Abductions in Nigeria has now reached a point of grave concern. Barely a day passes without a breaking news story of people or children being abducted by rebel groups such as Boko Haram and the Islamic State’s West Africa Province (ISWAP).


School Kidnappings

When 276 Chibok girls were kidnapped from their school premises by Boko Haram in 2014, the media and people were outraged. But little has changed in the seven-year period.

This year in February, 317 more girls from the Girls Science Secondary School in Jangebe, Zamfara State, faced the same fate as the Chibok girls before them — the fate of being a girl in a school that lacks sufficient security personnel.

These kidnappings are just a few amongst some of the reported incidents. Many more abductions have not made their way into the mainstream media or caught the attention of the Federal Government.

Importantly, these abductions are not just limited to Nigeria. They have become almost ubiquitous in Africa, with Cameroon, Chad and Mali just a few of the countries having experienced kidnappings.

I will, however, restrict myself to Nigeria since this is the country that has seen the most abductions and is the original ‘home’ of rebel group activities.

Nigeria’s Crisis

To get a better understanding of what is happening in Nigeria, I engaged with Rotnen Lepgak, the Monitoring and Evaluation Officer at the Centre for Children in Crisis, Nigeria.

Lepgak: ‘These abductions happen on a weekly and daily basis, so there is no day that you will not hear about abductions of either school children, residents, workers [and] contractors. And there is no month that goes by without hearing of at least 10 abductions. The abductions are rampant.

‘However, they don’t occur throughout the entire states … but 70 to 80 per cent of them. If you look at it critically, these abductions occur in the north-east, north-west, north-central, south-west and south-east. But predominantly, the states of the north-east such as Zamfara, Sokoto, Kebbi, Kaduna, Kano, Niger and Jigawa.

‘Recently, where these abductions are increasing are Katsina, Zamfara and Sokoto. They are now rampant in these states; so I would say out of the 36 states in Nigeria, the abductions take place in over 25 states — which is almost the whole of the country’.

With 25 states being firm hotspots, my next question concerned why this is happening and who is responsible?

Lepgak: ‘The people behind these abductions are the Boko Haram, with elements of ISWAP and other terrorist organisations. They abduct people and students to get ransom, so as to procure more weapons. The reason why mostly schools are targeted is because Boko Haram wants to instil fear. [They want to prevent parents] from enrolling children into schools.

‘The literal meaning of ‘Boko Haram’ is Western education is prohibited. [This] is why they abduct students. If children do not go to school, they will not know their rights and they can be indoctrinated by doctrines that are not far-reaching and that will not help an individual grow. The female gender is the one that is mostly targeted. It started back in 2014 when the Chibok girls were abducted, and that is now the trend’.

Lepgak gives the government very little credit when it comes to combating these rebel groups and stopping the abductions. But he does offer some suggestions which he believes should be implemented to begin dealing with the crisis.

Lepgak: ‘The Federal Government has tried to ensure that the fight against these abductions is put into consideration by deploying the Nigerian Army and Nigerian Air Force into the rebel camps. There has been some form of success. However, in my view, the political will to fight these guys is not there. If the government [was truly willing], these guys [the rebels] can be cleared within a week. [But] the government is playing politics with people’s lives.

‘The best way to stop these abductions is for the Federal Government to strengthen the security architecture in communities, especially in schools. Most of these schools, especially government schools, are not properly secure. Some of them do not even have security parameters or security personnel. And sometimes, even if you see security personnel in schools, the only weapon in hand will be a baton. How can security fight a legion of demons without sophisticated weapons? That is impossible!

‘The government needs to secure most of these schools by erecting a parameter fence, equipping them with enough security personnel — at least five per school — and beefing up security forces in communities which are a hotspot of these abductions.

‘In addition, the government should not play politics with people’s lives. When told of imminent attacks, they should not [give] monotonous and rhetorical press releases, such as: “We are in shock”. Or “We are saddened”.

‘No! We are tired of that. We are tired of paying ransom. We are tired of burying young people’.

All eyes are now on the Federal Government of President Muhammadu Buhari to do away with this cancerous spread of abductions that are tearing families apart.