experience ,” she added.

Unlike the Islamist extremists who staged the Chibok kidnappings, the deadly criminal gangs terrorizing villages in northwest Nigeria are mostly former herders in conflict with agricultural host communities, authorities say. Aided by weapons smuggled across Nigeria's porous borders, they operate without a centralized leadership structure and launch attacks primarily out of economic motives .

Some analysts see the kidnappings of schoolchildren as a symptom of Nigeria's worsening security crisis .

According to Nigerian research firm SBM Intelligence , nearly 2,000 people have been kidnapped this year in exchange for ransoms . However, armed gangs view the kidnapping of schoolchildren as "a more lucrative way to attract attention and collect larger ransoms", says Reverend John Hayab, former president of the Kaduna Christian Association, who often helped secure the release of kidnapped schoolchildren.

Insecurity
The security failures that culminated in the Chibok kidnappings 10 years ago persist in many schools, according to a recent survey by the Nigeria office of the United Nations children's agency, which found that only 43% meet standards Minimum security measures such as perimeter fencing and guards are encountered in more than 6,000 schools surveyed.

Bola Tinubu , elected president in March 2023, had promised to end kidnappings during his election campaign . Nearly a year after the start of his mandate, there is still "a lack of will and urgency and an inability to realize the seriousness of the situation or to respond to it" , maintains Nnamdi Obasi, senior advisor for Nigeria to the International Crisis Group. "There is no focused attention or commitment of resources to this emergency.”

Treasure was the youngest of more than 100 children kidnapped from Bethel Baptist High School, in the Chikun area of ​​Kaduna, in 2021. After receiving ransoms and releasing the other children in batches, his kidnappers vowed to keep him, recalls the Reverend Hayab.

That didn't stop his family from hoping that he would one day return home alive. His grandmother, Mary Peter, remembers the night he came home restless and hungry.

“He told us he was hungry and wanted to eat ,” she says of Treasure's first words that night after two years and three months in captivity. “Treasure has been through hell ,” adds Reverend Hayab of the Christian association. “We have to work hard to get him out of what he saw, whatever he experienced.”

Ransoms
In 2022, Nigerian MPs banned the payment of ransoms, but desperate families continue to pay, knowing that kidnappers can be ruthless, sometimes killing their victims when their loved ones delay payment of ransoms, often delivered in cash to designated locations .

And sometimes, even paying a ransom doesn't guarantee freedom. Some victims accused security forces of doing nothing to stop the kidnappers, even after providing information about their calls and the whereabouts of their hostages.

This was the experience of Treasure's uncle, Emmanuel Audu , who was arrested and chained to a tree for over a week after going to deliver the ransom demanded for the release of his nephew.

Audu and other hostages were held in the famous Davin Rugu Forest , Kaduna. Once a bustling forest reserve that was home to wildlife and tourists, today it is one of the bandit enclaves in the vast forests nestled between mountainous terrains and stretching thousands of kilometers between the states of this troubled region.

“The entire forest is occupied by kidnappers and terrorists ,” Audu says of his time in captivity. Several other kidnapping victims and analysts corroborated his account.

Some of his kidnappers in the forest were boys as young as Treasure, a clue to what his nephew might have become and a sign that a new generation of kidnappers is already emerging.  "They beat us mercilessly. When you faint, they whip you until you wake up ," he says, raising his hand to show the scars that reminded him of life in captivity.

Trauma
No one in the Peter family has recovered from his kidnapping. Jennifer says she rarely sleeps well , even though it's been almost three years since she was released by her captors. His mother, a food trader, is struggling to raise capital again for her business after using most of her savings and assets inherited from her late husband to pay the ransoms.

Therapy is so expensive that the church has had to sponsor Treasure's therapy while other family members must endure and hope that they will eventually overcome their experiences.

“Sometimes when I think about what happened, I wish I didn't go to school ,” Jennifer says with a sad smile. "I just feel sorry for the children who are still in boarding school because it's not safe. They are the main target."

30 Comments

  1. Treasure's harrowing tale exposes Nigeria's grave security crisis, where schoolchildren are targeted for ransom. Families endure trauma, economic hardship, and a lingering fear for their children's safety.





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  2. So sad to hear about this

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  3. Nigeria should look for children safety

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  4. The cases of kidnapping in Nigeria is really scary the citizens of Nigeria must be in a huge shock Nigeria must look after the children

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  5. The cases of kidnapping in Nigeria is really

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  6. “The entire forest is occupied

    ReplyDelete
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